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The big news this week for researchers in New Jersey is the upcoming release of adoptees’ birth records.

Governor Christie reached an agreement with bill sponsors on changes to the proposal, the most significant of which is the effective date of the unsealing. They have extended the time in which the birth parents can request that their identifying information not be released. When the bill was passed by the state legislature in February, the records were to be opened after 6 months.

Since 1940, original birth records were sealed at the time of adoption and a new one was generated with the adoptive parents’ names. Under the amended bill, adoptees will be able to request an uncertified copy of their original birth certificate after January 1, 2017. Birth parents will have until December 31, 2016 to submit a document of contact preference, indicating whether they are agreeable to be contacted directed, through an authorized intermediary or do not wish to be contacted. Their choice can be changed at a later date.

For adoptions occurring after August 1, 2016, the original record will be available without redaction, with the birth parents again having the option to submit a contact preference.

The legislation also addresses health histories, foundlings and children surrendered under the state’s Safe Haven Infant Protection Act. The complete text of the conditional veto and the proposed changes can be found here.

The changes still need to be approved by the Senate and General Assembly. Both are scheduled to hold voting sessions later this month. The New Jersey Department of Health will then adopt regulations that will set forth the manner in which requests for these records will be released.

Of course this is good news for adoptees who want their original record. It’s also good for genealogists, as siblings, spouses and direct descendants will also be able to request the record.

But noticeably missing from those authorized are the birth parents. I do not understand why the birth parents would not be able to get a copy, as it is their information on the record, and they could have obtained a copy of it at the time of the birth. I am curious to see if the regulations promulgated by the Department of Health will address this.






Birth, marriage and death records are now available on Information has been posted for births 1878 – 1909, Marriages 1866 – 1937 and Deaths 1862 – 1948. Scans of the actual certificates are not available, but rather the extracted information from the forms and the ability to order a copy of the certificate.

Despite having a lengthy “To Do” list, guess what I will be doing today?

NYC marriage

Governor Christie announced last week that his 2014 Inauguration celebration will be held in the Great Hall at Ellis Island. No sooner had I stopped dancing around the room and texted a friend who I believe can hook me up with tickets, when the critics started.

“Ellis Island?” they asked. “How can the Governor of New Jersey hold a major event at one of NEW YORK’s most famous historic sites?” They theorize that he choose such a notable national landmark because of some far-fetched idea that he has aspirations for higher office.

Map showing the natural land mass in dark green (New York) and filled-in area (New Jersey.)

Anyone who has studied the history of Ellis Island, including all 4th graders in our school district, are aware of the long-standing territorial dispute between the states. I won’t get into the whole story, but the latest determination made by the Supreme Court in 1998, is that the original land mass (including the majority of the main building) shall be New York, and all of the area that was filled-in over the years , which constitutes 90% of the island, shall be New Jersey. Not that it matters, because the entire island (and neighboring Liberty Island) is under federal jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

So yes, technically, the Great Hall is located on the New York property. Do I care? No. I am hoping that having such a high-visibility event with bring national attention to the Immigration Museum and that some of the money from the $500 tickets will find its way back to the landmark.

I’m also thinking that maybe Chris is planning to have NJ take control of the whole island once for all. If the state’s National Guard is lined up on the ferry, we’ll know what’s coming. You heard it here first.

New Jersey will not become a modern day Gretna Green. Governor Christie has vetoed legislation that would have eliminated the 72-hour waiting period for marriage licenses issued in the state, saving us from the possibility of tacky 24 hour drive-thru wedding chapels.

The current 72 hours required between the application and issuance of a marriage license in New Jersey is a cooling off period to prevent impromptu nuptials that might be regretted when the blinding light of a new love or the rush of spontaneity dims. When I served as a Municipal Clerk, there were a few instances when the couple was not aware of or misunderstood the waiting period.  A visit to a Superior Court Judge always saved the day.

Senate bill, S2399, would have allowed for the immediate issuance of marriage licenses. It  was designed in part to attract destination weddings to the state, particularly Atlantic City. As the once popular seaside resort struggles to find its place between a shore town and a casino/entertainment venue, it was thought that this could draw betrothed east-coasters away from Las Vegas.

“Gretna Green” is a term used for a town that is a popular wedding destination, usually due to its less-restrictive marriage regulations. These regulations could be a waiting period or a minimum age requirement. Its origination comes from a town in Suothern Scotland where many young couples were married after England set the minimum marriage age at 21.

If your search for a marriage record has been unsuccessful, try looking for a “Gretna Green” near the couple’s usual place of residence. Very often it is a town just over the county or state border. A list of popular wedding destinations can be found here on Family Search.

Should you find a couple who did go outside of their hometown to marry, it does not necessarily mean that they were trying to avoid a regulation. It could be that they wanted to keep the union private, had friends or family members in the other town, or they simply liked that location better.

When all else fails, try looking in Vegas.


I love the rush of receiving new information on a line that had been stalled!

Last week, I connected with a cousin from my Maternal Grandfather’s PHELPS line. Our common ancestor is my 3rd great-grandfather James Phelps. James was born about 1844 in England. He married Hannah HARTLAND in New York City in 1872 and they raised their family in Bergen and Essex Counties, New Jersey.

The “new” cousins reported that James’ parents were Joseph and Hannah Tyler Phelps, who settled in Philadelphia upon their arrival from England with their many children. I am most appreciative of this new information, as I know nothing of his family other than his father’s name was Joseph. However, without seeing what records my cousins used to ascertain this information, how could I be confident that our James belonged to this Philadelphia family?

Patience might be a virtue, but it certainly is not one of mine. I (literally) could not wait to renew my research on this line and have been working enthusiastically on trying to prove this relation.

I reviewed all my previous research on James to see if there was anything that would link him to this family. The earliest record I have for James is his 1872 marriage record which does not state his parents’ names. Census records show the family in New Jersey, with James working in a lock factory and as a metal pattern maker (this is a “key” piece of information!) James’ death certificate only lists his birthplace as England, his father’s name as Joseph and his mother’s name as Unknown. His obituary contains the same limited information, and does not mention any siblings.Advertisement from the 1867-68 Philadelphia City Directory.

Conflicting census records state James’ year of immigration as 1847 and 1865. My earlier attempts at locating his arrival (focusing on New York ports) were unsuccessful. By extending the search to Philadelphia, I located an 1852 arrival of a James PHILLIPS, age 6, with his mother Hannah and siblings. The father Joseph Phelps had arrived in 1851. Census records show this group in Suffolk, England in 1841; Warwickshire in 1851 and Philadelphia in 1860. But is this “my” James?

The Philadelphia City Directories for 1861 through 1868 lists both Joseph and James Phelps at the same address and with the same occupation of Lock Smith. Advertisements in the same publications extends their scope of work to Silver Plater. By 1870, Joseph is still listed in the city directories, but James is not.  During the same time frame that this James Phelps leaves Philadelphia,  my James Phelps is getting married in New York City. I think this is looking good!

I am very fortunate to have a number of old family pictures that were shared with me by cousins. Even better, most of them are identified. I am currently working to identify three photos of unknown ladiess. I am using two labeled photos to compare them to.

The first pair of photos below are sisters Catherine and Mary Jane “Jennie” Glynn.  The lower three photos are unindentified. One of the possible idenities is Catherine and Mary Jane’s sister Julia Anna. I have no known photos of Julia Anna to compare.

Kate and MJ

unknown ladies

All photos except the last one are cabinet cards, I believe to be from the late 1880’s. Catherine’s was taken by Headley and Reed, located at 5 Purchase Street in New Bedford, Mass. The one of Mary Jane and the unknown one on the bottom left were taken by a photographer by the name of Hastings at 143 Tremont Street in Boston. The bottom center photo was from Henry F. Hatch of New Bedford.

The bottom right is a copy. I believe the original was on glossy-type paper with scalloped edges.

The Glynn girls were born in Bangor Maine; Jennie in 1863; Catherine in 1864 and Julia Anna in 1874. Jennie was married in Woods Hole Mass in 1886 ( the photo is said to be her in her wedding dress.) All three eventually moved to Carteret, New Jersey. Julia Anna died there in 1893.

Any thoughts on whether any of the three unidentified ladies could be  Catherine or Jennie? Do they look enough like them to be a sister?

Jennie Glynn Connelly

Cabinet card photograph said to be Mary Jane Glynn Connelly in her wedding dress.

I imagine the first thing most people did when discovering satellite images on Google maps was to check out their own house. They might have been surprised that such a clear aerial picture of their homestead is available, or bit freaked out by it. For most genealogists, I think the second thing they did was look for an ancestral home; I know I did. Did you? If not, what are you waiting for?!

Google maps – or one of the several other similiar sites – is a great way to “visit” your relatives’ homes without leaving your kitchen. With just a few clicks, you can peruse the old village and zoom right in on the house. You might also be lucky enough to have a “Street View” of the area, which brings you right down to street level, and allows you to take a simulated sight-seeing drive through the neighborhood.

To find these satellite images, go to Google Maps and type in the address. When the map appears, click on the icon in the upper right corner that says “Satellite.” Continue to zoom in for a street view. It takes very little practice to learn how to move the image around the way you want it and to travel down the street.

I have personally visited and taken pictures of many of these homes, but for the sake of demonstrating the current topic, here are a few examples of my relatives’ homes as shown on Google maps:

The DAVIS Family home where my father and his siblings grew up.

The DAVIS Family home at 96 Lord Ave in Bayonne NJ, where my father and his siblings grew up.

24 Carroll Street, Bangor Maine. Home of the Patrick and Catherine CONNELLY family from 1862 through 1932.

24 Carroll Street, Bangor Maine. Home of Patrick and Catherine CONNELLY and family from 1862 through the 1930’s.

Once the location of Thomas DAVIS' home in the Baltimore neighborhood of Canton, now Naho Mama's Mexican Restaurant and Elvis Lounge.

Once the location of Thomas DAVIS’ home in the Baltimore neighborhood of Canton, now Nacho Mama’s Mexican Restaurant and Elvis Lounge.

It’s not only domestic addresses that are available. You can tour villages throughout Europe just as easily. Here is one example from Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England; the approximate location of the 1861 home of my Fourth Great-Grandparents Thomas and Maryann (GRUBY) HARTLAND. Their daughter Hannah married James PHELPS in NYC in 1872.

Green Lane, Wolverhampton, England

Green Lane, Wolverhampton, England

Of course there are a couple of caveats to searching your family’s past addresses. First, house numbers do change over the years. What was #6 and 23 Carroll Street previously is now #24. The best way to determine the current address is to do a house history/ deed search on the property. If you haven’t done that, I’ll have a blog post with instructions soon.

Also, addresses are not always in the exact location that the mapping system places it in. Similar to your GPS device, it will take you close, but might be a couple of houses off.

There is certainly the possibility that your ancestor’s home no longer exists. In the photo above of O’Donnell Street, you can tell by looking at neighboring buildings, that this is not the original structure. (But my cousin Mona and I still stop in during our research trips to Baltimore for some seafood quesadillas.) My great-grandparents home in Carteret was the victim of “Urban Renewal” in the 1960’s. And in many cases, the entire area might yield little if any resemblance to the neighborhood that once was.

Even if the house you are looking for is not there, or if you can’t pinpoint the exact location, these satelitte images are a great way to get the lay of the land. You can see the topography of the area, how close it is to natural features like rivers or lakes, or far it is from a city center.

If you are getting cabin fever from being in the house this winter, take this opportunity to do some touring right on your laptop. And just imagine how much you are saving on airfare!