Most people do not know that it was illegal for any printer in the “Colonies” to reproduce the English Bible. Oxford and Cambridge University press, as well as a few other printers licensed by the king, were the only ones allowed to publish the King James version of Scripture.
Colonial Printers created the Family Bible with the addition of record keeping pages to get around this inconvenience. The first Congress tried to restrict printing to provide integrity to the written word but a little thing called the First Amendment got in the way. There was a great demand for Bibles and many of the early editions were less than accurate, but they did maintain the tradition of the Family Bible.
Up until the mid 20th century, books in general were in short supply in rural Appalachia. Often times the Family Bible was the only book in a household. Many is the child that learned to read from it. Bibles were important heirlooms to be treasured and passed down through the generations. The information about family recorded in the pages was a living history and made an important connection to the past. Before the days of proper birth, death and marriage certificates, these were also important legal documents.
My sister Tammie is the current keeper of our Family Bible. My great grandfather, James F. Sheets, purchased this Bible in 1903. I wish I knew what he paid for it. Also I have searched through the pages and can find no date of publication. My mothers first cousin, Maxi Mabe, kept the Bible for many years and recently gave it to Tammie. I’m sorry to say that we lost Maxi a few short weeks ago. She will live on in our memories, as well as in the Bible.
Many of the people in this Bible’s pages were known to me all my life, but it still taught me details about them like who married when and just how old some of my moms cousins were. Its an incredible feeling touching pages that I know were touched by my great grandfather James and my great grandmother Minnie Alice Darnell Sheets.
I can imagine them making entries over the years, some of joy and others of great sadness. It ‘s a connection to the past that can be very emotional. The entries answered a few questions, while raising even more. One entry in particular has always intrigued me…Fannie Darnell. Was that my gg grandmother and who was her husband? Why wasn’t he listed. Or maybe it was Minnie Alice’s sister? These are things I am compelled to find out. This was a very close family and they always nurtured and supported one another. I have many wonderful cousins who are proud to share this heritage.