Taking Back What Was Once Lost

Walter Hughes Family Bible: Maysville, KY

This is the kind of story that just makes you feel good all over. About 12 years ago, my aunt presented me with a very old bible that was found in my grandparent’s house in Dayton, Ohio. When my grandfather passed away, my aunt and mother were cleaning out the house, and happened to find it. My aunt knew I was into genealogy, so to me it went. The bible had been time worn, and was falling apart.

Although I couldn’t find a publication date, I’d guess it dates from the turn of the century. It contained a few obituaries cut from newspapers, and several pages of assorted of births, deaths and marriages (some from the 1800s). That information is hard to come by, and would be  solid gold for that family.  Historic surnames listed in the bible include Morton and Grey (in addition to Hughes). The bible clearly at one time belonged to Walter Louis Hughes (b. 1912) and his wife Emma (Lee), who were from Maysville, Kentucky, located in Mason County:

Walter & Emma Hughes


Walter’s parents were Walter Hughes Sr. and Bertie (maiden name unknown). Walter had migrated with his wife and children from Kentucky to Dayton, Ohio, and probably lived in the house my grandparents eventually bought, or one of the houses they owned. Walter and Emma had a large family—I counted at least 10 children in the Bible (Goldie, Mary, Emma, Ruth, Walter III, William, Joyce, Audrey, Michael, and Trenia). Walter’s obituary was cut out & placed in the bible:

Walter Hughes Jr. Obit

At that time, online resources were few. Afrigeneas was one of the first major sites to focus on African-American centered genealogy and using Afrigeneas, I posted my information looking for these families. Amazingly, I got an email back from Mary, whose mother was from Maysville and a Hughes cousin in this family. She was thrilled and excited. Her mother is also involved in preserving Maysville African-American history.

After that, I dropped the ball. I don’t know what happened. Probably just the stuff of life, but nothing else happened. A few months ago, while preparing for a renovation, I came upon the Bible again, buried deeply in my basement. Fortunately, I had printed out the email from Mary and placed it in the box, but that was from 2002. I called the numbers, feeling awful about not having sent it when I had the chance.

But as the spirits would have it, Mary’s phone numbers were the same! I called and she remembered our correspondence all those years ago. I absolutely believe the spirits have a hand in it when something like this happens. I sent the Bible immediately, because I know if that were about my family, I’d just about die to have it. I also digitized the pages. Even though the Bible is not in the immediate family (i.e., one of Walter & Emma’s children), I feel really good that is within the extended family and back in Kentucky where it belongs. I wanted to post it here just in case any of Walter or Emma’s descendants decide to do an internet search one day on their family.

Just because I couldn’t resist, I looked up Walter and Emma and found them in Kentucky in the early 1900s.

Walter and Emma, 1940

Walter and Emma, 1930

Walter's parent's

Walter with Parents, 1920


  1. Mel's Gravatar Mel
    September 3, 2012    

    This is a wonderful story! It feels so good to return something to the rightful family.

  2. October 13, 2012    

    This is such a nice story!!! It is great that your aunt gave the Bible to you and you were able to give it to the family.

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About Me

I blog, teach, write and lecture about family history research and it's just as rewarding today as it was when I began 18 years ago. This lifelong quest has helped me to better know my past and I've taken back--reclaimed- my kin and some of that lost memory.  

Post History

What I Talk About

Locations and Surnames

Hardin, Chester and Lawrence Counties, TN
Holt, Barnes, Harbour, Bradley Springer and Fendricks
Lawrence County, AL
Springer and Fendricks
Montgomery County, MD
Prather, Simpson
Somerset County, MD
Waters, Fountain, Curtis
Duval and Madison County, FL
Smith, Harris, Garner

Favorite Family History Quotes

"The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past."
-William Faulkner

"Call it a clan, call it a network, all it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one"
- Jane Howard

"Friends are God's apologies for relations."
-Hugh Kingsmill

"No matter what you've done for yourself or for humanity, if you can't look back on having given love and attention to your own family, what have you really accomplished?"
-Elbert Hubbard

"Families are like fudge; mostly sweet with a few nuts."

"If you can't get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you might as well make it dance!"

"Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city;)"
-George Burns

"Where does the family start? It starts with a young man falling in love with a girl. No superior alternative has yet been found."
-Winston Churchill

"The great gift of family life is to be intimately acquainted with people you might never ever introduce yourself to had life not done it for you."
-Kendall Hailey

"If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all the generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people."
-Thich Nhat Hanh