38. Token Ancestors: Coinage by the Youngs, Munford, and Samm Families

This holiday season, as you shop for gifts or dinner trimmings, spare a moment to think about the money you are spending. Not the amount, but the kind. Paper money is a relatively modern innnovation in the western world, being rooted in banknotes issued in the mid-1600s. But the coins you carry in your pocket or purse are in most ways similar to coins as they have existed throughout the ages, all the way down from the 6th century B.C. Varying in denomination, they allow for small change to be made as the leftover from larger purchases.

In one important way, however, our coins vary considerably from earlier ones. Early coins were minted under the theory that their face value should equal the value of their metal content. Thus they were typically made of gold or silver. For example, in early medieval England, 240 silver pennies could be minted from a pound of silver — thereby giving rise to the unit we call the English pound sterling [2].   In contrast, most modern coins are minted with face values greatly exceeding the value of their metal content. Today in the U.S., the “melt value” is only 2 cents for a dime, 4 cents for a quarter, and 8 cents for a half dollar [1].

We have, in other words, switched from a theory of content value to a theory of token value when it comes to coins. This switch occurred surprisingly recently, with 1964 being the last year that the U.S. struck silver dimes, quarters, and half dollars.

The late switch is surprising for how long it took to come about, because the theory of content value had repeatedly proved problematic when it came to ensuring a supply of coins. Over a span of centuries, governments were frequently forced to debase their coinage to relieve shortages. Debasement typically involved reducing the silver content of smaller-denomination coins. The reasons for most of the shortages are controversial (e.g., compare [3] with [10]), but one factor was that as fluctuations in prices occurred, at some point the value of a coin’s metal content would exceed its face value. At that point coins would be melted down, disappearing from circulation [3].

A 17th Century Shortage

One of the historical shortages affords genealogical connections. By the mid-17th century a persistent shortage of small denomination coins had developed in England. This had been a long time in coming. As early as the time of Queen Elizabeth, who reigned 1558-1603, patterns had been drawn up for the issue of copper coins but nothing had come of it [4]. Coin shortages became particularly acute during the English Civil War (1643-1651), when minting ceased [11].

By 1648, shortages had become so severe that merchants took matters into their own hands and began issuing coin-like tokens of their own, a practice that continued in most places until 1672. The tokens were given as change, and were often honored locally in other establishments, at least over an adjoining street or two. In theory they could be exchanged for official royal coinage, although the extent to which that actually occurred is unclear [4].

Ancestral Involvement

Three of our known ancestors or near-ancestors were involved in the issuing of trade tokens, as they were called, each valued at a farthing (a quarter of a penny). In Norwich, co. Norfolk, England, on the eastern side of the country, ancestor Anne Youngs (d. 1681), a grocer, issued a token under her married name Anne Munford. It showed her name as “ANN MVNFORD” with The Grocer’s Arms on one side, and on the reverse, “IN NORWICH – A.M. [her initials]”. A photograph appears at https://norfolktokenproject.wordpress.com/portfolio/williamson-174. Anne is a direct ancestor through the Bowers, Thomas, Jordan, and Pleasants families [5].

Also in Norwich, Anne’s son George Munford, who had been admitted a freeman of the city in 1653, issued his own grocer’s token. On one side it showed “GEORGE MYNFORD” with a merchant’s mark, and on the other, “OF NORWICH 1657” with The Grocer’s Arms [5]. A photograph appears at https://norfolktokenproject.wordpress.com/portfolio/williamson-175.

Further west, John Samm (d. aft 1695) issued a token in Clifton, co. Bedford, in 1664. It showed his wife’s initial as “H”, and displayed the Drapers’ Arms [4], indicating he was a draper (i.e., a cloth or clothing merchant). John is a direct ancestor through the Bowers, Stayman, and Stake families [5]. At least for the moment, a photograph appears at https://www.copperbark.com/products/bedfordshire-28-clifton-john-samm-1664.

Although these three ancestors and near-ancestors were either grocers or drapers, trade tokens were not limited to those occupations. Williamson [4] listed nearly a hundred livelihoods represented by tokens.

trade token Thomas Wood
Example of a farthing trade token, issued by Thomas Wood, a vintner of Oxford, in 1652. Made of copper alloy, it weighs less than a gram and is about 1.5 cm in diameter. Wood also ran a tennis court, and a tennis racquet is depicted.


Even after trade tokens began to be issued, the English government dithered. In 1649, the Council of State recorded, “The business of farthing tokens is to be considered to-morrow” — an interesting phrasing given that it implied abandonment of the theory of content value. In 1650, the Council declared, “Farthings ought to be issued.” A year after that, as if to stengthen their resolve, a report was presented to the Council giving reasons, which were summarized by a later writer [4]:

The report commenced by stating that money is the public means to set a price upon all things between man and man, and experience hath sufficiently proved in all ages that small money is so needful to the poorer sort that all nations have endeavoured to have it. It continues to recommend small pieces as ministering of frugality, whereupon men can have a farthing’s worth and are not constrained to buy more of anything than they stand in need of, their feeding being from hand to mouth; it recommends it on the ground of charity, saying that many are deprived of alms for want of farthings and half-farthings, for many would give a farthing who are not disposed to give a penny or twopence, or to lose time in staying to change money whereby they may contract a noisome smell or the disease of the poor. [4]

Further discussion took place in 1652, but it was not until 1672 that a royal proclamation was finally issued for the minting of copper farthings and halfpence. At the same time the use of private tokens was outlawed, which was obeyed with two notable exceptions where usage continued for a few more years (i.e., the city of Chester, and Ireland). When those practices ended, the time of the 17th-century trade token had passed.

Today it is possible to collect trade tokens. A “good fine” example of the John Samm farthing came up for auction in 2012, with an expected sale price of £40-50 [6]. A “very fine” example at the aforementioned http://www.copperbark.com site is currently priced at £100. A George Munford 1657 farthing came up for auction in 2013 [7], and an Anne Munford farthing sold in 2015 [8].

A Final Comment

I’ll end with one last comment about those coins in your pocket. As I wrote at the head of this article, most modern coins have face values greatly exceeding the value of their metal content. The penny is a notable exception. Its metal is worth 8 tenths of a cent, only a small difference in value [1]. After accounting for all expenses, it already costs more than one cent to manufacture a new penny. Ongoing debates over the coin’s future and its possible elimination are eerily reminiscent of the protracted deliberations of the Council of State over the farthing nearly 400 years ago, right down to the possible effect on charities [9].

Oh, and about those farthings? Britain hasn’t seen a new one since 1956, and they are no longer legal tender.

Descent from the ancestors mentioned in this posting, and what is known of their own forebears, is detailed in The Omnibus Ancestry (available for download at Lulu). Full references are given there.


[1] Information retrieved from http://www.coinflation.com/coins/basemetal_calc.php (2017).

[2] Information retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pound_sterling#Anglo-Saxon (2017).

[3] Sargent, T.J., & Velde, F.R. (2002). The Big Problem of Small Change. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

[4] Williamson, G.C. (1889). Trade Tokens Issued in the Seventeenth Century. London: Elliot Stock.

[5] Boles, D.B. (2017). The Omnibus Ancestry: 619 Documented American and European Lines. Available for download through Lulu.

[6] Information retrieved from https://www.dnw.co.uk/media/auction_catalogues/Tokens%2011%20Apr%2012.pdf (2017).

[7] Information retrieved from https://www.dnw.co.uk/media/auction_catalogues/Tokens%202%20Oct%2013.pdf (2017).

[8] Information retrieved from http://rarecoinsandtokens.co.uk/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=166&products_id=856 (2017).

[9] Information retrieved from https://www.thespruce.com/the-penny-debate-768872 (2017).

[10] Information retrieved from http://www.lse.ac.uk/Economic-History/Assets/Documents/WorkingPapers/Economic-History/2008/WP107.pdf (2017).

[11] Information retrieved from http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~fordingtondorset/Files2/Dorchestertradetoken.html (2017).

Picture credit: Modification of “17th century trade token of Thomas Wood, 1652“, by the Portable Antiquities Scheme, photographer Chris Edbury, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) is a voluntary programme run by the United Kingdom government to record the increasing numbers of small finds of archaeological interest found by members of the public. The scheme started in 1997 and now covers most of England and Wales. Finds are published at https://finds.org.uk.


33. Three Fates at the Battle of Pinkie

The three soldiers mentioned in this article were all direct ancestors, by way of the Bowers descent from the McQueen and Mackintosh families. This descent, and many more stemming from the Mackintoshes, are fully described and referenced in the book The Omnibus Ancestry: 619 Documented American and European Lines. It is available for download through Lulu.  Below, it is referenced as “OA”.

On 16-17 September, the Scottish Battlefields Trust will recreate the 1547 Battle of Pinkie. An announcement appears at http://www.scotsman.com/news/bloody-battle-between-scots-and-english-to-be-staged-again-1-4535901. This promises to be an interesting historical spectacle for those fortunate enough to find themselves in Scotland at the time.

More formally known as the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, the battle was part of the “Rough Wooing” of Scotland by King Henry VIII of England and his successors, undertaken in part to secure the marriage of the Princess Mary (later the famous Mary, Queen of Scots) to Henry’s son Edward. The battle, fought near Musselburgh, co. Midlothian, Scotland, was between a Scottish army variously estimated at 22,000 to 36,000, and an English army of about 17,000 men.

In spite of its numerical superiority, the poorly positioned Scottish army was subjected to fire from three sides, and the result was slaughter . It continued, in the practice of the time, during the army’s disordered retreat. Some 6000-15,000 Scots were killed and another 2000 taken prisoner, against a few hundred English deaths. The English, however, did not achieve their marriage goal because the Scottish would not agree to terms, and Mary was smuggled out of the country to France [1].

I’d like to highlight three ancestors who are known to have been at the Battle of Pinkie, and who met very different fates.

Archibald Campbell

Archibald Campbell (1502-1558), “the Red”, was the 4th Earl of Argyll. He held a number of offices under King James V of Scotland, including Justice-General, Master of the King’s Household, and Master of the King’s wine-cellar. At the battle of Pinkie, he commanded the right wing with 4000 Highland troops. He is said to have served with distinction, and as a result was rewarded with the greatest share of the estates of the Earl of Lennox, who had joined the English and suffered forfeiture for that reason. Later in life, Archibald joined the Reformed faith under the influence of John Knox. His sword, bearing a 1543 date, was in an Edinburgh museum as of 1884.

We descend from Archibald Campbell by way of a direct Mackintosh intermarriage [OA, 2,3].

Campbell sword
Sword of Archibald Campbell

 John Mackenzie

John Mackenzie (1480-1561) was the 9th chief of Kintail in co. Ross and Cromarty, Scotland. He was a survivor of the Battle of Flodden in 1513, where it is said he was captured but escaped. He was shortly after appointed Guardian of Wester Ross, and sometime after 1538 was a courtier of Mary of Guise, the Queen of King James V of Scotland — and the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots. Answering the muster of the Earl of Arran in 1547, although advanced in years, he was captured at the Battle of Pinkie, and released after payment of a considerable ransom.

We descend from John Mackenzie through a direct Mackintosh intermarriage [OA, 4].

Andrew Halyburton

Andrew Halyburton (ca 1527?-1547) was of Pictur, in Ketting parish on the border of Forfarshire with Perthshire. Very little is known of this young man besides his marriage to Margaret Maule, by whom he had a son George, our ancestor. However, it is known that he died at the Battle of Pinkie, among the thousands of unfortunates to lose their lives in that conflict.

We descend from Andrew Halyburton through Mackintosh -> Graham -> Halyburton linkages [OA].

Please keep these ancestors in mind as we mark the 470th anniversary of the Battle of Pinkie.


[1] Information retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Pinkie_Cleugh (2017).

[2] Information retrieved from https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Archibald%20Campbell,%204th%20Earl%20of%20Argyll&item_type=topic (2017).

[3] Information retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/historyofcampbel00newy/historyofcampbel00newy_djvu.txt (2017).

[4] Information retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Mackenzie,_9th_of_Kintail (2017).

Picture attribution

Sword of Archibald Campbell: Believed to be in the public domain.

21. The Power of Convergence, Part 2: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

In a previous blog entry, 17. The Power of Convergence, Part 1: Francis Drake, I described the use of the web to find a reference imperfectly cited to me about 45 years previously. Entering three names said to appear in the record, I quickly located the reference using Google Search, and found that it was available in free, downloadable form. That in turn allowed me to dispell the myth that my ancestor Francis Drake, of New Hampshire and New Jersey, was originally of West Meath, Ireland.

Thus the convergent power of the web, something unimagined 45 years ago, provided information that significantly impacted on a genealogical conclusion. Each of the three names entered alone produced thousands of hits — to be specific, about 695,000 for Francis Drake, 63,400 for Thomas Temple, and 231,000 for Richard Saunders — but when entered simultaneously, convergence was found on one unique source that matched information I had been given decades earlier. Using it, I was able to draw a negative conclusion about the origin of my ancestor .

But what about more positive instances? Can convergence be used to support, not just dispel relationships? In my experience the answer is yes — especially if you start with a known “starter” relationship.

“Starter” Relationships

A “starter” relationship is between two people, known to be of the same family, each connected to a number of possibly associated records. Looking for overlap among the possible associations is what allows for convergence. For example if a possible origin (among several) of one person matches a possible origin (among several) of a related person, there is a fair chance that the match indicates their common origin.

Brotherly love

In my experience the starter relationship is usually between brothers. This is probably due to the fact that brothers usually have the same surname, while married sisters, or a married sister and a brother, typically do not. Therefore brothers tend to be known to a greater extent than other sibling pairs.

To illustrate the power of convergence in such situations, I briefly present two case studies involving brothers.

The Slack Brothers

In tracing my Slack ancestors, attention quickly settled on two contemporaries who settled in Mason county, Kentucky, about the same time prior to 1800. One, John Slack, seemed most likely to be our ancestor, but for a time we could not rule out the other, Jacob Slack. I wrote about this problem in my very first blog entry (1. John Slack of Mason County, Kentucky: Poverty and a Glittering Past), and there is no point in rehashing it here. For present purposes it is enough to state that we believed the two men to be brothers. How could this fact be used to determine their origin?

Census records in this case proved to provide the initial point of convergence. By examining the 1790 census nationwide, using the web resource Ancestry.com, it was found that a John Slack and a Jacob Slack both appeared as heads of household in the 1790 census of Harford county, Maryland. With research attention turned to Maryland, I quickly located an 1816 deed by which Jacob Slack of Mason county, Kentucky, sold a share of land in Harford county. There could be no doubt: The intermediate place of origin of the two brothers was Harford county.

But where were they from before that? Web searches turned up the next point of convergence. John and Jacob Sleght, sons of Hendrick Sleght, were baptized respectively in May 1746 and July 1757 in Bucks county, Pennsylvania, dates initially found on the web but later confirmed in printed church records. A number of other circumstances matched as well — among them, evidence from Kentucky and Maryland that John was significantly older than Jacob, and a gravestone in Kentucky giving an age for Jacob that was closely consistent with the baptismal record.

This discovery made it possible not just to identify the father of the brothers, but to add multiple ancestral lines tracing back in some cases many generations. It was a major windfall discovery.

While there were a number of facts possibly associated with John, and a number possibly associated with Jacob, it was the convergence of information across both that allowed the discovery of their origin. To fully appreciate the importance of that, consider what would have happened had I known only of John Slack. I would have found multiple possible places of origin in census and tax records, and would have been at a loss when attempting to identify which pertained. It was the known “starter” relationship of John to Jacob that solved the problem.

The Altrate (Altred) Brothers

My ancestor Christopher Altrate (Altred; Alteriedt) arrived at Philadelphia in 1749, and was in Frederick county, Virginia, by 1760. He resided in Winchester, and there became one of the founders of the town’s Evangelical Lutheran church. In his will, made in 1765, he referred to property that would come to him in Youghstousen, Germany. Christopher had an apparent brother named Michael Altred, who had been fined in 1761 in Frederick county for being absent from a muster, and who stood security for Christopher’s widow when she administered his estate.

The name of the German location proved problematic, because there is no Youghtstousen in Germany. A query directed to a genealogy forum elicited the same response from two native German speakers: In their opinion the location was probably Jagsthausen, in Württemberg.

Convergence in this case came from the ongoing indexing of German birth and christening records by the LDS Church. A record for Christoph Alteried showed a birth date of 16 Apr 1724, as recorded in the Evangelisch church, Ruchsen, Baden. That of his brother Georg Michael Alteriedt occurred on 5 Oct 1725, recorded in the same church. Both were sons of Johann Friederich Alteried by his wife Maria Agnes. Then came the best part, the discovery that Jagsthausen is only 6.5 road miles from Ruchsen [1]. The deal was sealed.

Again, the case illustrates the use of web-based information to provide convergence between brothers in a known starter relationship, this time using the online FamilySearch facility of the LDS Church (familysearch.org). Discovering the parents made it possible to trace a number of further generations in multiple family lines.

Other Brothers

A number of other examples could be described. They include the Barber family of Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, and co. York, England; the Bowers (Bauer) family of Berks county, Pennsylvania, Frederick co, Virginia, and Baden, Germany; and the Mosby family of Charles City county, Virginia, and co. Norfolk, England.   For full descriptions and references, and the ancestries of these families as well as those of the Slack and Altrate families, see The Omnibus Ancestry, available for download at Lulu.com.

In all of these cases, it was knowledge that two men were brothers that allowed the convergent power of the web to identify their common origin.


Keep in mind that merely finding the names of two brothers in earlier records at the same location is often insufficient to establish that the records concern those brothers. To take an extreme example, starting with the names of two brothers named John and James Smith would likely turn up hundreds of possible convergences, only one of which may be the proverbial needle in the haystack.

It’s only in the instance of rare names (first and/or last) that names alone might lead one to assume identity. The Altrates/Altreds are possibly a case in point, as the surname is rare, especially when appearing with the given names Christopher and Michael.

Nevertheless in all the cases cited, additional information was available that supported identity. The Altrates/Altreds were thought to have a property interest in Jagsthausen, only a few miles from the convergent location of Ruchsen. The Slack brothers, while having a moderately uncommon surname, were chiefly identified as the sons of Hendrick through their age spread and a close correspondence in birth and christening dates, along with other considerations that were described in the original blog entry.

Thus when applying a starter relationship to look for convergence on a common location, all known facts should be exploited to either confirm or disconfirm the convergence. In this regard the enterprise is similar to other applications of the genealogist’s craft.


[1] The sharp-eyed reader will have noticed that Ruchsen is in Baden while Jagsthausen is in Württemberg. Until 1846 Ruchsen was an exclave of Baden, being completely surrounded by Württemberg. In that year territories were exchanged that gave it land access to the rest of Baden. However, a border remained between Ruchsen and Jagsthausen (information retrieved from https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruchsen, 2016).

Picture attribution: Owner Jen’s Art & Soul, Brotherly Love, retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/frazzledjen/177002473. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.