Family Portrait

rulon-marnie-familyThis photograph has been one of my favorites for some time now. Left to right we have: Mary W. (Rulon) Marnie, William Rulon Marnie, and Edwin T. Marnie. William was born in 1909, so this photo was taken within a few years.

One of the things I love about this photo is that Mary Marnie is smiling. There are a handful of photos of her, but very few where she’s smiling. I always think she looks so serious, but in this case she looks content.

The other thing I love is the detail visible in their clothing, from Mary’s lacy, ruffled sleeves and jewelry to Edwin’s pinstripe suit, shirt collar, and shoes.

Details that give insight into what someone’s life was actually like is perhaps the most important part of research to me. Vital statistics are great, but the details provide the color.



Friday’s Faces from the Past

Birthday Celebration


The back of this photo is simply labeled “Mary Marnie”. I think that’s her, sitting at the head of table. There’s a cake off to the left side of the table—perhaps it was a birthday celebration?

The other women in the photo are unknown to me. Mary Marnie lived in Philadelphia and this photo was most likely taken in the old South Philadelphia home the Marnie’s lived in on Synder Ave. for many years.

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.

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?