Genealogy Tip: Find Family Bible Records Printed in Newspapers

Introduction: In this article, Mary Harrell-Sesniak writes about a source for finding family Bible records when the Bible is no longer in your possession: reports published in your ancestor’s local newspaper. Mary is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background.

Many a genealogist laments the missing records from an old family Bible that is no longer in the family’s possession. It would make the proofs so much easier. So, I ask you: what’s the next best thing?

Photo: an old family Bible
Photo: an old family Bible. Credit: Thomas Jay Kemp.

The answer may surprise you: it’s finding family Bible records quoted in an old newspaper! Yes, records from family Bibles were sometimes printed in your ancestors’ local newspapers, and it’s worth taking the time to search for those old newspaper articles.

Family Bible Record from 1799

This 1937 newspaper article discusses the last resting places of prominent citizens of Montgomery County, Maryland – and if you read closely, you learn details extracted from a 1799 family Bible!

An article about a graveyard, Evening Star newspaper article 8 August 1937
Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 8 August 1937, page 48

Bible Records from 1837 Helped Tell This Strange Story

When the unusual occurred, the story generally showed up in old newspapers. Such was the case with John McGinty, who “married three women who were grandmother, daughter and grand-daughter in their relationship of birth.”

In relating this tale, the newspaper’s reporter in part relied upon the family Bible:

“The record of the old Bible shows… that the two were wedded in 1837.”

An article about John McGinty, Fort Worth Gazette newspaper article 19 April 1890
Fort Worth Gazette (Fort Worth, Texas), 19 April 1890, page 7

Bible Records Verify Oldest Man’s Age

When Peter Brady passed away in 1891, he was the oldest resident of Jersey City: 101 years old.

His family Bible recorded that he was born on 15 May 1790 in the parish of Tydavnet, county Monaghan, Ireland.

An obituary for Peter Brady, Boston Herald newspaper article 14 September 1891
Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), 14 September 1891, page 2

Bible Records Provide Proof of Nancy Davis’ Birth

Nancy Davis passed away in January of 1896. The newspaper report notes that, according to the family Bible, she was born in Christian County, Kentucky, on 6 January 1795. She was the widow of Jesse Davis, a prominent farmer who moved to Pike County “more than half a century ago.”

An obituary for Nancy Davis, Evansville Courier and Press newspaper article 18 January 1896
Evansville Courier and Press (Evansville, Indiana), 18 January 1896, page 1

Larger Family than Usual Recorded in Family Bible Records

When Chris Sundermeyer died in Illinois in 1910, 16 brothers attended the burial. The family was even larger than that – this newspaper article reports that: “the Sundermeyer family Bible shows three sons died in youth.”

An article about the funeral for Chris Sundermeyer, Daily Illinois State Journal newspaper article 30 January 1910
Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), 30 January 1910, page 6

Family Bible Showed He Needed to Register for the Draft

In 1917, Robert Braden of Newberg thought that, at the age of 31, he was not required to register for the draft. Turns out he was a year younger than he thought and was, in fact, eligible for the draft. The proof of his birth was verified “through records in a musty family Bible uncovered by investigations by Assistant United States District Attorney Goldstein.”

As the article notes:

“Braden registered willingly and said he was glad to find out his real age though he didn’t feel any younger for the discovery.”

An article about Robert Braden, Oregon Journal newspaper article 30 August 1917
Oregon Journal (Portland, Oregon), 30 August 1917, page 6

Bible Shows Ancestry of Warren G. Harding

In 1920, A. W. Sexton of East Hampton, Connecticut, was in possession of the Amos Clark family Bible, and this showed the ancestry of presidential candidate Warren G. Harding!

An article about W. G. Harding's ancestry, Jackson News newspaper article 22 August 1920
Jackson News (Jackson, Michigan), 22 August 1920, page 12

Comparing Family Bibles and Census Records

One of the more likely places to discover family Bibles quoted is in newspaper genealogy columns, such as this article from Margaret Ross’ column “Grass Roots” in 1982. It mentions that:

“The widow may have remarried, as a family Bible shows her death in 1919, and I do not find her under the name Adcock in the 1900 census for Arkansas, Louisiana or Texas.”

An article about the Adcock family Bible, Arkansas Gazette newspaper article 1 June 1982
Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock, Arkansas), 1 June 1982, page 21

Your Family Bible

Who has your family Bible?

Don’t forget that only one person can inherit the family Bible – just as I did with the family Bible of one of my ancestors.

It was the family of Mathias Fisher, a Revolutionary War patriot, who emigrated from Ireland with wife Rachel Hoowe and other family members. I shared it with other Fisher researchers. To see a scan, scroll down to the document section on the Fisher Genes website. Note that I also included a copy of the title page, as many genealogists will not accept Bible records as sufficient proof or evidence without knowing about the publication.

Are you in possession of an old family Bible? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.

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11 thoughts on “Genealogy Tip: Find Family Bible Records Printed in Newspapers

  1. This is a very helpful article, thank you.

    Some years ago, while searching my ever-elusive Burbridge-Burbage line, I came across a discussion thread about a Bible discovered in Kentucky. Someone found it in an old camper of some sort, sitting out in an old field under some trees if I remember right.

    The “finder” figured it was worth something, contacted someone about it, and it eventually made its way to the ear of someone who thought to put it on this forum.

    The finder wanted money for it or was just going to throw it away, supposedly. People talked about how to get this Bible… but nobody wanted to fork over any payment. I offered to contact the seller and somehow got enough info to do so. After negotiations, the price ended up being several hundred dollars, which I didn’t have either, but yet knew it was either get the book or possibly lose it forever. Via talking with the seller, I learned it wasn’t even of my direct line, but I had hopes for clues and decided to proceed.

    Nobody would help me but they sure wanted the info in it. I sent an old military bugle and large bills for the Bible… without even knowing if they would send the book to me after I shipped payment off!

    Thankfully, however, they did ship. It is early 1800s, missing covers, but otherwise fairly intact. Handwritten records inside of course with funeral invitations, obits, and other tidbits INCLUDING dates, plus several large family hand-painted portraits!

    Once I shelled the money and finally obtained the Bible, I announced I had it. People clamored to get the info, but still no offers to help offset the costs.

    So, I still have it to this day, with plans to still transcribe and subsequently publish it… and to obtain a copy, one will have to pay a reasonable nominal fee.

    Maybe this isn’t the way to go about it, but the experience left a little bad taste in my mouth. I’ve not had as much luck with people sharing with me as many whom I’ve read about.

    Some records are from before the Revolutionary War, and the line includes “Butcher” Burbridge of noted unpopular fame.

    So, thank you for your how-to article, and one day I will get this done!

    1. Hello Carolyn,
      Where in Kentucky was this early-1800s bible found? If near Louisville, does it have any of the following family names? — Edwards, Bartlett, Haywood/Heywood
      Thanks!
      –Jennie

  2. I have the family Bible of my great-great grandparents who emigrated from County Meath, Ireland, to Brooklyn, NY, in 1851. I have found thru my years of research that the Bible records are sometimes incorrect. People may add info at a later date or sometimes even change a date to make themselves seem younger.

    I also have my husband’s family Bible. There was a baby who died soon after birth. A year later, another baby was born and given the same name, a common practice. Instead of adding the second baby, they just erased the date and added the second one, thus “erasing” the existence of that child whom I found thru other records. That Bible also has a wonderful collection of Civil War-era family photographs. Not one is identified! The point is that family records in a family Bible are not a 100% guarantee but useful nonetheless.

    1. Virginia,

      That’s a valid point. Unless you know who or why the information was added, there is always an uncertainty to the accuracy. Thank you for pointing that out.

      Mary

  3. My brother-in-law had 3 family Bibles, two for his line and one for a related line which died out, I don’t remember the name. His niece now has them. They were all only about 3 generations old.

    1. Mary Beth,

      Thank you for your comments. How nice that your brother-in-law has three family Bibles. Three generations is probably more typical than one might hope for, but still quite valuable to family research.

      Mary

  4. Carolyn,

    Thank you so much for your comments.

    I am not sure how to respond, as the goal of all my blogs is to help descendants connect to their ancestral records in a positive manner.

    Many of us never receive as much as we give, but much joy comes with doing the right with no expectation of any thing in return.

    If you need money, than auction it. If not, please place this historical treasure with a genealogical institution that will make it available to others at no cost.

    Mary

  5. Without asking for my family names in your rescued family bible, re Carolyn’s message of January 27, 2018 at 8:25 am, I would like to help you offset the cost of that Family Bible. You should not have to rescue and then give out information without someone gladly paying for the information since you put so much money into receiving it. Please contact me at Genresearch4me@gmail.com and I am sure I can help with the cost.

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