Can you help reunite this sampler with its Oliver descendants?


05 August 2020
Susie Douglas of Borders Ancestry presents a beautiful hand-stitched sampler that has the names and dates of a couple and seven of their children painstakingly sewn into its design. Can you help reunite this wonderful piece of family history with its present-day descendants?

#HistoryundertheHammer - Family trees come in all shapes and guises! 

Once again, the saleroom has come up trumps for the family historian. This month, a fabulous hand-stitched sampler for the Oliver family of Longnor in Staffordshire dating from the 18th century, having found its way north to Northumberland, is due to go under the hammer as Lot No 398 at Railton’s in Wooler on Saturday 8 August. Although a little faded in places, it is a large, framed, well-preserved example of its kind. Some rapid eleventh hour research has uncovered some interesting information about the sampler and the family to whom it originally belonged.

The sampler is a wonderful needlework record of the children born to Thomas Oliver and Lydia Gaunt who were married at Mugginton in Derbyshire on 4th May 1781. At the time of his marriage Thomas Oliver was a grocer by trade and lived in Alstonefield some 16 miles distant on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border. His marriage bond states he was ‘twenty five years and upwards’ giving him a birth year of 1756 or earlier.

His bondsman was George Oliver, a yeoman of Broomsedge [Broom Edge] in Alstonefield parish, and a James Oliver was a witness to his marriage. Further digging will no doubt prove them to have been relatives, allowing the family tree to be expanded still further. Thomas’ wife Lydia Gaunt was recorded in the marriage documents as of ‘Hulland-ward’, Mugginton, Derbyshire and aged 22 at the time, giving her an approximate year of birth of 1759/60. A possible witness for the bride was an Isaac Peach. 

The only record of the family at this point in time?

Seven of Thomas and Lydia’s children are featured in the sampler text, five of whom; Alice (1784), Thomas (1786), Ann (1788), Jane Elizabeth (1790) and Robert Newton (1791), were baptised at St Bartholomew’s Church, Longnor in Staffordshire.

Baptisms for the two eldest children, Erren/Ellen (the text is faded here and difficult to read) and Lydia, are proving more elusive, so this humble embroidery may be the ONLY record past and present that survives of a large proportion of the family together.

Although unconfirmed, burial records for Longnor suggest other children born to the couple may have died in infancy, but a possible death in 1823 did prove to be for father Thomas. It has an associated will too, which is a real bonus for a family researcher! 

Thomas was survived by sons Thomas and Robert Newton Oliver who were both named executors, his wife, a daughter Frances (not featured in the sampler) and numerous grandchildren with surnames Teulon, Oven, Robinson and Johnson.

His business had prospered and by the time of his death he had interests in a farm, a mine and property in Stockport and Manchester where his son Thomas was involved in the manufacture of Cotton. More information can be made available should anyone be interested, so please do get in touch

Can you help reunite the sampler with Thomas and Lydia’s descendants?

Indications are that the Oliver family had been settled in Alstonefield and Longnor for several generations and this sampler may be the vital key to extending this family’s pedigree back in time.

Although brief, this bit of last-minute research has identified a few descendants who are actively researching their Oliver roots and messages have been sent to them accordingly. However, there is no guarantee the notes will be received in time and indications are there should be many more descendants out there. It would be great if this unique and personal piece of history could be reunited with its rightful family, so do please spread the word. 

Watch the auction

If you would like to watch the sampler go under the hammer you can tune into the live sale for free through or For full step by step instructions on how to login, check out the ‘Duffers Guide to Watch Live’ on Railtons’ homepage.

Susie Douglas M Litt QG is the owner of Borders Ancestry, where she offers qualified, experienced, and professionally accredited family and local history research service for the UK, specialising in the​ Scottish Borders, Northumberland and Durham. Find out more here.