Research, luck and a little help sends 140-year-old Bible home

A 140-year-old Bible is back with its original family in England after decades across the Atlantic

  • Aug. 17, 2015 3:00 p.m.
Oak Bay Rotarian Perry Bamji and his wife

Oak Bay Rotarian Perry Bamji and his wife

Jennifer Blyth

Oak Bay News

It took considerable research, a healthy dose of luck and some divine intervention, but a 140-year-old Bible is back with its original family in England after decades across the Atlantic.

Perry Bamji, a member of Oak Bay Rotary, and his wife, Annamaria, came across the Bible 40 years ago when they were newly married and setting up their home in the English town of Banbury, Oxfordshire.

Searching the local auction for furniture, Annamaria, an art historian, was tempted to purchase an “odds and ends” box of books, contents unknown.

Tucked inside, in addition to two titles dating from 1774 and an 1805 dictionary, was a beautiful 1874 Bible.

When the Bamjis moved to Canada in 1981, the Bible came with them, first to their home in Kingston, Ont., where Perry, an electrical engineer, taught at Queens University until 2006, when they moved to Fairfield.

As the couple downsized from a larger home into a condominium, certain things had to go and the Bible, while much loved, was too big for their space.

A skilled researcher, Annamaria then set about trying to find the Bible’s original family, starting with the book itself.

“The first page is always the family page. They had taken it out (when they sent it to auction) but they forgot to tear off the middle pages, which has the marriages, births and deaths,” Annamaria says.

After more than a year combing through Internet files, Annamaria contacted a former colleague and historian, John Webb, who still lived in Oxfordshire, asking if he knew any families with the names represented on the Bible’s family pages: Fenemore, Boddington and White.

As is happened, in a completely unrelated coincidence, Webb had in fact met a George Fenemore at an Oxfordshire cancer clinic. Thinking he could possibly be an ancestor of the Fenemore family listed in the Bible, Webb put Annamaria in touch with Fenemore. After conducting a little of his own research in the U.K., Fenemore concluded that the Bible had indeed belonged to his ancestors.

“[For John Webb] to know just one Fenemore and for it to be the right one, it was very strange,” Annamaria says.

The Bamjis wanted to send the valuable Bible as a gift, and asked only that the Fenemores pay the postage for the 5.5-kilogram book, which they were happy to do, Annamaria says.

The serendipity didn’t end there, however.

Upon receiving the Bible in Oxfordshire, Fenemore opened it at random to an image of St. Peter. He later told the Bamjis he had been warden of St. Peter’s Church for 40 years. “I have a feeling there is a bit of Divine intervention,” he reflected in an email.

The Bamjis are pleased the Bible is back with its original family.

“We have enjoyed this Bible in our homes for well over 40 years and it is now returned to its home in the custody of George Fenmore and the family members who follow him,” Perry says.

“It has gone home,” Annamaria agrees.