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Our Sussex Parish by Thomas Geering

23 Feb

I mentioned the book Our Sussex Parish by Thomas Geering in my weekly to-do list. It is interesting to me because the parish in the title is Hailsham, Sussex and I have traced my GEERING ancestors back to Hailsham.

The book itself has quite an interesting history, it was first published in 1884 as Our Parish: A Medley. It didn’t achieve any real recognition until it was re-discovered by the well-known Sussex writer Arthur Beckett, who was instrumental in getting the volume re-published in 1925 by Methuen.

The 1925 edition included a foreword by Beckett, and Beckett also grouped the chapters together into three categories: “Our Sussex Parish And Its Institutions”, “Some Personalities In Our Parish” and “Sketches And Tales Of Our Parish”. He also removed some of the longer stories from the book.

In 2001 the book was re-published by Piccadilly Rare Books of Ticehurst, Sussex. This was limited to only 100 copies, and appears to have been a straight re-print of the 1925 edition.

The book was re-published again in 2003 by Country Books, in essentially the same format, but with an extra chapter which featured a story entitled “The Old Sussex Bookseller”, and a new introduction by Richard Knowles.

Copies of the first edition are as rare as hen’s teeth, but the more recent editions can be found in second-hand shops or websites, as well as in libraries.

Thomas Geering’s writing is so evocative of a time gone by, take for example his notes on inns and public houses:

Man, being gregarious, must have a common meeting-place, be he poor or be he rich – the public-house for the toiler, the club-house for the independent man, where any matter may be talked over, if not finally settled, where refreshments may be had, and the thirsty soul gratified, if not satisfied.

Or his description of the blacksmith:

…. a round-eyed, fierce, wild-looking man, rarely seen out of his ragged leathern apron, but withal, as gentle as a lamb; he who made his own songs, and sang them to his own tunes, to the stroke of his hammer as the sparks flew out of his shop window ….

I can see why Arthur Beckett was so enamoured of Geering’s work, but I still need to work out if Thomas Geering was a relation of mine and do his stories mention any of my relations.

Sussex Poll Books on Google Books

1 Feb

It has been a while since I spent any time on Google Books and I was pleasantly surprised to find out how much it had grown over the last few years and how useful it could be to my research.

I was surprised to find that Google Book now included amongst the collection a selection of eighteenth and nineteenth century poll books for the county of Sussex.

Poll books are basically lists of people entitled vote in various different elections. They differ from later electoral rolls (or registers) in that they also tell you who the person actually voted for, something unimaginable these days.

Eligibility to vote was mainly down to property ownership (but varied from time and place) so many of the lists are quite short, but even I have found some my farming relations among the list of voter’s names.

So far I have found the following poll books for Sussex:

There may be more of course because they don’t all have "poll book" in the title, and I haven’t had time to see what the coverage of other counties is like.

I am definitely going to have to spend some more time on Google Books and see what other Sussex resources and general background material I can find.

From my bookshelves: The Phillimore Atlas & Index of Parish Registers

25 Jan

There was a good reason why I wanted to highlight this book, not that it is an essential reference source for English, Scottish and Welsh genealogy isn’t a good enough reason on it’s own.

No, the other reason is the price. Currently on the 3rd edition is available new for £26.76, which is almost half of it’s original selling price. (By the way I am not part of the Amazon affiliate scheme)

You may be able to find second hand copies cheaper (I saw an earlier edition in a second-hand bookshop last weekend for £15). Even the publishers Phillimore & Co Ltd, are offering the book at a greatly reduced £35.

Don’t forget that many libraries will also hold copies of this book as well, in fact my local library has two copies, one reference copy and one that can be borrowed (if you are quick enough when it come back or you reserve it).

The only caveat is that although this is the latest edition it was still published in 2003, so some of the information may well be out of date, and some of it may well be available on the internet now. However since I got my copy I am finding myself using it more and more in place of Google to find the locations of parishes and who their neighbours are.

As the title suggests the book is divided into two parts, the atlas and the index. The atlas section consists of two maps for each county; a topographical map (showing places, roads and some landscape features such as hills and rivers) and a parish map (showing the positions of the parishes and the ecclesiastical jurisdictions in which they fall).

The index section contains a list of the parishes within each county and details relating to the availability of the parish registers. The information for each county is as follows:

  1. Parish name
  2. Deposited original registers – the date range for original parish registers deposited at the County Record Office
  3. I.G.I. – coverage in the International Genealogical Index
  4. Local census indexes – availability of locally produced census indexes
  5. Copies of registers at Soc. Gen. – the dates of copies of the parish registers held by the Society of Genealogists
  6. Boyd’s marriage index – dates included in Boyd’s marriage index
  7. 1837-1851 registration district – name of the registration district in which the parish can be found
  8. Pallot’s marriage index – dates included in Pallot’s marriage index
  9. Non-conform. records at P.R.O. – dates of non-conformist records held at The National Archives
  10. Map ref. – refering to the parish map in the first section of the book

I have used this book for many things, but it is especially useful for identifying the location of a parish in relation to those around it, especially for unfamiliar counties, such as when my ancestry drifts eastwards into Kent.

It is useful for identifying the correct spelling of an unfamiliar parish, or rather trying to work out what the enumerator or transcriber actually meant as a place of birth in the census.

Although some of this information may seem redundant now, because so much is on the internet and indexed, much of the information still remains relevant, after all, the historical geography of our ancestor’s parishes haven’t changed even if the current boundaries have moved.

Whilst it would be nice to see an updated edition, I fear that without it being online it would become out of date as soon as it was published. So always check the catalogues of the County Record Offices and the Society of Genealogists for the latest information.

Madness Monday: Confessions of a bibliomaniac

7 Dec

Last week in a local charity shop I bought a copy of ABC for Book Collectors by John Carter (revised by Nicolas Barker). This edition was published by Oak Knoll Books, Delaware in 1992.

The book is an A to Z of book related terms, mostly concerning older books, which I would class as antiquarian books, which are mostly out of my price range. What really appealed to me were the definitions of the words that are used to describe the physical aspects of a book, such as its binding, stitching and size.

Many of these terms are ones that I see in archive catalogues when describing bound volumes of material, so it will be good to have a reference book on my shelf that explains what some of these terms mean.

Whilst looking through I came across two terms which made me stop and think. They describe the relationship between the reader (or collector) and the books. This made me think about my relationship with books, both now and in the past. I have come to the conclusion that I was once suffering from bibliomania, but now I would describe myself as a bibliophile.

When I read the definition of bibliomania on Wikipedia, it reminded me of the trips I used to make up to London (perhaps once a month) to visit various bookshops (both new and second-hand) to buy books. At that time I was still living at home, had very few outgoings and lots of space for books. I still have, or rather my parents still have in their loft, more books than I could ever hope to read in my lifetime.

My favourite new bookshop was Dillions in Gower Street, London. It is now a branch of Waterstone’s and I haven’t visited for many years, but I still remember with fondness taking the lift to the top of the building and working my way back down through the many floors browsing.

The sentence about the purchase of multiple copies of the same book and edition and the accumulation of books beyond possible capacity of use or enjoyment are frequent symptoms of bibliomania really did describe my behaviour. I did have several copies of some books, although these were usually only cheap second-hand copies, and of course it was quite normal to want both hardback and paperback copies of the same book.

I remember one holiday in South Devon with a friend I was forced to by a new holdall, just to take home the books I had bought during the week. This was when we were on a camping holiday and living out of our rucksacks in a tent!

I was forced to curb my book hoarding by a lack of space and lack of money, brought about by a mortgage when my future wife and I bought a place together. It didn’t stop instantly, but the compulsion to buy books has gradually faded.

That’s not to say that I don’t indulge every now and then, because I do, but it tends to be more selective and more controlled. I still find it impossible to pass a second-hand bookshop without popping in, but nine times out ten I come out empty-handed.

A visit to the seaside on my day off (or rather a visit to a library near the seaside)

29 Sep

One of these days I am going to take a day off work and not get up the same time as I would if I was going to work. Still it gave me the opportunity to confuse the bus driver by going in the opposite direction to the way I would normally be going.

I know I was supposed to be heading to the East Sussex Record Office at Lewes, East Sussex, but I needed to do a couple of look ups in Worthing as well. So instead of jumping on a bus heading east out of Brighton, I jumped on one headed west.

Worthing Pier in the sunshine

Worthing Pier in the sunshine

Worthing Library was featured in the latest series of Who Do You Think You Are? and for good reason. In my opinion it has the best local studies collection of any of the West Sussex libraries and today it was more convenient (cheaper and quicker) for me than visiting the West Sussex Record Office at Chichester.

Not only did I find the two entries in the parish registers I was after, but I also came away with a copy of Wills and Other Probate Records by Karen Grannum and Nigel Taylor. This book published by The National Archives in 2004 had been withdrawn for sale for some reason (perhaps it has been republished since) and cost me just £2, a real bargain and something to read on the bus heading back to Brighton and Lewes.


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