Preserving Family History in a Digital Age

I often read comments from other researchers who lament that in the future, our ancestors won’t have the same access to genealogy-related data because everything is digital: photos are posted to Instagram or Facebook, details of an individual’s life might be on Twitter, etc. While it’s true the we don’t leave the same paper trail that some ancestors may have left, there is still a trail, and it’s accessible to a savvy researcher.

When my brother died nearly 5 years ago, one of the things I wanted to do was memorialize him on Findagrave. A kind volunteer had already added a memorial and he transferred it to me so I could manage the information, photo order, etc. That was a great start, but I wanted to preserve some of my brother’s digital footprint.

He was a regular Facebook user who posted lots of photos. I decided I wanted to have copies of all of them, and viewing each one to save to my computer would have been incredibly tedious.

Instead, I used a Chrome extension to quickly export all of his photos from his public album to a folder on my computer. Simply install the extension and then select it to begin an export of available content. You can use this pretty much anywhere there are photos on social media, including Twitter and Pinterest. It does not need to be your account, just images that are publicly available.

I was able to save 5+ years of my brother’s photos in less than 10 minutes.  If his profile ever goes away, I still have the photos and this slice of his life is preserved.


Mid-Atlantic Family History Conference

I just registered for this conference at the Cherry Hill (NJ) Family History Center on Saturday, October 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. This will be my first foray in to a genealogy conference. Is anyone going to this one? Have you been to others? Any advice for the first timer?

Mary Wagner Rulon Marnie (1887-1946)

One of the few photos my father-in-law was able to identify for me was “Gran’s wife”, Mary.Mary W. Rulon Marnie

I have no idea when this photo was taken, but I’m guessing somewhere around 1910-ish, based on what she looks like in a 1910/1911 photo that includes her son, William Rulon Marnie, who was born in 1909.

Mary Wagner Rulon, born in Philadelphia, PA on September 30, 1887. She was the daughter of William Batten Rulon and Ann Wagner Ottey Rulon. Mary was baptized at Scott Methodist Episcopal Church on April 1, 1888.

At 20 years old (1907), she married Edwin Thomas Marnie. They have one son together, William Rulon Marnie, born 1909.

According to my father-in-law, he believed Mary and Edwin (“Gran”) were separated, divorced, or otherwise estranged. But she died in 1946, well before Edwin who died in 1979 at 94 years old. In 1942, Edwin’s WWII registration card lists both of them at the same South Philadelphia address and I’ve never found evidence of them living apart.

My father-in-law knew Edwin for the better part of a decade. Perhaps he just assumed a separation or divorce because no one talked about Mary. It was more than 20 years after her death.