Family Bibles are odd things. Unlike full sets of china or suitcases full of pound notes, they can't be divided, they can't be equitably distributed between all surviving offspring. You can't pass the Old Testament on to Cousin Ronnie and keep the New Testament to pass on to your favourite grandson. Family Bibles tend to follow a strange ancestral flow : being swept clear of childless lines and being drawn towards the fecund tributaries, like leaves swept down a swift stream.
That strange ancestral flow meant that the Family Bible of Arthur Beanland (1867-1944) came into the possession of his niece, my mother. Although Arthur was married three times and had seven children, none of them went on to have children of their own - three died in their youth and the other four lived long, unmarried lives. The Bible was handed down by Arthur to his daughters - Ada, Ellen and Clara. These three girls - known as the Clayton Cousins (they lived in Clayton, near Bradford) - were legends in the family. They were supposed to be great misers (the walls of their Clayton cottage were whitewashed to avoid the expense of wallpaper) and were consequently courted by anyone with a wedding or a birthday due in the hope of a substantial gift. By the time Isobel and I got married only Ada survived and my mother was most insistent that she was invited to the wedding, in the hope of a substantial gift for the newly-weds. In the event, we got a candlewick bedspread, and a few months later, Ada, the last of Arthur's children, died. My Mother and her sister Amy, inherited the worldly possessions of the Clayton Cousins - but there was little more than a back-to-back house and a Family Bible.
Auntie Amy had no children so that particular tributary dried up and consequently the Bible came into the possession of my Mother. When she died, the Bible went to my brother as the older of her two children. And so today, that Bible "presented by the Committee of the New Jerusalem Church Sunday School, Keighley" sits in the sun on some far-off Caribbean island. But the digital age means that the essence of that historic volume, the images of those names and anniversaries, can follow a variety of channels and live for ever more.
Sepia Saturday 187 has family bibles for its' theme. You can see how others have interpreted the theme by going to the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the various links.