On April 2011 South Central Pennsylvania Genealogical Society and the York County Heritage Trust held the first Bible Documentation Day. Since the library does not have the storage facilities to accept Bibles, copies of family information has been made and placed in the family files. The idea for the day came from an individual attending a seminar offered by the Trust in the spring of 2010. Seventeen individuals attended – several bringing more than one Bible. The Bibles were scanned by Victoria Miller, assistant librarian, on the library’s book scanner and two copies of the scans have been printed – one for the library family files and one for the Bible owner. Each Bible was measured, checked for condition, and publication information noted. A Provenance and Successorship for each Bible was also taken. Copies of loose papers in the Bibles were also made. June Lloyd, librarian emerita, was available to assist with German translations.

Each owner had a story to tell about their Bible. Some had no family history recorded in them but were a book that had been in the family and passed down for generations. One Bible had been bought as part of the purchase of a fraktur.

One of our members, Jan Barnhart, just happened to be in the library and was asked by one of us in passing – did you see the Barnhart Bible? Jan took off on a hunt, located the Bible and talked to the owners. To his delight, the Bible had family information that he did not have in his records.

Amy Marchiano, a reporter from the York Daily Record, came and interviewed various people. The article was published in the Monday, May 2, 2011, edition of the York Daily Record.

Those of us who participated, Cindy Hartman, Frank Grove, Lila Fourhman-Shaull, June Lloyd, and myself all agreed that the event was a success and we are already planning for the next Family Bible Documentation Day.

So dig the Family Bibles out of the attic and off the shelf. If you can’t attend the next event – take the Bible to a UPS store or whatever copy store is nearby, or scan it into your computer and make copies. You can email SCPGS or the York County Heritage Trust Library and we will send you a copy of the documentation form that we used. Then mail the documentation form and a copy of the Bible pages and any loose clippings of genealogical interest to either SCPGS or the York Heritage Trust Library.

The information is important – don’t let it be lost, thrown away, burned or forgotten!


written by  Becky Anstine




Our May 2012 meeting offered several activities. It was our 2nd Annual Bible Documentation Day held in conjunction with the York County Heritage Trust.

A display of Bibles in a variety of shapes, sizes and conditions were displayed to tie in with the presentation by Hollis Beedle and Betsy Shaw. Hollis and Betsy talked about the publishing and preserving aspect of Family Bibles. Starting with Gutenberg’s Bible in 1440, Hollis discussed the types of Bibles that were printed, leading up to the development of Family Bibles. In 1808, the Aitken family included blank inserts in their Bibles for the purpose of recording family information. The founding of the Philadelphia Bible Society and the International Bible Society transformed Bible publication in America. Stereotype plates were used to mass produce Bibles; creating a competitive marked in publication. Printers decided that the addition of dictionaries, maps, pictures, illuminated pages and decorative covers would allow them to market the Bibles as a display piece in the home. By the 1840’s, pages were specifically included for the recording of family information. Betsy discussed the care and preservation of family Bibles. The best ones were bound in calf leather. Bibles should be kept out of the sun, attics, and basements. Duct tape and scotch tape were not recommended for mending broken bindings or torn pages. Newspaper clippings, fabrics, leaves, and flowers should be removed from between the pages and stored between acid free papers. These items can leave acid marks on the book pages. A synthetic brush should be used to clean the pages. Bibles should be stored or displayed in dust free boxes.

 During the 1880’s, photo pages were added to Bibles. In these Bibles, acid free paper should be placed between the pages, so the photos are preserved. Most Bibles were sold by door to door salesman. They carried samples and there were various price levels for Bibles. More expensive versions had gilded edges, hinges, and embossed names on the cover. Medium prices Bibles used marbled paper inside the covers.

Thirty-four people attended the program, of which eighteen people brought in thirty Bibles to be documented. Last year at our first event, we had six people with fifteen Bibles. An information sheet was filled out for each Bible with family information. It included language, publication date, published, condition, notes about the ink and handwriting, other writings included in the Bible, and a record of loose items. Present owner information, previous owner, relationships between owners, and if there was a succession plan were noted. Loose items were copied on the photocopier and the Bible pages were scanned. The photocopies and scans will be added to the Family files in the Heritage Trust Library. Pictures from the day and write-ups were published in the York Daily Record and York Dispatch. 


written by  Becky Anstine