Mr. Dobbin

While visiting a friend’s store recently I purchased a few small items in the hope of returning them to family. I see people doing this all the time on various Facebook groups and thought I’d give it a try myself. Having had ephemera and photos ‘returned’ to my by distant family members and strangers, I know just how valuable these little odds and ends can be to a family historian.

One of the items I purchased is this photo:


On the back of the photo someone wrote “Mr. Dobbin”. The only other clues are the photographers named, “W.E. Vaughn” and the location, Red Creek, NY.

My intention is to post this image multiple places. If anyone has any luck tracking down a descendent, please send them my way!


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.

Mother’s Mother – Age Can Be Deceiving

Mary Rigby Gould with daughter Emma Gould.

Mary Rigby Gould with daughter Emma Gould.

This photo is one of my favorites, perhaps because it’s the only one I have of these two ladies. The back is labeled “mother’s mother and grandmother (of beatrice gould felver)”, which makes the little girl Emma Gould (1861-1895) and the woman Mary Rigby Gould (1831-1903).

The photo was taken in Brooklyn, NY. The Gould family immigrated from England when Emma was 3 years old. Keeping in mind that Mary was 30 years old when Emma was born, this woman is likely less than 40 years old in the photo. I’m not an expert judge of old photographs nor age ranges, but Emma definitely looks like a child, not pre-teen.

Had this photo not been labeled, I would have easily assumed that this photo showed a woman with her granddaughter not a daughter.

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?