Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Is this a "Bible record?"

One of the most interesting "Bible records" I've encountered in my genealogy research was obtained on a visit to one of Angel Linda's cousins in Alexandria VA. She had visited these people back in 1966 and knew that they were cousins of her grandmother, but she didn't know the exact relationship.

We went on vacation to Washington DC, Williamsburg VA, Charlottesville VA, Gettysburg PA and Lancaster PA in August of 1998, and in the process we contacted Linda's cousins, Louise (the 90-year old mother) and Elizabeth (the age 65-ish daughter). We arranged to visit their home in the late morning and to go to lunch with them. Linda made sure they knew that we were interested in discussing genealogy and family history.

After we arrived and had gotten to know each other a bit, we talked about genealogy and family history. They were very proud of their ancestry, and that Louise's husband was nominated to be Secretary of Labor in Kennedy's administration, but he died before he was appointed. They also had a relationship to Al Gore's wife through the Aitcheson family.

Eventually, I asked what family papers they had for the McKnew family of Prince Georges County in Maryland. Louise's grandmother was Jane McKnew, and Linda's great-grandfather was Elijah McKnew, and we thought that Jane and Elijah were siblings. They had a few family papers, but little about the McKnew family, and they did not know who the parents of Jane and Elijah McKnew were.

In the papers was a small Bible, and there were several scraps of paper used as bookmarks for certain pages. I did not note the publisher and date of the Bible. When I started looking through the Bible, I immediately checked the front part for a sign of ownership and the middle part for a family register of births, marriages and deaths. There were none. I checked almost every page of the Bible, and there were no marks of any kind.

In the process, the two little scraps of paper (approximately 1 inch by 2 inches each) fluttered to the floor. I picked them up and read:

"Allethia MacNew the daughter of Benjamin & Allethia Pickerell deceased May 3d 1845."

"Elizabeth Barnes the mother of Benjamin Pickerell deceased June 2d 1825."

I did not xerox them, but I did transcribe them as above. The handwriting was very clear and large.

I'm still in a quandary about how to consider these two pieces of information.

* Are they original or derivative sources of information? I think they are derivative, since they were probably copied well after the fact.

* Are they primary or secondary information? I think they are secondary - the information came from hearsay or some other form of recorded document not presently available.

* Are they direct or indirect evidence of events? I think that they are direct evidence of deaths.

How would you cite these scraps of paper? Using the "Bible Record" template in Elizabeth Shown Mills' book "Evidence: Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian," I have cited it this way in my database:

"Family data. Bible in possession of Louise M______ on 12 August 1998, no title, edition number or copyright date noted. Scrap of paper unattached used as a bookmark."

I have found no other records in either traditional and online resources for these two death events. Knowing the name "Allethia MacNew" did lead me to a marriage record of Allethia Prather to Jeremiah McKnew in Washington DC. The death record of Allethia's mother, Aletha Pickrell, wife of Benjamin Pickrell, was found in an 1841 National Intelligencer newspaper article. So now we know three generations of females here:

* Elizabeth (Barnes) Pickrell (died 1825, mother of Benjamin Pickrell),
* Allethia (Prather) Pickrell (died 1841, wife of Benjamin Pickrell),
* Allethia (Pickrell) McKnew (died 1845, wife of Jeremiah McKnew).

Interestingly, three of Jeremiah and Allethia (Pickrell) McKnew named daughters Allethia.

But I'm still stuck on the father of Benjamin Pickrell and the parents of Elizabeth Barnes. The records in this area are incomplete, to say the least! They are also complicated by the creation of the District of Columbia in the 1790's.

We tried to visit Louise and Elizabeth again in both 2001 and 2004 when we were in the DC area, but our phone calls and subsequent letters have been unanswered. Obviously, I want to get the citation information of the Bible for future reference. We don't know what, if anything, has happened to them. I've searched the obituaries for the DC area occasionally in an effort to determine if they are deceased.

Are these scraps of paper "Bible records?" Or is it just a scrap of family information found in a Bible as a bookmark? I think it is probably the latter. How would you cite it?


footnoteMaven said...


Just a suggestion. I think I might cite it exactly as Elizabeth has on page 139 section 3.26 of her book.

Source Entry

M_____ Family Bible, Date. Note insert only. Transcribed copy made by Randy Seaver, [home address for private use,] San Diego, CA 20002

Also, my grandmother put notes and obituaries in the Bible at the place of the verse used at the funeral.


ctsmithson said...

Hi Randy,

I am working with an applicant who is applying for membership in the National Society Sons of the American Revolution (SAR).

I noticed your blog about Benjamin Pickrell and his wife Allethia Prather. Do you have any documentation on their children? The applicant descents from a Catherine Pickrell who was born in Washington, DC in 1805. She later married Elijah Ourand. They had several children including a daughter Allethia.

Any suggestions would be great.


Chris Smithson
Genealogist, MDSSAR