The Great Organization Dilemma

I’m at the point where I’ve spent years researching two branches of my family history. List most researchers, I’ve collected what feels like a ton of paper material: birth, death, and marriage certificate, copies of church registers, census records, letters, stories, photographs, and more. While I’ve already scanned everything and keep it in labeled folders on my computer, the paper material remains…scattered.

My office features archival boxes stacked with material by family, but also piles and piles of material that hasn’t been sorted.

How do you organize all of your paper records? Boxes, file folders, something else? How do you label it all so you can easily find what you’re looking for? I feel like this is a huge hurdle, but there’s got to be someone who has successfully organized all this paper.

Researching Burials at Montrose Cemetery in Upper Darby, PA

Montrose Cemetery is a small place, tucked away behind a funeral home. It’s the kind of place you can drive by without noticing, which I did for many years before visiting the first time.

The cemetery isn’t large—just a single road down the middle with sections on either side. The sections seem to be all designated by a letter, but only B and G seem to have visible signs denoting their location. There does not seem to be a cemetery map publicly available that lists the sections.

Montrose does offer an online burial records search to locate your ancestors’ section and plot number. Once you’ve found the information, make sure the person has a findagrave memorial and request a photo.

As a photo volunteer with more than 50,000 images uploaded, giving the section adn lot number makes it possible and therefore more attractive for others to potentially take a photo for you.

What’s Your Name?

Charlest Bolesta

Charles Bolesta (left) and friend

Pictured on the left is Charles Bolesta (1875-1955). He was born in Poland and emigrated to the United States in 1900. He married Anna Kuryillo in Philadelphia in 1902. They moved to Northumberland County where Charles worked as a coal miner for many years.

While Anna’s last name seems to be spelled a 100 different ways, depending on the document, it’s Charles’ first name that gets the variety treatment.

He’s most often listed as Kazimir or Charles (his headstone and death certificate), but then there’s: Kasimir, Casimir, Charlie, and Calus. Of course, there’s the person who captioned this photo who just knew him as “Popi”.

Charles Bolesta always reminds me that researching a variety of variations of both first and last names is necessary—you can’t rely on a single “known” first name.

Saving Family Treasures

Has genealogy research ever made you cry? In the 10 years or so I’ve been researching, there’s one experience that brought tears to my eyes, this photo album:

One thing I always asked with my husband’s parents about was photos – specifically whether or not they had any. They were able to give me some pictures, but didn’t seem to have anything old. Nothing black and white. Nothing with grandparents and beyond.

When we were cleaning out their house in preparation for a move, I uncovered a musty, ripped paper shopping bag underneath a pile of junk. Stuffed inside was a photo bonanza – this falling apart photo album of the Marnie/Rulon families (pictured) and stacks of loose black and white photos.

In the garage. In a bag. Underneath a pile of junk. I sat down in the middle of the garage and wept while looking at the photos.

I’m still trying to figure out who is who. Much of it is guess work based on the people I can identify.

Have you had this kind of experience during your own research?

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.