Bible records can resolve so many questions if the entries were kept contemporaneously with the events they chronicle. Transcriptions and digitizations need to include title pages, family pages, pages of insertions, copies of the insertations and photographs of the spine and boards. Transcriptions also need to include all the data, not just what the family members deemed pertinent or appropriate. A transcription of a Bible included in Bible Records of Tennessee Families, Volume 2 published by Tennessee State Society, Daughters of the American Colonists and James White Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution in 1960, excludes one granddaughter who was either a child of divorce or an illegtimate child. I have not seen the original Bible, I would love know if she was in the Bible and left out of the transcription or missing from both.
Why all that information?
If you have a Bible published in 1776 and the first genealogical entry is 1757, the data was definitely written up after the facts occurred. If you have a Bible published in 1834 and the edition you own was 1865, the event dates should start in or after 1865. New Bibles were often given as a wedding present from one spouse to another or from one set of in-laws, a gift upon the birth of a first child, or a coming of age gift from parent to child. Family Bibles usually transferred ownership upon the death of the parents. In addition Bibles were included in furnishings moved across the country in wagons or saddlebags or presented to the last child leaving home to create a new family.
Why do you care?
One way the information may be added on the day of a birth, marriage or death, the other way, you are relying on memory. It was certainly a habit for new Bible owners to start listing their parents’ births and marriage, then list all the children (siblings of the owner) births including their own, and then put in their own wedding and kids. The contemporaneous record keeping generally started sometime after the wedding of the first owners of the Bible. The longer the time between the event and the recording of the event, the more margin for error.
- Is the title page publication date before or after the dates inscribed?
- Does the handwriting age over the decades or is it picture perfect for five inscriptions in a row?
- Does the handwriting change over generations, when a new family member kept the record? Changes in handwriting generally convey changes of ownership of the Bible, stable handwriting across an entire family or several decades of data could indicate copying data from a parent’s Bible or recreating from memory. Many Bible records are started by a child, who lists his parents’ birthdates and then his siblings’ and then adds his marriage as a right of passage and then finally he and his wife start “keeping” the Bible family records.
- Are the dates in order? If they are out of order, the list was compiled by copying or by memory and either someone was forgotten or the list was copied poorly.
- Is everyone included? If someone is left out it may indicate an embarassing non martial union and/or an illegitimate baby.
- Are all the events recorded or were some left out? If an embarassing marriage and divorce is left out, it could mean the account was started after that particular union went south.
A distant cousin sent me these photographs of a bible identified as the James Henritze and Eliza Ann (Knott) Henritze family’s Bible. After further research I think it should be identified as the William A. Henritze and Letitia Elinor (Hagy) Henritze family’s Bible. Kim’s paternal grandmother, Margaret Elizabeth Henritze Blount, was the youngest daughter of William A. Henritze and Letitia Elinor (Hagy) Henritze.
This Bible has an 1834 imprint. According to Kim Livaditis the Bible’s current owner, there is nothing on the back of the New Testament page to indicate multiple editions or printing. The Bible starts with Noah and has no copyright or title page.
This first page of the Family Record has three different sets of handwriting in the Marriages column:
- The first entry is the marriage of James Henritze and Eliza Ann Knott.
- The next three entries are for Lavinia Henritze, Kate Henritze and R. H. Henritze.
- The fifth and last entry is for Wm. Henritze.
Other children of James and Eliza Ann Knott Henritze whose marriages are not listed were Adaline R. Henritze Sailer ca. 1855/7, and Thomas C. Henritze in 1883. Washington County, Virginia records show the missing husband of Kate Henritze to be J. R. Hendricks in 1866. Kate left him between 1875 and 1880. She was enumerated in Nashville in 1880 with her sister, Lavinia Findley (Henritze) Haynes and her brother Thomas C. Henritze. The blank space after her name in this marriage section is a huge clue. Whoever inscribed these marriages into this Bible started with Lavinia Findley Henritze who married Austin Dunn Haynes in 1869 instead of the eldest sister Adeline R. Henritze who married Louis White Sailer ca. 1856/7. Middle initials were used not full names a sign of saving time during copying. This section was probably not written by James Henritze or his wife Eliza Ann (Knott) Henritze. Either of them would have used full namles and started with the first marriage of their childern which happened to be their eldest child. Instead the inscriber followed Lavinia with Kate without including the details of Kate’s 1866 marriage but not leaving it out entirely. This marriage was over by 1880, they may have separated as early as 1875. The fourth entry was R. H. Henritze who married Adele Henderson in Baltimore in 1871. Being out of town didn’t keep the entries from being written in, but marital discord did. In another hand, the last entry William Henritze married Lettie Hagy in 1879.
This first four entires are so beautifully handwritten in small, tight, nice, uniform penmanship. The fifth entry for Louvinia has the year 1843 written over by 1845 when in fact Lavinia Findley Henritze was probably born in 1844 as per the 1900 census. She could not have been born in December 1845 as the twins James and William were born in January 1846. In addition her given name is misspelled. The handwriting expands for Kate, Richard and Milton Henritze though still very similar. It changes and becomes markedly sloppier wth Thomas C. Henritze and Alice Henritze bringing up the rear of that half of the page. On the Deaths side of the ledger, Peter Henritze’s death matches the handwriting for James Henritze’s birth and the first five or six entries. The handwriting for Alice Henritze’s death matches that of the handwriting for her birth however the dates are out of order when James M. Henritze’s 1853 death follows Alice Henritze’s 1863 death. the handwriiting and the ink change when James M. Henrizte’s 1853 death is added. The two James Henritze’s deaths are in the same hand, while the death of Eliza may be also. The last entry in the Deaths column in blue ball point pen, is a birth for Lettie Elinor Hagy.
The next page has seven births in chronological order in the same handwriting comparable to the handwriting of all three death entries for James Henritze and Eliza A. Henritze’s death entry. I suspect William A. Henritze, possibily his wife Lettie Elinor Hagy Henritze as the writer. Examining an affadavit of his for handwriting and signature is next. The last five or six entries change handwriting, pen, and ink (including at least one lefty), as the Bible was handed down, shared and updated.
What a find! If Kim’s children don’t want this piece of their heritage, the Historical Society of Washington Co., Virginia collections would be appropriate. William A. Henritze, unlike his migrating siblings, lived in Abingdon his entire life. It would be an excellent choice of repository for this Bible. His father, James Henritze, was the sheriff there in the mid 1800s.