Virginia didn’t begin to collect vital statistics, such as marriages, births and deaths, until 1853, and from 1896 to 1912 the reporting of births and deaths wasn’t required. Family Bibles may be the only place the existence of many people is set down on paper. Work is now under way in Smyth County to preserve and share those records.

Tuesday evening Joanne Lowery pulled on a pair of white gloves to protect a Bible found in Sugar Grove that dates back to 1794. As she showed it to members of the newly formed Smyth County Genealogical Society, Lowery reflected that the Bible she held was nearly as old as the country. She wondered how many more such treasures are stored in people’s attics.

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