Foundling Tokens

The “tokens” of the children left in the foundling wheel of Lisbon, are a significant historical asset kept in the Historical Archive of the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa.

 

These “tokens” are mostly composed of a ‘note’, i.e., a textual document, usually on paper, in which the parent or someone designated thereby, recorded information regarding the child that was considered necessary or useful. The “token” essentially served as a mark and individualizing element of the child, but sometimes it was also used as a means of sharing anxieties, the causes of abandonment, and also the conveyance of requests regarding the child’s future.

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Some of these documents, in addition to the ‘note’, were accompanied by other pieces that, from a symbolic point of view, aimed to place the abandoned child under the protection, shielding or intercession of the divine (through images of saints, medals, crucifixes, etc.), secular objects (charms, clovers, amulets, playing cards, etc.), or even affective items (ribbons, embroidery, socks, mother’s hair, etc.).

This documentary series is composed of more than 86.700 “token”, which makes this set one of the most significant in numerical terms and in chronological comprehensiveness.

Token of Maria da Conceição

Foundling no. 1103 de 1790

Extent and medium: 2 folios; paper.

 

Scope and content: Female child, born on 11 October 1790.
Includes a note with the letters ‘a, e, i, o, u’.

Token of Joaquim Ferreira

Foundling no. 708 of 1791

Extent and medium: 1 folio; paper and fabric.

 

Scope and content: Male child, born on 06 July 1791.
Includes a pink ribbon and a white silk pouch, with yellow and brown geometric motifs, holding within a half a prayer card to Our Lady of Sorrows.

 

Token of Guilherme

Foundling no. 720 of 1791

Extent and medium: 1 folio; paper and fabric.

 

Scope and content: Male child.
Includes a drawing of a cross, as well as a devotional scapular (bentinho) of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, of brown linen embroidered with pink, blue and red thread.

Token of Gertrudes Rosa

Foundling no. 495 of 1792

Extent and medium: 1 folio; paper.

 

Scope and content: Female child.

Token of José

Foundling no. 1216 of 1792

Extent and medium: 1 folio; paper, thread and coral.

 

Scope and content: Male child, born on 28 October 1792.
Includes a white string and a pink coral bead.

 

Token of Egídio

Foundling no. 406 of 1793

Extent and medium: 1 folio; paper, fabric, metal and bone.

 

Scope and content: Male child.
Includes a silver and glass reliquary and a silver-mounted wolf tooth on a chain.

 

Token of Agostinho

Foundling no. 845 of 1793

Extent and medium: 1 folio; paper and glass.

 

Scope and content: Male child, born on 21 July 1793.
The paper note features a cut for validation purposes.
Includes the drawing of an arabesque and a rosary of black beads with a crucifix.

Token of Francisco

Foundling no. 948 of 1793

Extent and medium: 1 folio; paper and sealing wax.

 

Scope and content: Male child, born on 11 February 1793.
Includes a wax seal with the Coat of Arms of Portugal.

 

Token of Francisco Inácio da Conceição

Foundling no. 99 of 1795

Extent and medium: 1 folio; paper and sealing wax.

 

Scope and content: Male child.
Includes a seal applied on red sealing wax with the initials ‘BG’ within an octagon.