Relationship to me: maternal 1st cousin
I couldn’t find this obituary on the New Jersey Herald website but found it posted to a United Kingdom Ancestry.com message board. It was physically published in The New Jersey Herald on Friday, February 1, 2002, Page A-2.
WESTRA, JERRY R., 45, Died Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2002, in Green Township. Born in Newton, Mr. Westra lived in Green before moving to Fredon. A 1974 graduate of Sussex County Vocational-Technical School, Mr. Westra was the owner/operator of Jerry Westra Trucking in Fredon for 21 years. He was predeceased by his father, Ewald, on Aug. 16, 1997. He is survived by his wife of 18 years, Judy Petronaci Westra; one daughter Lindsay; one son, Jordan; his mother, Betty Van Auken Westra of Green: his brother, Albert of Newton, Two sisters, Patty Falotico of Stillwater and Kathi Iossa of Cherry Hill; and his grandmother, Etta Westra of Newton. A Memorial service will be held Sunday, 2 p.m., at the First Presbyterian Church of Newton, 54 High St., Newton, NJ. Memorial donations may be made to the Lindsay Westra & Jordan Westra Fund, 7 Francisco Drive, Newton, NJ, 07860. Arrangements are under the direction of the Smith-McCracken Funeral Home, 63 High St., Newton.
Person of Interest: Mercedes Marie Strait
Relationship: Paternal aunt
Source Citation: Mercedes Strait, Newton High School commencement program (1955); Newton Public Schools, Newton, New Jersey; privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017.
Document Description: This is the commencement program for Newton High School for the class of 1955. It is 8 x 15 inches and tri-folded which means there are 6 “pages” in total. The paper is medium weight and cream colored with black print. There are no embellishments, pictures, or embossing.
Invocation…..Rev. Marple Lewis
Flag Salute…..Led by John Power
The National Anthem
Honorary Essay…..Shirley Layton
Honorary Essay…..Saundra Fenner
Music…..Senior Ninettes & Senior Male Vocal Group
Mantle Oration…..William Decker, Barbara Henderson
Honorary Essay…..Elizabeth Boole
Presentation of Prizes…..Dr. James Johnson, Superintendent of Schools
Honorary Essay…..Jane Spangenberg
Presentation of Class…..Frederick L. Weaver, Principal of High School
Presentation of Class Gift…..Richard W. Ayers
Awarding of Diplomas…..David Weidenhafer, President of Board of Education
Awarding of Diplomas…..Dr. J. J. Goldman, Vice President of Board of Education
Listing of Class of 1955, page 1:
Class of 1955
Dorothy Carol Ackerson
Jean Louise Andre
Charles Ronald Ansbach
Harriette Penney Ayers
Richard Willis Ayers
* Nancy Roe Bain
Joseph Anthony Barthel
Martin James Bedell, Jr.
Donald Frederick Begraft
Mabel Elsie Belcher
Robert Leeroy Benson
Roy Rhynier Bischoff
* Sally Bixler
Lester Eugene Blumhagen
* Elizabeth Jane Boole
Ruric William Brandt
Ann Elizabeth Brown
Catharine Howell Buenz
* Carol Halley Christine Byrnes
Estelle Marie Kathryn Campbell
Marion Josophine Cedzidlo
Richard Linus Celli
Edmund Livingston Chammings
Lester Eugene Chammings
Catherine Bernice Chandler
Shirley Ann Chidlress
* Russell Sage Christie, Jr.
* Dolores Frances Clayton
Frederick Dale Current
Beatrice Clare DeAngelis
William Robert Decker
Charles Walter DeGroat
Patricia Joan Delea
Herbert Joseph Demarest
Peter J. Demarest
Robert Lynn Dennis
Ronald James Depuy
Marie Annette DeVincenzi
Joseph Michael DeVita
Betty Jane Donadio
William Robert Doty
Philip Harry Dunlap
James Edward Earnshaw
Robert Leroy Earl
Mary Theresa Eldred
Mildred Beatrice Ellicks
Clarence Theadore Ellingsen, Jr.
Barbara Mildred Felk
* Saundra Ann Fenner
Kenneth Francis Fowler
Marlin Henry Fulkrod
Richard Lawrence Fuller
Harold Elsworth Gibbs
* Lora Grabow
Carol Lee Graham
George Robert Gray
June Edwinna Grimm
Frank George Gromlich
* Hubert William Hagadorn
Patricia Mary Hamilton
Robert Boyden Hamm
William Flomerfelt Hamm
Geraldine Marie Hatley
Diane Lee Helmacy
Alice Jane Henderson
Raymond Charles Henderson, Jr.
Roger Lee Henderson
Gordon James Hennion
Edith May Hooey
Barbara Joyce Hopper
Carol Diane Huff
Carole Kathryn Agnes Hughes
Rosemary Kathryn Hughes
Shirley Ann Huizenga
Brian Dotey Hunt
John Lewis Iliff
Cora Enda Jager
Niela Norene Jager
Charlotte Emma Johnson
Marie Elizabeth Johnson
Harvey William Jorgenson, Jr.
Helen Evelyn Kampka
Linford Nelson Kinney
Manfred William Klein
Listing of Class of 1955, page 2:
Ronald John Klepacky
Jean Elizabeth Kosteini
Jeanette Bertha Kosteini
Phyllis Gloria Kucinski
Maxine Helen Kuhn
Shirley Ruth Landgraff
* Shirley Evelyn Layton
Elaine Helen Lee
William Felix Lehman, Jr.
Frank Henry Lockburner
Marilyn Agnes Lundstrom
Jack Whitten McCall
George Melvin McCoy
Marilyn Jayne McKeeby
Nancy Lee Mack
Rosamond Barbara Martin
Cynthia Patricia Massucci
Virginia Lou Mertens
Anna Marie Margaret Meyer
Thomas Stone Middleton
Marjorie Ann Monsanto
Hugh Theodore Mooney
Carol Mary Mosner
Theodore W. Moss
* Edwin Alfred Nelson, Jr.
Howard Edward Norback
Carolyn Adelaide Nugent
Janice Marie Paugh
Gustave Edwin Paul
Birgit Alma Pearson
Wilfred Edwin Pierce, Jr.
Duane Robert Pierson
Patricia Ann Plotts
Robert Lee Poe
* John Michael Power
Evelyn Roberta Powers
Kenneth Ralph Powers
Rayna Mabel Price
Elizabeth Frances Ramsey
Regine Marie Reuther
William Henry Ruschmeier
Gail Patricia Ryan
Lewis Branton Savacool
* Helen Emily Schaffer
Gayle Marie Scott
Frederick Lloyd Seplow
Norman Card Shawger
Donald Edward Singleton
Margaret Agnes Sisco
Marilyn Marjorie Sisco
* Shirley Ann Skuba
Ronald Swayze Smith
Barbara Ann Spangenberg
* Jane Edith Spangenberg
Kathleen Marie Spaulding
Kurt David Steckley
James Grant Stevens
Janet Doris Stewart
Janet Lynn Stiansen
Mercedes Marie Strait
William Michael Strong
Betty Louise Struble
Patricia Jean Sullivan
* Carol Lee Talley
Lois Mae Titman
Elizabeth Ann Traynor
Wellington Ollie Treible
* Maud Violet Utter
Ralph Marshall VanAuken
Donald Theodore VanDeMoere
Barbara Jane VanOrden
Shirley Martha Vealey
Grant Van Vorhies
Richard John Washer
Elsie Mary Watson
Carol Margaret Elizabeth Weiss
Donald Robert Weiss
Verne E. Whitlock, Jr.
Ralph Dwight Wiley
Dennis Grifford Williams
Luise Rae Williams
Martin Morris Winfield
* Joyce Nettie Young
* National Honor Society
Alma Mater Foldover Page:
Oh! we’re from dear old Newton
The School to us most dear;
It’s the place we love the best
Finest school in East or West
So we will hail the name we all revere:
We love our Alma Mater
Of her glories we will tell.
In everything we take the lead
In sport and though and noble deed.
And so for Newton we will give our yell, Rah! Rah!
Her students all are loyal,
We’ll laud her to the sky
We’ll ever strive with all our might
To keep her honor clear and bright,
The kind of scholars we’re at Newton High.
We hear the should of victory
The thunder of her fame
In every land the world around
There are her sons and daughters found,
And so for them we’ll give a hearty cheer, Rah! Rah!
So here’s to old Newton
Loud we will sing
We’ll tell her praises true to you
In every land they’ll ring.
Then here’s to old Newton
The School we love the best,
Till every purpose be fulfilled in N. H. S.
Board of Education and listing of teachers page:
President…..Mr. David Weidenhafer
Vice-President…..Dr. J. J. Goldman
Secretary to Board…..Mr. Sydenham Palmer
Mr. Robert J. Ford
Dr. Martin Snook
Mr. John Cronin
Mrs. D. L. Spurgeon
Mrs. Charles Thompson
Mrs. Clifford Schmidt
Mr. C. Burnett Freas
James Johnson, Ed. D. ….. Superintendent
Frederick L. Weaver, Ed. M. ….. High School Principal
Paul S. Darling, Ed. M. …..High School Vice President
Helen E. Kinney …… Secretary to the Superintendent
Margaret E. Kittle ….. Secretary to High School Principal
Lena W. Howell ….. Secretary to Attendance
Gladys S. Anderson, B. C. S. ….. Commercial
Lydia Beatty ….. Modern Living
Kathryn Bedell, B. S. ….. English
Richard Bobertz ….. Manual Training
Ralph Bond, B. S. ….. Commercial
Henry Boresch, Ed. M. ….. Physical Education
Howard Bruce, B. S. ….. Commercial
A. Neill Clark, B. S. ….. Physics
Claire Club, B. S. ….. Modern Living
Elizabeth Cole, B. C. S. ….. Commercial
Margaret Connell, M. A. ….. Latin
Warren Cummings, Ed. M. ….. English
Van Davies, B. S. ….. Mathematics
Arthur Disque, M. A. ….. Physical Education
Joseph Esposito, A. B. ….. English
Wilfred Falling, B. Mus. ….. Music
Kathleen Fleck, A. B. ….. English
Frances Francisco, A. B. ….. Mathematics, Science
Gottfred Gebhardt, B. S. ….. Science
Elizabeth Goble, R. N. ….. Nurse
Louis J. Gombosi, Ed. M. ….. Agriculture
Hazel I. Gordon ….. Physical Education
Mildred Graebner, A. B. ….. French, Spanish
Mildred Griggs ….. Commercial
Roberts I. Hardin, M. A. ….. Modern Living
Alice Henry, M. A. ….. Physical Education
Marion Howe, M. A. ….. Mathematics
Barbara Jones, A. B. ….. Art
Francis Lambert, A. B. ….. History
Margaret Mary Linnen, A. B. ….. English
Margaret McCutcheon, Ed. M. ….. Library
George Marshall, A. B. ….. English, History
Frank Matteson ….. Manual Training
Carroll Mynard, B. S. ….. Band, Orchestra
Jean Pascoe, M. A. ….. Guidance
Emily Robbins, Ed. M. ….. Mathematics
Marion Quinn, M. A. ….. History
Eleanor Slack, B. C. S. ….. English
Geraldine Smith, M. A. ….. Speech, Dramatics
John Stump, M. S. ….. Agriculture
Mabel von Loon, B. S. ….. History
Robert Warden, B. S. ….. Mechanical Drawing
Michael Waskowich, B. S. ….. Science
Paul Weaver, Ed. M. ….. Chemistry
Robert Williams, M. A. ….. Mathematics
Analysis: Mercedes Marie Strait was one of 177 students that graduated on 22 June 1955 from Newton High School, Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey. It is unclear if Mercedes graduated in the brand spanking new High School on Ryerson Avenue which was built in 1954 at a cost of $1.25M. The former High School was located on Halsted Street (subsequently converted to a grammar school) and this was where Mercedes spent most of her high school years. I haven’t been able to determine exactly when the new High School opened so Mercedes may have never even had a class in the new building and was at Halsted Street from her freshman to senior years.
I’m glad I took the time to transcribe all the names on the program. One name in particular popped out at me: Donald Fredrick Begraft. Why? Well, because he’s a brother to Douglas Begraft who married Lena Westra who was a sister to Martha Westra who married Mercedes’ brother William Strait. This highlights the benefits of using the F.A.N. (Friends, Associates, and Neighbors) method of researching. From this program, I found his high school graduation date, placed him in Newton (or close vicinity) in 1955, and learned his middle name.
Life is circular. Some of the same teachers that Mercedes and her brother William may have had were also my teachers! English teacher Mrs. Bedell, math teacher Mrs. Robbins, agriculture teacher Mr. Gombosi, and math teacher Van Davies were all still in education when I came through from 1980-1984. I know for sure my dad had Mrs. Robbins as a teacher. I quite liked her but Dad had other opinions since her preference for girls over the boys in the classroom was a bit noticeable.
I also noticed that home economics had been rebranded as “modern living” by 1955. I’m not quite sure what “commercial” was related to since “manual training” is also included in areas of study. Agriculture is not a surprise as Sussex County was still very rural in 1955.
In a nice bit of symmetry, I also had 177 students in my graduating class. However, I did attend high school at the building on Ryerson Avenue and many years after both High Point Regional High School, which opened in 1964, and Kittatinny Regional High School, which opened in 1975, had syphoned students from the Newton School District.
This is an original document passed down to me from Aunt Sadie. It’s primary information in that it’s a listing of all the graduates, teachers, and Board of Education members in 1955 prepared by the school itself that would know specifically who was graduating and who taught the graduates. It is direct evidence (explicit) for the question, “When and where did Mercedes Marie Strait, of Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey, graduate high school?” It tells us definitively that she graduated on Wednesday evening of 22 June 1955. It is indirect evidence on the relationships between Mercedes, her classmates, and her teachers. From this, we can’t tell who shared classroom time with her, who her circle of friends were, or what teachers taught her.
Why bother with a lowly high school commencement program? We’re looking for hard core vital records as genealogists, right? Well, a high school commencement program helps put your ancestor in a particular place at a particular time along with giving you some of their classmates and associates. The program gave me a middle name and graduation date for someone in the family tree I was expecting to see. Analyzing this program also piqued my curiosity enough to search out some of the school history of the Newton Public Schools. No document is too lowly to examine while doing your reasonably exhaustive search!
Relationship to me: 2nd cousin, 1x removed
This obituary was published in Morning Call on September 1, 2005 and was also found online at Legacy.com.
Ernest A. Staples, 73, of Pen Argyl, died Wednesday, August 31, 2005, at his residence with his family at his side. Born in East Stroudsburg on December 13, 1931, he was the son of the late Clarence and Anna (Cobb) Staples. He worked for R&R Toy Manufacturing Co., Pen Argyl, for 28 years and then for the Dally Slate Co. from 1976 until retiring in 2002. He moved to Bangor in 1945 and then to Pen Argyl, where he resided since 1949. He and his wife, Carolyn Vosper, celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary on July 31. He was a former member of the Pen Argyl Green & White Youth Association in its early years, helping make the fields. He played softball in leagues with R&R Toy Manufacturing Co. for more than 20 years. He bowled in a mens Monday night league for more than 30 years and also a Friday night mixed league for many years. He enjoyed camping and traveling for more than 30 years and model railroading for more than 50 years. He was a member of the NCHA Camping Club, the TCA National Train Collectors Association and AARP. He was of the Protestant faith. Survivors: Wife; daughter, Jane Tobias and her husband Robert, grandchildren, Scott Tobias and his wife Sarah, and Tara Wilson and her husband Jason, and great-grandchildren, Alexzander, Elayna and Zackory Tobias, all of Pen Argyl; brother, Lewis Staples of East Stroudsburg. Brothers, LaVern and Clarence Gene Staples, and a sister, Doris Beegle, all preceded him in death. His wife, daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were the loves of his life. He was fortunate to spend so much time with all of them. He will be missed by all! Services: 11 a.m. Saturday, September 3, 2005, in Guerro & Ruggiero Funeral Home, 126 E. Pennsylvania Ave., Pen Argyl. There will be calling hours from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday and one hour prior to services Saturday in the funeral home. Interment will be in Fairview Cemetery, Pen Argyl.
Person of Interest: Abraham Strait and wife, name unknown, and their family of five sons and one daughter
Relationship: 6th great grandparents
Source Citation: J. Percy Crayon, “The Strait Family,” Rockaway Records of Morris County, N.J. Families (Rockaway, NJ: Rockaway Publishing Co., 1902), 189.
Document Description: This is a genealogy book published by J. Percy Crayon (my second cousin, 4x removed) in the early 1900s. He was among the many people swept up in the genealogy craze (not unlike our modern surge in popularity) at the turn of the century when the genealogy hobby was extremely popular. People were exploring their family history and publishing tomes with what they knew (or wanted people to believe) about their lineage. At this time, books were typeset by hand, prone to errors, unsourced, and usually not indexed.
The amount of information crammed into these genealogy books is mind boggling. Crayon’s is no exception. The 300+ page book has the author’s picture in the front and is dedicated to his mother. It is indexed. A digital copy of the book can be found online at Archive.org.
Crayon’s book is broken out as follows:
- Front matter contains his picture, dedication and publishing information.
- Pages 1-58 are an alphabetical listing of persons found in Rockaway Cemeteries.
- Pages 59-80 provide some history of Rockaway and the church there.
- Pages 80-295 are split into chapters based on family names and provide unsourced genealogies for those families.
- Pages 296-297 are related to the Rockaway soldier’s monument and Captain Josiah Hall’s company and those who served with him.
- Pages 297-302 are interments in the Rockaway Cemetery that happened between July 1899 and the completion of the book. It’s handwritten.
- Pages 303-305 contain an index of names.
- Page 306 contains errata from the book.
For the purpose of this blog entry, I will be focusing my analysis on one specific page, 189, from this book.
Document Scan/Transcription: Since this is a typewritten page and very legible, I’m not going to completely transcribe this page. If you click on it, you will be able to read it all on your own. As you can see based on this page, the book has a lot of white space and the margins are quite generous. This, I think, has an impact on the way the book is laid out and the information presented.
Analysis: When I first came across this book, I was in the initial name-collecting phase of my genealogy career. It blew my mind!! Look at all this stuff! Let’s put it wholesale into my Family Tree Maker program without any thought at all!! And I did. Without question.
I’ve since taken some high level genealogy courses to become a better researcher. Eventually coming back around to this particular page has helped me to hone some of my critical thinking skills. I have come across many Strait family trees online (and Find A Grave) that list sixteen children belonging to Abraham and Charlotte (Comer) Strait based on this one page. Here’s my argument on why that is wrong. However, once information is out there, it is very hard to get corrected. This might be one of those cases. I might be fighting an uphill battle, but here goes!
The first paragraph has a very important statement about five sons and one daughter coming over with the “original” Abraham, which makes six children in all that made the trip. That may not be all of their children, just the ones that came over to America. It’s possible there are older children that did not come over with them and stayed in the homeland.
Keeping that first paragraph in mind, it’s obvious that there’s a missing paragraph break at the point where Stephen Strait comes in. Let me show you where that paragraph break should be denoted by the red line:
I believe that the five sons and one daughter of Abraham Strait, his wife, name unknown, are:
- Abraham (2) married Charlotte Comer
- Stephen, married and went to Ohio
- John, went to Tennessee
- Ann, married John Davenport
- Christian (or Christoffel), remained at Milton
- Jacob (born 1740), married Abigail Gould
Further strengthening this is a bit of logic. Let’s look at Abraham (2) and Charlotte’s children with this paragraph break inserted. The ten children of Abraham (2) and Charlotte are then:
- David A., married Sarah Smith
- William C., married Sarah Brown
- John, married Bridget Shaw
- Abraham (3), married Dulcena Dunn
- Eliza, married John Paddock
- Charlotte, married John Dougherty
- Catherine, married Adam Smith
- Lucinda, married Paul Farber
- [daughter, name unknown] married James Paddock
- Jane, married William Dunn
Taking a closer look at some of the ten children brings the following facts to light. William C. (son of Abraham Strait and Charlotte Comer) married to Sarah Brown was born about 1785. That alone rules out Jacob being his brother based on Jacob’s given birth year of 1740. How can someone born earlier than William C. be the youngest of the family? It just does not make sense. Additionally, Lucinda, who was married to Paul Farber, was born around 1795. Again, how can someone born earlier than Lucinda be the youngest of the family? Therefore, Jacob seems to be the son of the “original” Abraham and wife, name unknown, not Abraham (2) and Charlotte Comer.
All of this points to a missing paragraph break (before Stephen Strait is discussed) and adding the paragraph break squares all the listings of parents and children.
Except… That inserting the paragraph break brings up a perplexing date question that needs to be addressed. It seems that Crayon follows the convention of listing all the children in birth order based on examination of other families within the book. Given that, we can take a stab at estimating Abraham (2)’s birth year, if the following items are true:
- Crayon listed children in birth order
- Children were born 2 years apart (customary during the time)
- There are no missing children between Abraham and Jacob
- There are no twins/triplets/etc.
- Jacob’s birth year of 1740 is presented correctly
Estimated birth years of the five sons and one daughter of Abraham Strait, his wife, name unknown, are:
- Abraham (2), estimated birth year of 1730
- Stephen, estimated birth year of 1732
- John, estimated birth year of 1734
- Ann, estimated birth year of 1736
- Christian (or Christoffel), estimated birth year of 1738
- Jacob, birth year stated as 1740
Pegging Abraham (2)’s birth date at around 1730 gives me the following timeline of family events for Abraham (2) and Charlotte Comer based on children that have verifiable birth years:
This would mean that Abraham (2) didn’t start having his family until he was about 53 years old; there’s one child older than William C. and let’s assume that David was born two years before William. It also means Jane, the youngest daughter born 15 May 1805, wasn’t born until he was 75 years old… Hmmm… This seems highly unlikely. And if Charlotte were anywhere near Abraham’s age, I would say it’s just not likely that she gave birth at 75 years of age. That may suggest that Charlotte was a much younger woman that Abraham. All we know about her, from Crayon, is that she was born at sea. We don’t know when she arrived in America or how old she is.
Something more substantial than estimating a birth year at 1730 for Abraham (2) needs to be located. And that’s the fun of genealogy! There’s always something to investigate or documents to be discovered.
Even with this question of Abraham (2)’s birth year, I still think that there is a missing paragraph break and that the five sons and one daughter of the “original” Abraham and his wife, name unknown, are: Abraham, Stephen, John, Ann, Christian and Jacob.
I have to say thank goodness for modern technology where a book like this can now be produced, corrected on the fly, footnoted and/or end-noted, and indexed with much more ease. I would love to see what J. Percy Crayon’s working notes for this page actually looked like. For now, I’m going against the grain and listing ten children for Abraham and Charlotte where most others have sixteen.
 1850 U. S. census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Vernon, p. 65B, dwelling 347, family 358, William Strait; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 17 November 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 464. And 1860 U. S. census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Vernon, p. 42 & 43 (penned), dwelling 292, family 292, William C. Strait; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 04 July 2013); citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 709. And 1880 U. S. census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Hardyston, ED 178, p. 5 (penned), dwelling 38, family 39, William Strait; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 17 November 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 798.
 1850 U. S. census, Scott County, Iowa, population schedule, District 4, no page number, dwelling 641, family 679, Paul Farber; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 October 2005); citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 188. And 1860 U. S. census, Henry County, Illionois, population schedule, Hanna, p. 410 (penned), dwelling 53, family 52, Paul Farber; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 October 2005); citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 182.
 Stockholm Methodist Episcopal Church Cemetery (27 Route 515, Stockholm, Sussex County, New Jersey), Jane Dunn marker; photo taken by Jodi Lynn Strait, 19 December 2011. Stone is repaired but was broken into 4 pieces at some point.
Pictures from Tante Hanna (Johanna (Pauw) Verhaar) folder.