Preserving The Good Book's Archives

February 19, 1991|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff writer

Within the flyleaves of crumbling old Bibles rest the remnants of history -- birth, marriage, children and death.

The worn leather andrag paper covers don't look like much on the outside, but their contents, for county genealogists, are priceless and irreplaceable.

Tomorrow, the Shadyside Rural Heritage Society, south of Annapolis, is sponsoring a presentation by the county genealogical society topreserve that information.

"In the 1700s there were no birth or death certificates," explained Audrey Bagby, program director of the Anne Arundel Genealogical Society.

"They didn't have marriage licenses until 1777 in this country, either. So there aren't any records, other than church records and what a family would keep. That's why the Bible records are so valuable."

The public is invited to attend the 11:30 a.m. luncheon and lecture and to bring old Bibles so the society can photocopy family pages for the county records.

The lecture will be conducted at the Capt. Salem Avery House and Museum, the new home of the Shadyside society.

Information gleaned from old Bibles helps fill in many a gap for the Genealogical Council of Maryland, which is publishing an index of family names in the state, Bagby said.

"The things inside a Bible help other genealogists who are looking for particular names," she added. "We copy them and put them in our collection in the law library in Annapolis."

The Bibles don't have to be from Anne Arundel County to be copied, Bagby emphasized.

"We've recorded family pages of Bibles that were written completelyin Norwegian," she said.

Neither do the Bibles have to date back hundreds of years for the owner to bring them in, although last year,several families brought in Bibles from the 1700s, she said.

"Several years ago, on Bible copying day, a little boy came in who had just gotten a Bible. All that was in it was his birth date. We copied it. You never know. His descendants may be looking for him some day," Bagby said.

On display tomorrow will be the Avery family Bible, which details the family line of Capt. Salem Avery, a Long Island man who came to Shadyside 130 years ago to seek his fortune.

The society, which hopes to preserve the history of watermen like Capt. Avery, plans to restore the old home to its 1860 conditions, said Mavis Daly, the society's publicity chairwoman.

At tomorrow's program, the genealogical society also will hand out Family Group sheets for participants to fill in family information reaching back nine generations.

"It makes you realize how little you know even of your own family," Bagby said. "You'd be surprised how many people don't know their grandfather's first name, or when he was born or died. And for the lifeof them, they don't know his middle name.

"I have 1,500 group sheets filled in, just on my family lines," she added. "The blanks really drive you crazy. It's like a crossword puzzle, always trying to figure in one more piece. I keep looking, and I find maybe one name a year to add."

Guests also will learn to protect old documents, including old photographs found in family Bibles.

"Besides Bibles, manypeople have interesting papers like a great-grandfather's pension papers from the Civil War," Bagby said. "We'll show them how to cover these with acid-free sheets to preserve them forever."

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