Preserving Memories: Family Bibles

By Grace Dobush Premium
Safe Keeping: Family Bibles 
Not only a symbol of your ancestors’ spiritual beliefs, a family Bible often holds records of important events in your family’s history. These artifacts can often be worse for wear, so follow our guide to save the good book.

Preserve the data

Photograph the pages. If the book is fragile, you shouldn’t try to scan or photocopy the pages—laying it flat could damage the spine. Instead, open the Bible on a nonslip surface with adequate support for the covers. Use your camera’s macro settings to get up close and capture the information clearly. Natural light works best; a flash will wash out the details.

Transcribe the information. Type up the information from the Bible’s pages as accurately as you can. Preserve misspellings and foreign words—you can add explanatory notes to your transcription. Creating a word processor file of the info makes it easy to share with fellow researchers and family members.

Preserve the heirloom

Clean it up. Remove dust and dirt with a soft brush, and take out paper clips, which will rust and damage pages. If any acidic ephemera is hiding between the pages, remove it and store it in an archival

envelope (available from the vendors listed below).
Store laying flat. Don’t shelve this family treasure. Buy an acid-free box slightly larger than the book, and wrap the Bible in buffered tissue paper before casing it. Keep the box in a part of your home that’s safe from humidity, insects, and extreme heat and cold.
Avoid the irreversible. Don’t cut out pages, remove the covers, attempt to play bookbinder or do anything else you can’t undo. It might not be pretty, but that family Bible deserves to be passed through many more generations’ hands. 

Best Hope
You can keep your family research and heirlooms organized and safe for future generations with a genealogy hope chest. Lorine McGinnis Schulze of Olive Tree Genealogy created an eight-step plan to preserve her family’s story. Start here and browse all posts in the Genealogy Family Hope Chest category to see expanded explanations.
1. Make a list of all heirlooms in your possession with brief descriptions of their provenance. (You can use Family Tree Magazine’s heirloom inventory form to make it easier.) Take photos of everything and print them out with labels. Save an extra copy in a safe place.
2. Tell the stories of your heirlooms to anyone who will listen—especially grandchildren. “The idea is for you to brainwash your family,” Schulze says.
3. Categorize your heirlooms. Schulze separated items into five groups: photos, original documents, objects, stories and genealogy research. Each type of heirloom requires a different preservation plan.
4. Share your photos by making duplicates and displaying your copies. Send prints—with identifying information, of course—to all your relatives, too.
5. Organize the original documents, such as vital records, letters and other ephemera, in an archival container. Don’t forget about your own legacy on paper.
6. Determine how to best preserve and display your family artifacts, and figure out what’s worth keeping. (See past Preserving Memories articles for guidelines on how to care for heirlooms.)
7. Dig into your memory to pull up as many old anecdotes and family tales as you can. Tell your stories to descendants, but write them down, too.
8. Organize your genealogy research, keeping in mind that your great-grandchildren might not want to inherit a forest’s worth of loose-leaf. Creating a separate family history booklet for each surname you’ve researched is an attractive option.
From the Chest

Store your invaluable items in acid-free containers such as Hollinger’s bully boxes (starting at $17.12, 800-634-0491) and Gaylord’s deep-lid corrugated boxes (starting at $25.50, 800-962-9580).
Heirloom Cook
Clara Cannucciari, like so many grandmothers, loves to feed you. Unlike most nanas, however, she’s cooked for more than 250,000 people on YouTube.
In Depression Cooking with Clara, Cannucciari demonstrates how to make dishes that were popular in lean times, such as peas with pasta.
The first-generation American, who turns 94 this year, left high school to work in a factory during the Depression. (A little later, Cannucciari worked for Hostess, filling Twinkies.) She now lives in the Finger Lakes region of New York and has four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Grandson and videographer Chris Cannucciari created the series and co-authored her first book, Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories and Recipes from the Great Depression (St. Martin’s Press). He likes to say, “She can turn lemons into lemonade and potatoes into just about everything else.” Visit <> to learn more. 
From the September 2009 Family Tree Magazine