Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
A Family Bible is a Bible containing pages for recording the births, deaths, and marriages of family members. In many homes during the nineteenth century, the Bible came to represent the heart of the home. It was the place to hold and store family records and memories. As a result, larger and in many cases very ornate Bibles became available that contained special pages for recording family information. In a time before the civil registration of births, deaths, and marriages, the Family Bible was the place to keep a record of family life events. Even though such events may have been recorded by the church, the family Bible was a personal record that could move with the family.
Family Bibles are a treasure to genealogists, particularly in the absence of civil or church records, as they may contain the only written record of an event. Family Bibles may also record events that for whatever reason on not found in the public record such the births and deaths of infant children. Where a county courthouse has burned along with all its records, the Family Bible may hold one or more of the missing records. It has been said that some slave owners even recorded the births and deaths of their slaves in the Family Bible.
Family Bibles fall into the category of home sources, those records we check first when undertaking a new research project. Family Bibles are considered a primary source — an original record documenting events at or near the time they occurred. Of course, the information in Family Bibles, like all other forms of documentation are subject to error and must be verified by comparing it with other information gathered. In some cases events may have been recorded long after the event occurred when the memory of exact dates could be recalled. On the other hand, Family Bibles can be used to help verify conflicting dates found in other records. Family Bibles may also contain other information or notations that provide insight into the life of a family over many years, a true relic of the past.