Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ursa, Your Bible is Home

Ursa lived for 100 years and 4 days. In 1949 Ursa was given a bible. For 60 years the records of marriages, births and deaths were being properly recorded there. The last entry being the death of Ursa herself in January of 1999 written down by some unknown family member.

In early May of 2009 I found the bible in the lobby of a medical clinic where my wife works. In was just lying on a table. It was an older leather bound edition. Used, but in excellent shape. Nothing stays in the lobby for long. Even National Geographic get picked up and taken to better homes. Curious, I picked it up to see what version and age it might be. And there on a dedication page was the name of the giver and the recipient with a date of 1949. This was someone family bible. Wow, I love family history and this must be a personal treasure to someone. They even carried to a doctor’s office. Then must have set it down when called by in to their appointment.

Looking through it I found that there where pages between the Old and New Testament for recording family events, births, marriages, deaths and such. And there where entries. I took the bible to the receptionist and asked if she could check to see if she could check the appointments to find the person who must have left it. Then I was impressed to say if she couldn’t find the owner to let me know let or my wife know and we would take it and try and find the owner.

No one claimed it. So some 10 years and 4 months after her death, 110 years and 4 months after her birth Ursa’s family bible is sitting in a most unlikely place. And because of a prompt I find myself on a quest.

Should be easy, right? There are some 7 surnames mentioned in the entries and a newspaper clipping listing what must have been a double wedding of family members. The clipping doesn’t provide a date, city or state. Also the original presenter of the bible has his name crossed out and Ursa has her name surname altered on the presentation page. With all the surnames and dates I was expecting to do some simple web searches and come up with someone in the area and just make a couple of phone calls and deliver it to the owner.

No way. None of the names listed lived in our immediate area. Some of the surnames where found however no given name combinations matched. Since the clinic serves a community population of about a million plus the quest became a bigger challenge. After a couple of days of searching I felt since a couple of the surnames where less common I just post an inquiry on a website with some free Surname Message Boards with the hope of finding a relative of the bible owner. Apparently Ursa had been married 3 times and I was seeing that not every event got recorded in the family bible. This was becoming a more complex search.

In mid-May the summation of the bibles discovery and the 7 surnames where posted on three surname boards. The bible was placed right next to my computer expecting a response would come soon. Then I waited. Finally in early November I got my only response. And what a surprise that was.

I quote from an online reply:

“I am the great niece of Ursa _____. My great grandfather James Edgar was her brother. She was born in Pennsylvania and moved to California. I have been researching my family tree for a gift to my father for Christmas. I am hoping to find out any information that I can about his family. If you are still in possession of this Family Bible, please let me know.”

Just the type of family relation needed to get the bible to a proper place. I placed a response on the message board and tired to email this great niece of Ursa but the address was not accessible. I searched her name on various sites and could find nothing. This was her only posting on the message boards and it was like she disappeared.

Daily I kept trying different ways to find her and hoped she would email me directly at the address I’d put in the posting.

Then two day before Thanksgiving I got an email. She had been trying to reach me “. . . I am interested in the information that is in Ursa ______'s family bible. We last knew that her two sons Harold and Calvin ________ both lived in California. We do not know if they are still living. They would be in their early 90's. I am trying to find out if they have any children. . . . ”

The next afternoon the bible was on its way home to where Ursa was born in rural Pennsylvania some 2700 miles from where the bible was found. On Saturday it was there. A hundred and ten years and eleven moths after she was born Ursa’s bible was home.

I had been given a gift and actually more than one gift. One was to be involved with returning an important family document to a place it would be treasured. A second was to correspond and talk with the person who will be new keeper of this family bible and a third was most unexpected.

Taking the bible to the post office I got out of my car and started to go inside and realized I had left the address I needed on the car seat. Then while starting to walk back to the post office entrance I was carrying the bible in my hand. A lady exiting the office said, “You must be a minister, you carry a bible wherever you go.” Just another opportunity to share something important. That allowed the story of the bible to be shared with her and the reasons we know family history is so essential.

Finally there is the gift of acting on the prompting of The Spirit. The bible was meant to be found and acted upon. I was just the lucky one who picked it up.

Ursa’s great niece has already found a Family History center. It’s 45 mile from her home. I know that the people there can help her with her research and understanding of why it is so important. Just one more gift given.

I going to keep seeking details of individuals listed in the bible. I hope to find Ursa’s grave-site and send a photograph of it to her great niece. Someone whose name is in that bible wants something done. To many gifts have been given already because of its existence to stop now. For me, the quest isn’t over yet.

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