52 Prompts in 52 Weeks #16 – Tombstone Tuesday – Sarah A. Ball

This prompt is for Tombstone Tuesday and is exactly what it sounds like. I’ll be sharing a tombstone with you but this person is not from my family. This tombstone is a lesson entitled “Not Everything is Where You Expect to Find It.”

Sarah Ball, wife of John A. Ball, died on 20 October 1904 aged 49 years, 3 months, and 15 days.

Tombstone for Sarah Ball

Her tombstone is a simple unpolished, gray marble stone with a elegant round carving of flowers at the top.

Detail from Sarah Ball’s tombstone

The back of the tombstone has damage with some significant chipping at the top back portion.

Damage to Sarah’s tombstone

Even with damage, Sarah’s ancestor’s would be happy to find her tombstone. It’s clearly carved, it’s in fairly good shape, and it gives some good genealogical data. We can generate her birthdate of 05 July 1855 based on the tombstone information. We find Sarah living with her husband and son in Lawrence Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania, in 1900[1] shortly before her death. The complete household looks like this:

  • John A. Ball, age 53, white male, born September 1846, married 30 years
  • Sarah Ball, age 45, white female, born July 1854 (varies from calculated date by one year), married 30 years
  • Ray Ball, age 9, white male, son, born February 1891
  • Ester Walker, age 3, white female, niece, born January 1897

A quick search of Find A Grave yields no results for cemetery pictures for Sarah Ball’s grave marker. With me knowing exactly where the tombstone is right now, this is not an unexpected result. Here is a wider shot of her tombstone.

Sarah’s tombstone in place

Wait, is that prickly pear and cholla cactus in the picture? How can that be? Sarah is from Tioga County, Pennsylvania, and there’s no cactus like that in that region. Where is the grass and other gravestones from the cemetery?

This tombstone is sitting in my side yard in Tucson, Arizona. It’s the only one there. Given that Sarah and her husband John lived their lives in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, how in the heck is her tombstone in Tucson? Through a series of unusual events…

Here is the story as related to me. Sarah died and was buried in a Tioga County cemetery (name unknown) in Pennsylvania. Her family provided her with a beautifully carved headstone. She laid in rest there until the late 1970s. Dam construction in the Tioga County, Pennsylvania, area caused her cemetery (and others) to be moved. The bodies were moved (unconfirmed) but the gravestones did not follow them. The stones were gathered up and piled in great heaps. Eventually, local antique dealers were allowed to come in and purchase the gravestones. My ex-husband Bruce’s mother, Barbara (Gilroy) Shutts, purchased Sarah’s tombstone. She gave the headstone to Bruce who had it at his house for a while in Elmira, New York. When he moved out here to Tucson around 2000-2001, he brought Sarah’s tombstone with him. After we were married, the tombstone took up residence in our side yard.

As if it’s not hard enough to track down the females in our family trees, things like this make locating information on them even harder. There is not clear paper trail tracking the movement of Sarah’s tombstone and she’s definitely not buried where her marker is located. Find A Grave (or the internet) didn’t exist before the cemetery was ruined. A search of Google (tioga county cemeteries affected by dam project) bring up a sprawling website related to Tioga history that I didn’t have the patience to search through diligently to find either Sarah or John A. Ball given that they aren’t in my family.

Here’s hoping that someone finds my blog and gets to connect Sarah’s tombstone to their family and add the photo to their files!

[1] 1910 U. S. census, Tioga County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Lawrence Township, ED 141, p. 7B (penned), dwelling 179, family 188, John A. Ball; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 August 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication T623.


52 Prompts in 52 Weeks #6 – Sympathy Saturday – Charles Ward Karthaeuser

The Geneablogger Tribe has a prompt for Sympathy Saturday in which the blogger is encouraged to post about any aspect of the passing of a person. This week I’m choosing to highlight about a person who was not long on this earth and whose passing occurred on this posting date 79 years ago. He was a 1st cousin 2x removed to me. His grandmother was also my great-grandmother, Anna Marie (Karthaeuser) Repsher.

That person is Charles Ward Karthaeuser. He was the son of Charles Ludwig and Carolyn (Franklin) Karthaeuser, longtime residents of Stirling, New Jersey. Charles Ward was born on 21 January 1939 in New Jersey and lived just 20 short days. His passing occurred on 10 February 1939.

Charles had a younger brother named Paul, born in 1947, who I met here in Tucson a few years back. Paul related the story he wasn’t told that he had an older brother until he himself was around sixteen years old.

A quick search of Ancestry, FamilySearch, Find a Grave, and Newspapers.com turns up no results for Charles. With such a short life, it’s not surprising that few records, if any, exist.

So, that’s my short post on Sympathy Saturday for this week.

52 Prompts in 52 Weeks #5 – Friday’s Faces – Who’s Baby is This?

The idea behind the Friday’s Faces from the Past is to post a photo of an ancestor that I can’t identify or some “orphaned photo” that I found at an estate sale or flea market or tell the story behind a cherished family photo. For this week, I’m going with an unidentified person.

I have a photo of a baby that was in one of my grandmother Beatrice (Repsher) Strait’s photo albums that I inherited. The sepia photo, from around the turn of the last century, is glued very securely to black paper. The photo dimensions are 3-1/2 by 5 inches. Nothing is written on the photo or the black paper margins.

The baby is dressed in white, common for the times, and calmly sits cross-legged on a patterned blanket. Both the blanket and the baby are posed on the professional photographer’s ornate wicker chair. The right hand rests on its right thigh and the left hand rests on the arm of the chair. Blonde curls spill down the baby’s forehead and it (not sure if the baby is a boy or girl) has a very serious expression. Its eyes are looking steadily at something; perhaps the photographer, a favorite toy, or the parents. I should probably compare those ears with others in the family.

The photo has been creased in the middle at some point and is slightly damaged. There are two photos on the opposing side of the black paper to which this baby’s photo is glued. The first is of Beatrice Irene Repsher in her 1st Holy Communion dress. The second is one of Beatrice’s brothers also in 1st Holy Communion garb.

The subject of this post is overall a quite attractive portrait. I just adore the baby, its curls, and the ornate chair on which the baby is posed. Now, if I just knew who it was and how they tie into the family tree…

52 Prompts in 52 Weeks #4 – Treasure Chest Thursday – Salt and Pepper Shakers

The prompt for this week calls on the Geneabloggers Tribe to feature family heirlooms or objects of emotional significance. We’re not a rich family so don’t expect paintings by famous artists, gem-studded jewelry, or massive pieces of antique furniture to show up here. Just some humble mementos of times gone by and people long gone.

I would like to share with you a pair of salt and pepper shakers. They belonged to William Henry Hunt who served in the Civil War. Even though they are inscribed with “Gettysburg 1863” he purchased these while on a 1908 trip back to Pennsylvania to visit Gettysburg.

King’s Crown salt and pepper shakers once owned by William Henry Hunt

They are the King’s Crown style of vintage glassware with a dark ruby stain to them. There are a few small scratches here and there to the ruby stain but, considering they are now over 100 years old, are still in excellent shape. The screw-on tops are made of pewter and have no dents. It looks like someone opened the holes a bit more (probably the salt shaker) on one of the tops but not to the point of making the top look ratty. The cut glass at the bottom is intact and has no chips.

The salt and pepper shakers were handed down from William’s wife Hannah to their daughter Audrey to her daughter-in-law Beatrice who handed them down to her grand-daughter, Jodi Lynn Strait.

52 Prompts in 52 Weeks #3 – Wedding Wednesday – Westra-Strait Invitation

This week’s prompt is to display some old wedding photos or scan some wedding invitations and announcements. I have some of those that I can share over the coming weeks.

Even though my parents were divorced in 1980, I’d like to share their wedding invitation. I reserve the right to post photos of my mom in her wedding dress later in the year.

This is the invitation to the wedding of my parents: William Charles Strait, Jr. and Martha Ethel Westra. The front of the cream-colored invitation is embossed (raised up in relief) with the image of wedding bells tied with a ribbon along with embossed lettering at the bottom right. The invitation is cut to look like a book or a bible.

The front of the invitation

The inside of the invitation has all the pertinent information to get the wedding couple and their invited guests to the church on time. They were married in St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church on Halsted Street in Newton, New Jersey. Martha’s father is Albert Westra. They were married on a Saturday, September 20th in 1958 at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Their reception was held at the Newtonian Inn (now the Hampton Diner) on Route 94 in Newton.

The inside of the invitation

For those of you who are curious: No, I never ever use my mother’s maiden name on any security questions that websites may ask you to answer. Even if I didn’t have her maiden name on this blogpost, it’s just way too easy to find out information like that online nowadays.

There you have it. A wedding invitation in response to this week’s Wedding Wednesday prompt.

52 Prompts in 52 Weeks #2 – Tombstone Tuesday – Susanna (Belles) Williams

This prompt is for Tombstone Tuesday and is exactly what it sounds like. I’ll be sharing a family tombstone with you. The tombstone below is for Susanna (Bellesfield or Bellesfelt or Belles) Williams[1] who was my 4th great-grandmother. Her marker is a beautiful gray color and has what is called, in the monument business, a half round shape. I can discern no decorative carving on the marker at the top.

Photo added to Find A Grave by louise floria

Here’s how the line goes back from me:

Jodi Lynn Strait, who is daughter of
William C. Strait, Jr. (+Martha Westra), who is son of
…….Beatrice Irene Repsher (+William C. Strait, Sr.) who was daughter of
………George Arthur Repsher (+Anna M. Karthaeuser) who was son of
…………John Joseph Repsher (+Caroline Bonser) who was son of
……………Suzanna Williams (+Jacob H. Repsher) who was daughter of
………………Suzanna Belles (or Bellesfelt or Bellesfield) (+Joseph Williams)

Susanna’s tombstone is located at a rural church called St. John’s which is an Evangelical Congregational Church. I believe this church was also known as Custard’s Church. The church is still active today and the cemetery seems to be well-maintained based on the pictures found at Find A Grave.

The churchyard itself is located on North Easton Belmont Pike in Bartonsville in Monroe County in eastern Pennsylvania just south of current Interstate Route 80. It north of the intersection of N. Easton Belmont Pike and Custard Road. You can see grave markers on both sides of North Easton Belmont Pike which runs through the cemetery from north to south. The GPS coordinates for the churchyard are: 40.99242, -75.28489. Google Maps has a nice view of the cemetery (clicking on the image below will bring it up in a new window and it is easier to see): 

Source: Google Maps

Zooming out on Google Maps a bit gives you a good feel for where the cemetery is in location to current Route 80 (again, clicking on the image below will bring it up in a new window and it is easier to see) and the town of Bartonsville:

Source: Google Maps

As you can see from the Find A Grave picture, the tombstone was broken at some point and now has two metal braces holding the stone together and upright. The wording is a bit hard to read but I can make out the following:

wife of
Joseph F. Williams
May 9, 1808
Aug. 18, 1869
61 yrs, 3 mths,
& 9 days

There is some sort of saying at the bottom of the tombstone that is not possible to make out from the picture alone. Besides the lettering being slightly filled in by mold/lichen growth, the bottom of the saying is obscured by grass and leaves. I am curious if seeing the stone in person would help with reading the saying or if age/weathering has done it in. I would also like to see where her husband Joseph’s marker [2] is in relation to Susanna’s marker. Find A Grave is a treasure for pictures of tombstones within a cemetery but not so much for the physical locations in the cemetery itself. Perhaps some exploration of this cemetery on my next research trip?

I like that someone, possibly a family member or the church itself, took the time to fix the tombstone. So many times, broken tombstones are left to the elements, vandalized, or just removed when a cemetery is moved for a dam or reservoir. I like that the lettering on it is still fairly legible given its age of almost 150 years, assuming it was placed in 1869. I like that Susanna’s birth and death dates are consistent with the years, months and days also on the stone.

And that’s this Tuesday’s prompt… Glad to have Susanna’s tombstone in the family collection.

[1] Tipton, Jim, compiler, “St. John’s Cemetery,” digital image, Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 03 April 2017), entry for Susanna Williams, memorial #93923843.
[2] Tipton, Jim, compiler, “St. John’s Cemetery,” digital image, Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 03 April 2017), entry for Joseph Williams, memorial #93923929.

52 Prompts in 52 Weeks #1 – Amanuensis Monday – 1976 Postcard

Welcome to the first post of my 2018 project!

An amanuensis is a person whose job is to write down what another person says or to copy what another person has written. This particular Monday prompt is designed to encourage bloggers to transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. I think this postcard fits into either the letter or the historical artifacts category.

My aunt, Mercedes (Strait) Scabet, received the postcard pictured below in 1976 when her aunt, Bernice (Strait) Wood, was traveling in Europe. Bernice’s brother, Williams Charles Strait, Sr., was Mercedes’ father. Here is the family connection:

(Clicking on the Family View Report above will bring it up in another window with much clearer format.)

The front of the postcard has a view of some distinctive buildings, very German looking. There is also a fountain in the foreground on the left.

Front of the postcard

The descriptions [and translation/explanation] on the back of the postcard read as follows:

At the top left corner
Gastastätte Burgruine Landshut [restaurant named Burgruine Landshut like the castle nearby]
Inh. Barbara Rüter [proprietor’s name]
555 Bernkastel-Kues, Tel. 0 65 31 / 24 91 [address and phone number]

At the bottom left corner
555 Bernkastel a. d. Mosel – Marktplatz [the marketplace in front of the restaurant]

Overlay on the stamp
Bitburg [cancellation city]
An der Pforte De Südeifel [located “at the gate of the southern Eifel” which is a mountain range]

Circular postmark
Bitburg [cancellation city]
-8-6.76-19 [date of 08 June 1976]

Bernkastel-Kues is a city that is split into two by the Moselle River. Bernkastel is to the east of the river and Kues is to the west. It is a well-known wine-growing center on the Middle Moselle in the Bernkastel-Wittlich district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. One of the major attractions, and subject of the postcard, is the medieval marketplace surrounded by spectacular gabled timber-frame houses from the 17th century and earlier. The fountain in the foreground of the postcard picture is called St. Michaelsbrunnen or St. Michael’s fountain.

Google maps has the a view of the city with the castle marked on the river bank at a significant bend. The castle Burgruine Landshut, built in 1277, burned in 1692 and is now just a ruin.

Source: Google maps

I see that the 50 pfg (=fennig, a German penny) postage stamp, picturing a radio telescope, on the back is from a 1975 German series on industry and technology. This matches with the cancellation date of 08 June 1976.

Back of the postcard

The postcard was sent to Sadie’s address of 11 Lincoln Place, Newton NJ 07860. The message from Bernice to Sadie and her husband James Scabet was this:

Hi Folks, I’m having a wonderful time. We have getting [sic] around every minute seeing the sights. We go to London on a five day tour Wednesday. I’ve seen two castles already. They are something. Love, Bernice.

So, what genealogy significance does this postcard have? It tells us a few things:

  • Bernice Wood was alive in June of 1976
  • Sadie and Jim Scabet were living in Newton, New Jersey, on Lincoln Place in 1976

One could use this information to track down deeds to the Scabet’s house on Lincoln Place. One would know not to look for any death record for Bernice before early June of 1976. One could look for 1976 passenger manifests in which Bernice Wood appears.

It didn’t really add anything to my family tree. I just like it for being interesting postcard and enjoyed the little bit of research I did for this blog to find out about Bernkastel-Kues. And I did transcribe a familial historical artifact, the point of the prompt for this week!