Your Family Bible

A woman from Lawrenceville GA bought an old leather-bound bible from an antiques dealer. She kept it for a number of years before being inspired recently to track down the family. She used social media and mustered history buffs and genealogists and within a short time had found and verified a descendant of the family that owned the bible. To minimize the chance of loss, she actually flew to California at her own expense to return the bible to a grateful descendant.

Bibles have been used for centuries to record births, marriages and deaths in families. With the booming interest in genealogy (said to be the second most common hobby behind gardening), family bibles are an important source of information. Here’s one clue as to reliability. If the entries vary in handwriting, ink, etc. through the years, the details were probably entered as they happened and thus are most likely very reliable.

Our family bible spent years put away in a box, brought out only occasionally to add information, but unseen by most family members. It starts with a birth in 1790. It was well travelled, referring to relatives that had lived in PA, KY, MD, IL, LA, SC, OH, AL and Cuba. It tells of a birth that took place in the home of the American Consul in Havana. It tells of an entire family and their guests that died when the steamship Evening Star was lost in a hurricane in 1866. The last entry refers to a death in 1960.

This bible has been stored in various conditions for over 200 years. It is in bad shape structurally, but the family record is still very legible. The cover can be restored or replaced but the foxing and damage to the pages can’t be reversed. My best bet now is to put this flat in its own acid-free, lignin-free, buffered box to prevent further damage. Then store it in a heated/cooled closet in the house where the humidity will be low.

If you look at the collage of photos in this blog, you can see that I was able to take very readable images of the entries in our bible. I chose to use a camera rather than a scanner. When opening the bible to the historic information, there is some risk of further structural damage . I think it is worth the risk because it is important to have a readable backup copy of the contents. And once the images are made, family members won’t have to open the bible to learn about family history.

In school, you take history courses almost every year. You are told the importance of knowing the past, so as to not make the same mistakes in the future. The past teaches you what good can come from hard work. Think about your own family history. In fact, your family is a part of history. The research is rewarding and a great place to start is in the box of old letter and photos that have been handed down to your generation – or with your old family bible. More on this next month.

Adair Watters

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