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Family Bibles

Bibles have been used as a place to record important family events and to store and protect family letters, certificates, clippings and other items.  In some families, it was the custom to give a Bible as one of the wedding gifts.  The family Bible may be very helpful because it may hold essential vital data found in no other place because of the absence of early parish records.  Ask if a family Bible exists when conducting interviews with relatives. 

The genealogical data in Bibles will be most reliable if entered soon after actual births, marriages or deaths occurred.  First, check the publication date and compare it to the earliest dates shown in the records.  If vital data pre-date the publication date, this may mean that the information was copied from an older Bible, or that events were remembered and recorded long after they occurred.  The latter case would make the data less reliable.  In some families the Bible was passed on to the eldest child after the parents died and the younger children started similar records of their own by copying vital data from the older Bible.  The more time passed between the date a particular event took place and the date it was recorded in the family Bible the greater the likelihood of errors. 

Next, check handwriting.  If it is uneven and done in different colours of ink, perhaps by different hands, then probably the data was recorded when an event took place.  This data is mostly likely very reliable.  If the handwriting is even and in the same coloured ink, it may be someone remembering the dates long after the events occurred and then entering them in the Bible, or it might be someone copying data from an older Bible.

When analyzing entries found in a family Bible, the genealogist may have to be discreet when announcing discoveries to relatives.  This can become evident if the data recorded in a Bible has been altered to make sure that the birth of the first child took place nine months after marriage, or for other purposes.  If there is disagreement between the vital records and the Bible entries, check a third source for confirmation.  If possible, verify all entries in the family Bible with primary records.

Photocopy or transcribe genealogical information found in the family Bible and place it in the appropriate family file.  Record the name and address of the person who now owns the Bible from which the data was taken, and report on the ownership of the Bible over the years.