Are you interested in family history? How might a family Bible help you discover more about your family? This is my story.

Recently I posted the following photograph on my Love in a little black diary Facebook page. It shows Flora Jane Balchin, aged 16, after her confirmation on 20 September 1903 at St Mary’s Church of England, Mount Morgan (Queensland).

Flora Jane Balchin after her confirmation at Mount Morgan on 20 September 1903.


It’s a beautiful photograph, and very old, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that it created considerable interest among those who follow my Facebook posts.

But I am surprised that sharing Flora’s photo has contributed so much to my research of the Balchin family history. Let me explain why.

I am blessed to possess a number of special items that belonged to Flora (my maternal grandmother), including the Balchin Family Bible.

My grandmother Flora’s spectacles and the Balchin Family Bible.


Inside the front cover of the Bible is the following inscription: “Mrs Balchin, From Mrs Corry Smith. May 28th 1883.”

Inscription inside the front cover of the Balchin Family Bible.


I assume the Bible belonged to Flora’s mother (“Mrs Balchin”), as inside the back cover is a record of the names and dates of birth of each one of her eight children (including Flora, who was Number 5). There are also the dates of death of several family members, including Mrs Balchin herself (“Mother”), who died in 1900 when Flora was just 12 years of age. I suppose Flora added this entry. My own mother added the dates of death of Flora and Flora’s brother (I recognise my mother’s handwriting).

Clearly, this 134-year-old family Bible is an invaluable family history resource.

Birth and death records inside the back cover of the Balchin Family Bible.


Up until a week ago, I could only guess at the source and story behind this Bible.

Last week I shared Flora’s confirmation photograph in a Facebook genealogy group and asked for help to find out more about the Balchin family, particularly Flora’s parents.

Much to my awe and delight, several generous folk in the genealogy group very quickly supplied records showing that the family came to Australia in 1883 from Surrey, England, on the ship “Cardigan Castle”. The genealogy group members also provided documents with detailed information about Flora’s parents (my great-grandparents). I was aware that Flora was born in Sydney on 12 April 1887, but I didn’t know the dates and place of birth of her parents or where her older siblings were born.

From the information I have now, I am able to deduce at least part of the story of the Bible and that of my great-grandmother.

The ship “Cardigan Castle” sailed from Plymouth on 1 June 1883, arriving in Sydney on 20 August 1883. Flora’s parents, Levi (also known as James) and Julia Balchin and their three children (Alice, Julia and Alfred) were among the 384 government immigrants on board.

Cardigan Castle Passenger List on arrival at Sydney on August 20, 1883.


Given that the ship departed on 1 June 1883 and the inscription inside the front cover of the Bible is dated 28 May 1883, I believe the Bible was given to Mrs (Julia) Balchin as a parting gift as she left England for her new life in Australia. Without doubt, it was very precious to her. It was also very precious to Flora, given that she kept it and passed it on to my mother. Now it’s in my care.

The Balchin Family Bible dates from 1883.


I’m yet to discover my great-grandmother’s connection with “Mrs Corry Smith”, the person who gave her the Bible. Was Mrs Smith a relative? Was she a friend?

I hope that one day I will find out.

♥     ♥     ♥     ♥     ♥


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4 comments on “Family History and the Family Bible”

  1. I am always impressed by the quality of people’s handwriting in times past, as attested by artefacts like this. The cursive in the cover of your family Bible is lovely.

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