The Importance of Family Bibles in Genealogy Research

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.

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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.


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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.



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