Part of Family History...
Volume 45, Number 6, June 2007
I make no apology this month for blatantly plugging the Medal Tracker service we offer, both in the pages of this magazine and on-line at www.medaltracker.com. Medal Tracker has helped re-unite hundreds of medals over the past decades but we think it’s about to get even bigger. In early May, we attended the Who Do You Think You Are, Live event in London’s Olympia and it was a very interesting experience indeed. We’ve been attending medal fairs and shows for years, they’ve been a huge part of life at Token Publishing and we don’t think we would be where we are today if we hadn’t. We’ve met many fascinating people and built up good relationships with advertisers, dealers and readers. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed attending all the events, however, it must be said that often it feels a little like an exclusive club! We see the same faces week in week out, the same collectors, the same dealers, all attending shows from one end of the country to the other. Whereas many are happy to collect without leaving their armchairs, there are also those keen to travel to further their hobby and so, inevitably, we end up bumping into them time and again. Nothing wrong with that, they’re lovely people, but you can imagine the slight culture shock when we were confronted by not hundreds but thousands of new faces at Olympia, all eager to know more about the medals their ancestors may have been awarded. It was, I have to admit, very tiring having to explain the different decorations and awards time and again to total beginners. Quite exhausting trying to explain the difference between a gallantry award and a campaign medal (many people assumed medals were simply for heroism, not for “taking part”) or why Great Uncle Fred may have got a 1914 star but Great Uncle Tom might only have received a pair, but it was rewarding nonetheless, and a great experience for the three of us who attended. Of course, we weren’t just there to give out free advice; we were there to try to persuade these family historians to use our Medal Tracker service to trace their family medals. Time and again, we had to point out to people that most medals are named and so they could find the actual medals awarded to Great Granddad. We got an overwhelmingly positive response to this and another eager “historian” was keen to start “tracking”. The excitement of many, who, when confronted with the information about naming suddenly envisioned bringing their relatives medals back home, was almost tangible. Already we have seen a large number of new medals appear on the Medal Tracker website and more are coming in for the magazine every day. And, as we follow up the success of that event with advertising in many of the Family History magazines, we fully expect the influx of new medals to continue apace. With this in mind, I urge all collectors, and dealers, to check out both the magazine and the web page regularly—you are able to see the newly listed medals simply by clicking on “browse the full listing” then choosing the date range which you wish to look at—i.e., all medals added in the last week/month etc. Even if you aren’t prepared to let the medals leave your collection (although I’m sure most of us would be happy to let a pair, trio or similar “go home” if we felt they were really wanted and are happy to negotiate when it comes to the bigger items), simply letting the family know that those medals still exist may well be enough. I had many people at Who Do You Think You Are? say to me that they’d be happy enough to just have a photograph of the awards and would gladly let their owner have a photograph of the recipient in exchange. Just think how much further along your research could be if you were actually in touch with the relatives! And, don’t forget, if you are at all wary of coming forward (and some of us might be, fearful that we’d get caught up in family politics and such like) you can always send us details anonymously—just let the “trackers” know what you can! We all have our own views on where medals should be, and there are many collectors who argue, quite rightly, that the medals in their collections must have been sold by someone, and it was probably the family of the recipient, so why should they go back? Well, times have changed, the genealogy boom is huge and, judging by those we met in London, this new breed of historian is every bit as keen to collect medals as we are. Admittedly, it is only their own family’s medals that they want to collect but is the number of medals the only criteria for a collection? If you can help these new “trackers” please do so—they’ll be every bit as grateful as any one of us “regular collectors”—judging by the reaction of many at Olympia, even more so!
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