Lost piece of family history returned after 4 decades

One mystery auction, 15,000 kilometres, and some 40 years later, this nearly one-and-a-half-century-old family Bible has finally made its way home.

One mystery auction and more than 15,000 km later, this 140-year-old family Bible goes home

From left: George Fenemore, his son Chris, his grandson Ben and historian John Webb with the recovered family Bible. (Submitted)

One mystery auction, 15,000 kilometres, and about 40 years later, a 140-year-old family Bible has finally made its way home. 

Newlyweds Annamaria and Perry Bamji accidentally discovered the Bible while they hunting for furnishings for their home in Banbury, U.K.  

The area boasted an excellent auction house that Annamaria frequented while searching for tables, chairs and other household items. 

The mystery auction

"One particular auction was a mystery auction. You could buy a box of property or whatever, but you didn't know what was inside," she said.

The most recent entry in this family Bible was made in 1908. On Monday, the Bible was reunited with the family whose history it chronicles. (Annamaria Bamji)

Annamaria — a naturally curious art historian — couldn't walk away empty handed. She bought a box and when she opened it up at home, she found it filled with books, some dating back to 1774.

Nestled somewhere in the middle was this Bible. Annamaria hung on to it and carried it with her when she moved from Oxfordshire, England to her house in Kingston, Ontario.

In 2006, the family moved again, this time into a condominium in Victoria, B.C. The smaller living quarters prompted them to get rid of items they didn't need.

But when it came to the Bible, Annamaria couldn't bring herself to throw it out.  

"I said to my husband, 'This Bible should go home.'"

Tracking down the owners

Months of online research yielded no new leads for Annamaria.  

About 40 years ago, Annamaria Bamji discovered a long-lost family Bible. She located the family to which it belongs, and earlier this week shipped the Bible back to them in England. (Submitted)

At her wit's end, she reached out to her former colleague and historian, John Webb, who was still living in Oxfordshire, and asked if he was familiar with any of the family names etched into the Bible's pages.

"He said, 'Oh my goodness. I just met one of them.'"

The coincidence was nearly unbelievable, according to Annamaria. 

Webb managed to put George Fenemore in touch with the Bamjis, who sent over photocopies of the Bible's pages for verification.

"I think that he was jumping out of the computer," Annamaria laughed, adding that Fenemore had no idea the Bible even existed. 

"It was just fantastic. Not just for him, but for me! I know that I've done something good, in the sense that the Bible, after 140 years, it has gone home."

She mailed the package via express delivery to Oxfordshire last Friday, unworried that it might be misplaced along the 7,500-kilometre journey.

"Bibles don't get lost," she said, happy to report it arrived safely on Monday.


To hear the full interview with Annamaria Bamji, listen to the audio labelled: Lost 140-year-old family Bible returned decades later.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.