A Limestone County family has been reunited with a part of their history — a 19th century family Bible.
It was returned to the Johnston family earlier this month after being purchased at auction.
Described by an auctioneer at Dunn’s Auction in Athens as an “old family Bible from 1886 from Limestone,” it was found to hold Johnston family history recorded between 1886 and 1939.
Brandi Thomas and members of her family purchased the Bible. After examining the artifact she used Facebook in an effort to find the Johnston descendants. Her efforts paid off when she contacted Neal Johnston, who put her in contact with one of the family’s archivists — his sister-in-law Mildred Johnston.
According to Mildred, the Bible was given to Lucy Turner Inman Johnston, the wife of Civil War veteran Robert Johnston, of the Gladdeus Regiment Company E of the 50th Alabama Regiment, by their second son, William F. Johnston.
Mildred’s late husband, Sid Johnston, and Neal are the grandsons of Albert Sidney “Nick” Johnston or “Daddy Nick,” who is Robert and Lucy’s oldest son of seven children. The lineage makes Robert and Lucy their great-grandparents.
Mildred has always been interested in genealogy. She has kept documentation through the years that record the family’s roots. When Thomas called her inquiring about the family names written in the Bible, Mildred recognized the names. She told Thomas she believed that was her family. “I thought this had to be true,” she said.
“I immediately asked her if she would sell the book,” Mildred said.
Thomas told Mildred she wouldn’t sell the Bible, but she would give it to her.
Mildred found out she had paid $30 for the book. She would later slip the money in a pink envelope to give back to the Bible’s discover.
“She wanted to give it to us,” Mildred said. “She didn’t want to sell it to us.”
Mildred believes it is because of the Thomas and her family’s interest in genealogy. Thomas’ daughter Ali Taylor traced her family’s ancestry back more than 30 generations.
Thomas previously told The News Courier, “To be able to hold in your hands an item such as a family Bible — with so much of your family history that is almost 150 years old — can never be replaced. To touch, hold and feel something that belonged to your great-great-great-great-grandparents is something few of us know.”
Mildred said the current generations of Johnstons, most who still live in Limestone County, were excited to be able to hold a part of their history. She joked they had to be excited in order to get a group of teenagers and children to her home for a picture on a Sunday afternoon. “They have always been kind of interested in their past,” she said, adding her son and grandchildren took a trip to Scotland last year to trace their ancestry. “We were very excited.”
“I knew we had to find this family and return this Bible to them as soon as I realized there were ties to Limestone County,” Thomas told the News Courier. “If we don’t know our past, we cannot move forward with our future.”
After fourth-, fifth- and sixth- generation family members of Robert and Lucy Johnston had the chance to look at their history, the Bible was sent to Tuscaloosa Bindery for repairs through the help of Athens State Archivist Sara Love.
Plans are to preserve the Bible for generations to come.