How to Find and Use the Family Bible

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:
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.

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.

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

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. I use Snagit to invert the image. (Use our affiliate link for a 15% discount with our code GEMS15.) In the menu: Image > Effects > Filters > Invert. (Learn more about using Snagit for genealogy with my video and article How to Use Snagit for Genealogy.)

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. ”


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 grandmother’s 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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3 Tips for Finding WWI Ancestors and Their Stories

How did World War I affect your family’s lives? Start your search with these 3 tips for finding WWI ancestors. 

Our current Genealogy Gems Book Club title takes place at the outset of WWI. The Summer Before the War: A Novel
by Helen Simonson has endearing characters who experience fairly light-hearted dramas–and then they are plunged into war.

Through their eyes, readers begin to understand that those who lived through ‘the Great War’ experienced something totally unprecedented. There had never been such a massive loss of life and devastation.

1. Ask family what they know. Ask all living relatives what they know about ancestors’ involvement in World War I. Listen for stories about anyone who may have served in the military, dodged military service, took care of things on the homefront, lost their own lives or loved ones or lived in an area affected by the war. Ask about any old documents, photos or letters that may survive.

There are lots of ways to ask your relatives these questions. Poll everyone at your next family gathering or reunion. Use Facebook (click here for some great tips) or other social media. Connect with other tree owners who have documented ancestors of WWI interest (see step 2, below) through communication tools provided at sites such as, and

2. Identify ancestors affected by WWI. Look for families and individuals who were alive between 1914 and 1918. Where did they live? Was it an active war zone?  Research local histories and maps to determine how their city–or even neighborhood or property–was affected. Scan death dates on your family tree–did anyone living in a war zone die during that time period?

Were they in a country that sent troops to war? If so, look for soldiers on your tree. The age of those who served in World War I varied. In general, look for men born between 1880 and 1900 who were alive in 1914. Again, look for death dates during the war.

3. Search military records on genealogy websites.’s WWI landing page is the place to start for WWI ancestors in the U.S., since it specializes in military records (you may be able to access it from your home library). users can go to this landing page to search all WWI records from the U.S. and here to search U.K. records. users can search WWI records here, including an extensive collection of British military records but also others from around the world. If you’re searching U.S. records, remember that draft registrations are not records of military service.

If you’re looking for a country or region not represented in these online collections, start Googling! Google search phrases such as “Germany WWI genealogy” will bring up results like these. (Click here to watch free video tutorials about Google searching for genealogy records.) You may discover new databases online or records collections you could access through archives or libraries.

How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers

Available at

These tips are just to get you started. As you discover records, you’ll have a better sense for the stories of your WWI ancestors. Then you can start chasing those stories in newspapers, local histories and other sources. Turn to a book like Lisa Louise Cooke’s How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers to learn

WWI photos, World War I photographs

British volunteers for “Kitchener’s Army” waiting for their pay in the churchyard of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London. August 1914. Wikimedia Commons Image

sleuthing skills you’ll need for searching out your WWI family stories in the news.

More WWI Genealogy Gems for You

Europeana World War I Digital Archive

5 Ways to Discover Your Family History in WWI

More Great Books to Read, Including Orange Lilies, a WWI-era Novella in the Forensic Genealogist series by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

How to Save Fold3 Search Results to Your Family Tree

Now when you discover an ancestor’s record on, you can save it to your online tree at

According to’s press release: “Whenever you see a green ‘Save to Ancestry’ button above a document or on a Fold3 memorial page, you can link that document or page directly to someone’s profile on Ancestry.”

“You’ll be asked to log into your account, and then you’ll see a drop-down list of your trees. Locate the tree you wish to save the document to, begin typing the name of the person to whom the record should be attached, choose the correct name from the list that appears, and then press save.”

Watch a tutorial video to learn more and see how it’s done.

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