A family Bible is a treasured family heirloom and a valuable resource to the family historian. I am so fortunate to have a family Bible for part of my Cubbage family. This Bible was originally owned by James and Barbara (Black) Cubbage, my second great grandparents. James and Barbara were married in 1852 and lived in Butler County, Pennsylvania.
Condition and Care
Be aware of the age and condition of your family Bible as you begin to glean genealogical details from the book. While that historical information is valuable, you will also want to preserve the family Bible for future generations. Wrapping the Bible in archival tissue paper and storing in an archival box is the best option for fragile or disintegrating books.
It’s best to transcribe and/or photograph any genealogical writings or other items found in the Bible, so that you do not need to reopen the book each time you need that data. If the Bible and binding are fragile, be sure to photograph rather than place it on a scanner (which will require you to lay the Bible flat and potentially damage the spine). If you are opening an old Bible, use care to support the spine and avoid expanding it so that it is completely flat – use your hands or a pillow to support the book. If there are pages falling out or the cover is no longer attached, do not try to glue or tape the Bible back together. I do not know that there is anything that is safe to add to your heirloom. You can see in the image above that the cover is no longer attached to the Bible.
Inside of the Bible is where you may find valuable genealogical information. Many older Bibles had blank pages to record births, marriages and deaths. If your Bible has this information, be sure to photograph and/or transcribe the vital events as it was recorded (spelling errors and all).
Nancy Cubbage was born October the 28 1853
Sarah Cubbage was born March the 6 1855
George Cubbage was born February the 3 1857
John Cubbage was born September 21 1860
Jacob Cubbage was born May 1 1863
James L Cubbage was born October the 19 1865
Mary ann Cubbage was born February the 8 1868
William H Cubbage was born May 1 1870
August the 3 1873 Charles Cubbage was Born
A few more tips:
- look at pen that was used – was it different for each entry or the same to record all names? This will indicate if each event was recorded near when it happened, or if the information was added to the Bible at the same time.
- look at the Bible’s publication date and compare this to the dates of recorded events. Again, this will reveal if the events were recorded at a much later time.
In the Cubbage Bible, it appears that the same pen was used for the first eight births (1853-1870) and that Charles’ birth (1873) was recorded in a different pen. In addition, this Bible was published in 1870, therefore it was likely that James and Barbara recorded the first eight births when they received the Bible, and then added Charles’ birth after he was born in 1873.
The next page lists two of the children’s deaths (again note the different pens):
Nancy Cubbage died January the 14 1854
Mary ann Cubbage died November the 20 1882
Your family Bible may also contain loose items tucked in the pages, such as newspaper clippings, locks of hair, pressed flowers and other items. The Cubbage Bible had all of these plus a few pictures of unknown children, funeral cards and obituaries, Sunday School lessons, scraps of paper with names and more. Some of the highlights that relate to those children recorded above are:
Be sure to ask your family members who originally owned the Bible, and to whom it was passed until it reached it current location. This may help identify who added information or items to the Bible. For example, my father previously held the Cubbage Bible, which explains my grandfather’s funeral card (1996) in the book. Below is a citation that I used to reference the birth of Charles Cubbage:
 James and Barbara Cubbage Family Bible Records, 1853-1902, The Holy Bible (New York: American Bible Society, 1870), “Births”; privately held by the author, Metuchen, New Jersey. This Bible is said to have been passed from Barbara Cubbage (1834-1907) to her son James L. Cubbage (1865-1932) to his nephew William Arthur Cubbage, Sr. (1912-1996) to [living], who passed it to the author in 2017.
I hope that you find this helpful as you explore your family Bible as a genealogical resource. If you have other tips or suggestions, be sure to leave a comment.
Melissa Barker, “The Archive Lady: Preserving the Family Bible,” Abundant Genealogy, 29 June 2017 (https://abundantgenealogy.com/archive-lady-preserving-family-bible/ : accessed 10 February 12019).
Leslie Albrecht Huber, “Family History Preservation: Preserving Scrapbooks, Family Bible and Other Books” FamilySearch Blog, 6 April 2017 (https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/preserving-scrapbooks-family-bible-books/ : accessed 10 February 2019).
“Safely Storing Family Bibles,” Advice from Donia [American Library Association] (http://www.ala.org/alcts/preservationweek/advice/bible-storage : accessed 10 February 2019).
© 2019 LAURA CUBBAGE-DRAPER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.