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  • Writer's picturePatty Vitale

Hidden Between the Pages of a 130-year-old Bible

In the fall, I blogged about the restoration of a family bible which was published in the late 1800s. Because no births, marriages or deaths were recorded in the bible, I speculated that while it probably came from the McKenna branch of my family tree because it was passed down from my great-grandmother, Helen (McKenna) Dickinson, it could have come from the DuRoss family (Helen’s mother), or the Luke family (her mother-in-law). At the time, however, I didn’t devote any additional effort to narrowing it down. A separate family bible was also passed down, but it contained Dickinson family birth, marriage and death records, so the origin of that bible was clear and I knew that the unmarked bible didn’t come from that branch of the tree.

Last night I decided to search more carefully through the bible for clues, thinking that there might be something handwritten on a page or on something inserted between pages, as I had found in the Dickinson bible. I started going through the 500-page bible, one page at a time. Incredibly, tucked deep between the pages, I found a tiny 117-year-old newspaper clipping. It was only about a half-inch wide and two inches long, but it was the death notice of my great-great-grandfather, Cornelius McKenna, who died on December 6, 1898.

This half-inch by two-inch newspaper clipping was tucked between two pages of the family bible. It reads, “McKENNA – In Boston Highlands, Dec 6, Cornelius McKenna, 38 years. Funeral from his late residence, 8 Sherwood ct, off Bartlett ct, Friday, Dec 9, at 8.15. Services at St Patrick’s church, Dudley st, at 9 a.m. Relatives and friends are invited to attend.”

In the center of the photo, you can see the yellowing of the pages where the newspaper clipping was hiding all these years. A second, identical clipping was placed elsewhere in the bible in the same manner.

After finding the death notice, I reassessed what I knew. Cornelius and his wife, Susan (DuRoss) McKenna, were Catholic, and this is a Catholic bible. The Luke family was Methodist, not Catholic. Susan and Cornelius were married in 1882. The bible was published in 1884. Having found Cornelius’ death notice between the pages, I now believe that this bible did, indeed, belong to Susan and Cornelius McKenna, and that they purchased it during their marriage.

Cornelius McKenna, born 21 Jan 1861 in New York City, died of Typhoid Fever 6 Dec 1898 in Roxbury, Massachusetts

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