inscribed with family records
of births, baptisms, marriages and deaths 1250-1550
The recording of birth, marriage, and death dates in a treasured family heirloom is an old practice. A Manual for the Genealogist, Topographer, Antiquary, and Legal Professor by Richard Sims (London, 1856) notes that "Entries of births, deaths, and marriages, frequently occur in calendars prefixed to missals and Book of Hours, as early as the middle of the fifteenth century." The Book of Hours, often described as the "best seller of the Middle Ages and Renaissance," was a prayer book used to recite prayers eight times a day that flourished from approximately 1250 to 1550.
A similar practice of recording family birth, marriage, and death dates developed with printed bibles and quickly grew in prevalence as printed bibles became affordable for more and more families of the middle and lowwe class. Family records found in bibles published from the 1500’s through 1791 were often written inside the front or back cover, on blank pages, end sheets, back of lithographs, or empty spaces in and around the printed text. The bible published by Isaiah Thomas of Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1791 is the first Bible printed in America with dedicated sheets to record family birth, marriage, and death data. These were unornamented pages with the heading "Family record of marriage, and births of children" between the Old and New Testaments. American family bibles subsequent to the 1791 printing followed and improved upon this example and most had a section dedicated to a Family Register. Family Bibles were probably more common in America then any other region in the world from the 1600's to the 1900's. During the 1900's and beyond, however, the use of Family Bibles has drastically diminished. Transcribing, digitizing, and otherwise preserving old family bibles is a crucial part of ensuring these unique family records are available for generations to come.
Returning to the subject of early "prayer books" initialy mentioned - what follows are examples from Medieval times of specific examples of Family Records inscribed in such treasured volumes.
A prayer book image - repesenting the ancestral line of Jesus Christ
Sample images and artwork from prayer book pages