The Bible Issue

In 2002, interim NGSQ editor Jane Fletcher Fiske designed the December issue to be a stand-alone publication centered around “that large body of records loosely gathered within the term ‘Family Bible,’ although some are found in account books, almanacs, and other places. All of these records share one characteristic—each was generated within a family about itself, at the time of an event or within memory of it.”[1]

That issue was given its own title, Perspectives on the Family Bible, and is still available for purchase at the NGS Store online. For NGS members, however, the issue is available for free in the NGSQ Archives.[2]

Fiske’s “An Editor’s Perspective: The Plight of the Family Bible” serves as an introduction to the issue and the various aspects and examples presented in it. (243–245)

Jerome E. Anderson’s “Family Record-Keeping: A Rich and Diverse Heritage” gives some historical context for Bible printing, the practice of using Bibles for family records, and the efforts of genealogical and historical societies to preserve those records. He also introduces other, lesser-known places early family records were kept. (247–256)

Marsha Hoffman Rising’s “Examining and Analyzing the Family Bible” discusses ways in which we can analyze the veracity and reliability of Bible records—and the importance of doing so. (257–269)

Robert Charles Anderson’s “The Family Bible of Abner Gay of Pownal and Dundas, Prince Edward Island” relays the data in a Bible passed down to him through his great-aunt Margaret. Receiving that Bible had a surprising and profound effect:

On a personal note, at the time of Aunt Margaret’s death, I was a graduate student in California, and came home for Christmas 1972. My father showed me this Bible, along with the many other loose papers wedged among its pages, and it was then that I learned of the early New England ancestry of my grandmother, Katherine (Gay) Anderson. This awakened my interest in genealogy and eventually led to the creation of the Great Migration Study Project.[3]

Begun in 1988 and continuing today, the Great Migration Study Project is perhaps the most extensive, comprehensive genealogical study yet undertaken. (270–272)

Alvy Ray Smith’s “An Old LITTELL Family Bible” presents a Bible record transcription for the Littell and Acken families of New Jersey, with dates ranging from 1768 to 1881. He then uses that data to make significant additions and corrections to the highly valued First Settlers of Passaic Valley by John Littell. (273–281)

Edward H. L. Smith III and Henry B. Hoff’s “Only Dates, No Names: The McCoon Family Record” considers a significantly damaged family record sewn into a Long Island blacksmith’s account book. Carefully comparing that record with research already conducted on the family put the record in context and revealed an earlier, previously unknown marriage for the record-keeper’s father. (282–284)

Patricia Law Hatcher’s “Bible Record of Daniel Harper of Meigs County, Ohio: Revolutionary War Pension Application Files Revisited” explores both a Bible record discovered in a pension file as well as the critical differences between pension files found in NARA Publication M805, Selected Records From Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land-Warrant Application Files, and M804, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land-Warrant Application Files. (285–288)

Helen Hinchliff’s “A Misleading Bible Record: Identifying David(4) Mumper’s Mother” uses critical analysis of the physical record itself, along with corroborating evidence, to reveal a crucial omission and misstatement. David(4) Mumper did not have the same mother as his eleven younger (half-)siblings as reported in that record. (289–295)

Cherry Fletcher Bamberg’s “Taylor Family Record” gives a transcription of two pages glued into the schoolbook of the author’s fourth-great grandfather, Thomas Taylor, a chairmaker and mariner of Rhode Island. Like many of the records considered in this issue, the information contained in this one is mostly correct. (296­)

Sharon DeBartolo Carmack’s “Looking for the Family Bible: Eleven Places to Check,” offers useful and important pointers for those in search of potentially extant Bibles, their reproductions, or their transcripts. (297–300)

Cyndi Howells’s “The National Genealogical Society’s Digital Bible Archives Project” describes the then-in-development project to collect images and transcriptions of family records for deposit and retrieval on the NGS website. That collection is now called simply NGS Bible Records and is available here. Note, however, that the collection does not include the hundreds of Bible records transcribed and published in the pages of the NGSQ (unless the transcription was taken from a record in NGS’s possession). The NGSQ Bible records can be searched separately here. (301–303)

The issue concludes with six transcriptions from across the country:

“Folger Family Record: Nantucket to Ohio in 1812” (304–305)

“Shinn-Reed-Green Bible Record of Columbus, New Jersey” (306­­–307)

“James Easton’s Slaves, Newport, Rhode Island” (307)

“Baker Family Bible of Swansea, Massachusetts, 1768–1900” (308–309)

“Nathaniel Abraham Venable Henderson Bible of Texas” (310–311)

“Avery-Sanborn Bible” (312–316)

Perspectives on the Family Bible is an excellent, easily-accessible primer on Bible records, their variations and alternatives, where to find them, and how to use them. If you’ve wanted some self-directed study of the topic, this is the textbook you need.


[1] Jane Fletcher Fiske, “An Editor’s Perspective: The Plight of the Family Bible,”National Genealogical Society Quarterly 90 (December 2002): 243; PDF, NGSQ Archives ( : 17 July 2018).

[2] Perspectives on the Family Bible, National Genealogical Society Quarterly 90 (December 2002): 241–326; PDF, NGSQ Archives ( : 17 July 2018).

[3] Robert Charles Anderson, “The Family Bible of Abner Gay of Pownal and Dundas, Prince Edward Island,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 90 (December 2002): 271; PDF, NGSQ Archives ( : 17 July 2018).

  1. July 24, 2018 10:10 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *