The Importance of Revisiting Sources

It pays to go back and search a source again. Some time ago, Ancestry introduced its Pennsylvania and New Jersey Church and Town Records database. When it first came out, I searched it for all of my Pennsylvania and New Jersey ancestors. I found baptisms and marriages and burials. It has been a great source for my genealogy.

I think they must continue to work on the index because lately new hits have been turning up in that database. For example, I recently found the marriage of Joseph Funston to Frances Miller. I mentioned my third great-grandmother Frances “Fanny” Funston  in my January bucket post as a big mystery. I knew Joseph divorced her, but then, to me, she disappeared. I was excited to find this marriage record and to at least be able to put a tentative surname to her.

Then, I found a marriage record of a George W. Bieber and Frances Funstone in 1865. Five years before the divorce of Joseph and Frances, but stranger things have happened. I looked for George and Frances Bieber in the census to try to confirm this was my Frances, but came up empty.

And there it stood, until an unrelated Funston researcher came across my bucket list and mentioned the Bieber-Funstone marriage and an 1870 census record I had found and filed years ago:

Image of 1870 census
George & Fanny Beaver above Joseph & Sarah Funston, 1870 census

 At the time I had not noticed Frances Beaver directly above Joseph and Sarah Funston (her children). And thanks to a certain young pop star I know that the pronunciation of Bieber is similar to Beaver. So, it also pays to review sources you saved and filed years ago. Now that I was certain this was my third great-grandmother I felt energized to search GenealogyBank, another database that has been of immeasurable help to my research.

And I found this:

Image of obituary
Fanny Bieber obituary, Philadelphia Inquirer 27 Sep 1873

BIEBER — On the 24th inst., FANNY, wife of Geo. W. Bieber, and daughter of the late John and Mary Miller, in the 44th year of her age.
The relatives and friends of the family are respectfully invited to attend the funeral, from her late residence, No. 1938 Trenton avenue, on Sunday afternoon at 1 o’clock. To proceed to Palmer Street Ground.

Fanny Bieber, formerly Frances Funston(e), was the daughter of John and Mary Miller,
and thus was Frances Miller when she married Joseph Funston. It all ties together and I feel confident that I have found my previously lost ancestor.

By appearances, Fanny did not have an easy life. She was only about fifteen when she married Joseph, a man ten years her senior. She remarried in 1865 while still legally married to Joseph, for reasons unknown. I do know that Joseph joined the military in 1861 at age forty-two and served four years, leaving Fanny to raise four children, ages 5-14, alone. I still need to review his pension file to see if I can glean some more information about this time period, but I have transcribed some of it here. According to court records, Fanny did not respond to Joseph’s 1870 petition for divorce and it was therefore granted in 1871. She was married to George Bieber for eight years and was only 44 when she died in 1873.

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