Because of the Bibles’ historical and genealogical importance, the Tennessee State Public Library has been collecting more than 1,500 family Bibles since the 1920s and, in a nod to our new high-tech world, all were recently scanned into a database now available to the public, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Among the Bibles in the database are one published in 1538 (two years after Henry VIII beheaded Queen Anne Boleyn) and a bible from the Carson family of Dublin, published in 1753.
The database is a treasure trove for genealogists and historians, a record of a time when Tennessee was wildly dangerous and human life seemed especially small and fragile. Documenting one’s life in those early Bibles was a vote of hope that the family would exist in the future.
Cinnamon Collins is the volunteer who scanned all the Bibles into the database. She scanned the pages with notations on them but also read and examined the materials tucked inside — photographs, locks of a sweetheart’s hair, newspaper clippings, mementos. All the entries she saw were handwritten and sometimes difficult to read.
Sherrill also cautions that researchers using the family Bibles should know that the information was not fact-checked.
In Tennessee, birth certificates were not required until 1908 and, to this day, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will accept a family Bible’s list of births as one proof of citizenship for those with no birth certificate.