Slave Research in bibles might sound counter-intuitive, but this post illustrates why it should not.
The Tennessee State Archives and Library (TSLA) just finished digitizing and uploading hundred of bibles in their collection. The files are organized by surname.
I hope that more African-Americans will submit copies of family information from their family bibles. But there is another valuable way we can use existing collections: researching the slaveowning family.
Some slaveowners recorded the births and deaths of their slaves in their bible records. I was surprised just how many did just that.
The Frazier Titus family recorded the births from their enslaved women Emaline, Ann and Julia. It also recorded the death of Harriet:Titus
In 1870, Frazier relocated from Nashville to Memphis. A black woman named Emaline lives just a few doors away is —perhaps his former slave?
James Wood Bible
The James Wood bible includes the births of three children of Judy. There is also a faintly visible message, called “Relative to the origins of our servants.”
That section includes bible verses in Genesis and also about Hagar. Slaveholders and their supporters often used the Bible to support the idea that God ordained slavery.
George Hale Family
The George Hale family of Blount County included two pages (with the quaint title of “Servants”) of at least three generations of their enslaved people.
Lastly, the Overton family tracked the births of “Negro Mary’s” 3 children:
Seek out bible collections at state archives, historical and genealogical societies as well as library and university manuscript collections.
For example, the National Genealogical Society (NGS) has a large collection of family bibles accessible by members.
Readers, tell me, have you used bible records in your own research?
I am an engineer by day, but my true passion lies in genealogy. I have been a researcher, writer, lecturer and teacher for over twenty years. This blog is where I share family history methods, resources, tips and advice, with an emphasis on slave research, slavery and its aftermath. This lifelong quest has helped me to better know my family’s past. I’ve taken back– reclaimed– some of that lost memory, especially that of my enslaved ancestors. I hope you’ll sign up to receive my posts—if you do, you’ll get a free PDF with some of my favorite tips! And please do share posts that interest you.