Bryan Family Bible – To Honor a Life

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Treasure Chest Thursday – Bryan Family Bible
Bryan Family Bible – The Best Laid Plans

There is something puzzling about the order of these Family Record pages. The order is a blank page paired with a Births page; a Deaths page paired with Marriages; and then another Births page. I suppose I see the logic of adding a second page for births at the end of the section – we do seem more likely to record births and there are typically more births to record than marriages.

But the births recorded on the second Births page in the Bryan Family Bible predate the ones on the first Births page. Why did the original recorder of family information choose to skip the first Births page and write on the last one instead?

DSCN3127 - Version 2Here’s one scenario. The first entry made to this family record was the marriage of George Washington Bryan and Sarah Stokes. It was their new family Bible. The writer opened the Bible to the Marriages page and established the family by recording the marriage of the owners of the Bible. Then the writer turned the page and started recording births there – forgetting about the previous Births page that was “out of sight; out of mind.”

Sounds like something I would do.

Let’s take a look at what appear to be the first entries in the family record. Here’s the marriage record of George and Sarah Stokes Bryan again…

DSCN3127 - Version 2The handwriting is small and neat, with some flourishes. The ink looks brown – maybe due to aging? And a line is drawn to separate this first entry from any that may follow.

This same pattern appears on the Births page that follows.
DSCN3129 - Version 2Disregarding the entry at the very top, it looks as though the births recorded beginning with George Washington Bryan through Eliza A. Bryan could have been written at the same time as the marriage entry on the previous page. The size, style, ink, lined entries, and even the pressure applied seems exactly the same. The dates range from 1819 to 1858. The entry for Samuel David Bryan born in 1861 may have been written by the same person, but the writing is larger and the pressure/thickness of the writing is different.

There are two deaths recorded on the Deaths page opposite the Marriages page that also seem to match.
DSCN3126 - Version 2

Although the entry for Eliza Ann Bryan above looks slightly different than the others – there seems to have been more pressure applied while writing and it’s just not quite as small and neat – I think it was written at the same time. Here’s why…

Eliza A. Bryan was born October 27th 1858.

Eliza Ann Bryan died October 27th 1858.

And did you notice the smudging of Sarah’s name in the marriage entry?
DSCN3127 - Version 3It looks as though someone wrote “Eliza” and then tried to “erase” the ink and wrote “Sarah” over the mistake. Eliza was on the mind of the person who made the marriage entry. This is something I could not make out just by visually examining the Bible. But photographed, cropped and enlarged, it becomes visible.

Here is an alternate scenario. The writer opens the Bible – never before written in – to the Deaths page to record the death of Eliza. But another child had died two years before. That death must be recorded first – then Eliza. The page on the right is the Marriages page, so the writer decides to record the marriage of the parents of these two children. With a heart full of grief, the writer substitutes Eliza’s name for Sarah’s name in the marriage entry. Wanting to record these events in best form, the writer tries to cover this mistake. Once these entries are completed, the writer turns the page and records the births of everyone in the family up to and including Eliza.

And what of the death of William Wesley Bryan recorded just above the entry for Eliza?

William was the seventh child born to George and Sarah – as documented on the Births page. He was born June 3, 1854, presumably a short time after their arrival in Ray County. He died December 4, 1856. Perhaps the family was not in possession of a suitable family Bible at the time of William’s death, or maybe the thought of recording the death of their toddler boy was just too much to bear at the time.

Whatever the case, after the birth and death of Eliza Ann on October 27th of 1858, her life was honored by documenting it in the family Bible. For this child, there were no memories  to hold on to but those of labor, birth, tears, death, and burial. And so, perhaps, it was particularly important to document the life of Eliza Ann; to recognize her place among those who cherished her; to remember that she had lived, if only for a fleeting moment in time. All who came before her and the brother who left before her were recorded along with Eliza in the Bible, a physical representation of her place in the family.

This sad event may have provided the impetus to record all of the valuable family information found in The Bryan Family Bible. Once begun, the Bryan family continued to record the births, marriages and deaths of their members for many years.

Who was the writer? I believe it was Eliza’s father, George Washington Bryan. But that’s for another day.

2 thoughts on “Bryan Family Bible – To Honor a Life

  1. You have thought this through very carefully — and you’ve concentrated on imagining the feelings of losing a child. as well. So many of our ancestors lost infant children, and often more than one. I don’t know how they could bear it! Your argument that many of these names and dates were written at one time makes perfect sense — they were transferred from whatever previous record into a new Bible.

    • This family did not have an easy life – at least not after they decided to leave Kentucky for Missouri – I don’t know much about their lives before 1854. I just cannot imagine the grief and hardship.

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