Not too long ago it was very common for families to keep Bibles where they recorded basic information about family members such as births, marriages, deaths, and religious ceremonies such as christenings and baptisms. It is good to know about this tradition of recording special events because they truly are a treasure even if you are only able to take a few snapshots to preserve for future generations.
We have even been surprised to discover cousins who are in possession of the family Bible where we found useful clues about the birth dates and places of family members who lacked sufficient documentation for us to learn that information.
Ancestors faithfully recorded the most sacred events in their most sacred book about family member and descendants for future generations. Bibles were once used as an approved source for those applying for a delayed birth certificate. Most of these Bibles have since vanished either from neglect or deterioration. Very few still rest in our homes on our shelves or family rooms where we gather together.
Did Your Family Keep a Bible Record?
To be sure, we must query the elders to find out if they remember who was last in possession of the family Bible or if one even existed. With all that has gone the way of electronic bookkeeping, we would still do well to purchase a Bible and place it in plain sight as a reminder of this past tradition worthy of remembering as it represented faith and heritage. Somehow our ancestor believed recording important names and dates would remind us of what was worth striving for and remembering.
If you are fortunate that someone has held on to this keepsake, perhaps it spans several generations linking you to lives lived in times very little was documented. You will want to take care to verify each name and date, and share what you discover.
It is possible the original Bible wore out or could not longer contain the vast amount of information that was being recorded. A loved one purchased a new Bible and transferred the original information making one or two errors in names or dates. Not to worry. Be grateful for their efforts.
Bible Records of Former Enslaver
Your family may have witnessed this tradition of Bible recording from former enslavers. Some even recorded the names and events of those that they enslaved which can be a blessing if that record survived and is still accessible.
Thomas Jones Davies (1830-1902) of Beech Island, South Carolina kept a Bible dating from 1841 which mentions 82 births, 36 deaths, and 11 marriages in places located in South Carolina and Mississippi.
Some of the entries in the Bible are very descriptive:
“On the night of Jan 23d 1856 at the late residence of W.W. Starke Esq. Dinah mother of Peter. Her age was remarkable. She was owned by MC Hammond Esq and sold with others to WH Baldy Esq and by him allowed to live with me in 1850. Since then she has had her freedom, having been a child of my grandmother and hence my attention to her in the decline of her life. She was probably ninety years of age. Was buried at Malvern. Died of pneumonia and old age.”
Places to Search for Digitized Bibles
Some Bible records have been digitized. Be sure to check our growing collection of reader-contributed Bible records, and learn how you can contribute your own. Did you know? If you contribute photos or scanned images of your family Bible records for our collection, we will send you an archival grade Bible storage box to preserve your family Bible for generations to come.
To find digitized Bible records on other sites, check locally and online to find existing collections through:
- Digital Public Library of America
- Library of Virginia
- Public libraries
- University Libraries
- Historical Societies
- Genealogical Societies
To learn more, see United States Bible Records on the FamilySearch Wiki.
Sharpen the Saw
Ask the elders in our family to see if someone ever kept a family Bible or if a family Bible is in their possession today. Share your success on the Facebook link to this post.