By Paige Gardner Smith
FAMILY BIBLE RECORDS
There may be a valuable resource for
discovering your family history
as near as your bookshelf or attic - the family Bible. The family Bible or
prayer book is an important possession among families. Not only was it a
source of inspiration for many of our ancestors, but also a place to
record birth, deaths, marriages, and other special events.
Most old Bibles will have a registry
page in the front, between testaments, or in the back where hopefully
some-one recorded the names and dates in relation to each event.
Although not all families maintained
a family Bible or the records
within, it's always a good idea to ask around among your relatives. If you
are lucky enough to find one (or more) among your kin, it may contain
information un-available from other sources. Before this century, official
birth and death records were rarely kept. When you find this information
in an old family Bible, you have found a treasure indeed.
As with any family record,
however, your detective instincts will come in handy. If the name and
dates appear to have been recorded all at once or all in the same
hand-writing, this may indicate that the names and dates were copied from
an earlier Bible. It may also mean they were recorded from someone's
memory. If the publication date of the Bible is later than the earlier
dates on the registry page, this may also show that some or all of the
vents weren't recorded as they happened. Use these clues when you decide
how much authenticity you lend to the names and dates recorded in these
Occasionally, very old
Bibles contain records of significance to people not related to or
descended from the Bible owner. For example, the Harrison family Bible of
Franklin, Tennessee contains all the family data from the mid-nineteenth
century on its registry pages. It also contains the name and age of each
slave and servant in the household, plus their ages, written inside the
front and back covers. This is a gold mine for many black genealogists!
Although family Bibles are
often very treasured heir-looms, many times they become damaged, lost or
destroyed. This results in not only the loss of the book itself, but the
genealogical information as well.
To avoid the loss of these
special records, several organizations collect and preserve Bible record
information collected from the general population. For example, The
National Genealogical Society actively solicits photocopies of Bible
records to include in their archives for everyone's use. I encourage you
to send you Bible records to NGS, your local historical society, or other
organizations which will take an active interest in the safekeeping of
your sub-mission. Although you may not intend to actively seek your roots,
your children or grandchildren may one day be thrilled to find their
ancestor's name and history preserved for them through your initiative.
If you would like to ensure
that your own family history as recorded within the pages of your Bible is
preserved, send photocopies of the registry pages and title page of the
Bible, as well as a typewritten transcription of the information to: The
National Genealogical Society, The Glebe House, 4627 17th St.
North, Arlington, VA 22207