Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Trinkets and Treasures - No. 6 - A gift that keeps on giving

When my sister came from her home in Texas to pick me for our vacation, she brought me a gift I'll treasure forever:  a family Bible that dates back to the end of the 19th century.

I'd known of the Bible's existence since shortly after my grandmother passed away in 1988. At that time it was in the hands of her brother, my Great-Uncle Loren, who lived in Florida at the time. Loren died in 1991; his wife Hazel in 1997. I don't know if my mother came into possession of the Bible after their deaths or if one of them personally handed it over to her. At any rate, by the time I knew Mother had it, she couldn't find it. She had put it away, possibly in the attic, she thought, but she couldn't be sure.

In 1997 or 1998 Mother had a new house built. After she moved into it, both my niece and my sister, at different times, lived in her old house for a while. I think it was one of them who found the Bible. My sister kept it on display in her home for quite a few years. I was thrilled when she gave it to me.

This Bible is a beautiful book. It's also very large. I laid my hand beside it in this photo to help you see how big it is:

I've looked all through the Bible and can't find a publication date, but there's a table inside it that was compiled in 1892, and my theory is that this Bible was a gift to my great-grandmother, Dora Hetherington, from her parents when she married in 1895.

Dora was the daughter of Alvin Christmas Hetherington and Anna Lementine Goforth Hetherington. Alvin and Anna had two other children, Stella and Roscoe, both of whom were younger than Dora. Here's a picture of the whole family:

Front Row (L-R): Anna and Alvin Hetherington
Back Row (L-R): Stella, Roscoe, and Dora Hetherington

Now let me show you what was written in the Bible:

(Click the picture to enlarge it.)

Now let's play detective. The inscriptions at the top of both pages refer to "the family of Alvin Hetherington," Dora's father. The left-hand page lists the marriage of Alvin and Anna as well as Dora's, and the right-hand page names all three children of Alvin and Anna. So far, I'm thinking the handwriting belongs to either Anna or Alvin. Not Dora. 

Here's why: The last entry on the left-hand page reads, "Dora Belle Hetherington was married in Newton County, Missouri, July 18th, 1895." Don't you think that if Dora had written this herself, she might have been inclined to mention her husband by name? And don't you think she would have used these pages to keep records of her own family, as opposed to her birth family?

Also, Dora's sister, Stella, got married only thirteen months after Dora did, yet there's no mention of Stella's marriage on these pages. That makes me think the Bible passed into Dora's hands at some point between her wedding and Stella's, and that's why I'm guessing it was a wedding gift to Dora. Something of her old family to take with her to her new home.

So, fellow Sherlocks, does that theory make sense to you? If it does, then we can deduce that the book was published sometime between 1892 (the date on the table I found inside it) and 1895, making it at least 116 years old.

I've searched all over the Internet--with no luck--to try to figure out when this volume might have been published. If you have other ideas or theories, I hope you'll share them.


  1. What a wonderful heirloom! No idea about the date, but if there's a publisher's name, that might narrow things down a bit.

    I wonder why the son wasn't called Alvin Christmas Junior-possibly there was a son they named Alvin but he died. Interesting how Dora's husband wasn't named. I bet the parents didn't approve of her choice.

  2. Janet, that's a good idea about checking out the publisher. I'll try that.

    In my experience, at least in tracing my own family history, it wasn't as common back then to make a firstborn son a Junior as it was to name him after a grandfather or an uncle. Haven't yet discovered whom Roscoe was named after, but I'm still digging.

    I can only hope that Alvin and Anna liked Dora's choice in the end if not in the beginning. They lived side-by-side with Dora and Joe for decades.

    Now, daughter Stella, was a different story. This is what a fellow amateur genealogist wrote me years ago about her: "...Robert Steel my grandfather married Alice Bell Correll on Christmas day, and then fled the marriage with Stella Hetherington, going to Boone where he married and had 4 additional children. "

  3. I love looking at old family photos. I have lots that were given to me by a great-aunt I can't figure out why no one ever smiles in old photos though. Hmmm...

    Such a beautiful bible. Lovely!

    Thank you for your visit today!

    Happy October ~ Catherine

  4. Hi Linda, I get so excited when I hear others talk about Family History.. I LOVE it.. I have done quite a bit of my Family History... Just don't have enough time to devote to it --but I do love it.

    There is a Family Bible somewhere in my Bruce family ---but I'm not sure where it is now. I've tried to find it...

    Sounds like you are on the right track when working with info provided you in that bible... That's just AWESOME...

  5. Catherine, thanks for dropping by. I've heard or read somewhere that the reason no one smiled in those old photos is that people couldn't hold a smile steady for as long as it took the old cameras to capture an image. Don't know if that's true or not, but I hope it is. I'd hate to think that smiles were frowned upon in those days. :)

    Betsy, I've been researching family history since 1989, and it's SO much fun. It's like working an ever-expanding puzzle. The very first information that came into my hands about my ancestors was a hand-printed list of what was in this bible. That's what makes it so special to me.


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