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I Swear on a Stack of Bibles

swear on bibles

January 10, 2019

I recently found my aunt’s Bible that she received as a wedding gift. Inside her Bible, she had carefully written information about her parents as well as her siblings. Later, she recorded the marriages of her siblings along with their children. I turned to the page with my parents and found that only my older brother was listed. Since the Bible now belongs to me, I added the information for me and my sister. One day, I can pass it down to one of my children.

Many large Bibles from the 1800s contain embossed leather covers and ornate pages. Old family Bibles tend to have more sentimental value than collectable worth, but they are a great source of genealogical information. A family Bible traditionally contains pages with births, marriages, and deaths recorded inside the front or on the pages between the Old and New Testaments. Sometimes, family members tucked newspaper clippings, photos, or letters between the pages as well.

Families may hand down the Bible from one generation to the next, adding more information as they go. Should you trust the information in a family Bible? It may depend. Check the publication date of the Bible. If dates in the Bible precede the publication date, it may reveal entries created from memory. If the handwriting and ink are similar, it suggests the same person made the entries at the same time. Different handwriting and ink may indicate entries recorded at the time of the event.

The Midwest Genealogy Center has a collection of donated family Bibles and transcribed or scanned pages from Bibles. All the items are located in the archival collections, and customers can request to look at the Bibles while they are in the Library. Currently, MGC has a collection of these on display with some entries dating back to the 18th Century!

Do you have a treasured family Bible? Take it out and see what genealogical clues it may provide!

Jolene C.
Midwest Genealogy Center

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