Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Stories from a Bible


It all started when a friend dropped by my house to show me an old Bible she had picked up at a thrift store. She carefully handled the small leather bound book as she showed it to me. The leather binding was intact, and all of the pages seemed to be there. The Bible itself was small, approximately 3 and 4 ½ inches, and it contained just the New Testament and the book of Psalms. The cover, definitely showing the effects of wear, appeared to be a tooled leather design, and the brass hinge on the side was still operational. I could see why my friend was so pleased to add it to her collection.


The Bible was published in Glasgow, Scotland in 1853, given to someone in Massachusetts in 1863, and purchased from a Georgia thrift store in 2022. Surely there were some interesting stories relating to that Bible. I was hooked and knew I wanted to learn more about that Bible and the name written on it so I started taking pictures of the Bible as we talked. Later I spent the afternoon researching Henry Bailey and trying to find a few answers to our questions.


Left front end page

Question 1: Who was Henry Bailey and what was his role in the Civil War?

 The starting place for me was reading the left front end page which had these two inscriptions: 

"Henry Bailey, Co I, 45th Regt, M Voll, Milford, Mass, 1863" 

"Fort Macon, Beaufort Harbour, NC"

Imagine my surprise when my initial Ancestry search for a Henry Bailey in Milford, Massachusetts, turned up some very helpful information. The first reference was from Ancestry’s database U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865. This record provided a wealth of information about the Henry Bailey who had owned or been given the Bible, including:

  • Birth date and place
  • Enlistment and discharge dates and places
  • Military unit (Co I of the 45th Massachussetts Infantry)
  • Death date (1922) and burial place

It was enough information matching the inscription on the Bible’s front end page that I felt I was on the right track. It was also specific enough for me to start a Family Tree Maker tree for Henry Bailey so I had a place to record any information I found about him.

 The Ancestry search also had references to years of US census records, enough for me to learn the names of his parents (George and Harriet) and that of his sister (Ella). In addition, the 1920 US census entry indicated that Henry immigrated to the United States in 1849 and was naturalized in 1868, more parts to the story of Henry Bailey. This meant that Henry came to the United States as a young child of three, enlisted to fight in the US Civil War although he was not yet an American citizen, and chose to denounce his English citizenship after fighting in this war.

 I was also interested in learning more about the military union in which Henry served, Co I of the 45th Massachusetts Infantry. The Action Memorial Civil War Library had a short piece of Henry’s unit.(1) It was clear that Henry enlisted in the early days of the unit, traveled with the unit to Fort Macon, Beaufort, NC, and stayed with the unit until it was mustered out of service in July of 1863.

 A second period of action for Henry in the Civil War showed up on the 1890 US Census Veterans Schedule on Ancestry.com. Henry apparently enlisted a second time in December of 1863, staying with Co A of the 1st Massachusetts Battalion until the end of the war.(2)

Question 2: Who is the “Emma” who inscribed the Bible on the right flyleaf?


Inscription: "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

Alas, I did not seem to find an answer to this question. From US census records, it was clear that Henry had a younger sister, Ella. There is no indication that Henry was married in 1863 when the Bible was apparently in his possession, probably eliminating the chance that a wife named Emma has given him the Bible. When he did marry in 1872, it was to Ella Jeannette Morse, another Ella, not an Emma.(3)

Question 3: How did that Bible get from Massachusetts to a Georgia thrift shop?

Finding a possible answer to this question took some searching and, admittedly, some speculation. Using US Census records and FindAGrave memorials, I found a descendent of Henry living in Georgia in the 1980s. Her obituary listed a grandson living in the Atlanta area. A few quick Google and social media searches showed an individual with the exact same name as that grandson living just a few miles from the thrift shop where my friend purchased the Bible. Is this the answer? A coincidence? Maybe, maybe not, but it at least seems to be a possibility.

So, it turn out that my friend picked up a real treasure, that small Bible over 160 years old with its leather binding and brass hinge both still present and functioning. Researching shed some light onto a family who emigrated from England and established themselves as Massachusetts business owners, a family whose son enlisted to fight in the Civil War, a family where both father and son eventually become American citizens. Had this been part of my family, I definitely would have included it in one of my “Coming to America” posts for events such as these are common to many of our families.

Now back to researching my family, helping to transcribe the 1950 US Census, and indexing patriot records for the DAR, at least until some new treasure catches my interest.

1. "Forty-Fifth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Militia (Infantry) Nine Months", Action Memorial Library Civil War Archives, https://www.actonmemoriallibrary.org/civilwar/index.html.

2. "1890 Veterans Schedule, Massachusetts, Worcester, Milford, p 7, entry for Henry J Bailey", accessed www.ancestry.com.

3. "Milford, Births, Marriages, and Deaths", image 779 of 2038, Massachusetts, U.S. Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988, www.ancestry.com.

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