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.

Frazier Titus

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?

Titus 1870

Titus 1870

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.

Wood

Wood

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.

Hale

Hale

Lastly, the Overton family tracked the births of “Negro Mary’s” 3 children:

Overton

Overton

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?

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