52 Documents in 52 Weeks #24 – J. Percy Crayon’s Book

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.

J. Percy Crayon

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:

  1. Abraham (2) married Charlotte Comer
  2. Stephen, married and went to Ohio
  3. John, went to Tennessee
  4. Ann, married John Davenport
  5. Christian (or Christoffel), remained at Milton
  6. 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:

  1. David A., married Sarah Smith
  2. William C., married Sarah Brown
  3. John, married Bridget Shaw
  4. Abraham (3), married Dulcena Dunn
  5. Eliza, married John Paddock
  6. Charlotte, married John Dougherty
  7. Catherine, married Adam Smith
  8. Lucinda, married Paul Farber
  9. [daughter, name unknown] married James Paddock
  10. 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.[1] 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.[2] 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:

  1. Abraham (2), estimated birth year of 1730
  2. Stephen, estimated birth year of 1732
  3. John, estimated birth year of 1734
  4. Ann, estimated birth year of 1736
  5. Christian (or Christoffel), estimated birth year of 1738
  6. 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,[3] 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.

[1] 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.
[2] 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.
[3] 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.


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