Sunday’s Obituary – Carolyn Winifred (Strait) DeGroat – Died 27-January-2003

Relationship to me: 1st cousin, 2x removed

This picture shows both the death notice and the obituary for Carolyn S. Strait DeGroat both were found in the Strait vertical files at the Sussex County Historical Society, Newton, New Jersey.

degroat-carolyn-s-strait

Death Notice reads:

“DEGROAT, CAROLYN, S. (STRAIT),” 76, of Wantage, died on Monday, Jan. 27, 2003.  Beloved wife of Calvin DeGroat. Devoted mother of Dennis DeGroat. Dear sister of Gwendolyn Wirdel.  Cherished by two grandchildren.  Graveside services will be at North Hardyston Cemetery, Hardyston, on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2003, at noon.  In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts to the Karen Ann Quinlan Center of Hope Hospice, 99 Sparta Ave., Newton. Arrangements are by the F. John Ramsey Funeral Home, One Main St., Franklin.

Obituary reads:

“Carolyn S. Strait DeGroat”  – WANTAGE – Carolyn S. Strait DeGroat, 76, died Monday at home after a short illness.  Born to Ward and Katherine Strait, in Hardyston, she was a life-long resident of Wantage.  Mrs. DeGroat owned and operated Kilp & Kurl hair salon in Wantage for more than 30 years.  She is survived by her husband, Calvin; her son, Dennis, of Stillwater; her sister, Gwendolyn Wirdel, of Bellair, Md. and two grandchildren.  Arrangements are by the F. John Ramsey Funeral Home, One Main St., Franklin.

52 Documents in 52 Weeks #16 – Henry Allen Repsher’s Gravemarker

Person of Interest: Henry “Hank” Allen Repsher and Eleanore (Purvis) Repsher
Relationship: Paternal grand uncle and wife (Hank and my grandmother Bea were brother and sister)


Source Citation: Phoenix Memorial Park and Mortuary (200 W Beardsley Rd, Phoenix, Arizona), Henry A. and Eleanore B. Repsher grave marker; photographs taken by Jodi Lynn Strait, 24 April 2017.


Hank and Eleanore are located in Section 30B of the cemetery.

Document Description: Okay, this really isn’t a document; I’m using document here in the loose sense of the word. This is an artifact that marks the grave location of Henry Allen Repsher and his wife Eleanore Betty Purvis. Find A Grave does have a photo of the grave marker but I decided to go take a look myself and I was so glad that I did. Henry and Eleanore’s marker consists of an 24 x 24 inch slab of marble with a slightly smaller bronze plaque attached to it. The Repsher family name and given names are cast into the plaque but then dates are screwed onto the plaque to allow appropriate dates, if need be, to be attached. What you don’t get from Find A Grave is that their son Thomas Repsher is buried right next to them! That was a nice surprise to find Tommy there with his parents. Or that they are buried in section 30B in one of the Garden of Rests. Or that they are all buried under a nice evergreen tree when the rest of the cemetery is fairly open with little foliage.

Hank, Eleanore, and Tommy are all under this tree. The marker in the foreground on the left (grave markers are facing towards the base of the tree) belongs to Hank and Eleanore and the Tommy’s is the second from the left in the foreground. They are all cremated based on the information provided by a nice young man named Spencer who was the cemetery employee who showed me to their grave sites.

Thomas Repsher’s grave marker next to his parents.


Background information on the cemetery: This is a fairly young cemetery with the first interment occurring in 1964. It is laid out in a grid pattern and the cemetery has an additional 30 acres to expand into. According to Spencer (the employee mentioned above who was nice enough to chat with me about the cemetery), there is no way to know who is buried vs cremated based solely on the size of the plots. In other words, some regular sized plots may have a casket, may have an urn with cremations, or may have both. It is a park cemetery meaning that most of the grave markers are flush to the ground. However, there is a an eclectic mix of ground-level markers (many with upright 1-foot tall flower holders), upright headstones, full-length grave covers, some homemade memorials, family burial plots, free-standing community (meaning they aren’t dedicated to just one particular family) mausoleums, benches, fountains, and sculptures. I’ve included some of the more interesting ones here for you to get a sense of the cemetery.

A larger upright headstone for the Skornik family.

An upright headstone, full-length marble grave cover with a long, poignent letter to the deceased engraved on it, and decorations.

From ashes, arises the phoenix….

A wooden marker…

One outside wall of one of the mausoleums.

James Stephen DeWit got some pretty descriptive stuff written on his full-length grave marker. Apparently, he was born on the dining room table and eventually died at his own dining room table.

The full-length grave cover for James Stephen DeWit

And since he loved to fly, the family placed an airplane shaped bench at the foot of his marker so that visitors could sit and chat with him.

The airplane-shaped DeWit bench

And perhaps the most heart-wrenching gravesite in the whole cemetery was this one:

The Montez family

All four individuals perished on the very same day ranging in age from 36 to 14 to 7 to 3 years old. Some sort of awful tragedy befell this family on 26 July 2014.


Document Scan/Transcription:
REPSHER
Henry A.
1920 – 1995
Eleanore B.
1917 – 1987

Analysis: Analysis surrounding this grave marker is sparse. There are no symbols to interpret since the bronze plaques on the graves around Hank and Eleanore also have the same ivy pattern. There are no embellishments to give us clues to their religious affiliations, hobbies, exact birth or death dates, or marriage date. In fact, it shouldn’t be inferred from Henry and Eleanore being on the same plaque, that they were married. More evidence is needed before that can be concluded. Other sources have told me that Tommy was their son but no such inference can be made based solely on the grave markers contiguous location to each other.

The grave marker is an original source. The death years should be considered primary (firsthand) since the cemetery is the one who buried them and they would know what death year to attach to the plaque. The birth years are secondary (hearsay) in nature since neither Hank nor Eleanore would remember their own births but they would know based on what others told them. The evidence is direct (explicit) if the research question is, “What was Hank Repsher’s birth year and death year?” but indirect (not explicit) if the research question is, “What is Hank Repsher’s birth date and death date?”

CONCLUSION

While online sites like Find A Grave and BillionGraves are certainly handy for supplementing your family history while sitting at home, there is nothing like a trip to the actual cemetery. I unexpectedly found Tommy next to his parents, got a feel for where they are all buried, learned what section they’re buried in, and some useful information about the cemetery itself.

Sunday’s Obituary – Howard Strait – Died 17-December-1972

Relationship to me: 1st cousin, 2x removed

This newspaper clipping for Howard Strait was found in the Strait vertical file at the Sussex County Historical Society. Penned date of 07 December 1972.

strait-howard

“Howard Strait” – Howard Strait of 25 Hamburg Ave., Sussex, formerly of Wantage township, died last night at Alexander Linn Hospital, Sussex, following a long illness.  He was 67 years old.  A native of Philadelphia, he lived in the area for the past 35 years.  He was a retired building contractor, past district governor of Rotary District 747 and a member of the Wallkill Valley Rotary Club.  Survivors include his widow, Margaret; two daughters, Mrs. Phyllis LaPorta of Fort Myers, Fla., and Mrs. Sandra DeVuyst of Sussex, and five grandchildren. Graveside services will be 2 p.m. tomorrow at the North Hardyston Cemetery, with the Rev. Donald Fowler of the Hamburg Episcopal Church officiating. Memorials may be made to the Sussex Ambulance Squad.  Funeral arrangements were made by the Pinkel Funeral Home, Sussex.

52 Documents in 52 Weeks #15 – Susanna Repsher’s Affidavit

Person of Interest: Susanna (Williams) Repsher
Relationship: 3rd great-grandmother


Source Citation:  Widow’s affidavit, 21 February 1907, Susanna Repsher, widow’s pension certificate no. 632, 252; service of Jacob Repsher (Pvt., Co. I, 147th Pa. Inf., Civil War); Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.


courtroom_1_smDocument Description: This affidavit (a written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation, for use as evidence in court) is one of many different documents found in Jacob’s Civil War pension file. It is on legal size paper and has a mixture of pre-printed, typed, and handwritten items on it. Susanna made her affidavit on 21 February 1907 at Bartsonville, Monroe County, Pennsylvania. The pension office dated it as received on 25 February 1907. It also has the signatures of two persons as witnesses. It does have one area that is covered by another piece of paper but that does not seem to be obscuring any wording.


susannaaffidavit001Document Scan and Transcription: CLAIMANT’S AFFIDAVIT
Filed by Taber & Whitman Co., Attorneys, Washington, D.C.
Act of June 27, 1890
Widow No. 862970
Jacob Repsher
Co. I 147 Pa
State of Pennsylvania
County of Monroe } s. s.

In the matter of the above described claim for pension, personally appeared before me a Justice of the Peace in and for the said County and State, Susanna Repsher age 70 years, whose P.O. address is Bartonsville, County of Monroe, State of Pa, who being by me first duly sworn according to law declares that she is the claimant in the said claim and that neither she nor the said Jacob Repsher were married prior to their intermarriage in 1851, that no person is legally bound for her support, that all the property she has consists of nothing more than her legal rights in her husband’s estate which consists of a lot of land about one acre with an old house & staple thereon and the same is covered with Judgement and mortgage for all that it is worth, there are a few old household goods, she says that she has nothing in her right, and no life insurance but a will was found and all the property was bequeathed to her but after payment of all the debts and expenses there won’t be anything left for her and she has no income of any kind and is unable to do any work.

That as to any will or life insurance.

Susanna X Repsher, her mark. (Signature of claimant.)

  1. Samuel P. Repsher
  2. Sallie A. Repsher    (Signature of two persons who can write if claimant signs by X mark)

Sworn and subscribed to before me this 21 day of Feb 1907 and I hereby certify that the contents of this affidavit were fully made known to affiant before swearing thereto, and that I have no interest, direct, or indirect, in the prosecution of this claim.

Amandus Possinger (Signature of magistrate)
Justice of the Peace (Official character of officer.)

If you have and official Seal impress it here. [Nothing here]


Analysis: This is a statement about the financial status of Susanna Repsher, widow of Jacob Repsher who served in Co. I of the 147th Pennsylvania regiment. She was trying to stress to the pension office the necessity of receiving the pension. She swears that she had no one legally obligated to care for her, that the little real property that she owned was not worth anything because there was a judgement and a mortgage held against it, that there were no household goods that could be sold to contribute to her upkeep, and that there was no life insurance for her to fall back on. In other words, she’s poor, broke and in need of a pension.

Susanna was not a literate woman. She had to sign the affidavit with an “X.” Her mark was not distinctive; it was just a simple x with no embellishments or curlicues. Because she signed the affidavit this way, she was required to have two persons who could write witness her statement. Those two witnesses were Samuel P. and Sallie A. Repsher. Although I know these to be two of her children from other evidence, their relationship to Susanna was not delineated in this affidavit.

There are a few genealogical tidbits to be found in this affidavit.

  • Susanna was 70 years old on 21 February 1907 which puts her estimated birth year around 1837
  • She was married to Jacob Repsher in 1851
  • Neither she nor Jacob were previously married
  • She had a bit of real property, one acre with an old house
  • In 1907, she was living in Bartonsville, Monroe County, Pennsylvania
  • Jacob passed away before 21 February 1907
  • Jacob died testate

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-6-10-01-pmWhat can I do with these tidbits? Dig some more! This affidavit provides plenty of clues or direction on what to look for next. First, I would comb through the rest of the file to glean what I could from it. But let’s say this is the only document I had to work from. I would start looking for a marriage record between Jacob Repsher and Susanna in 1851 in Pennsylvania, I would look at the probate records at the Monroe County, Pennsylvania, since Jacob died with a will, and I would look for legal notices about judgements/mortgages on Jacob’s property. Looking for a birth record for Susanna would have to wait a bit since I’ve only got an approximate year, no maiden name, and no indication that she was born in Pennsylvania. One thing I love about genealogy is that it’s never-ending. There’s always some where else to look, a new stone to overturn.

This is an original source record since it’s a straight copy of the document found in the pension file. The affidavit was created for the Civil War pension board at the time of Susanna’s claim. The affidavit has lots of good primary information and we know that Susanna is the informant because it’s her sworn statement. First-hand information would be Susanna’s marriage to Jacob in 1851 (she was present), her age (she’s aware of the passing of years for herself), her address (she knows where she lives), the existence of Jacob’s will (she knows it was found and that she was the beneficiary), and her financial status (she know how much she’s struggling).

The evidence is either direct or indirect based on the format of the research questions take. For example, it is direct if the question is “What year was Susanna married to Jacob Repsher, Civil War veteran from Pennsylvania?” That would be 1851 which explicitly answers that question. It is indirect if the question is “What is the marriage date for Susanna married to Jacob Repsher, Civil War veteran from Pennsylvania?” That would be unknown except for the year. We would need to combine it with other evidence in order to find the full marriage date for this couple.

CONCLUSION

Susanna Repsher was in some financial distress in early 1907 when she applied for a Civil War pension based on her deceased husband’s military service. She sat down with Amandus* Possinger, a Justice of the Peace, who verified that Susanna swore to the statements she made in the affidavit, in order to make some statements about her age, address, and financial status. Her children accompanied her to office in order to witness her statement since she wasn’t literate enough to sign her own name.


* I’d never heard of this name for a man before so I looked it up. It is derived from Latin amanda meaning “lovable, worthy of love”. Saint Amandus was a 5th-century bishop of Bordeaux. It was also borne by a 7th-century French saint who evangelized in Flanders.