The New

Many members have heard that a new version of the website was forthcoming. The beta version has arrived and members have been testing it out and sending in feedback about the site. I had taken a cursory look a few weeks ago, but I came across a recent Facebook post bemoaning the design of the new site complete with plenty of gang-on comments complaining about the design and features and I had to take a second, more in-depth look.

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Family Recipe Friday

This recipe caught my eye, because it’s labeled “Lillians’ Recipe”. This must have come from my grandmother’s aunt, Lillian Pearl (Hess) Adams (1882-1962). I’m not sure who’s handwriting this is, but I do love these old recipes.

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Family Recipe Friday

Another find from the family recipe box, this time for a dish called “April Salad”. I love that none of the ingredients include an idea of how much to use, so I guess the idea was to just eyeball it. Also, I picked this one out because it’s labelled as “Mrs. Warner’s”. Since this recipe box belonged to my great-grandmother, Beatrice Felver Warner, I’m assuming the Mrs. Warner in this case would have been her mother-in-law, Minnie Manley Warner.

Minnie Manley Warner died in 1916, so I wondered if this could really be her recipe since it calls for lemon jello. Some quick research tells me Jell-O has been around since before the turn of the century and began to gain popularity between 1902 and 1904.


Passport Applications

On a whim I started searching’s collection of U.S. passport applications for some of my more recent surnames. I got a few hits and was surprised to learn that…

There is a copy of the passport photo that was scanned with the application:

William Ford Gibbons (1864-1929)

William Ford Gibbons (1864-1929)

That the applications include a physical description of the applicant:

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That a wife could be added to her husband’s passport with a simple signed letter and a photo:

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William Ford Gibbons married Anna Laurence Gibbons later in life. He remained single and lived with his mother at least up until the 1920 census, when he was 56 years old. His mother died in 1922 and he married Anna (then 32 years old) in 1924. I think that’s what the text under her picture indicates – “married in Tampa… 10th 1924”.

Family stories indicate that William was a favored uncle who doted on his nieces and nephews. He supposedly traveled a lot and brought exotic gifts back to his extended family. Then he married Anna (who I believe was previously widowed) and when William died his entire fortune was left to his wife of 5 years. Needless to say, some of those nieces and nephews were upset.


Googling for Genealogy

There seem to be a number of folks that feel a simple google search of ancestors name is about as worthwhile as watching paint dry. I’ve found that googling a name can be extremely successful and satisfying, but only if you’re approaching it with the right attitude.

Your chances of finding relevant results for your ancestors with the most common names aren’t great. I know I won’t find much of importance by googling “Charles F. O’Donnell” in Philadelphia because it’s such a common name, regardless of the time period. *

The best place to start is with your ancestor’s that have less common names. One of my favorite searches is for “Hiram Felver”—make sure to use those double quotes around the name to avoid searching everything with either Hiram or Felver in the results.

You can also utilized google’s advanced search filters to narrow the results if there’s still too many:

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Try using place names (as I did in this example), years, etc. Also remember that many of the women we’re researching will be listed as “Mrs. Hiram Felver” instead of their given name.

Not finding any gems by googling? My best advice is to keep at it. I periodically google the same group of great-grandparent names just to see if anything new has turned up. More and more records and source materials are digitized every day.

Googling “Hiram Felver” has given me information on where he attended school, what organizations he belonged to, and—the one item I find most exciting—that Thomas Edison offered Hiram a job as a machinist for $21 per week in 1887. There’s no indication that Hiram took the job, but it’s still fascinating. A letter Thomas Edison wrote to my ancestor came up for auction a few years ago. This led me to the Thomas Edison Papers at Rutgers, where I was able to view the letters Hiram had written to Edison. I have periodic google searches to thank, because these letters aren’t going to magically show up on ancestry one day.

*Confession: that doesn’t mean I never google the more common names, I just know I’m not going to find much that’s relevant to the ancestor I’m researching.

Using City Directories to Create a Timeline

City Directories are the “phone books” of old and there are many freely available online or via subscription sites like A city directory most often contains residents listed in alpha order, with their occupation and address.

It’s easy to take the basic information and construct a timeline. I made this quick one in Powerpoint. Perhaps the most interesting thing for me was discovering that Rebecca Marnie briefly moved from Philadelphia to Camden. The timeline is also helping to make some assumptions about when she died, but now I have a new location to search as well.

Do you use City Directories in your research?


Analyzing Old Family Photos

The Marnie and Rulon families

A wedding portrait?

This small, faded, torn photo was found jammed inside an album. It’s printed on normal paper, as though someone photo copied the original image. The photo is fairly small, which certainly wasn’t uncommon. I happened to scan and enlarge the image, just because I wanted to preserve it, but what I found has been far more interesting.

I believe this photo shows, left to right:

Back row, standing—Edwin T. Marnie (1894-1979) and William Batten Rulon (1854-1925)

Front row, sitting—Florence M. Marnie (1883-1962), Sarah (Smilling) Marnie (1860-1901), Edwin Goutch Marnie (1855-1913), Ann Wagner (Ottey) Rulon, and Mary Wagner (Rulon) Marnie.

I know that Edwin T. Marnie married Mary Wager Rulon in Philadelphia in 1907. He was 23, she was 20. They had their first and only child in 1909.

So, if this photo shows the two families as listed above, a few questions and problems come to mind:

  • What happened to Edwin Goutch Marnie’s right hand/arm? Once the photo was enlarged, I realized his right hand and arm don’t match the left and he appears to be wearing a black glove on the left hand. It’s hard to tell, but it appears the left hand or arm is a prosthetic. How and when did this happen?
  • Sarah (Smilling) Marnie died in 1901 according to an obituary and Philadelphia death certificate. In 1910, her husband and son are in the census listed as boarders. Edwin is listed as widowed.
  • So, was this photo taken before Sarah Marnie died in 1901 (indicating the families knew each other well before the marriage in 1907) or is the woman not Sarah Marnie at all? Perhaps Edwin remarried or the woman is his sister, Lavinia Marnie (1861-?).
  • The woman, who could be Sarah (Smilling) Marnie or someone else, is also pictured in other photos with Edwin T. and Mary W. Marnie and their son. Whoever this is, she definitely lived past 1909 when Edwin and Mary’s son was born.