52 Documents in 52 Weeks #37 – William Struss’s Family Group Sheet

Helen (Repsher) Struss

Person of Interest: William and Helen Struss
Relationship: Great grandaunt and husband (Helen and my grandmother Beatrice were sisters)


Source Citation: Anna (Karthaeuser) Repsher, compiler, “Family Record of J. J. Repsher Jr. and Caroline Repsher nee Bonser,” handwritten family group sheets, Netcong, New Jersey, 1911-1970, p. 87; privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, Arizona, who inherited the copies of the originals from grandmother Beatrice Strait who inherited them from mother Anna Repsher who compiled them. This handwritten sheet does not offer a list of materials used and contain no specific documentation for any piece of data.


Document Description: This is a copy of a family group sheet found in Anna Repsher’s compilation of the John Joseph and wife Caroline (Bonser) Repsher’s family and descendants. It is 8 1/2 by 11″ and is regular (not college ruled) notebook paper. Copy of the compilation was passed from compiler Anna (Karthaeuser) Repsher to daughter Beatrice (Repsher) Strait to Beatrice’s granddaughter Jodi Lynn Strait. The original compilation was with Elaine Struss-Feret but upon Elaine’s death in 2016 passed to Georgana (Smith) Repsher. The original is still be updated with information obtained each year at the John J. and Caroline Repsher family reunion held each year at Weona Park in Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania, on the third Sunday of July.


Document Scan/Transcription:
William Struss
William Struss born Sept 17-1906
died Aug 25-1955
son of John Struss from Germany

Helen H. Repsher (wife) born Sept 10-1911
died [blank]
daughter of George Repsher and Anna Karthaeuser

married July 2-1942

Children of marriage
1-Boy born dead Feb 15-1943
2- Elaine Marie born Sept 11-1949
weight 5 lbs 10 oz

Married in St. Michael’s church Netcong N.J. attendants William Strait Sr
and Beatrice Strait at 8 P.M. Father Lange officiating
Helen graduated from St. Michael’s Grammar School June 21-1925
Helen baptised [sic] in St. Michael’s church Sept 24-1922
Helen confirmed in St. Michael’s church June-1923

Elaine Marie Baptised [sic] Oct 9-1949 in St. Michael’s church Netcong N.J.
Sponsors Adam Repsher and Beatrice Strait at 1:30 P.M.
Father Lange Officiating

William Struss was electrocuted in Branchville working on his
job at time of big flood disaster year of 1955
Elaine Struss graduated June 15-1967 Netcong High School


Analysis: The decision on what family group sheet to share was a process. I wanted one of the 196 pages in the compilation to provide a good example of the types of things my great-grandmother included on her handwritten family group sheets. But a good genealogist doesn’t post things on the living so that knocked a lot of sheets out of contention since, without some extra research, I couldn’t guarantee that all the children listed with the family were deceased. Also, there were some considerations with the notations that talked about children born out of wedlock or adopted either into or out of the family. Some of that information might not be common knowledge within the family.

Even though there’s no death date filled in for Helen Repsher, she did pass away on 23 December 1990.[1] And the same holds true with Helen’s daughter Elaine who recently passed away on 07 December 2016.[2] As such, this sheet was a safe pick for the blog.

An examination of the handwriting on this page shows that the same person recorded all the information on the sheet. An examination of the ink also shows that all the information on the sheet was recorded at the same time. There is no variation in script or ink. Since William Struss died in 1955 and Elaine was recorded as graduating in 1967, I suspect that my great grandmother, Anna (Karthaeuser) Repsher sat down to record all of this information between 1967 and her death in September of 1970. There is also a very real possibility that some of the information was copied at that time into this compilation since a notation on the first page indicates that it was “started Jan 20th, 1911.” It makes me suspect that someone has another Repsher family compilation even older than this one.

Anna was pretty consistent in the format of all her family group sheets. She started with the name of the family (father) as the first line of the sheet. At the top, she then recorded the applicable information about the father (birth, death, parents) and the mother (birth, death, parents) and right after that their marriage date. Following the marriage date were the children from the marriage or a notation that there were no children. Sometimes, if the children were married, spouses were noted. If the children were multiples (twins) that is noted. The bottom half of the sheet was reserved for additional information like baptisms, schooling, marriage details, etc.

I like this page because it has a lot of little notations that help to fill out family of William Struss. We learn that William and Helen were married in Netcong, New Jersey, in the evening at 8 pm by Father Lange at St. Michael’s Church. They were attended by Helen’s sister Beatrice and her husband William Strait. We learn the Helen graduated in 1925 from grammar school, baptized in 1922 (eleven years after her birth), and confirmed in 1923. We learn that their daughter Elaine was born in 1949 and baptized that same year. We learn that the family suffered losses when William and Helen had to bury a stillborn son in 1943 and when William was tragically killed while on the job in 1955. We learn their daughter Elaine graduated from high school in Netcong in June of 1967. We learn that there was a big flood in 1955. We even learn the tiniest detail that Elaine weighed 5 pounds and 10 ounces when she was born.

The thing I don’t like about the sheet (and the compilation in general) is that it’s completely unsourced. Anna may have been present her granddaughter Elaine’s birth but I’m pretty sure that she didn’t participate in William Struss’s birth in 1906 in Germany. Each sheet in this compilation must be examined carefully and each piece of information analyzed. She also does not normally record the birth or death places. Occasionally, a marriage place is recorded.

This is an authored work even though it is unpublished. Anna presents all the information in a unique format that no one else has done. She chose how to present it and what to include. It is a hybrid of both primary, secondary and undetermined information. Anna would know the birth dates of her children and her marriage date but items around her parents, in-laws, and extended family would come from other sources. The evidence is varied in that, depending on the research question, it could be direct (explicit), indirect (not explicit) or even negative.

CONCLUSION

This family group sheet provides a wonderful jumping off point for research into William Struss’s family. Since it is unsourced, I consider the information found within it “clues” about where to go look for original documents and primary information. Next steps would involve locating a marriage record for William and Helen, searching for a death record for William Struss, digging up church records for everyone listed, ferreting out information about a great flood in 1955, and finding newspaper articles about William’s accident. When looking at family group sheets, whether handwritten like this one or a pre-printed form that’s been filled in or typed up, the good genealogist will evaluate both the reliability of the recorder and the information found within. This is a case of trust my great grandmother but verify!


[1] “Helen Struss,” obituary, newspaper clipping, 25 December 1990 (penned), unidentified newspaper [most likely the New Jersey Herald]; Strait family newspaper clipping, privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017.  Inherited in 2010 by Ms. Strait from her grandmother Beatrice (Repsher) Strait Guirreri of Newton, New Jersey.
[2] Elaine M. Struss-Feret Memory Card, 2016; privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ 85757, 2017.  Elaine M. Struss-Feret paper memory card created by Morgan Funeral Home in Netcong, New Jersey, for funeral services. Lists full birth and death dates.

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