Are you one of the fortunate researchers to have the family Bible in your possession?
Yes? You are a lucky one!
The family Bible can and often does provide birth, marriage and death dates for family members.
Have you ever considered what else the Bible may or may not tell the researcher? Is the information found in the Family Bible accurate? Is the information a primary or secondary source?
Let’s look at three tips for evaluating the information in a Family Bible.[We will use the Caswell Harward/Howard Family Bible of Moore County, NC in our examples.]
1. Examine the fly leaf or title page.
What is the date of publication?
In the example above, the Bible is dated 1853. This date gives us a vital clue as to who in the family started this Family Bible. This particular Bible belonged to Caswell Harward and Mary Adline Thomas who were married on 7 Dec 1854.
Remember the 1853 date. We will make reference to it again below.
2. Examine the handwriting of the entries.
Are all the entries made in the same handwriting indicating the same person recorded each entry?
In the Harward example, this page of birth recordings was written in the same handwriting indicating the same person made these entries. Beginning with the second page of births, a different handwriting is seen indicating a different person made these entries.
3.Examine the dates of the the earliest births, marriages, and deaths.
Using this initial birth record page again, notice all the dates for each person listed took place prior to the Bible’s publication date of 1853. James Harward’s birth date of 1760 and death date of 1840 precedes the date of the Bible publication by 13 years. The same holds true for the second entry of Rosannah Barbee (b. 1756). [Rosannah Barbee was the first wife of James Harward and died in 1828.] All the dates for each person listed on this first page precede 1853. This tells the us this information was likely all entered at the same time and by the same person. The specific dates given show the recorder had intimate first hand knowledge of the Harward family for at least two generations prior to Caswell Harward. Given this first hand knowledge, the family information is considered to be a solid source.
This Bible with the early Harward history was likely a wedding gift to the couple who married in 1854. The information on the early Harward generations was most likely copied from an earlier family Bible, perhaps a Family Bible in possession of George Harward. [In his Revolutionary War pension record James Harward refers to a Family Bible in possession of his son (and Caswell’s father) George Harward.]
Do you have any interesting Family Bible stories or insights? Leave a comment below and let’s continue the discussion.
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