The Family Bible: Elevenses with Lisa Episode 29

The family Bible is an important resource for genealogy. Here’s how to find family Bibles and use them for family history.

Family Bible for Genealogy and Family History

Watch episode 29 of Elevenses with Lisa to learn how to find and analyze your family Bible for genealogy

Start by watching this video to learn how to find and use family Bibles. Then keep reading below for all of the website links and resources to help you be successful in your research of the family Bible.

Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history.

Places to Look for the Family Bible

The best place to start looking is around your own house!

Where you Can Find Family Bibles Offline:

  • Reach out to close family and distant cousins, particularly female lines
  • Archives
  • Historical societies

I reached out to my cousin Carolyn. She relayed a strange story to me about the family bible that was in my Great Grandmother Lenora Herring’s home:

The Strange Story

“Many years ago, probably when I was in my 20’s or 30’s I was visiting at the Herring home in Oklahoma.  Lenora had already passed but Jewel (her daughter) still lived in the house. 

I was asking her some questions about the family history.  She got out the Bible and said it contained the only information she knew about.  It was a large Bible – I don’t remember much about its condition – and getting pictures of things certainly wasn’t the trend.  But she opened it up to the pages where the family history was written and she proceeded to tear out those pages and give them to me! 

Using family bibles for genealogy and family history

A page torn from the family Bible.

Looking back on that, I kinda wish I would have stopped her!  So, she kept the Bible and gave me the family info pages!  The Bible itself didn’t seem to impress me much.  But I was very interested in what was written on those pages! 

So after Jewel could no longer live in the Herring house and my mother placed Jewel in a nursing home, my mother disposed of all the things in the house and the house was sold to help pay for Jewel’s care.  I was not there in Oklahoma when this occurred, but I guess Janette must have  picked up the family Bible. 

Eventually, Janette and I got our heads together and realized who had what.  I’ve attached images of the family history pages.  Some of it is hard to read – I think most of it was written in pencil.  And for some reason, I didn’t make sense of some of the info till recent years. 

I think there were multiple people that wrote on the pages – including my mother. 

There was a Herring / Jump family reunion several years ago at the home of one of the Jump cousins.  I went and so did Janette.  She brought the family Bible to show.  It was in very, very poor condition and if I remember right, stored in an old cardboard box……….”

Where You Can Find Family Bibles Online

Here’s a list of free websites where you can find digitized family Bibles. 

Family Bibles at Library of Congress

Family bibles at the library of congress

Search for family Bibles at the library of congress

Internet Archive: Archive.org
Click here to see the search results for “family bible” at the Internet Archive.

The Streepy Bible is a great example of variation in handwriting.

Click here to see Genealogical records taken from the family Bible of James Monroe Palmer : born 1822, died 1897 and Caroline Frances Bacon, his wife, born 1830, died 1899 of Boston, Massachusetts.
A good example of a transcription of the records from a family Bible.

Ebay
Search for “family bible”. Try adding a surname.

Premium Members: Listen to my Premium Podcast episode 76 that includes strategies for using ebay for genealogy.

Google
Search for the surname along with the phrase family Bible using the quotation marks search operator. Example: “Cooke” “family Bible”
Resource for Google search strategies: The Genealogists’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke

FamilySearch
Search both the Card Catalog and the Digital Books collection for “family bible” and a surname.
In the Notes section of an item, you may find a link to click to view the digital version if one is available.

World Cat
Catalogs approximately 2 billion items from 10,000 libraries around the world.

Allen County Public Library

Archive Grid
Includes “over 5 million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more.” Includes materials from over 1,000 different archival institutions.

Examining the Family Bible

  • Check the title page
    Is there a date that it was printed / published?
    This may help you determine when it made its way into the family
  • Look through every page as things may be tucked in there.
  • Look through the pages – look for markings. You may find passages that were particularly meaningful to them.
  • Was the publish date after many of the dates entered into the Bible? There’s a chance the info may have been copied.
  • Use a photo editor to preserve and even improve Bible pages.

Interpreting the Family Bible

Here are questions to ask and things to consider as you interpret the contents of your family Bible for genealogy. 

Was the information copied? If so, who then has the original? Keep in mind that mistakes could have been made during the copying or entered by memory.

Could the information have been recorded by people over time?

Is the handwriting all the same? If so, it’s more likely some copying.
Different handwriting in the family Bible may indicate more first-hand knowledge, or it may be someone filling in years later.

Analyze all of the entries. Like a scrapbook, there is significance to the order and each entry has significance. Is anyone missing?

Was there an incentive for inaccuracies? Was a marriage date fudged to hide a pregnancy before marriage?

Cross reference with other genealogical documents.

Did a wedding occur around the time of the Bible’s publication? The Bible may have been a gift.

Restoring the Family Bible

My cousin Carolyn had a large family Bible from her father’s side of the family restored.

family Bible in need of restoration

The family Bible in need of restoration

“The woman who restored this Bible did an awesome job.  She had  available the correct restoration materials. It’s not perfect, like-new.  But still very good.”

“She also did something to the leather to renew it in some way. When I first acquired the Bible, the brass latch would not close, but now it does!  The Bible can now be viewed and handled (carefully, of course!) without it falling apart. She also constructed a special storage box for it, using archival quality materials.”

Since there wasn’t a restoration expert available in her area, she reached out to a book restoration expert in Indiana:

Leonard’s Book Restoration, LLC

“Website was helpful and they were pleasant to work with…They put a new cover on my own personal Bible, and I was very pleased with their work.  A few years ago, I also had them re-do a small hardback Bible that my mother used. ”

Resources

Listen to the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 68 on the Family Bible, Google Search
Rodney McCulloh shares his inspirational story of the path that he followed that lead him to the old family Bible.

Bonus Download exclusively for Premium Members: Download the show notes handout

Become a Genealogy Gems Premium Member today. 

Answers to Your Live Chat Questions

One of the advantages of tuning into the live broadcast of each Elevenses with Lisa show is participating in the Live Chat and asking your questions. 

From Sian: Is Archivgrid US based only or worldwide?
From Lisa: It’s worldwide. In the “Search for a Location” list you can scroll down to see all the countries. You can also hover you mouse over the map and zoom out to see the full coverage.

From Kimberly: ​Hi from East Aurora NY. I can’t wait to take take another look at my Grandmothers Bible! Is it ok to add my information to her Bible?
From Lisa: While in the end it’s a personal decision, I think it’s a wonderful idea to add information to the family bible. They are meant to be added to over generations.

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