Bible Records


  An object prized by genealogists is the ‘family Bible’, a Bible in which a family’s immediate members’ vital information would be written. Your family may or may not have owned a family Bible. Through the 1800s and early 1900s, many Bible publishers printed large size volumes specifically for use by the family at their homes. (Smaller sized Bibles, for carrying to Church, were still published.) The idea of the family Bible was that the family would gather together, perhaps in the evening, and read from the Bible. These family Bibles were often not just composed of the Old and New Testaments; included might be a dictionary of biblical terms, maps of the Holy Land and illustrations of the major events mentioned in the Bible text. Very often, there were also included a few pages devoted to the family’s births, deaths and marriages. The borders of such ‘family tree’ pages might be illustrated with scenes of idyllic family life, rather than with biblical scenes. Perhaps it was the publisher’s intention that the genealogical pages could be removed from the Bible and hung on the wall as works of art in and of themselves.

  Something should be said about the size of the family Bible. It is often assumed, because of the fact that the large size family Bibles were so popular through the Victorian Age (i.e. 1850s to 1920s), that family Bibles were always large and in use. That is not necessarily the case, though. Despite the fact that Bibles that measured over 10" by 16" were available prior to the mid-1800s, there were just as many, if not more, that were smaller. The author of this volume owns a collection of Bibles dating to the 17th and 18th Centuries, many of which measure not more than 4" by 7", but which also contain genealogical information on the families that originally owned them. The point to be made is that the size of the Bible does not matter when considering whether or not genealogical information might be present.

  The fancy illustrated pages for genea-logical information were not to be found in the smaller sized Bibles, but that certainly did not stop people from writing such information in their Bibles. The blank end papers were often utilized for the accumulation of family tree data. Also, the title pages for the various chapters served as good spots in the Bible for names and dates to be written (possibly because of the excess of blank space that was to be found on those pages).

  The most common types of genealogical information that may be found in a family Bible are birth, death and marriage dates. That information generally pertained to the immediate family that owned the Bible. Therefore, when the head of the household, which was usually the father, filled in the family information, such as births, he would list his own name first, followed by his wife’s and then the children in order of their birth dates. Sometimes the name of someone not of the immediate family might be included. It may be assumed that the person named was a resident with the family despite the fact that he or she may not have been a son or daughter of the head of household. For example, a widow might be residing with her married son and his family, and so her name might be included in the Bible. In this example, the widowed grandmother’s name might be included in the list of "deaths" if she resided with the family at the time of her death.

  In regard to the validity of information found in a family Bible, such genealogical data might be considered to be valid because of the fact that the family has recorded it themselves. And who would know the family members’ birth, death and marriage dates better than that family? That is one way of thinking about it, but it should also be noted that some hereditary societies view the question of validity of Bible records differently. The Sons of the American Revolution, for instance, will accept as valid Bible records for Bibles printed roughly prior to the 1950s. Before that time, people generally had a fear of God in them, which they seem to have lost in recent years. Through the earlier ages and into the first half of the 20th Century, the fear of God that people possessed kept them from writing anything in a Bible, which was not the truth. They actually did fear that God would condemn them to eternal damnation of they wrote a lie in His Book. But as people in general lost that respectful fear of God, it is believed that they would not feel any qualms at writing erroneous information in a Bible, if it suited their purposes, such as gaining admittance to a society such as the SAR.

  Bible records will seldom be found in court houses. Of course, the first place to look for a family Bible is your own relatives. Very often if there had been a family Bible handed down through the family it is cherished and guarded by the present owner, so you should be prepared to do a lot of begging to just be permitted to see it. If possible, you should obtain photocopies of the Bible’s genealogical information; but if the owner has a fear that the photocopying process will cause harm to the book, you should be prepared to hand copy the information. You should also check at the various local historical societies for family Bible information. Quite often such a Bible, or just the pages, on which genealogical information is written, will be donated to the local historical society. Also, the historical society might have accumulated such infor-mation from Bibles they could not come into possession of. In this case, the records might have been transcribed, photocopied or possibly published in a volume of collected Bible records, such as the following.

Bedford County Pennsylvania Archives, Volume 2
edited by James B. Whisker, 1985 (available from Closson Press)

Bedford County Pennsylvania Archives, Volume 3
edited by James B. Whisker, 1986 (available from Closson Press)

Bedford County Unrecorded Bible Records
by Margaret A. Spielman, 1987 (available from Closson Press)

Bible, Cemetery And Church Records From Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, Volumes I - XVI
by The Standing Stone Chapter, NSDAR

Family Bible Records Vol. 1
by James D. Boor

Family Bible Records Vol. 2
by James D. Boor