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American Ancestors
AJHS - New England Archives
p15869coll15

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Bible records, a significant primary source for genealogists, typically contain birth, marriage, and death dates for family members often for multiple generations and sometimes include notes on military service, occupations, and other interesting life details. Bible records are often accompanied by an assortment of material including newspaper clippings (especially obituaries), ephemera, bookmarks, and photographs.

The recording of birth, marriage, and death dates in a treasured family heirloom is an old practice. A Manual for the Genealogist, Topographer, Antiquary, and Legal Professor by Richard Sims (London, 1856) notes that "Entries of births, deaths, and marriages, frequently occur in calendars prefixed to missals and Book of Hours, as early as the middle of the fifteenth century." The Book of Hours, often described as the "best seller of the Middle Ages and Renaissance," was a prayer book used to recite prayers eight times a day that flourished from approximately 1250 to 1550.

A similar practice of recording family birth, marriage, and death dates developed with printed bibles and quickly grew in prevalence as printed bibles became affordable for more and more families. NEHGS holds a few family records recorded in Geneva Bibles (published between 1560 and 1599). Family records found in bibles published from the 1500’s through 1791 were written inside the front or back cover, on blank pages, end sheets, back of lithographs, or empty spaces in and around the printed text. The bible published by Isaiah Thomas of Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1791 is the first Bible printed in America with dedicated sheets to record family birth, marriage, and death data. These were unornamented pages with the heading "Family record of marriage, and births of children" between the Old and New Testaments. Subsequent printers followed and improved upon this example.

This collection contains selected family registers and Bible records from the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections. If they were accompanied by letters, newspaper clippings, or other material, those have also been scanned.

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