Rescued from the Dump: The Jordan Bible

by | Sep 29, 2017 | 2 comments

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Found: The Jordan Family Bible

If you are a descendant of Joseph Jordan – of the Biddeford, Maine, Jordans — this might be your lucky day.

You see, I happen to know the whereabouts of their 1850’s-era family Bible.

No, it is not in my possession. But it is in the possession of a close family member. And since she is not a Jordan descendant, she would like to find this Bible a home with a descendant who will properly preserve and care for it.

About the Jordan Bible

The Jordan Bible has been in my family member’s possession for many years. She believes it was originally recovered by an uncle who found it at “the dump” in Arlington, Massachusetts.

How it got from Maine to Massachusetts — and why it wound up at a dump — is a mystery. However, from what I’ve been told, New England dumps often have places where people leave items that aren’t quite trash, but that they no longer want, in case someone else can make use of them. We don’t know if that is what happened with this Bible, but it is one possibility.

After the uncle passed away, the Jordan Bible was boxed up with his belongings and given to his sister in New Hampshire. Following the sister’s death, the Bible was passed on to her daughter – also in New Hampshire – where it is currently located.

Unfortunately, that is all we know of the provenance of this heirloom.

According to the Bible’s title page, it was published in 1850 by Hyde & Lord of Portland, Maine. The handwriting in the Family History section appears consistent with handwriting samples from that time period. However, it is obvious that more than one person has written in this section.

The Bible appears to be in fairly good condition, considering all it must have endured. It does seem to have a bit of water and possible mold damage. Thankfully, the Family Record pages are remarkably well preserved.

Although his name is the first listed in the Bible’s Family Record section, Joseph Jordan died before the Bible was published, so he could not have been the original owner. Inside the front cover, the name “Elisabeth Jordan” is written in pencil, so perhaps she was the Bible’s owner at one point.

Are you a descendant of the Jordans of Biddeford, ME? Take a look at the RESCUED family Bible! #genealogy Click To Tweet

Who was Joseph Jordan

There is quite a bit of Jordan family history in this Bible. For example:

Joseph Jordan. [Son of Hon. Reshworth Jordan of Biddeford State of M.E. who was the son of Capt. Samuel Jordan of Sperwink. Now Cape Elizabeth who was the son of Dominicus Jordan who was the son of Reverend Robert Jordan, an Episcopal Clergeman, {sic} who emigrated from the country of Dorsett England to Richmond’s Island which is about five miles from Portland, about the AD 1640 and married the daughter and only child of John Winter in AD 1642] — Married Mary Leighton Daughter of Maj. Saml Leighton Of Kittery (now Elliot) Maine Jany 22nd, AD 1789 at her Fathers — 

According to information written in the Family Record section, Joseph Jordan was born in Biddeford, Maine, on 7 February 1759. Joseph married Mary Leighton, who was born on 8 January 1770, in Kittery, Maine. They had the following children, all born in “the Town of Hollis Me”:

  • Samuel Jordan, b. 31 January 1791; d. 20 September 1840 in Saco, Maine
  • Reshworth Jordan, b. 2 June 1795; d. 27 June 1871 in Hollis, Maine
  • Elizabeth Jordan, b. 20 March 1798; d. 20 December 1889 (possible owner of the Bible?)
  • Joseph Jordan, b. 26 January 1802; d. 5 December 1889
  • Tristram Frost Jordan, b. 30 September 1805; d. October 1890
  • Mary A. Jordan, b. 15 January 1807; m. William P. Baker; d. 24 October 1876 at Quincy, Massachusetts
  • Jane Shannon Jordan, b. 8 January 1816

Joseph Jordan (the elder) died 20 March 1820, and is “buryed [sic] in the Town of Hollis.” Wife Mary died 30 May 1853 “at the residenc [sic] of her son Joseph Jordan in the Town of Passadumkeag M.E. buryed [sic] North Side of the Stream near the mouth in the yard.”

There is an interesting addendum regarding the burial of Mary (Leighton) Jordan in the “Deaths” section of the Family Record:

Re___al the remains of Mary L. Jordan remains removed within the stone fence Enclosure 6 July 1878 had been buried 25 years one month and 6 Days Coffin all whole nothing but the bones remained and the small pillow under her head — 6 July 1878 Tristram F. Jordan Present PaSSadumKeag

I thought it was fascinating that this information was recorded by a first-hand witness to the event.

Further Research

I couldn’t help doing a bit of research into the family who originally owned this Bible. It appears that the Jordan family was quite prominent in the Biddeford, Maine, area. According to the Maine Memory Network, “the Jordan family was one of Biddeford’s ‘first families,’ and counted among their members many sea captains and successful merchants.”

Rishworth Jordan (1719–1808) was married to Abigail Gerrish and is recognized by the Daughters of the American Revolution as having served as a “Judge of Court of Common Pleas” in Maine. For what it’s worth, no DAR applications or supplementals have been filed referencing Joseph as a child of Rishworth, so the information from this Bible would help establish that parentage.

Tristram F. Jordan was apparently the family historian. In 1882, he published The Jordan memorial : family records of the Rev. Robert Jordan and his descendants in America (D. Clapp & Son, Boston). You can read a copy of the first edition for free on Internet Archive or purchase a copy of the reprint from (the Kindle version is only 99 cents). Information about Joseph Jordan’s family begins on page 245, and there is a nice photo of Tristram on page 249.

Many of the family’s grave markers can be found on Find A Grave. Here are a few, but there are links to many others on these memorials:

Joseph Jordan

Mary (Leighton) Jordan

Rishworth Jordan

Abigail (Gerrish) Jordan

The Maine Memory Network has several interesting photos pertaining to this family. Among them is a lovely watercolor painting by William Edward Barry entitled “Early Jordan Homestead – Saco River 1740 – Living Room.”

Are You a Descendant?

If you are a descendant of the Jordan family and are interested in this artifact, please contact me.

Please note that the final determination of who may receive the Jordan Bible is up to my family member, who currently has it in her possession. She would prefer that it go to someone who is a documented Jordan family descendant and who will properly care for and preserve this valuable heirloom.

If no one is found within a reasonable amount of time, the Bible will most likely be donated to a historical society in Maine.

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  1. melrootsnwrites

    I would love to find an heirloom like this, but my ancestors didn’t seem to hold on to such stuff.

    I hope that the family will come along and find this article so the Bible can be returned to them!

    • Elizabeth O'Neal

      Me too, Melody! I’ve been contacted by a few people already, but none who are descendants of Joseph Jordan’s family. And if my family had anything like this at one time, it has long since been lost.


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Elizabeth O'Neal

Elizabeth O'Neal

Genealogist, Writer, Web Developer, Educator

Elizabeth O’Neal is passionate about helping others discover, preserve and share their family stories. She hopes her only descendant will someday develop an interest in her ancestry.


Hello, I'm Elizabeth! I'm a genealogist, writer, and educator, and I've been looking for my descendant's ancestors for 3x's longer than she's been alive. I tell some of their stories here, but I also share tech and blogging tips, news, and other stuff I like. I am the host of the Genealogy Blog Party, which I hope you will join! Find out more right here.

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