Can’t Find the Family Bible? 10 Places You May Not Have Looked
Can’t find the family Bible? Don’t miss out on vital genealogy records without checking these 10 places for your ancestor’s family Bible.
The Family Bible.
It is the one record genealogy researchers long to find. It can also be one of the most difficult of all genealogy records to find.
Family Bibles were often kept within the family to record births, deaths and marriages. They are considered a primary resource since typically, the event was recorded at the time it happened. So, in a time period before formal birth or death records were recorded, the only accurate record of those dates could be in the family Bible.
Ever opened up a family Bible and seen all the different handwriting? As the Bible was passed down different individuals recorded their family’s information.
Why Are Family Bibles So Hard to Find?
If not cared for, a family Bible could easily not survive many generations to be part of today’s generation. Exposure to heat/cold/moisture could have easily caused the destruction of older Bibles. Were your ancestors migrating pioneers? That family Bible could have been lost along the way.
And….we’ve all heard the stories of families cleaning out the old homeplace and throwing out all those “old pictures” and books (including the Bible), because “we don’t know who those people are.” I physically cringe every time I hear a story like that! Unfortunately, it happens.
However….the loss of the Family Bible in your family line does not mean you as a genealogy researcher are out of options for finding a family Bible to use in your research. You have options for places to look!
Alternate Places to Find the Family Bible
For the sake of this post, I am going to assume you have asked your close family members if a family Bible exists and who has it.
You have asked, right? If not, do that NOW! [I’ll wait.]
The one thing I want you to remember when searching for that family Bible is that while the family Bible may not have come down your side of the family (or did not survive) does not mean one did not come down a collateral line.
1.The State Archives/State Library
Many state archives and/or state libraries have family Bibles in their collections. Many are even actually seeking out family Bibles to scan and preserve. Fortunately, for us as researchers some are digitizing their collections and making them available in their digital collections. The important thing to remember is to check back periodically to see if new family Bibles have been added that might be of help in your research.
[Genealogy Tip: If you research North Carolina ancestors, the North Carolina Family Records section if the archive’s digital collection hold numerous family Bibles.]
2. The Internet Archive
The Internet Archive is often overlooked or forgotten when it comes to genealogy research. A quick search of the term “Family Bible” yielded results.
Notice multiple listings for various family Bibles including the Gilbert Family Bible dating back to 1812. Definitely, include the Internet Archive in your search.
Use WorldCat to search for a family Bibles. I was pleasantly surprised to discover this was possible. Now I always include WordCat in my searches for family Bibles.
If you are new to WorldCat, learn how to perform searches in How To Use WorldCat For Your Genealogy Research.
4. The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)
Another often overlooked genealogy resource is the Digital Public Library of America. DPLA can be a good overall resource for your genealogy research, too! A quick search for “family Bible” resulted in this sampling of Bibles.
5. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR)
The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) has a large collection of copies of family Bibles – both original images and transcriptions. Start your search in their Library Catalog.
6. Ancestors At Rest
Ancestors at Rest is a “new – to – me” website that contains numerous family Bibles across the U. S. Some entries provide transcriptions while others offer the digital images. It’s a bit cumbersome to search, but well worth the effort.
7. Bible Records Online
Bible Records Online has over 1100 Bibles online and over 3400 different surnames. This is an older site that has not been updated since 2016. Typically, I would not recommend an older site like this, but the family Bible information is good. Search by surname or just browse the collection.
8. Ebay Online Auction Site
Sadly, family photos and other ephemera and Bibles end up on online auction sites like Ebay. A search on “Family Bibles” yielded over 3000 results. Here is a small sample:
I recommend you set up an “alert” to be notified if a particular family of interest’s family Bible or other ephemera appears for sale on ebay.
9. Historical Societies and Museums
Be sure and check with historical societies and museums in the area where you ancestors lived for relevant family Bibles. For example, the Virginia Museum of History and Culture has an online searchable database that includes family Bibles. Here is an example:
10. Genealogy Databases such as Ancestry.com
Do not forget to check those online genealogy databases such as FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, MyHeritage and FindMyPast for a family Bible. Here is a sample of the results from a search on Ancestry.com using the keywords “Family Bible”.
Seventy-two results were returned. While this is not a lot, if your family Bible is among those, you can proceed with the genealogy happy dance. [It looks like the Snoopy dance!]
You now have 10 more places to search for that elusive family Bible even if one did not get passed down your family line.
Once you find a Family Bible? Then what?
You found a family Bible. Yippee!
Now what? Start analyzing the people and dates and the Bible itself.
Consider what the Bible may or may not tell you?
Is the information found in the Family Bible accurate? Is the information a primary or secondary source?
Hop over and read 3 Strategies For Examining the Family Bible to get started or check out this video:
Check out these other posts of interest!
- 5 Types of Genealogical Info Found on a Death Certificate
- Finding Children Between the Census Years
- How to Analyze Your Ancestor’s Birth Certificate
Another place to look for a family bible: We found our Platt family bible in the home of the couple in whose home the last of the Platts were living. Be sure to ask EVERYONE in the family if they know of a family bible.
Records are only as good (or bad) as the actual knowledge of the person who acts as the ‘historian’. This includes any who make notations in the so-called family bible, or informs for the OBC, or who gives information on the death certificate regarding the deceased.
I have photocopies of two pages of my paternal grandmother’s bible in her handwriting and one with her signature. Unfortunately there are inaccuracies which mislead and confound… even my son’s OBC is wrong because while I was having post-delivery surgery, his father was elected as informant in my stead (one I did not appoint to provide my personal information. ) The date listed as my parents’ marriage was impossible as my father was on a ship trolling the South China Sea on that date according to military records kept during WWII. A child adopted by my father is named as a half-brother … we share no relationship and have never met.. he knew nothing of me until about a month ago, and I only discovered him in 2011 when in a very brief reunion with a paternal uncle.
My own OBC is sadly replete with intentional misleading statements given by my mother.
Take any record or history with a grain of salt.
I got lucky in that, even though the Courtney family Bible apparently did not survive, someone in the family had the foresight to tear out the Births, Marriages and Deaths pages and hang on to them. I found those pages from our family Bible while going through the effects of my half uncle after his death in 2000.
While I can’t be positive, I am convinced that the Bible belonged to my great grandmother Rebecca McPheron Courtney since it started with her marriage to her first husband who died at the young age of 39. The births also included their 2 children and then the 9 children she gave birth to by my great grandfather. All of the records predated the early 1900s TN requirement for such records. If I never found a grave marker for those individuals, I would have missed so many important dates plus full names of people who died long before my time.
Thank God that Great Grandma Courtney was the earliest known member of a long line of pack rats, as I have 200+ original family documents dating to as early as 1847. I readily and proudly admit that I’m following in her footsteps.
I hope that some of you have the good fortune that I have had. I have also been to transcribe names and dates from the Susong Bible, the surname of my paternal grandmother.
Dennis J Yancey
Would you please consider adding a link to yoru site
to the Family Bible Index