Monday, May 30, 2011

Genealogy fun with South Carolina Quakers

Last week I talked to a couple of people about Quakers in South Carolina. Since I started working at the Friends Historical Collection in January, we've had a few people from out of town come in to research their family history (I'm not the only one who takes genealogy vacations!). This time, a lady had found references to her ancestors in Hinshaw (the popular and handy Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy) and other books and wanted to find primary records from Bush River Meeting.

I've always been fascinated by the Bush River records, and I got the chance to learn more about them. The originals are in our collection, but they were in a fire many years ago, so they're brown and brittle and look like the Dead Sea Scrolls. We have many records from the 1700s that have been preserved and are in decent shape, but the Bush River records haven't been restored, yet, and they're so fragile we don't even touch them. Somehow, at some time past, somebody made a photocopy of them. I pulled those for our visitor, but the years she was looking for were missing.

I racked my brain, trying to remember something from the inventory I've been working on. Finally, on the second day, I found transcripts of the records — and they included all of the years.

I don't know much about Laura Worth, but she is my hero. She helped William Hinshaw write the first volume of the Encyclopedia, the one that included North and South Carolina. As part of that work in the 1930s, she transcribed — by hand — many old Quaker records.

On Friday, I talked to Bill Medlin, author of Quaker Families of South Carolina and Georgia (1982), who now lives in Indiana. His book, out of print for many years, lists many members of Wateree meeting and I wanted to know how he found their names. (My previous posts about the lost Fredericksburgh/Wateree meeting minutes are here and here.) For the book, which he hopes to reprint sometime in the future, Bill used the same techniques I was planning to use: look through the records of other meetings for mentions of Wateree and its members. He encouraged me, but cautioned that not all of his information came from Hinshaw, who only gleaned genealogical extracts. Reading through other meetings' minutes sounds pretty overwhelming, I thought.

Bill confirmed that the Fredericksburgh minutes were received at Bush River in the early 1780s, so they disappeared after that date. He and another genealogist had advertised a reward for those records, with no results, and the other man had searched for them for about 40 years.

The good news is, Bill is currently working on a book about Bush River.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bookhunting in London — Part 3, Charing Cross and Cecil Court (Updated)

With no other plans for the afternoon, I decided to look for Cecil Court and its many bookshops. My map took me down Charing Cross Road. Having just read 84, Charing Cross Road, I had to look for the address. Not all of the businesses were numbered, but as best I could figure out, the famous address now belongs to a Pizza Hut.

I took a picture of this interesting clock in case I get the chance to compare it with any images of the legendary bookshop.

UPDATE: I wish I'd known the name of the restaurant to look for, and that there's a brass plaque commemorating the bookstore site. It was apparently on another corner of this large Cambridge Circus intersection. Both Pizza Hut and "Med Kitchen" (the restaurant on the former site) use intersecting streets, not Charing Cross Road, in their addresses. I'm still a little confused, because the business next to Pizza Hut was 82 or 80 with numbers going down (and in the 90s across the street), and Google maps says the address 84 is in the middle of the intersection. Anyway, here's a great site with photos of Marks & Co. 

What I didn't realize was there were many other bookshops along Charing Cross Road, before I even got to Cecil Court. I went into the first one. The young man behind the counter never greeted me.

I found a couple of books full of photos from movies (1946 and 1953), with lots of famous stars when they were young. I bought them after touring the downstairs. I didn't bother to ask for a discount, because the man seemed so unfriendly and the prices were already very reasonable.

There was another bookstore right next door! We don't have any used bookstores in our town, much less antiquaria or even vintage (that is, before I opened my own shop in March). And here I seemed to be surrounded. I made myself just window shop, keeping in mind my already-full luggage and tight budget (see previous posts, part 1 and part 2). But at the next one, I just had to go in.

Henry Pordes Books had shelves filled with books up to the ceiling, and old and new books mixed together by subject. When I found a side room with a great selection of British and Irish history, I sat down on the floor for some serious searching. I ended up with a lovely illustrated history of old Edinburgh (research for my future novels).

So far, I'd entered three shops today, bought books at all three, and I hadn't even reached Cecil Court! When I did, I was stunned to find an entire street of bookshops.
Cecil Court
Unsworth's had been on my list before I set out, since they specialize in history. I was very tempted by one book — I've been looking for social history on 17th-century Ireland for two years — but I realized that it was only about the nobility, and tore myself away. It's not the bookseller's fault that his shop was farther down my street of temptation.

Oh, and guess what surprise awaited me at the other end of Cecil Court?

A Quaker meetinghouse.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Bookhunting in London - Part 2, Persephone Books

As I debated whether or not to spend one of my days in London shopping, I remembered that Chris at Book Hunter's Holiday had highly recommended Persephone Books. I decided that if it were close, I would stop in, and if it weren't, I wouldn't. Come to find out (as we say in the South), it was only a few blocks from my hotel.

I found the shop on a pedestrian-friendly street with several caf├ęs right next to each other.

Persephone Books is not only an independent bookshop, but also a small press. They reprint "neglected classics" by women writers, some as paperbacks, and some in their unique format — sturdy, smooth gray paper with a matching dustjacket and cloth-design endpapers. For each book, they use the cloth design on a matching bookmark, with a description of the story.

I bought Midsummer Night in the Workhouse, a collection of short stories that looked just right for the flight home. The endpapers are based on a sofa the author used to own.

So far my favorite is the title story, about a group of writers staying in a mansion on a sponsored writing retreat.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bookhunting in London - Part 1, Jarndyce

As a shiny new bookseller, I imagined myself finding wonderful books in old, musty bookshops whilst in London. Why not, since I've been bookhunting all my life? The reality, though, was that I had limited funds, had heard that shipping a box home could be enormous, and my bags were already stuffed, with the airlines huffing about strict luggage rules. I had the addresses of several shops near Charing Cross Road, but couldn't decide whether or not I would spend one of my precious days shopping, considering the aforementioned limitations.

I happened to see a bookshop across from the British Museum, near my hotel. Since it was so close, I decided to stop in on my way back to the room. Jarndyce Booksellers specializes in 19th-century literature. I quickly decided the books were out of my price range, but it's a lovely shop. I could tell they've been in business a long time because of the condition of the books — no missing spines, no worn bindings here. Imagine how long it took to find and acquire them all!

I introduced myself, and the proprietress kindly loaded me up with catalogs. Their catalogs look like books themselves, and they print 5 or 6 a year! An interesting side note: Jarndyce gets most of their business through their catalogs and mailing list. Then they list books on the internet.

As much as I love books and being around them, especially old books, I felt a bit discouraged because such a great collection of antiques seems so far out of my league. My shop, Tannery Books, is a general used book shop with just a few antiques. Although I want to learn about antiquaria and grow that part of my business, I'm consoled by the fact that anybody can walk in my shop and find something affordable. And I decided to keep it that way.

Saturday, May 07, 2011


I'm finally home, after what feels like days of traveling — 3:30 am London time/10:30 pm U.S. time until 5:30 pm U.S. I'll write about bookhunting in London after a rest and after downloading pictures from the camera.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Lonely epistles from South Carolina

I went to Friends House in London today. It's a huge building across from Euston train station, with two Meeting houses, cafe, restaurant, library — and that's just the main floor. Signs indicated that offices, publications, etc. were upstairs. I peeked into the large meeting room and it looked like Parliament in the historical movies, with seats down either side and straight-backed wooden seating high on a second level.

Copying 18th-century letters
I went to the library and asked for the 1700s correspondence between colonial South Carolina and London Yearly Meeting. I'm looking for any mentions of Fredericksburgh Monthly Meeting to try to re-create their lost records. Today I found their epistles, mostly annual reports, to London.

Fredericksburgh Meeting members considered themselves remote and independent, so they reported directly to London. I never thought that was strange until I happened to mention to the librarian that most of these pioneers were Irish. His implied question was immediate: wouldn't they report to Ireland? But no, the letters are there. Maybe it was because the Religious Society of Friends started in England; London was considered the mother ship. The letters show great loyalty and attachment, even though the people writing and reading them probably never met.

With London's insistence, Fredericksburgh eventually joined New Garden Quarter, based in North Carolina. They really didn't want to. They wrote that they were "isolate" and "remote." The nearest monthly meeting, Bush River, was about 75 miles away, and New Garden a couple hundred miles. The funny thing is that during those days of walking or traveling by horse, Friends "in this wilderness" felt like New Garden was as out of reach as Mars; they preferred to answer to people on the other side of the ocean.

I found a clue. The helpful librarian brought me an article about Fredericksburgh. They turned over their minutes to Bush River Meeting about 1783. So, at some point, over 200 years ago, the minutes existed. Somebody did write things down.

The library at Quaker House. Old prohibition posters adorn the balcony.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Sunday snippets

A "dry" egg. Marmite. Workshop: spiritual autobiography. Turkey slices with crunchy yummy part. Walking through gardens and wooded paths, wearing a flowing skirt and soft shoes. Peaceful worship, irritation, peace again. Group photo on the veranda. Business, budgets and brainstorming. Partners. A "slide slow" in pantomime. Spirit Rising, spirit writing, listening, obeying, faith. More tea and biscuits. Morris dancing. Gathering around small screens. Laughing.