The largest privately held collection of family Bibles in the world is resting on the shelves of Joe Kerry’s Peace Legal law offices on 25th Street in Ogden, Utah. Kerry’s offices are also the home of Bible Rescue, a nonprofit organization aimed at rescuing family Bibles, recording their history and returning them to the rightful owners – the families found in the Bible’s pedigrees.
Some of the Bibles date as far back as the mid-1700s. Kerry has decided to open his doors at 238 25th Street in Ogden to the public on October 20 in an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is free to the public. At the open house people can peruse the Bibles and touch and see the amazing history contained within the pages. Also on display will be a special collection on loan from Brent and Charlene Ashworth that will include Joseph and Emma Smith’s family Bible, the William Bradford Bible from the Mayflower as well as Jack Ruby’s and Helen Keller’s Bibles.
Kerry started collecting the Bibles five years ago when he was at a yard sale and saw a beautiful old family Bible and it started to rain. He thought to himself that the Bible could be ruined and all the family history contained in the pages would be gone. He scooped up that Bible and it became a hobby to search out family Bibles. “I couldn’t drive by a thrift store without stopping,” Kerry said with a laugh, standing in front of stacks and stacks of old Bibles. He still can’t. Yard sales and Deseret Industries call his name on a regular basis. He started a nonprofit so he could expand the process and start collecting them more. He now gets around 50 to 60 Bibles sent to him per year. He often has youth groups or adult volunteers come in and tag the books with the family names and then they record the history and input it into FamilySearch and/or Ancestry. They then try to locate a living family member to return the books. “This isn’t really a collection for us to keep. We want to find the families they belong to,” Kerry said.
The October event is for people to see and handle the history and bring awareness to the rescue project. Plus, people can check to see if they have a family Bible on the Bible Rescue shelves. Because the Bibles are tagged with names, people will be able to look up their names to see if their family has a Bible there. Kerry enjoys watching people look through the Bibles to see if they find a family name. “People can’t help but look,” he said with a smile.