Friday, June 8, 2007

Those Old Family Bibles

Personally, I've never had much luck with the old family Bible. But the family Bible can be a valuable asset to your genealogical research. Especially if you're lucky enough to have one, find one, or have somebody share one with you.
In the 19th century, in particular, people would write their family information, in the family Bible. The Bible was often a wedding present given to a young bride and groom as they went off to start their own household. So, the bride (or groom, as the case may be) would painstakenly write her name and birthdate and her groom's name and birthday and the day they got married inside. Then their parents were listed and then, as they had their children, those would be listed in the family Bible, as well.
Depending on your ancestor, the information could end there, or they might add where they were born. Sometimes they added death dates as they came. If they had enough room, they might even list their own siblings and the people that their children eventually married. You can see how valuable this could be. Unless a tombstone or death record exists for your ancestor, sometimes, this is the only way to get an actual birth or death date. Many times we have a year for when our ancestor was born, but not always an exact date. The family Bible is also, sometimes, the only record of children who did not make it to adulthood.
I had an uncle who died when he was about five of Diptheria. Of his eight brothers and sisters, only one actually ever met him, and that was the sister born two years after him. I know who he his, his name, I've even got a few photographs of him. But, if I were not a genealogist and I didn't write it down, how many of my 23 cousins would pass this information on to their children? (As it is, I've had some of my cousins say to me . . . I thought there were only eight kids. Because they didn't know about the oldest boy who died.) Within two or three generations, Raymond Lenrow Allen, would be completely lost to antiquity.
So, the family Bible is great for uncovering relatives you never knew existed. I know of one woman whose great-grandmother thought to write in her Bible that her brother "had gone west to live in Oregon." Little things like that are priceless.
For me, my mother's parents divorced very early on, and my Grandma moved about constantly for at least ten years. If there was an "old" Bible, it's long gone by now. Plus, she was orphaned at six, and most of her mother's things were kept by her step-father. My father's parents--a combination of Catholic and Methodist--I'm assuming were too poor to have ever had such a luxury as a family Bible. The house my grandfather was born and raised in, burned to the ground when his mother was seventy-seven years old. And everything in it, burned, too. So, no luck there . . .
However, just a few weeks ago, I posted a query on one of the genealogical boards and this very nice man answered it. After a week or so, he sent me a scanned copy of a family Bible that belonged to my great-great-great-grandmother. I didn't know this woman was my 3rd great-grandmother. The point is, the information she had written within her family Bible, allowed me to connect by great-great-grandpa with her and her family, and brought down a brick wall I'd been pounding at, since 1984. All from one little old family Bible, that somebody thought to keep. And somebody thought to share.
Rett MacPherson

1 comment:

Lynx said...

I could just cry when I read this story! I am so happy for you, that was quite the serendipitous day for you and your offspring. I would love to see the old family Bible from my grandma Smith's family... but at least I have the information that was written in it. Oh yay, second-hand info, how accurate can you get... but I say you deserve a chocolate cake and some Dr. Pepper for your good fortune! {grin}