Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 6, Number 16 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 July 30, 2014
In this article we discuss the importance of Bible Records and the recent online publication of over 1,500 Bible Records for Tennessee. The Bible Records can provide valuable information about your family. Hopefully, you don't have to wait 50 years to find your family Bible like I did.
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James L. Douthat
TENNESSEE BIBLE RECORDS
Many years ago my grandmother Douthat gave me some pages with most of the early family records. Since she was a descendant of one brother and her husband was a descendant of another brother of the first Douthats that we have in records, it was of great interest to me. Later, I found out these pages were from a family Bible that was in a bank vault in Memphis during the 1920s. However, we did not know the current location of the Bible or even who had it until just a couple of years ago. An email came to me with photos of the Bible as well as scanned copies of the various pages from that Bible. A man in New England had the Bible. What a revelation after all these years!!
The state of Tennessee has made great strides in maintaining Bible records. There are a number of sources held in the state. In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) collected many of the Bible records. Some of these are found in the collection of the State Archives and are in print. A number of years ago, Mountain Press purchased several hundred files of the original WPA records from the estate of the WPA State Supervisor. Many of our files were in the original hand written version. These were probably the incomplete files that were turned over when the project ended in the early 1940s. A number of these were Bible records.
Just this month, the Tennessee State Archives released a notice that they have scanned and have online over 1,500 Bibles from their collection. They are listed by the names of the original family name. These are easily accessed on their website at the Bible Project Page You can search by first name or surname. You can also see an alphabetical list.
There is also a second huge collection of Bible records in Tennessee. The State Daughters of the American Revolution collected via their membership across the state all of the Bibles they could find. The index to this collection is four inches thick. All of the scanned copies of the Bibles are found on a CD attached to the index book. There are hundreds of full records in this collection. However, this collection is not as easily found as the Archives collection.
When you are looking at the Bible records, either a transcription or the original, remember a few things that might clear up some confusion. Most of the births, marriages and deaths are recorded after the fact and not necessarily by the parties involved. The exact date may or may not be known correctly. Another questionable point is the exact date may be altered to give a birth the timely date to correct an “early birth or seven month baby.” In other cases, there may be deliberate changes later on to satisfy some whim of the writer.
In the case of one of my family Bibles, my grandmother changed the date of her own birth to make her younger than my grandfather. In her day, the woman was to be younger than the man. Later in life when I was reviewing the census, she confessed that she had changed the dates. By this time she was over 80 years old and it did not matter anymore. As she said, “Since all of his brothers and sister who had gone with us on the honeymoon are now dead, it is okay to tell you.”
Bible records may tell you a lot and then they may confuse the issue greatly. In every record that I have researched there is always some bit of information that is confusing, but when I dig a little deeper it makes sense. I have found many of the original names of the brides in some of the clues. If you can locate the scanned copy of the original Bible and not just a transcription, you are better off. Here you may find that various spellings are used for the surname or given names as well. The birth order is sometimes the most important information given or even the name of that “missing” child that everyone knew was there but they died during birth or shortly after birth. Sources are available, you just have to dig deep and sometimes wait fifty years to get the information you want!
Tennessee Bible Records
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