The lost and unloved Rowe family bible

An old Rowe family bible sits lost and forgotten in an antiques store… will it find it’s rightful home once more?

I always find wandering around antiques stores and ‘antiques’ stores fascinating. Maybe whether it’s because I like to see whether things from my own childhood are classed as ‘antique’ yet, or whether I quite enjoy seeing the kinds of things that I remember my Great Grandparents having in their homes.

One thing I’ve never seen in my family is one of those big hefty family bibles. The kind that’s leatherbound, complete with gold gilt edges and a lock, and big enough to be classed as an intimidating weapon against intruders…

So, whenever I see one in an antiques/’antiques’ store, I always just have a peep at it, because these books can be of interest to the genealogist.

Many people would write in their family events – births, deaths, marriages, into the front section, and so stumbling across this information can be wonderful.

I recently did this for a Nokes family bible, and ended up with descendants finding this blog post, and contacting the store.

So, whilst aimlessly browsing Risby Barn antiques, near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk over the Easter weekend, I stumbled across another big bible filled with family history data.

I didn’t buy it (it’s not my family), so if you’re looking for this, it would be worthwhile giving them a call. I didn’t check the price-tag, but it’s a heavy but delicate book, that needs some love once more.

It seems that this family bible was once owned by the Rowe family:

National Family Bible
Front of the Rowe family’s National Family Bible.
The bible’s ‘Family Register’ has been filled out with the names of Dennis and Florence Ada Rowe, married 1st November 1899.

The bible seems to have been given to Dennis Rowe (b.1872) and his wife Florence Ada (b.1877), who were married on 1st November 1899. There’s no locations mentioned here, but a quick check on FreeBMD puts this as Dennis Walter D Rowe and Flora Ada Waldon of the Downham district of Cambridgeshire/Norfolk. Surprisingly, this book hasn’t strayed too far from home, and puts the couple living in amongst my own ancestors (no connection – I checked).

Moving on a few more pages, there’s more information…

Rowe family births.
One Rowe family birth for Cyril in 1906.

Only one child made it to the births page. Maybe there were more, but weren’t added in for some reason…

And then on the the deaths page:

Rowe family deaths
Rowe family deaths

Sadly, it seems that their son, poor little Cyril Robert Rowe, died after only a few weeks of life.

Florence’s own death in 1938 is noted here, but no sign of Dennis.

On the pages that followed, there were a number of photograph sections, but there were no photos added. It seems that the manufacturer of this bible had realised that families would want to write their family events inside the bible, and decided to make some quite impressively ornate sections for them to do it – how innovative. Sadly, this family’s false start perhaps led to it’s eventual existence languishing in antiques store.

Maybe, as I’d like to think happened with the Nokes family bible, this old family bible will eventually be reunited with its family once more.

Happy Tree Surgery,


The lost and unloved Nokes family Bible

A family bible for the Nokes family (seemingly of Essex) sits unloved in the corner of an antiques store in Ely, Cambridgeshire.

‘A present from his father and mother on his 24th birthday’ reads the inscription inside the cover. It’s dated July 30th 1891. A loving gift of a huge family bible, but one that now sits unloved in the corner of an antique store.

Tucked at the back, in the corner, on an old sideboard, I stumbled across this 3-4 inch thick, weighty, black covered (leather?) ‘Holy Bible’. It sits in a display at Waterside Antiques in Ely, Cambridgeshire. I’ve been here countless times before – scouring the items for books, marvelling at the collection of 40s/50s clothing, and checking out any photographs I might find.

This bible has been sat here a long time. I usually come back to it to see whether it’s still there, or to see if it has dropped down from its price tag (currently £80, i think). I can’t justify spending that on something that I wouldn’t use, nor is it related to me, but the curiosity of it is tantalising, so I felt that I should help it on its way home…

I’ve taken some photos. The bible was given to Frederick Nokes in 1891. A few pages further in are the delightful collection of names and dates that any genealogist would love to stumble across:

Matching with the dates inside the bible (born 30th July 1867), FreeBMD gives one result – Frederick Nokes born in the Braintree (Essex) district, in the September quarter of 1867.

The book also notes the birth of Anna (which reveals as having the surname Willsher) in 1867, and then notes that they were married in 1892. Unfortunately the bible is devoid of locations, but some more FreeBMD and rummaging reveals the details here.

On the 1901 census, Frederick and Anna appear at Burrows Lane, Earls Colne, Essex. They are both 34yrs old, and alongside them are two of their children (again, matching the bible), Bertie and Harry. Frederick is noted as being a ‘Painter – Agricultural Machinery’. It is also noted that Frederick was born in Bocking, Essex, whilst Anna was born in Great Tey, Essex.

By the 1911 census, the couple still live in Earls Colne, and appear with 4 of their 5 children (one is noted to have died). As a nice touch, the handwriting on the census form matches that seen for the entry of ‘Winifred Ada Nokes’ in the family bible.

Children of Frederick and Anna:

  • Gladys Nokes (1893-1894)
  • Bertie John Nokes (1895-1979)
  • Harry Nokes (1896-1917)
  • Winifred Ada Nokes (1902-?)
  • Robert Frederick Nokes (1905-1965)

The bible goes on to reveal that Anna dies in the Halstead district of Essex in 1963, aged 95, which is all corroborated with the FreeBMD records.

The most recent notation in this book is March 1965, regarding the death of Robert Frederick Noakes – noting that the ‘a’ in Noakes was added by the registrar.

By entering the Nokes data into (as a new tree) I was then able to explore a bit further – even uncovering photos which are identified as Bertie John Nokes, his wife Sarah, and son Roy.

This amount of personal detail makes me hopeful. Two Ancestry members seemed to know enough information about the Nokes family for me to feel like they would care about this unloved bible. I’ve messaged them both. At the very least, they can see the photos for themselves, but you never know – they might decide to buy it and bring it back into the family.

Do you have a family bible heirloom? Have you ever found a family bible with notes and researched the names?