Finding the Family Jewels – Bibles, Included!

Ever wonder what happened to an object that was once held in high regard in your family but has since disappeared?  Maybe you aren’t sure if there ever was such an item but you’d like to explore the possibility.  This blog is for you…
When I began internet genealogy back in the 1990’s we still had dial up service.  Remember that?  Going through your home phone line to connect resulted in no one being able to get a phone call while someone was surfing.  With all the junk calls I get daily, I’m thinking that wasn’t such a bad option, but I digress.
Back then, my husband would joke that it was okay he couldn’t make a phone call because I was hunting down the family jewels.  Clearly, our families never had much jewels but I did wonder whatever became of the muskets or hoop skirts or Bibles.  Most likely, the muskets broke and when the hoop skirts were no longer haute couture they were either repurposed or trashed.  The Bibles, however, never went out of style so what happened to them?
Your first step in locating the long lost item is to research if it ever was.  Start by asking your oldest living relative.  I know that no Bible was brought from the old country by my maternal side because I asked my grandparents, who were the gateways, if they brought it with them.  Both said they brought one suitcase filled with clothes.  Case closed, pun intended!
I never asked my paternal grandparents that question, though, because my grandmother died when I was a child and my grandfather remarried, moved away and we never had contact again.  My father then became the oldest relative and his reply was, “You’ll get the book when I die.”  Huh?  I questioned further and he meant there was a family history book that had been written in the 1970’s and he intended for me to have it.  Except that didn’t happen. Since my step-mother would not give it to me, my second step became casting a wider net.  I had two aunts but neither responded to a letter I wrote (this was before wide use of email) so I posted on a genealogy website that I was looking for a copy.  Two people responded that they had copies and provided me a look up.  One even reached out to the author who was living in Europe and he sent me an electronic database of his book.  Today, you can easily accomplish this by messaging distant family members who have online trees that contain the ancestor whose information you’re seeking or you can check worldcat, Google Books, Hathi Trust, Internet Archives and Archive Grid to see if the whereabouts of what you’re hunting is listed there.  Facebooks’ Family Treasures Found would be another site to check.  One of my aunts eventually responded and sent me her copy.  Patience is key here for lots of reasons; perhaps the site you messaged isn’t used much by the recipient or life just happened to get in the way.  In my case, my Aunt wanted to check with her two daughters to make sure they had no interest in the book.  They didn’t so that’s how I ended up with a copy.  Actually, I ended up with two copies because my step-mother took pity on me after my mother died and gave me the book.  So now, I have two – one for each of my kids or for another family member that may sometime in the future contact me with the same request.
Getting the information through look up was wonderful, however, if what you’re seeking is a one of a kind item then this approach may get you closer but not really fill your need.  Step 3 will save you time and it’s quite simple – just go online and research if what you’re seeking is documented to have existed and if so, when and where was it’s last location.
If you’re following me, you know that I’ve been working all summer on my Hollingshead line.  In my research to verify the identify of Daniel Hollingshead in three locations (England, Barbados, New Jersey Colony) I looked everywhere online and emailed numerous archives to check for information that hasn’t been digitized.  It was during the online portion of the research that I discovered Daniel had brought a Bible with him from England as it was noted in old biographical books highlighting descendants in the late 1800’s.  To aid in keeping the whereabouts of the Bible’s locations known, I went to Step 4, I created a timeline.  For simplicity here, I’m not including the source citations but my timeline in Excel notes exactly where the information came from so I can analyze it later:
1683 Leicestershire, England – Daniel’s birth as reported in 5 books (1965, 1911, 1900, 1886, 1882)         Lancashire, England – Daniel’s birth place as reported in 2 books (1870 & 1857)1686 Leicestershire, England – Christening record for the 2nd Daniel born (1st  Daniel 1679-1685)1688 Bible printed in Oxford, England
You can clearly see the problem with the conflicting place and dates. Further research shows no Daniels born in Lancashire during this period.  Only two Daniels were born in Leicestershire during this time, both to the same parents.  Probably every book is wrong with the birth year as there would be no reason for the family to name a 2nd child Daniel until the first one was deceased.  Yes, some families do that but this line hasn’t shown that to be the case although they often reuse names when a child dies.  More likely, Daniel 2 was born between 1685 (1st Daniel’s death) and 1686 (christening record).  Typically infants are baptized soon after birth but that might not have been the case.  A family member may have seen the 1683 recorded but was really written was a sloppy last digit that should have been a 5. 
Here’s another problem the timeline unveils – the published date of the Bible would be AFTER Daniel’s birth, no matter what year is correct.  Still, I want to locate it as it would hopefully confirm the birth location and would have been the next closest document made to Daniel’s real date of birth.
Here’s the next problem – The Bible mentioned in some of the books state that Daniel brought the Bible with him when he came to New Jersey. I need more info to further develop the timeline.
If you’re wondering why I would need to know where the Bible was kept that long ago it’s simply because if it is found, I need to understand how it was passed along.  Since I don’t know if the Bible contains any genealogical information as many Bibles exist and families don’t record vitals in them, I need to know where it’s been so I can validate the information it contains, if any.
Ship manifests haven’t been found for him so it’s not known exactly when Daniel emigrated.  The books mention he, along with several brothers, were in the Battle of Blenheim.  So, did Daniel take the Bible with him in battle (August 1704)?  No clues there.  Did Daniel return to England after the battle?  Don’t know! At the time of the battle Daniel was not the oldest son so the Bible would have likely been in the possession of a brother who died in battle.  If the Bible had been brought to Blenheim, Daniel would have assumed ownership of it at that time.
It’s probable he did return to England after the battle and took the Bible with him when he decided he was permanently leaving England so that would have been between 1705-1711.  The last date is when his first child was born in Barbados; since he met his wife in Barbados he probably arrived between 1705-1710.  So my timeline continues:  
1705  Battle of Blenheim (now Germany)1711  Daughter born in Barbados1714  Wife dies in Barbados1715  Daniel listed in Barbados census1716  Daniel remarries in Barbados1717  Daniel purchases land in New Jersey Colony1717-1718  Two children born to second union in Barbados1721  Beginning of numerous land sales in New Jersey Colony1730  Daniel dies intestate in Somerset, New Jersey Colony
Step 5:  To determine where the Bible went after Daniel’s death is to expand the tree to include all of Daniel’s children from both of his marriages.  You also must keep in mind customs from the time period. Understanding how the family thinks is key to finding the current location of the item.
My line follows Daniel’s first child, Mary.  She would not have inherited the Bible for several reasons – she was from the first union and she was a female. Clearly she was not a favored child by her step mother as she was not named in the will.  Daniel had older sisters in England so if the family was unconventional for the times, an older sister and not Daniel would have kept the Bible after the oldest sibling died.  I know that Mary did not have the Bible as there was no documentation found in her line to ever note she had it.  There is no documentation that any of the female children ever had it. 
Daniel’s eldest son, the second child, would seem the person to have inherited it but that does not seem to be the case.  Numerous books and documents show that Francis did, as the oldest male, manage the assets after Daniel died intestate and quickly lost them.  From the will of Thomasin, Daniel’s second wife, she acknowledges his ineptitude by naming one of her youngest daughter’s as administrator to her estate and gives each of her adult children only a shilling.  Her manumitted slaves receive most of the proceeds from the remaining estate.  You may think that the administrator would have received the Bible, since she was given the responsible task of handling the final paperwork, however, she had married late in life and had no children so she did not get the Bible.
Two of Daniel’s male sons had died before his second wife.  They had no children so we can eliminate them from the hunt.
That leaves one line – 6th child, 3rd son William.  Oh joy, William had 9 children.  This may seem overwhelming but following what we know – most likely to be passed to a MALE with CHILDREN, we can quickly eliminate who got it.  It appears that son James inherited it as books from 1882 & 1886 state his son, Stroud Jacob’s wife, had the Bible in her possession after Stroud died, along with “old family papers.”  So now I want to find both the Bible and the papers.  
First, I want to understand why Stroud had the Bible.  He was the third son and fourth child.  The eldest died with no children, we can skip the female (sigh) and the next son left to go out west and never married.  Makes sense why Stroud would have it.   
Fast forward to 1900 when the Bible was known to be in the possession of one of Stroud’s grandchildren, a Jeannette Jackson.  WOW!  How did a female get so lucky?  Times were a changing and it seems everyone of the now fewer children got something.  Harriet, the oldest, had died but her oldest daughter was Jeannette who got the Bible.  Stroud’s second child had died childless.  The third child, James’ son received a breast pin that was passed down to Edgar Pinchot Hollingshead.  The eldest, a daughter, received a painting on ivory of one of Daniel’s sons, William (same line).
Now this should be easy, right?!  1900 wasn’t that long ago and so we just need to track Jeannette and we’ve found the Bible.  Not so fast…Jeannette died unmarried and childless in 1923.  Two brothers predeceased her.  Her sister married but had no children.  Now we’re at a dead end.  Not!
STEP 6 is to research further in new areas.  Since we’re looking for a record from less than the last 100 years newspapers are the way to go.  Thanks to a “cousin” helping me with the search, a record was found in a Pennsylvania paper (and the Bible came to New Jersey first, remember!) that said an Elizabeth Malvern Hollingshead was going to “loan” the Bible to a local historical society in 1924 for an event that was to be held.  Loan is the key word here but still, I reached out to the historical society to see if a) they still have it on loan or b) they reborrowed it sometime since and know where it is.  Alas, they do not but they do have the “old family papers.”  Bingo!  I’ve at least traced part of the missing items.  I’m awaiting their lookup for confirmation of vitals.
Now it’s time to go back to Step 5 and trace Elizabeth’s line to the present.  That was done and the most likely candidate was emailed at his work email.  He hasn’t responded.  I know he’s reading his work email because it was an interesting system – it notified me that he had been on the site the previous day to my email. 
Finding a long lost heirloom is a matter of patience and persistence.  Keep notes, enlist others to lighten the load and you will hopefully find what you seek.  Happy Hunting!