Tracking down Family Bibles ….

Family Bibles have been treasured by families for generations, but finding them today can be difficult.

It was common for families to have a family Bible – a large bound book that was prominently displayed in the family parlor – “…a large octavo volume, with a more or less ornate binding, with blank pages inserted on which to record births, marriages and deaths, and sometimes the near-slaying of Isaac, Moses in the bulrushes, the infernal regions and other interesting dramatic and historic incidents narrated in the [Bible]“. (Boston Journal 13 May 1908).
(Image from Antique Holy Bible Item #330235937204 – Ebay.com)
I spotted quite a few newspaper articles that cited the old family Bibles and who their current owners were.

For example – Henry Peters of Trenton, NJ used his family Bible to prove that he was “sixteen years old and two months older than that” so that he could get in to the show at the Trent theater. (Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram. Nov 4, 1909).
An article in the Columbus (GA) Enquirer (2 Sep 1898) tells us that “Mrs. Billard, the daughter of the late Rev. Edward Oldrin, who lives on Bank Street [Stamford, CT]” … and that she got it “by inheritance from her father. … The book is in the original binding and well preserved, the Old Testament part having been printed in 1597 and the New Testament in 1596. The covers are of wood.”

This is an important point. Always check the dates that each of the Testaments was printed. Printers often printed them separately and then joined them together when they published the Bible. This is a way to date a family Bible.

“Inscribed on the yellow fly-leat are the words: Edward Oulldron owns this book and after his death to his son Edward Oulldron, given by his grandfather – 1651.” Elsewhere it states “Edward Oldrin’s [note the change in spelling] book, given by his father on is deathbed in the 1827, July 28, to be kept in the family.”

Mrs. Jennie Fairbanks Milligan of Springfield, Ohio brought the family Bible when she was called to testify in a case trying to break the will of the late Delavan Smith of Lake Forest, IL. (Dallas Morning News. 1 October 1921).

John M. Butler of Ocean Grove, NJ found out by double checking his family Bible that he was 101 and not 100 years old when he went to celebrate his birthday. He said it was a “pretty tough job trying to keep track of so many birthdays.” He said with a smile … “I must have lived two years in Brooklyn [NY, the] one year that I was there. That’s the only way I can account for the discrepancy.” (Evening Times – Pawtucket, RI – 17 jan 1901).

But you won’t find the Belin family Bible. It seems that in November 1908, Joseph Belin of Wilkes-Barre, PA “came home intoxicated and threatened [his mother] and then burned the family Bible.” There were 7 prisoners in court that day for “being drunk”. Six of them were fined $1.00 but Joseph Belin was fined $5.00. (Wilkes-Barre (PA) Times Leader – 18 Nov 1908).

Historical newspapers are packed with family history information. Research more than 3,400 newspapers and document your heritage on GenealogyBank.
Give it a try right now.

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Written by Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp is the Director of Genealogy Products at GenealogyBank. Tom Kemp is an internationally known librarian and archivist – he is the author of over 35 genealogy books and hundreds of articles about genealogy and family history.

He previously served as the Chair of the National Council of Library & Information Associations (Washington, DC) and as Library Director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

An active genealogist, he has been working on his own family history for 47 years. With the rapidly growing online archives at GenealogyBank – it is a great day for genealogy!

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5 thoughts on “Tracking down Family Bibles ….

  1. Here’s a Rudge family Bible for sale on eBay – Item number: 290229553949

    I have no involvement with eBay or this auction – but thought genealogists should know about it.

    It contains the following:
    It seems that this Bible belonged to the Rudge family as there are handwritten entries on a blank page preceding the New Testament as follows:

    Joshua Born Oct 26th 1847 Monday Night 3 minutes before 12 o’clock.
    Mary Born April 25th 1850 at 6 in the morning. Died 19th Jan 1884.
    Thomas born Feb 10th 1853 at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
    Georgetta Emma born March 31st 1856. Died May 10th 1857 aged 13 months.
    Emma Georgetta born April 25th 1859 Sunday night at 8 o’clock.
    William Chapman Rudge born Jan 25th 1862.
    Dear Mother died 23rd October 1893 aged 67 years.
    William Chapman Rudge married Emily Charlotte Brown on June 6th 1886 All Souls Church Marylebone.
    William John born 3rd April 1887
    Emily Rudge born Dec 13th Died Dec 28th 1890
    Earnest Albert Rudge born 16th June 1894
    Elise Emily Rudge Born 12th May 1898
    William C Rudge died 19 Jan 1942 aged 79.11
    Emily C Rudge died 29 Dec 1944 aged 80

    There are also some pressed leaves in one page and an old handwritten postcard dated 1885 ( Which reads: To Grandma from her loving grandchildren Johnny and Emily Sarah with Christmas Greetings and kisses). I feel all these should stay with the Bible as they meant a lot to someone.

    The Book is good condition with some yellowing around the edges of some pages.

    I hope the Rudge family this relates to, find this family treasure.

    Front cover inside page reads:
    Appointed to be Read in Churches. OXFORD: Printed at the University Press, for The British and Foreign Bible Society,
    Instituted in London in the year 1804 and sold to Subscribers at the Scoiety’s House, Earl St, Blackfriars, London.

    M.DCCC.LIV

    Bound in black leather, dimension: 10.5 ” by 7″ by 3″ thick.

  2. Thanks for the link from the roots forum. Nice article. I have been looking for our Tipton family Bible for years. I do not know if it contains any family information, but I do know that my great Aunt, Ina May Tipton passed down to a Gifford grandson. Unfortunately the families lost touch many years ago. I hope that if anyone runs across this Bible, or the grandson, they would contact me.

    I’ve looked through ebay’s selection of Bibles periodically. It would be nice to think that some of these Bibles find their way home to their families. Thank you to all those who make the effort to post information about these Bibles on the genealogy forums.
    Jeane Tipton Houston

  3. Hi my name is jennifer,i came across a family bible at a car boot and bought it in the hope to find the rightfull owner.It is a carpenter family bible with the inscription on the cover “arthur p carpenter” who married elizabeth person in 1868.The first birth entry is in 1869 alice.Last entry of six is in 1879.Elizabth died in 1885 age 39,Arthur died 1909 age 64.The last entry made was the death of thier son arthur jnr in 1940 in dublin Ireland.Arthur snr and elizabth were married in england and moved to Dublin Ireland around 1879.I would love to be able to place this bible in the hands of a current family member.Please if anyone thinks this could be thiers contact me through this site .I bought this bible in the midlands in ireland would love to know how it got from dublin to here in the midlands. Tanx jennifer(ireland)

  4. I’m searching for the person who purchased the Polhemus bible on E-Bay a couple of years ago. The bible belonged to my direct ancestors and I would appreciate seeing it or re-purchasing it, if I may. Mary Polhemus and John Holsart (4th g.grand parents) had a daughter, Hannah Holsart, who married Elias Sickles; my 3rd great grandparents. The last entry in the bible might be that of A, Sickles. Elias and Hannah are buried in the graveyard of the Old Brick Church, in Marlboro, NJ.

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