Family Bibles will generally give birth, marriage, and death dates. Occasionally, they may provide places for these events. They may span a couple of generations or they may span a couple of centuries. No matter what you find, consider it a treasure. A family Bible is a book that one of your ancestors actually held and used. It is a physical link to your past.
Even if you have never heard of a Bible in your family, it pays to look around. The question is where to search? Some possibilities are close to home while others take some time and research.
The obvious place to start is again within your family. Ask every relative you know. Somebody may have a family Bible locked in a trunk and had never thought of its value to you. Don't forget to check with your allied family lines. For instance, your great-great grandfather may have had three sons. Go ahead and try to trace down all three lines. Just because the Bible is not in your family doesn't mean that it does not exist.
If you know the location of your ancestor's home, you may want to check the public library catalogs, historical societies, state libraries and archives, local archives and academic libraries. Many of these repositories have their holdings online, but all too often manuscripts, Bible records and archival items have not yet been entered. A useful web site to find state repositories is through the Library of Congress. Many public libraries keep materials such as Bible records in folders under the surname of the main family. Be sure to check every avenue. You never know when you can find something.
As an example, several years ago, some Randolph County, Georgia records were donated to the local historical society. It turned out that in the early 1960s, many of the women in the county had gone literally house to house and asked for family histories and transcribed Bible records. Almost seven hundred records were submitted. There is no telling where these Bibles are today. The task then was monumental, and the value of their work is evident today when researchers are looking for family history.
The Internet is a useful tool. Check out this Bible Records web site. This is an unbelievable treasure trove of material. Another place to try is Cyndi's List. Links to family Bible record sites may also be found at http://www.genealinks.com/bible.htm.
Once again, if you know the area where your ancestor lived, you can check RootsWeb or USGenWeb at the county level. Bible records are often listed there. Many of these records are submitted by individuals who have the family Bible in their possession. Be sure to go back to all these resources on a periodic basis. Changes are made often, and you never know when a member of your family may post information.
Be sure to check on ebay.com, as well. It is amazing how many family Bibles or family treasures end up on the auction block. You need to check the site periodically to keep up with the changes. It is amazing the information that can be bought on the Internet!
The next step is to start querying on the Internet. Go back to RootsWeb or USGenWeb and post a request for a family Bible in the counties where you know your ancestor lived. Join family or location list serves and post a request for family Bibles. Most genealogists are happy to share their material. Just be sure to give enough information that the correct family or time period can be identified by the reader.
on't forget the old fashioned way of posting queries. Place queries in genealogical and family history magazines. Many people write to local history societies requesting information. The public librarian your area of interest may have some clues for you. Another option is to send a Letter to the Editor in a local newspaper. If you use any of these methods, be sure to include a stamped, self-addressed envelope (SASE), a telephone number, and an e-mail address where you can be contacted. It is a good idea to give people as many communication options as possible. p>These are not the only options for locating family Bibles, but they are some of the tried and true. As mentioned earlier, even if you have never heard of a family Bible, it is worth taking the time to explore the possibility. You never know when some useful information will turn up. Whether you get a small piece of information or a whole generation, you will have a piece of your past.
Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2007.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.
*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.
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