Is it possible that unrelated persons on your family tree have common interests? Entirely possible. I found a common hobby shared between my fraternal grandfather, my maternal aunt, and my husband and his maternal grandfather. These persons are related to me, but not to each other. How did I find this common interest? While photographing their memorabilia. What do they have in common? Money.
Okay, that’s pretty vague, but perhaps it caught your attention. Let’s start with my fraternal grandfather. When I was young, we didn’t visit my Geiszler Grandparents often as they lived in Ohio and we lived in Texas. It was simply too far away to travel by plane or car in those days. However, the three things I remember about Grandpa Robert Paul Geiszler’s home, that were uniquely his, were the smell of pipe tobacco, his gun room, and coins in old glass wine jugs.
I always wondered why Grandpa Geiszler kept those glass jars filled with coins, mostly pennies, all around his living room. Perhaps it was childish of me, but I really wanted to have one someday. That way I could learn how much was inside of one of them. When my Grandpa passed away, I was so sad that a family feud had made the dream of learning just how much was in one of Grandpa’s jars was not ever going to come true.
One day I searched the internet and found this photograph. I found a few articles that said this was part of a great movement during World War II to save your change in jugs. If people would keep track of their change they could send the money in for the war effort, use it to pay for goods they needed on a daily basis, etc. Grandpa’s brother fought in World War II but Grandpa could not because he was overweight. Perhaps this was his way of supporting his brother. Who knows? This idea also was popular after the Great Depression, which my grandfather lived through as a child. So, it’s nice to know that those glass jars were connecting Grandpa Geiszler to the major events of the 20th century.
Coin collection found in a family dresser.
While I was on my research trip in Ohio, I came across this coin collection. Since my maternal aunt gave me free rein over my Grannie’s bedroom, I snooped around to see if there were other things that told her story that she hadn’t thought of. (My sweet Grannie had died in January.) I loved looking through all of the things she had. Clothes, jewelry, and documents. I felt reconnected to her. When I came across this coin collection, I was excited. Now both grandparents had a coin collection story. They were saving in similar patterns though they lived very different lifestyles. I was excited.
BUT I was wrong. These coins didn’t belong to my grandmother. They belonged to my Aunt. Oops. Sorry for snooping in your dresser (though it was in Grannie’s old room). I later found out why my aunt’s old dresser was in my Grannie’s old room and my Aunt didn’t mind the snooping, too much. Although I didn’t have a similar coin collection habit between the grandparents, I had a great photo for my Aunt’s history. My Aunt has worked in an Ohio bank for more years than I can remember. Although she has a cool business services job of some sort now, I still refer to her as a teller. She wishes I wouldn’t. But she was a teller for so many years, that’s what I remember. And to see her have this collection of coins, I remember that she was in the banking industry. Pretty cool.
After my trip to Ohio, my husband started purchasing several unsorted coin lots on eBay. His maternal Grandpa Richard Quick Kevern used to walk the streets of downtown Salt Lake City. He would find so many coins and jewelry on his daily walks that he took several vacations from the found funds. When Grandpa Kevern found interesting coins from around the world, he would give them to my husband. So my husband had a small collection of world coins. Now, my hubby’s not interested in collecting coins of great monetary value. He’s interested in a collection of circulated world coins for their historical/cool factor. If they have some great monetary worth, that’s a bonus.
My husband’s coin collecting hobby.
My kids love seeing all the coins that my husband receives from the eBay wins. They help him sort the coins and talk about the interesting things found on each piece. He’ll then clean the coins, save the ones he doesn’t have duplicates of, and sell the leftovers. I love his connection to his children through what can be learned from coinage, rather than an unhealthy focus on monetary accumulation.
When I write the full story of my family history, it will have to include the common interest found through the memorabilia belonging to unrelated family members on my tree. I will tell my children and grandchildren that money should be saved and used wisely. Money can be an occupational tool (for a banker). Or money can tell about history and connect family members together.
Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.