The Importance of Family Bibles in Genealogy Research

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The Importance of Family Bibles in Genealogy Research

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Thoughts of a Family Bible usually portray an image of a large heavy leather-covered book. They were sold in stores, available from mail order catalogs and offered by door-to-door salesmen. Even non-religious families may have owned a family Bible.

The major selling factor was the “Records” or “Register” section, usually located in the center or between the Old and New Testaments. When the Bible was purchased or received as a gift, these pages were blank, waiting for pen and ink to fill the lines with names, dates of births, marriages and deaths.

Bible records can be used as a substitute for vital records, if the publication or printing date of the Bible was prior to the date of the event. If the entries are all in the same penmanship and ink or writing tool, that is an indication they were probably copied from another source and written at a later date. Those entries are an indirect source and may include clues to locate the vital records. Sometimes they are the only record available.

Most Bibles contain more than one surname, especially in the marriage records section. Bible records will often be the key to that elusive maiden name or a clue to locate the birth date and place of an ancestor. Some Bibles may also include baptismal information and/or names of godparents.

The presentation page, usually located in the front of the Bible, may also contain names and family relationships. Bibles often have items neatly tucked between the pages.  Look for newspaper clippings of anniversaries and obituaries; funeral cards; pressed flowers; bookmarks; a marriage license; photos; letters, cards; and handwritten notes on scraps of paper.



Many genealogists collect Bibles as a hobby. Sometimes the Bibles are offered for sale in recycle book stores and Internet auction websites. Prices can range from nominal to astronomical. Thankfully, some collectors have free computerized or digitized websites.



Cyndi Howell’s website includes a Family Bibles category with references and links.



There are hundreds of Bible records and images on this website. The owner continuously adds records transcribed from old Family Bibles. In addition to the Bible data and photos found in Bibles, some census records are available on the Ancestor Hunt website.



The links include concise lessons and links to Family Bible records, Coffin Plates, Wills, Funeral Homes, Church Records, Photo Albums and much more.



Bible Records Online is a site dedicated to transcribing and digitizing the contents of family records written inside family Bibles and in other important documents. Tracy      St. Claire began by searching for a Bible for one of her ancestors and became an avid collector. The site has searchable transcribed and digitized records and some photos.



Join this Rootsweb mailing list to follow new posts, to browse the Family Bible submissions or to submit your Family Bible information.


Have you entered any records in your Family Bible this year?

About Vi Parsons

Vi Parsons has a life-long passion for history, travel and teaching. As a teen, she taught children’s classes at church. About that time, she began her pursuit of genealogy, when she questioned her parents about her deceased ancestors. She became seriously involved in family history research with the birth of her first grandchild.. These combined interests merged into a joyful journey of studying and teaching genealogy. She received accreditation from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah for her studies in Beginning Genealogy. She was awarded a certificate in American Genealogy from the National Genealogical Society of Virginia. Vi volunteered for the Dragoo Family Association for fifteen years. She documented her Dragoo ancestors to France and England in the 1600s, published books on her Dragoo family history, the Dragoo Cemetery of Marion County, West Virginia, and her great great grandfather, The Legendary Indian Billy Dragoo. Vi co-authored Double Take, a book of short stories of childhood memories. Vi and her twin Violet C. Moore are the creators of Carr Twins & Co.

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  • Kathy L. Dragoo Matelski
    December 16, 2013 at 8:08 am

    Hi cousin Vi!!!! So nice to finally find you again. Saw a message on where you had asked about my Dragoo Family Bible. Tried to answer back but guess it had been too long to be able to contact you. Therefore I suppose you did not receive my message nor even know that I had tried to get back with you. I do have another email also.

  • March 14, 2013 at 2:42 am

    Hello Vi, could I please give a mention to my website,, which allows users to list, search and browse Family Bibles, as well as photos, wills, deeds, letters, diaries etc. We’ve several hundred items listed and several hundred active members too

  • Alison McIntyre
    March 2, 2013 at 8:48 am

    I have a family bible from my husband’s family. I entered the data into my genealogy program and much later realized that that was only part of the story. She had listed only the children from her first marriage. After her husband died she married twice more and had three more children. The marriages and children did not necessarily come in the conventional order. She kept the family together and gave them a real sense of family. When one of the later daughters and the daughter’s husband both died leaving three orphans one of the older children took in all three. He said that the children shouldn’t be separated since they had lost too much already. I gradually uncovered the story as I tried to figure out who these children were.

  • Elaine Banks
    March 1, 2013 at 1:43 am

    Thanks for the run-down of related websites, Vi – I hadn’t known about some of these, so a jolly useful two minutes spent reading this article!

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