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Centerville resident Ann Allred met her cousin Edwina Shively in person only once. That visit convinced Shively and other family members, when it was time for the family Bible to change hands, those hands should be Allred’s.
When the cousins met briefly in Florida, it was evident to Shively that Allred’s devotion to family history ran deep. The Utahn has dedicated much of her life to seeking out her kin and adding their names to the list of those for whom LDS temple work has been completed. Talk to Allred for five minutes, and you’ll find yourself ensconced in her genealogical adventures.
Because Allred’s mother had grown up in Florida, she looked at the rare visit with her cousin as an opportunity to seek answers to the many questions she had about her family roots there.
Shively was the caretaker of the Humphrey family’s Bible, printed in 1881 by the American Bible Publishing Co. at 22 Park Place in New York. Previous caretakers of the precious volume had dutifully recorded family data going back to the mid-1800s. Each new caretaker kept up the tradition, adding births, deaths and marriages as they occurred. The last entry under “births” was for Thomas Jacobson Smith on March 7, 1947 — Allred’s brother. The marriage of her parents, Kathryn Ann Humphrey and Thomas Earl Smith, on Oct. 1, 1944, is also recorded.
The old volume shows how handwriting has evolved since the 1800s. The first records in the Bible display skillful calligraphy, while the most recent show modern handwriting.
The Bible ended up in Centerville after Shively died and her husband remembered how engrossed in family history their one-time visitor had been. Through several contacts, the family offered the care and keeping of the heirloom to a delighted Allred.
It arrived in sad shape, the effects of more than 100 years of handling. The spine was damaged from being shipped upright, and mold was creeping into the pages, probably from being stored in a damp place. Allred began immediate resuscitation with the help of a Salt Lake City company that restores old manuscripts.
The spine cover was removed, reinforced and restored, and pages were treated to stop mold. Several hundred dollars later, it was in better shape.
Besides the family history that makes this Bible worth its weight in gold (it’s heavy and not the sort of thing you would want to tote around), it is a good example of how Bibles used to be published. It includes several sections: the Old and New Testaments, wonderfully illustrated; a collection of apocryphal works; a beautiful replica of the “Great Commandments” and the Ten Commandments in vivid colors highlighted with gold; a section outlining abbreviated facts about the world’s foremost religions, including a late-1800s take on Mormonism; and sections on history and geography.
If you were a 19th century family that could afford only one book, this would be the one to have.
Maybe your family doesn’t have a family Bible, but you may have tucked away an old manuscript, document, diary or other significant item.
This column is the first of several in coming weeks that I’ll share about the proper care and restoration of printed materials.
Twila Van Leer is a former Deseret News editor and staff writer who serves as a family history missionary.
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