Yesterday, I was in contact with Emmett’s great-grand nephew. His great-grandfather was Emmett’s youngest brother, Walker. He’s been a great help with the research; the question over the past week has been about whether birth certificates exist for Emmett (or any of his siblings). The jury is not out yet (as I’ve not heard back from the state of Florida vital statistics office yet), but we’re coming to the conclusion that:
a) official documents probably don’t exist, and
b) the record of their births was most likely recorded in the Wilson family Bible.
So, the question is, where’s the Wilson Bible?
Just for the heck of it, I thought I’d trot out my family’s Bible. This is the sort of thing I believe Emmett and his family had in Chipley.
This was my paternal great grandparent’s bible. Their names were William H. McCulloch, a Scotsman, and Lulu Hogan. Both were from New Orleans, originally. This branch of my family has no connection to the Wilsons, by the way. I’m related to Emmett on my mother’s side.
My father inherited our family Bible from his great aunt, who inherited it after my great-grandmother died. Dad gave our family Bible to me, because, well, I love these things and he knows my penchant for old books and family history.
As you can see, it is extremely fragile. I keep it wrapped in linen cloth, stored in a proper box, in a cool, dark closet on a shelf where I know it is safe. I’ve had an estimate on it for restoration, which around here costs several thousand dollars, given the size/weight/age and historic value of the book. Seriously, the quote I received to have this restored made me have to pick up my jaw off the floor — I know. I work with old books. I should know this, but still. I’m a teacher. It isn’t like I have spare thousands laying around.
Because I’m not going to get this restored anytime soon, I keep it quarantined and rarely handled. I don’t display it, ever. This is only the third time since my Dad gave it to me that I’ve unwrapped it, and really, the first time I thought to photograph it. I thought you’d like to see it. So, here it is:
Like any family Bible, there were documents and little mementos inserted into the pages. This was what I saw right inside the book. The top item was simply folded tissue paper.
This is what else was there:
Also, right underneath the receipt was this:
There was also a modern prayer card with a large image of Christ on the front, and prayers on the reverse. It was from the early 1950s.
The next pages were about the book itself:
I remember hearing from one of my grandparents that the family Bible was given to my great grandparents as a wedding gift. I can tell that this book was expensive back then; also, it made perfect sense to me that it would be a wedding gift. Here’s the next thing I found which clued me in to when it was given:
There was also a page for births, but my photo turned out blurry. Argh.
Here’s the next page:
There was color artwork in the book, too:
In the back of the book, was this section:
This Bible has a lot of interesting sections. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything else tucked into the pages. I think perhaps whatever else was there was removed by other relatives.
As you can also see, this was not an insignificant book — it is a hulking massive, 13.5 pound tome that likely sat in a place of honor in my great-grandparents’ home. It is HUGE. It is in what I’d call good condition for something that is about 135 years old, and had been passed to four different generations. The Wilson family Bible, if it exists, would be at least 20 years older (Emmett’s parents married in 1866), if they had one like this.
My family’s Bible also doesn’t appear to have been used that much. This is not a piety inventory of my ancestors; schlepping this Bible around would have required a wheelbarrow.
Anyway, I have smaller prayer books in my possession that belonged to my great-grandparents as well as my grandparents, and they are much more portable and well-thumbed. I feel pretty certain this was the Bible for show and repository of important documents. This gigantic book was not their daily ‘go-to’ Bible.
The importance of the family Bible cannot be underestimated in genealogical research. As I mentioned in earlier posts, it is not likely that Emmett has an official birth certificate on record. His family was large — 10 children — and they must have had a record of everyone’s birth, death, and marriage written down somewhere. I’m still checking out a few other sources before I rule out the existence of his birth certificate.
It would be great to find the Wilson family Bible. I have a few leads on this one, too. Stay tuned. That thing may actually turn up.
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