The Family Bible:
Records of Family Births and Deaths

It used to be traditional for nearly every household in the UK to have a family Bible. The same was true in North America.  These were quite large and heavy volumes, a fact which may have discouraged their usage for daily reading purposes.

However, there invariably was a section in the Bible with pages for recording family members' births and deaths. Depending on the publisher and the publication run, these pages could be located either at the front or in the middle of the Bible.

Many UK-based people who immigrated to North America brought their family Bible with them, as my great-grandparents did.

My great-grandparents’ Bible
Great-grandparents’ Bible

I remember looking through their Bible, which, as expected, had the section in it for recording the names of the couple, the names of the children (which often included their dates of birth as well), and deaths.

It contained my grandfather’s birth and death records, along with those of his brothers and sisters and his parents. The ‘deaths’ page lists the name of the cemetery where each individual was buried, as well the date of death, and, in some cases, the date of the funeral.

Again, it is necessary to be cautious in putting too much confidence in the actual content of the entries. Some family members are less concerned than others about making certain that the dates recorded are accurate, and are satisfied with an ‘approximate’ date. I have found this to be the case with some, although certainly not all, of the family entries in that Bible.

The family Bible can be a source of a great deal of family tree information. It serves to clarify who the siblings of a particle individual were, and the birth order of the children, as well as their parents, and birth and death dates.

"Family Register" page from Great-grandparents' Bible
Family register Page from Great-grandparents' Bible

The contents of the "Family Register" in the Bible can also raise some questions. For example, in one Bible of a different ancestor, the parents were listed as “James and Mary”, whereas all of the other records associated with the family identified them as “Robert and Jane”.

Whether these were nicknames, or whether they changed their names when they arrived in Canada, it is difficult to say.

Perhaps one set of names was their first names, whereas they actually were known by their middle names.

This couple was of Scottish extraction, and I have noticed, in various documents I have reviewed, that they tended to switch back and forth between their forename and their middle name. It seems they were known by both, then! Perhaps that is the most viable explanation.

The question remains open.

An interesting conundrum!

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