Family Bibles as a Genealogical Resource | The Nosey Genealogist's: Help Me With My Family Tree
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Family Bibles as a Genealogical Resource

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist on August 21st, 2011

Some of us are fortunate to have a family bible to refer to as a genealogical resource as we build our family trees. My cousin has our great-great grandparents bible for the Thorne family of Dartmouth, in his possession. Knowing my interest in the subject he sent me a photocopy of the back page where the dates and times of the birth of all their children have been entered by hand.

Thorne family from Dartmouth, Devon.

Other families have bibles that also go on to list baptisms, marriages and deaths as well as the births. Anyone with one of these is indeed very lucky as it would be an invaluable asset to a family historian pointing their research in the right direction. As with all secondary sources, however, it is good practice to go to the official records and check that the dates listed for the events in the bible match the dates reported to the authorities. Errors may have crept in to the family bible list by mistake.

Another tip is to take a look at the date of publication of the bible to see if it is before or around the time of the first entry. If it is later then there is the possibility for someones memory to have played tricks on them in the remembering of past events. A contemporaneously listed family is likely to be more accurate than one that has been recalled later on.

While a good many families would have had one it is by no means certain that a family bible will have survived down the years. Many would have been destroyed because antiquarian booksellers can only sell them as bibles and not as a genealogical record and so a tome that has been written in has less chance of being purchased. Many of the family bibles are also in a poor state when they are found and because they are unsellable they are therefore destroyed by the finder or the auction house.

A check of the search engines throws up several websites that are offering family bibles for sale as does ebay. Realistically, however, it is not very likely that you will find that long lost family bible of yours if it has left your family’s keeping.

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