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Not 143 years ago today

It ain’t necessarily so
It ain’t necessarily so
The t’ings dat yo’ li’ble
To read in de Bible,
It ain’t necessarily so.

— Ira Gershwin, “It Ain’t Necessarily So

There is a Family Bible owned for many years, generations even, by a branch of my Baker family, and it carefully records the death of the oldest member of that branch of the family.

Josias.Bible“Josias Baker departed this life November 22nd 1871.”1

Now maybe we’d have some trouble accepting all of the birth information in the Bible as … well… gospel truth. After all, the entries report, among others, Josias’ birth in 1787 — nearly 60 years before that particular Bible was published. And all the births, up to the last reported in 1834, are in the same handwriting.2

But the deaths… those are different. At least four separate hands involved in those entries. They sure look like at least the later ones would be contemporaneous with the events.

So we’d certainly be justified in accepting today as the 143rd anniversary of Josias’s death, wouldn’t we?

After all, it’s exactly the kind of record that people did keep, at the time, of important events in family history, and they’d certainly record it correctly.



To quote Ira Gershwin, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

You see, Josias Baker left a will when he died, and that will was submitted to the Ellis County, Texas, District Court to be admitted to probate there.

And it was admitted to probate in the Fall Term.

Of 1870.3 Not 1871.

And his son-in-law Josiah Porter carefully told the court, there on the 7th of December 1870, that Josias had died on the 20th of November. Not the 22nd.

Even with something as ordinarily reliable as a Family Bible…


The t’ings dat yo’ li’ble
To read in de Bible,
It ain’t necessarily so.


  1. Baker Family Bible, 1787-1878; The Holy Bible (Philadelphia : Jesper Harding, printer, 1846); Bible Records Collection; Dallas Public Library, Dallas, Texas. The Bible was owned by a daughter of Josias and Nancy (Parks) Baker, Barsheba Matilda (Baker) Strong Porter. Mrs. Porter’s great granddaughter, Louise (Rosser) Garrett of Richardson, Texas, inherited the Bible after the death of Clara (Price) Rosser, her mother and Mrs. Porter’s granddaughter. Mrs. Garrett donated the Bible, along with other family Bibles, to the Dallas Public Library c1985.
  2. Ibid., Births column.
  3. Ellis Co., Texas, District Court, probate case no. 330, “Jonas” Baker (1870), application for letters of administration, filed 7 Dec 1870; FHL microfilm 1673847.
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