Traditions of A Family Bible

Elisha and Mary Josephine Marley's Family Bible is a treasured family heirloom.  Although not in my possession, the copied Births and Marriages pages are treasures and important documents in the research of my Marley Family Tree.

I wonder which of my great great grandparents did the record keeping.  If I had to guess, it would be Mary Josephine, judging from the neat precise and somewhat feminine penmanship.

 Regardless of which one did the entries, it seems only one of them did so, again, judging from the penmanship.

Elisha and Mary Josephine were married on January 5, 1876, and perhaps their Family Bible was a wedding gift, as was often the tradition in the 1800's.  However, I like to think it happened this way....

December 1876
As Elisha stokes the fire in the stone fireplace, he glances over at his wife sitting nearby.  Her legs and feet are warmly covered in an afghan she finished just as the first frost fell in Calhoun County, Arkansas.  He watched her as the light of the fire cast it's warm glow on her face...intent on the knitting in her hands.

Mary Jo looked up from her knitting and smiled at her husband of almost a year.  They sat in comfortable silence for awhile.  Mary jo continued to knit on the blanket and thought of the baby it would cover in just three months time. 

Her thoughts turned to concerns of a first time mother.  Things like would she have time to finish the baby clothes and blankets she had started.  What about the crib she knew Elisha was making.  What about a Family Bible to record this birth...the birth that would make them a family.  It was then she broke the thoughtful silence and spoke to her husband.  "Elisha, we should start thinking about our Family Bible".

Elisha and Mary Jo had plans to spend Christmas day at her parents home for the traditional family gathering.  This being their first Christmas together, they decided to start their own family tradition of trimming the tree, sharing a special supper and exchanging gifts on Christmas Eve.  It was a Sunday, that Christmas Eve of 1876, the perfect day and time for Elisha's gift to his wife and soon to be mother of his first child....a Family Bible.

And so it was written on the first three lines in a neat and precise penmanship:
E.S. Marley was born May 25, 1849
Mary Josephen Leatherwood was born May 6, 1856.
Marthy Janne Marley was born March 4, 1877.
by one who spelled like it sounded to him.
As the years went by names were added to the Family Bible's Birth records.  After my great grandmother Marthy Janne...aka Martha Jane or 'Janie', her brother's name John Henry was added on October 27, 1878.  Then William Samuel in 1880 followed by Annie Etter in 1882...who always spelled her name as Anna Etta.  On line #7 was penned Zack Rier Marley was born Dec 15, 1883. This third son was named after his mother's grandfather Zachariah Perry Leatherwood...another clue to who's penmanship recorded births in the Family Bible.  Forever more 3rd son's name would be written as Zachariah Andrew Marley. 
There are now six lines left to record births.  Elisha and Mary Jo's family numbers six, including themselves.  All but Martha Jane were  born in Jack County, Texas, where they settled along with Mary Jo's Leatherwood family.  Three years went by before another name was written...George Holbert's on one of the six remaining lines.  James Benjamin got the fifth remaining line, and Lue Ida the fourth...another who changed the spelling as soon as she could write...Lou Ida.  Next came Wardie Bell in 1892 and Jesse Simeon in 1894.  With one line left, I wonder if Mary Jo thought it time for the recording of births to end.  It was not!
The names Alta and Albert were recorded on the last line on November 30, 1896.  And since this was a page of Birth records, the twins death on the same day was not noted.  All the lines were filled, but there would be one more birth...that of Eugene Edgar on March 14, 1899.  His birth was written in the space above the filigreed border.  Baby Eugene died  at 17 months old in August 1900.

Thank-you Elisha and Mary Jo for carrying on the tradition of a Family Bible.


  1. I have a old family bible from my dad side. They came to this country in the 1600's.
    But this time I'm trying to locate my 2nd great grand father "John Shirley in 1850 census. In Philadelphia. This is on my mom side...

  2. very nice. My family appears to be heathens.........Amen!

  3. I have wondered whose handwriting is in my Davis family bible. It's beautiful, so maybe it was my great-great grandmother's.


Thanks for commenting. I will return your comment with a reply comment , a visit to your blog or an email.


Related Posts with Thumbnails