Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Genealogy Tip: Exonumia

Last Saturday's speaker at the BIFHSGO monthly meeting, Pat Wohler, dealt with unusual sources for family history. A very short list of links from his talk is here. He mentioned a word new to me, exonumia.

Wikipedia has an article which defines it as the study of coin-like objects such as token coins and medals, and other items used in place of legal currency or for commemoration. These are the kind of items many of us have around the house, they don't take up much room and tend to accumulate in jewelry and old cigar boxes. Perhaps you have lapel pins from organizations with which you were or are associated.

When the day comes for you to clear out the house of a deceased relative what will you do with the exonumia you find? A colleague in BIFHSGO recently found a mint condition Canada Northwest medal tucked away in the back of a closet while doing such a clear out. It's worth at least several hundred dollars, likely more as it was for one of the men who was killed.

More likely the items you'll find aren't so valuable, but if the person is part of your family history their exonumia may provide a lead to an unlikely source, perhaps a fraternal society, to illuminate a corner of the person's life. Exonumia.com was recommended by Pat as a starting point in exploring these items. You might also look for a medal and similar collectibles show, or call the reference desk at your local library.

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