Preserving the Family Bible and the Records 4

In my monthly column for Going In-Depth, I have been doing a series of articles about family bibles.  I have a few last words to say on this subject before going on to other topics.  If you possess a family bible or know someone who does, please, please, please preserve the family information in it.  Although, you or someone you know has this bible, things happen.  We hope nothing bad ever happens, but we can't predict everything in life.  Floods happen, fires happen, tornadoes happen, and sometimes, the one thing that we can predict-death.  A person may be super-healthy, but die in an accident.  I'm not trying to be morbid here, but these things do happen.

Now, today, before any kind of disaster has a chance to destroy that precious family bible, copy the family records in it.  Take pictures or scan the inside and outside covers, the title page containing the publication date or copyright, and the family record pages.  Make several copies.

Take these copies in person, e-mail, or snail mail them to several genealogical and historical societies.  Donate copies to museum libraries, public libraries, and genealogical libraries.  And, of course, keep copies for yourself and perhaps, give them to other family members and ask that they keep them in a safe place.

You, or the owner of the family bible, are probably already storing the bible in an archival quality box.  If not, you need to be.  Bibles will easily fit into those inexpensive boxes made to preserve photographs.  Your bible should also be kept in a place with a consistent temperature.  Keep it in the house.  Attics, basements, and garages are not good places to store a treasure like this.

If you or the person you know who possesses a family bible has not already done so, you or that persons family needs to know where the bible is to go, in case of death.  Make sure your wishes are known.  To be on the safe side, write it down and place it with your will and other important papers.  Make copies of this paper and give it to, at least one or two other people who you know will remember and carry out your wishes.  If you are in your golden years, you may consider passing it on now to someone whom you would like it to go to, someone you know will care about it like you do and protect it as you would.  If no family member wants it, then donate it to a historical society, museum, or genealogical library.

When you donate the copies of the pages, place a copy in the county you live in, if the ancestors who originally owned the bible lived in another county or state, donate copies where they lived.  Make sure to send copies to the Family History Center in Salt Lake City, the Genealogical Center in the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and your state historical and genealogical societies.

Every family had a family bible at one time.  Many still exist, but many more have been lost forever.  You may not be able to save your family bible if a natural disaster or a tragic accident occurs, but you can make sure that the important family information from it is saved forever.

Deborah Carder Mayes

About Deborah Carder Mayes

Debbie is the author of IDG’s monthly column, Beyond the Obituaries. She also writes a blog, Rambling Along the Ancestral Trail, (

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4 thoughts on “Preserving the Family Bible and the Records

  • Mariann Regan

    Deborah, thank you for emphasizing the crucial importance of the Family Bible, and the need to preserve it right away when you have it, and not wait! I have learned that the DAR, for example, takes Family Bibles as a kind of “gold standard” of genealogical proof. Recently when I was in the South, a cousin brought out two newly-discovered Family Bibles that she was working on. I urged her to donate them to the South Carolina Historical Society archive — they are wonderful about donations — and preserve them. This summer a cousin and I established an archive there for our related families, so all this cousin would have to do is mention the name of the family and give them the Bibles. I wish I had had my Flip-Pal with me to copy some pages!

    Thank you for calling attention to this important subject!

  • John Simmons

    Where does one get the archival type boxes for preserving the Bibles? How can I contact someone that preserves old Bibles.? I live in Alabama but the BIble that I have located is in Georgia

  • Jo Miller

    Thank you for this article. My mom has two family bibles in her possession. One of them dates back to the daughter of John Howland who came over on the Mayflower. I believe it was a wedding gift. Both are extremely old. She noticed that pages are starting to fall out. Now that I know how to store them properly, they will be better preserved. Again thanks.for the info. I will make copies and send them out so others will have access to my records.

    Jo Miller