TAMPA (FOX13) - Inheriting an old family Bible has lead one Tampa man to take on a treasure hunt of a hobby. In a labor of love, he's connecting families to their own long lost bibles.
It's pages are yellowed and brittle, and some are fading from over a century of use. But Andy Smith says his Bible is the best gift he's ever received.
"I had inherited a family Bible from my grandmother after she passed away in '91...and eventually, I started taking interest in all the names and dates that were on the family registry pages," he said.
The registry's hidden between pages of scripture and elaborate illustrations.
"It was something you could put the names and dates of when people were married, when they were born. When they died. It was a family record, that if it wasn't in the Bible, it might be lost," Smith said.
Turns out, his dates back to 1879.
"To me, to be able to touch, hold something that your great great grandparents had 150 or 200 years ago, it's gold," he smiled.
The information ignited an interest in Smith to keep going. He created an account on Ancestry.com, and with the help of distant relatives found online, he connected the dots of his own family tree. Slowly but surely, Smith stumbled upon stories and photographs, lost for decades.
Eventually, he ran into a dead-end researching his own family. Still, he discovered a new passion in the process: reconnecting strangers to their own sacred books, lost and lingering on internet sites like Ebay.
"I recognized that there would be people who would benefit greatly from the information in these bibles. The names and dates," Smith said.
Smith digitally pages through old bibles online and jots down names from family registries. He uses that information to track down families and alert them that they're missing a book literally, with their name on it.
"The people who do reply are typically thrilled. It's like, 'Never thought of doing this. This is amazing!" he smiled.
It's an unending puzzle that's evolved into a passion for Smith. He's logged countless hours for perfect strangers. It's his way of paying his own blessings forward.
"I kinda look at it as doing God's work. I know how much it means to them and it makes me feel good," he said.
Smith's been tracking down and reconnect family's with their old bibles for the past 10 years or so. If it's something you're interested in, he says the first step is creating an account on Ancestry.com.