Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Find A Grave

Time for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Randy Seaver! This week's fun is to search Find A Grave for ancestor's for whom we have no known burial location. Describe who you searched for and the first person you found for whom you did not previously have a burial location.

William Adams (1848-1888) - no listing
Henry Gillespie - no listing
Anna Ambrose Gillespie - no listing
Richard Cranch Greenleaf (1808-1887) - no listing
Mary Parsons Whitney Greenleaf (1810-1889) - no listing

Joseph Gillingham Fell (1816-1878) - Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia

John Greenleaf (1763-1848) - listed with unknown burial location
Lucy Cranch Greenleaf (1767-1846) - listed with unknown burial location
William Greenleaf (1725-1803)- listed with unknown burial location
Mary Brown Greenleaf (1728-1807)- listed with unknown burial location
Richard Cranch (1726-1811) - listed with unknown burial location
Mary Smith Cranch (1741-1811) - listed with unknown burial location

I just started working my way backward through my direct ancestors for people for whom I had no known burial location. I had several "no hits" before finding an entry for my 3rd great grandfather, Joseph Gillingham Fell, in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. The interesting thing about Fell's entry is that it did include photographs of the crypt, and it appeared as though his wife's name, Amanda Ruckman Fell, was listed below his on the stone, though there was no entry for Amanda in Find A Grave.

The interesting group was the six people who I did find listed, and linked to each other as spouses, parents, and children, but for whom no known burial location was indicated. I admit I don't quite understand the point of entries in Find A Grave when there is no known burial location. Find A Grave does address this in their FAQ's (, so I guess it's legit, but still a little aggravating.

I do have (at least) two ancestors who were cremated and for whom I'm fairly certain there is no actual burial location. And it looks as though, according to Find A Grave's rules, I could still create memorials for them.

A fun excercise that got me diving deeper into one of my favorite resources.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Wordle

Tonight's Saturday night fun from Randy Seaver is to create a word cloud using Wordle. There are no restrictions on the content of the word cloud, and we can get creative in our use of Wordle's settings for the cloud's appearance. We then need to save the cloud as an image and explain how we did that.

I did this back in January, and created a surname word cloud of the non-living people in my database. Having played with this once before, I knew that my blog itself doesn't necessarily generate an interesting cloud. So I decided to do something similar to January's word cloud, only with first names of non-living people in order to see what the most common first names among my ancestors were.

To generate the file I used, I first one of Reunion's presets to generate a list of non-living people. (More details on that preset are in my earlier post.) I then marked the people on the list and exported a text file of their first and middle names. Reunion allows you to select which fields you want in text file exports, but there is no option for first names only.

I copied the text file to Wordle and to create the above cloud. The Wordle settings I used are horizontal layout, alphabetical tags, and color/font choices.

To create the image, I opened the word cloud in new window and made a screen capture (command-shift-3 on a Mac). I opened the screen capture in Preview, cropped it, and re-saved the .PNG file as a .JPG to upload to my blog.

I had originally hoped to do some more targeted files to analyze in Wordle, like descendants in a particular line to examine naming patterns, but need to poke more at Reunion to find the right settings and features.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Scavenger Hunt

Tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings is a scavenger hunt. Randy lists 6 names and we need to find the name of the mother of each and the geneablogger to whom they are related. He asks that we tell how we did this and what we may have learned from our searches.

I used Mocavo for this challenge, doing a phrase search for each name listed, enclosing the name in quotes. I then scanned the results lists until I found blog entries mentioning the person, usually on the first page of Mocavo's results.

The first two were fairly straightforward, and I found the answers in a single blog post. But the last four names required me to use more than blog post for each person the get the appropriate names and relationships. And in one case, I used the person's Find A Grave entry to find his mother's name, as I wasn't easily finding it in the blog.

1. Lois Velleda Dreher - mother of Cynthia Beane Henry of Mountain Genealogists.

2. Mary Philomene Laurent - her mother was Olivine Marie St. Louis; Mary Philomene Laurent is the great-great grandmother of Brian Zalewski at Zalewski Family Genealogy.

3. Ernest Francis Sheern - great-great grandfather of geneablogger Sheri Fenley at The Educated Genealogist, his mother was Ann Emily LeSeure Sheern. (For this one I needed to combine resources. I quickly found Earnest Sheern listed on Sheri Fenley's blog, but used his Find A Grave page for his mother's name.)

4. Cecelia Jost - great-grandmother of We Tree's Amy Coffin, her mother was Cecilia Kurta. Amy has a wonderful series of posts called "The Search for Number 16" in which she tracks down Cecilia Jost's parentage.

5. Mary Jane Sovereen - her mother was Eliza Putman Sovereen, and she is the great-great grandmother of Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings.

6. Bethia Brigham - daughter of Anne (Richardson) Brigham, related to Elyse Doerflinger at Elyse's Genealogy Blog.

What did I learn from this challenge? The documentation and sources notes on each blog for these names was quite good. And the blog posts were generally tagged nicely, making it relatively easy to find related entries. I'm inspired to make sure my posts are well-documented with complete names and relationships, and written so they're possible for non-family members to follow. And it gives me thought for new posts I might include in my own blog.

(I started this before midnight Saturday, but goofed up while publishing and ended up with a Sunday date stamp.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Fell-Van Rensselaer House

Dome, Fell-Van Rensselaer House, April 2011

7. Dome [Part of a set of 10 photographs from the Historic American Buildings Survey in the Library of Congress' Built in America Collection, American Memory Project.]

The glass dome pictured above is one of the last surviving original features of the Fell-Van Rensselaer house on Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia. Built by my great-great grandmother, Sarah Drexel Fell from 1896-1898, following the death of the first husband John Fell in 1895, this was the home of Sarah and her second husband, Alexander Van Rensselaer (1850-1933).

The interior of the house was gutted in October, 1974.

[1] Library of Congress. Fell-Van Rensselaer House, Eighteenth & Walnut Streets, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA. Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Online. American Memory Project ( : accessed 4 May 2011)

[2] Philadelphia Architect & Buildings Project. Van Rensselaer Residence. Online. ( : accessed 3 May 2011)

[3] Webster, Richard J. Philadelphia Preserved: Catalog of the Historic American Buildings Survey. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1976. pp. 108-109.

Tombstone Tuesday - Emily Williams Biddle

About a month ago, I wrote a Wednesday's Child post on the "Lost Biddle Children" where I recounted finding the Biddle family plot in St. Thomas' Episcopal Church Cemetery in Pennsylvania. My narrative in the earlier post makes it sound as though I miraculously happened across the plot, which isn't quite how it came about that I was there looking for it.

The family group I'm discussing here are the following individuals:
  • Jonathan Williams Biddle (1821-1856)
  • Emily Skinner Meigs Biddle (1824-1905)
  • Children:
    • Christine Williams Biddle Cadwalader (1847-1900)
    • Charles Meigs Biddle (1849-1853)
    • Williams Biddle (1850-1852)
    • Mary Biddle (1851-1851)
    • Thomas Biddle (1853-1914)
    • Emily Williams Biddle (1855-1931)
According to Find A Grave, Jonathan Williams Biddle is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. So I didn't question that he was there, and assumed that the remainder of Jonathan's family would be buried in Laurel Hill as well. So I was actually a little surprised to discover while researching Emily Williams Biddle, that his family was buried in St. Thomas' cemetery.

I probably wouldn't have given much thought to Emily Williams Biddle except I recently found out that the family had a house in Lenox, Mass., a place several other ancestors have called home over the years.

I came across an article from the Springfield Weekly Republican (Springfield, Mass.), dated Thursday, February 18, 1932, which covers the contents of her will. Emily was the last surviving member of the above family group, survived by six nephews, the sons of her sister Christine Biddle Cadwalader. Among the bequests covered in the article, is:

"To St. Thomas's church, Whitemarsh, Pa., is left $2,000, the interest to be used 'to care for the lot where my father and mother and their unmarried children lie buried. And I wish my body to be buried alongside that of my brother, Thomas Biddle with a stone similar to that now over his grave to mark my grave.'"[1]

The lot contains individual headstones for Emily Meigs Biddle, and each of her children, Charles, Williams, Mary, Thomas, and Emily. What it doesn't contain is an individual headstone for Jonathan. There is a large horizontal slab listing Jonathan, Emily, and each of their five children buried in the plot.

So, I really have no idea which cemetery Emily's father, Jonathan, is buried in, and I admit I haven't spent much time looking yet. Another mystery to track down with this family.

[1] "Lenox Coachman is Bequeathed Life Interest in $45,000 Fund," Springfield Weekly Republican, 18 February 1932. Online. Genealogybank ( : accessed 3 May 2011).