Setting Our Books Free

We are in the process of severely de-cluttering our townhouse. Even though we’ve been in the habit of regular-ish trips to the Salvos/Anglicare/Vinnies, the stuff just keeps mounting up. Or to quote Himself “we’ve brought in more than we’ve got rid of”.

Sisyphus and his rock - painting by Titian. Image from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisyphus

Sisyphus and his rock – painting by Titian. Image from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisyphus

The decision making of what to “get rid of” and what to keep has been causing me lots of grief over the past months, not least because it seems like a sisyphean task – you know how you’re pushing a very large rock up a hill and you’re in imminent danger of an avalanche. I’m consoled by the fact that I’ve been feeling increasingly weighed-down by our belongings in recent months (years?) and so decluttering will shed that big rock and let me fly…well perhaps float a little.

One strategy might have been to consider the following questions should a severe cyclone come round:

  • What would we take as precious-to-us items?
  • What would we want to replace if the items were lost?
  • What would we not miss at all, and perhaps be relieved we were shed of them?

However there are less extreme rationales to use when decluttering. Entirely coincidentally one of my friends shared this post on Facebook and it’s been wonderfully helpful. Appropriately it focuses on books, which along with papers, are the bête noir of this household. I was so relieved when I read this story as it made the process so much clearer. Hence, my strategy is going to be similar.

We will be keeping:

  • Most of my family history reference books.
  • Coffee table books which we particularly love.
  • Books which are relevant to our own personal history.
  • Books we want to re-read again and again.
  • Books that changed how I/we see life, or which made me say “me too!”
  • Any books which are not held elsewhere in Australia (there are a few).

    Maps and War and a bit of Queensland

    Maps and War and a bit of Queensland

We will be releasing:

  • Books we’ve enjoyed but would only look at occasionally in future.
  • Books which no longer have relevance for us eg our Kathmandu collection.
  • Books which have been superseded by new information/new editions.
  • Ones I know I’ll be able to find in a local library (mostly fiction)
  • Ones that may be in a reference library I can access – provided I don’t use that book regularly.
  • Ones I’ve started to read but can’t get into.
  • Books I feel I should read but just never get to.

DSC_2736

DSC_2738One of the big questions I’m dealing with though, is whether to keep some of my childhood books which I’ve only just re-acquired in the past 18 months. Like everything else children’s book fashions have changed massively since dinosaurs roamed the earth so they don’t suit the grandchildren’s reading styles.

Do I treasure them a little longer, purely for the memories? Or do I tell myself, you didn’t have them for 40+ years so why will you miss them?

Rather than just sending the unloved books to a charity store, I’m thinking of which of my friends would really love that particular book. Hey, don’t good friends share things – even clutter?! Others of our poor rejected books will go to the casual “library” of pre-loved books which Mr Cassmob set up at work and which has been quite popular.

Wish us luck – Himself will need more than me as my study is FULL of books. Perhaps that’s why it’s freaking me out more?

FMP’s Clare Electoral Rolls are grand

fmpfridays-homeIn recent months Find My Past[i] have been releasing a wonderful and vast array of records each Friday under the banner of Findmypast Fridays (the image here is their logo for this promotion). It makes for pretty happy Fridays!

Last Friday’s releases included Irish Poverty Loans 1821-1874 and the Clare Electoral Rolls 1858-1989. Sadly I had no joy with the loans records but found the Electoral Rolls to be quite wonderful.

Although I’ve only dabbled slightly in the records I can see they have great potential for family history research and especially for One Place Studies research. Let me give you some examples of what I’ve discovered.

 Relevance to Personal Family History

  •  There is no Martin O’Brien listed on the Griffith’s Valuations 1852 at Ballykelly townland, Parish Kilseily (various spellings), Co Clare. The electoral rolls of 1864 (the earliest available for Broadford polling booth) tell me that Martin resides at Killaderry [O’Brien] townland but has land there and at Ballykelly, with a combined value of £15/5/-.
  • My own Michael O’Brien, at Ballykelly, must be on a property worth less than £10 as he is not listed.
  • Similarly the Michael O’Brien at Kilseily (Kilsiley) townland is also not listed.
  • On some occasions the entries refer to a person by their alias which can also be helpful in differentiating people of the same name.
  • The rolls may also offer clues as to when an ancestor died and who took over the property (again of use in comparison to the revision lists).
  • They may also offer clues to when emigration took place…always assuming the person is on the rolls in the first place.

 Relevance for One Place Studies

I think the real value of these records is shown with One Place Studies. For example I am interested in Broadford (Parish Kilseily) specifically, and East Clare generally.

Over time I can peruse the electoral rolls which are available, year by year, and determine the changes in occupancy and compare them to the Valuation Revisions available on microfilm through LDS Family History Libraries.

I can also:

  • track changes in the use of a particular place name or townland and its spelling and perhaps identify locally-used names.
  •  differentiate between two people with the same name by comparing where they reside and what land is listed for them.
  •  compare when one land owner’s land values increase over time eg my ancestor’s land at Ballykelly finally enables his son to gain a vote much later on.

Much of this research is time-consuming and tedious, but then research wasn’t meant to be easy all the time (to paraphrase on of Australia’s Prime Ministers, and appropriately, Irish poet and writer, George Bernard Shaw).

Cross-Comparisons

By cross-linking the original valuations, the revisions, the electoral rolls, church registers, and other records which come our way, we can slowly come to understand the economic standing of people within the community, differentiate people with the same name, and generally get a clearer picture of the community. I’ve been lucky to be given an “off the back of the truck” source of information from one of my blog readers which I can use in triangulating this information, but even without that bonanza, the Clare Electoral Rolls can perform wonders in clarifying our understanding of communities and our own families.

My guess is that once again those of us with Clare ancestry will be the envy of our genealogical peers!

Resources

And if you have Clare ancestry and are yet to discover the Clare County Library’s proliferation of wonderful genealogical resources and indexes (all cross-checked). You can look through their offerings here. While some counties have been curmudgeonly with records, Clare Library has made it so much easier for us to trace our Clare-born ancestors…they really have been trail blazers.

If you don’t have a personal subscription to Find My Past you may wish to keep an eye on their website and Facebook pages as they’ve had some good specials lately. Meanwhile don’t forget your local family history/genealogy society or reference library may well have a subscription you can access. Why not give it a go? I’ve had wonderful success over the years.

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[i] I have a world subscription to Find My Past.