Sunday’s Obituary – Ann May (Ranney) Abbott – Died 01-September-2009

Relationship to me: 4th cousin, 2x removed

This obituary was published din the Columbus Dispatch in September of 2009. It is available online at


ABBOTT –  Ann M. Abbott, age 87, of Columbus, died Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at her residence after a courageous battle with cancer. She was born January 23, 1922 in New Albany, Oh. to the late Clark, Sr. and Martha Ranney. She was a graduate of New Albany High School and was retired from Travelers Insurance. Ann will be greatly missed by her loving husband of 60 years, Harry Abbott; daughters, Susan Abbott of Dallas, Tex. and Diane Abbott of Columbus; sister, Carrie (George) McMillin of Columbus; brothers, B. Clark, Jr. (Donna) Ranney, Donald Ranney, Halden (Betty) Ranney, and Robert (Marlena) Ranney, all of Columbus, and brother, Ralph Ranney of Melbourne, Fla.; and numerous nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday, September 5, 2009 at SCHOEDINGER NORTHWEST CHAPEL, 1740 Zollinger Rd., Columbus. Family will receive friends from 4-6 p.m. at the funeral home prior to the service. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Ann’s memory to the American Cancer Society , Franklin Co. Unit, 870 Michigan Ave., Columbus, Oh. 43215. To offer condolences to Ann’s family visit



52 Documents in 52 Weeks #17 – Bernice Strait’s Birth Certificate

Bernice Ruth Strait

Person of Interest: Bernice Ruth Strait
Relationship: Great aunt

Source Citation: New Jersey Department of State, Bureau of Vital Statistics, birth certificate no. 90 (1908), Bernice Ruth Strait; New Jersey State Archives, Trenton.

Document Description: This is a photo copy of the “Certificate and Record of Birth” for Bernice Ruth Strait. Copy is good, the handwriting is neat and readable, and the ink is dark. While this record is on an 8-1/2 x 11 inch paper, it is not possible to determine if this is the original size of the document. On the back, there is a certification from the executive director of the N.J. State Archives that this is a true copy of the original record on file in the archives.

Background information regarding birth certificates in New Jersey: It wasn’t until 1848 that New Jersey started collecting birth records for its citizens and then not until May of 1848. I find the Center for Disease Control’s Where to Write website especially useful for finding information about when different states started collecting vital records and where they’re kept.

For example, if you look at New Jersey and scroll down to the section labeled “Genealogical Birth, Marriage, or Death,”  you see that the New Jersey State Archives holds original birth, marriage, and death records from the period May 1, 1848 to December 31, 1914. You also learn that the New Jersey State Archives also holds microfilm copies of: birth records 1848-1914; marriage records 1848-1914; and death records 1848-1914. These materials are available for in-person use only.

Looking that the top of the page, you learn that the New Jersey State Office of Vital Statistics is where you need to write to get more current birth records. The remarks section says they hold records from 1916 to present. Which begs the question, “If the New Jersey State Archives has the records up to 1914 and the Office of Vital Statistics from 1916 to present, where are the 1915 records?” I suspect the CDC’s website needs just a bit of updating and the 1915 would be at the State Archives. It would be prudent to check with the Archives first before sending any money.

There are a few more rules for ordering more current records:

  • All requests must include a copy of the requestor’s valid identification, payment of the appropriate fee and proof of relationship to the individual listed on the vital record.
  • A State or local Registrar may issue a certified copy of a vital record only to persons who establish themselves as the subject of the vital record, the subject’s parent, legal guardian or legal representative, spouse, child, grandchild or sibling, if of legal age, to a State or Federal agency for official purposes, pursuant to court order or under other emergent circumstances as determined by the Commissioner.
  • All other applicants will be issued a Certification that state the document is not for identification or legal purposes.

Document Scan/Transcription:
State of New Jersey, Bureau of Vital Statistics
Certification and Record of Birth
Use Ink and Write Plainly

Name of Child: Bernice Ruth Strait
Sex: Female
Color: White
Date of Birth: Dec. 5th, 1908
Place of Birth: Warbasse, Lafayette Township, Sussex Co., N.J.

Name of Father: Ora S. Strait
Father’s Birthplace: N.J.
Maiden Name of Mother: Audrey R. Hunt
Mother’s Birthplace: N.J.
Age of Father: 29
Occupation of Father: Farmer
Age of Mother: 20
Occupation of Mother: Housewife
Number of Children in all by the marriage: 1
Number of Children now living: 1
Name and P.O. Address of Professional Attendant in own handwriting: E. B. Potter, MD (signature of professional attendant), Newton, N.J. (P.O. address)
Date of This Report: Dec. 16th, ’08

Analysis: This is a fairly straightforward (pun intended) document but it does have a few interesting things to look at.

  1. The date of the report is only eleven days after Bernice’s birth date. When searching for documents, you should look for things that are recorded as close to the time that the even happened as possible.
  2. The handwriting is the same for the whole document which means that Dr. E. B. Potter was the one filling out the form. A comparison of the “B” in Bernice’s name to the “B” in the doctor’s signature shows it’s the same person filling out all the blanks on the form.
  3. It’s not a delayed birth certificate meaning it wasn’t one issued long after the birth has occurred.

Given that’s there’s such a short time between birth and the recording, I think that this document falls into the original record category. I don’t see any evidence that the record has been modified. It’s also primary information as the doctor has attested that he was the attending physician with his signature. However, you can’t solely rely on this being true as adopted children often are issued a birth certificate that meets the needs of the adoption not of the birth. See my write up on Anna Karthaeuser and her son Charles for an example of this. It’s direct evidence for the question, “When was Bernice Ruth Strait of Sussex County, New Jersey, born and who were her parents?” This document explicitly answers that question without having to incorporate any other documents or evidence.


Bernice Ruth Strait with younger brother Carl

Bernice Ruth Strait was born on 05 December 1908 to parents Ora S. Strait (29) and Audrey R. Hunt (20) in Warbasse, Lafayette Township, Sussex County, New Jersey. At the time her father was a farmer and her mother was keeping house. Both her parents were born in New Jersey. She is the first child of Ora and Audrey as shown by the number of children in all by this marriage being “1” and that the number of children now living is also “1.” Physician E. B. Potter was the attending professional and is an MD from Newton, N.J. (A quick Google search reveals his full name was Emerson B. Potter.) He reported Bernice’s birth on 16 December 1908 to the state of New Jersey, Bureau of Vital Statistics, as required by law at the time. Base on analysis of the document, I’m fairly confident that there’s nothing strange going on here and this is Bernice’s true birth certificate.

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.


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:
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?”


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.


“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.