18 July 2009

Why Trust Bibles?

Yesterday on Twitter, this questions was queried:

"Stupid #genealogy ? :Why do those with the "Family Bible" take it as gospel when everything written in it was recorded long after the event!"

Great question! This got me thinking about a few things. Initially, I thought back to my family bible, in which most data was probably recorded late, as a sort of "I'm getting old, I'd better write down what I know about my family." I can only assume this, based on the 80% consistency of the the writing, which is written by the same hand and using the same pen. Obviously, you can't record a birth and death (separated by 50+ years) at the same time and say that this individual's birth was recorded on the day of the event. Also, obviously, if dates jump around and aren't in order, the events were not recorded in order. BUT, this was not so obvious to me when I first has access to the bible (too busy doing my happy dance!). So, my first answer to this questions is: Because the researcher doesn't realize that the events were recorded so long after they happened.

Sarah Britt Craft birth affidavitAs I continued to think about the issue, I thought back to my paternal Grandmother's birth certificate. It seems that at her birth, she was not issued a birth certificate. But, later in life, she found a need to provide a birth certificate for legal reasons. So, she applied for a Delayed Certificate of Birth. In order to receive this, she needed to prove her identity. One option for this, was to provide a family bible or "family record book" as documentation. So, my second answer to this question is: Because our government accepts it as proof.

And then, continuing the think on the issue, I had one more answer: Because the researcher wants the information to be correct. For many, these bible records are the only documentation that an ancestor left behind. For ancestors who died before mandatory death certificates and whose grave cannot be found, a bible record is the proof that a research dreams for. If we don't have any other records, we really want the bible records to be true.

But, these reasons aren't enough are they? The question is a good one and hopefully got a few folks thinking (like it did for me). Bible records are not the "be all and end all" to prove an ancestor's life. They, like any other record, should be taken with a grain of salt. When researching, it's always best to find multiple records to prove a fact. Bible records can stand as one of those records - now it's time to find the others.

1 comment:

Greta Koehl said...

Interesting post - this subject is of particular interest to me because the date of birth cited in a family bible for my brickwall ancestor, Lizzie Smith Brinlee, gives her year of birth as 1856; however, I have always doubted this and have found a good bit of evidence contradicting it. I think it may have been entered much later, when she had forgotten which year she was born in. Same problem with dates of birth given on tombstones.


Related Posts with Thumbnails