The Burt Bible – a case studySep 14th, 2009 | By Leonard Legends & Legacies | Category: Featured Articles
Sometimes, the search is half the fun. Sometimes, the answer you get isn’t the one you want. Sometimes, you get wa-a-a-a-y more than you ever dreamed of finding. All three of those things are true in the case of the search for Burt Family Bible.
Bibles are of particular interest in cases were public records are non-existent or in question. The Burt Bible was of particular interest to members of the Burt and Leonard families because of their deep ties. Copies of three pages of that Bible turned up in the files of Jennie Leonard Hutchinson in Uniontown, PA.
While intriguing, they were of questionable value without a title page. Purists like to know when the birth-death-marriage entries were made in relation to the published date of the Bible. Entries pre-dating the copyright date were obviously made some time removed from the actual event. The further from the event, the more likely an error.
In searching for the original Bible, or at least additional pages, it became apparent that it must’ve originated in New Jersey, where the two families first met… and intermarried no fewer than three times. The earliest date recorded on the pages in question was Jotham Burt’s birth in 1733.
The archives of the Genealogical Society of New Jersey held a reference to the Burt Bible, but the documents themselves are held in the Special Collections at Rutgers University. The staff at Alexander Library was kind enough to look up the Burt Bible and as it happens, it wasn’t an actual Bible, but copies of the same three pages found in Jennie Leonard Hutchinson’s collection.
The Rutgers record DID, however, contain the note “1942 copies from the original owned by Boyd Barr of Marianna, Pennsylvania.” THAT was the eureka moment. Jennie lived just a few miles from Marianna and most likely got her copies directly from the source.
A quick check of the Social Security Death Index showed that Boyd Barr, b. 1903, had died in 1979 with a last known address of zip code 15022, Charleroi, Washington County, Pennsylvania. Checking the White Pages for Barrs in Washington County turned up FIVE… the most promising being a Barr family who lived on none other than Barr Run Road in Marianna!
At that point, I turned the search over to our good friend Allan, who lives nearby and is MUCH better at cold calls than I. He called said Barr, age 83, and learned that he was only remotely related but that Boyd’s SON lived nearby. Rather than call, Allan took the initiative to drive to the descendant’s house a few days later.
As luck would have it, the descendant and his lovely wife were home and not only HAD the original Burt Bible, but Isaac Leonard’s Bible as well!
Closer inspection revealed that the Burt Bible was published in 1807, a year AFTER Jotham Burt’s death… and that it had no additional family record pages. It was a disappointment at first, but then it struck me, how can you be disappointed at the discovery of a 200-year-old Bible that had been “missing” for more than half a century?
The bigger find, it turns out, was Isaac’s Bible. And not just the family records inside, but the keepsakes people often place inside. In this case, the Bible contained:
- a lock of auburn hair
- two hand-drawn leaves
- an old newspaper obituary for Isaac
- a deed from Isaac Leonard, deceased, to William H. Leonard
- a typewritten copy of Isaac’s will and most importantly (to yours truly)
- an eight-page letter from my great-great-grandfather Daniel, mailed from Leonard, Iowa, to “My Dear Aunt.”
I’d love to tell you what the letter said, but I’ve already kept you up past my bedtime. More will be revealed when next we meet again.
[editor's note: The original post contained the names of living individuals that have now been removed.]