The Family Bible

The National Archives has many fascinating records documenting our history. Some of the most fascinating are contained in our Pension Files documenting veterans’ claims, or claims from their families, for benefits starting with the Revolutionary War. For a wife or parent to qualify for benefits on behalf of the deceased soldier they needed to supply proof of the relationship with that soldier. The result is a collection of letters, diaries, frakturs, embroidered family trees, photographs, and more than 100 Bibles containing family information. These files are heavily used by genealogists in their research on family histories.

Last month, one of our own, Jeffrey Kees who works at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, brought his Dad, John, to visit their family Bible. Jeffrey’s Great-Great-Great-Grandfather, Philip Kees fought in the Revolutionary War, and the Bible, which contains family history noted in the margins of the text, was submitted by his widow as proof of her relationship with Kees.

Staff Swearing In with Rev War BibleStaff Swearing In with Rev War Bible
Examining the Kees Family Bible.  Left to Right: John Kees, Trevor Plante, and David Ferriero

Jeffrey’s Great Grandfather, William Kees, served in the 155th Pennsylvania Infantry during the Civil War and we were able to display those pension records also.

The highlight of the visit was fulfilling Jeffrey’s wish to repeat his swearing in (the oath of office all Federal employees take when starting Government service) on the Kees Family Bible. Although Federal employees don’t usually swear over Bibles, we were happy to accommodate his request and it was very moving to see how the power of the records can touch us all.

Staff Swearing In with Rev War BibleStaff Swearing In with Rev War Bible
Jeffrey Kees is sworn in by David Ferriero on the Kees Family Bible
Left to Right: John Kees, Jeffrey Kees, and David Ferriero

11 thoughts on “The Family Bible

  1. How awesome is that. What a blessing for the Kees’s Family to have this precious family treasure.

  2. My ancestor, Josiah Steele, was a Rev. War Patriot. His petition for a pension included pages from the family bible. The interesting part of the story comes later. As I continued to research our family, I heard there were family papers in the Elizabeth Steele Wright collection at the Rare Books and Manuscripts Collection, Duke University. So off I went to Duke. I found a bible record in that collection mirroring the bible record in the Rev. War Pension file except at the top I found notations as to the lineage of the wife of Josiah Steele. It read, John Smith married Elizabeth Williams gave a date and listed three children Josiah – Phoebe – Mary –
    (Phoebe Smith was the wife of Josiah Steele). We believe this bible went with a son of Josiah/Phoebe when he moved to Ohio and ultimately was donated by a descendant along with more than 150 letters etc to Duke. There is also a component to that collection at the Rare Books/Manuscripts LC – called Elizabeth Steele Wright collection – 14 family diaries kept by Mrs. Wright.

  3. Thank you for this poignant post. I’m pleased to have a word — fraktur — for those illustrated family records, many of which are real treasures both for their content and their illustration.

  4. Congratulations to Jeff and the Kees Family,

    It is interesting to hear how a widow made such a sacrifice of giving up a sacred possession to apply for a pension but actually preserved the memory of her family within our nation’s history. Moreover, to see Jeff continuing to faithfully discharge the duties of our government utilizing that Family Bible is inspiring.

  5. First I must thank Mr Trevor Plante and Mr David Ferriero for the visit. Besides the bible there were several other documents that my father and I got to see. It was a very enjoyable visit.

    The first question most people ask when they hear that our family bible is at the National Archives is “aren’t you upset she never got it back?”. My response to this is always “No”. If the bible had not been submitted and kept it most likely would have been lost by now either from damage of being in a wet basement or a dusty attic. With it being at the Archives we know it is being stored in the proper conditions.

    It is because of this bible and my family tree research over the years that I now work for the National Archives. I made several trips to Archives I between 1999 and 2003 and those visits made me decide to apply for a job with NARA.

  6. Thank you for sharing such a heartwarming story! I enjoyed all the other comments as well !

  7. Dr. Kees and Jeff,

    What a delight this was for Rev. John to see these reminders of his forefathers/mothers experience and sacrifice. How good it was that
    you were able to arrange such a memorable experience, Jeff. It was a
    pleasure to hear about the generous gift of time there.
    Blessings, Helen Jo

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