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.


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.


52 Documents in 52 Weeks #35 – Jodi Lynn Strait’s Scrapbook

Person of Interest: Jodi Lynn Strait
Relationship: Me!

Source Citation: Newton Steamer Co. No. 1 page, in Jodi Lynn Strait Scrapbook, 2003-2012; privately held by Miss Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017. This scrapbook was created by Jodi Lynn Strait in the early 2000s. It contains hand-crafted (not digital) and embellished pages related to Miss Strait, parents, paternal and maternal grandparents, and paternal great-grandparents.

Document Description: This is one page out of a multi-page album that has no page numbers. This particular page highlights my Dad’s service in the Newton Fire Department Steamer No. 1 company. It has two photos, a fire truck embellishment, descriptions, photo caption, and some cropped photos. The page is 12 x12 inch in dimension and on heavy grey cardstock.

Background on scrapbooking: Over the centuries, scrapbooking has been a popular hobby. Scrapbooks can contain all sorts of things: photos, newspaper clippings, locks of hair, drawings, post cards, personal letters, genealogy tidbits, handwritten notations, greeting cards, ephemera, clues to things like religious affiliations, occupations, and memberships, and much more.

This century, the popularity of scrapbooking hit its peak in 2004 right before the economic downturn[1] caused people to spend less of their disposable income on hobbies. Paper scrapbooking, incorporating expensive papers and embellishments, became less popular as digital scrapbooking became more available.

I have photos in my files of an early 19th century scrapbook prepared on my ex-husband’s Normandin family. The page below was created by a Normandin family member and commemorates the marriage and children of Eugenie St. Hilaire and Zepherin Normandin.[2] Their pictures are at the center of the page. The hand-colored, drawn pink ribbon around the couple’s photos tells the names of their children and provides their birth dates and sometimes death dates. There is gold embellishment/ink and little nails are drawn to “hold” the ribbon onto the page.

A page from the Normandin scrapbook

Another scrapbook in the family was my Aunt Sadie’s Shirley Temple Scrapbook that her mother (my grandmother) Beatrice Irene (Repsher) Strait used to collect all the cards and gift tags that Mercedes was sent. I used this scrapbook as last year’s Sepia Saturday project.[3] Unfortunately, the paper within the scrapbook was not archival quality; it was literally flaking apart every time it was touched, moved, or opened. As such, I chose to take the items off of the pages, scan them, and store them in archival files. But first, I made sure to photograph  the whole album in it’s entirety to preserve the layout of the original and to preserve all the handwritten notations on the pages that were lost with the removal of the items.

A page from Mercedes Strait’s Shirley Temple Scrapbook

You can see the difference between the two pages with regards to content. The Normandin scrapbook is more of a genealogical record and my aunt’s is more of a memorial of things sent to Aunt Sadie. Even with the differences in content that can happen between various scrapbooks, searching them out can be worth the time and effort.

Document Scan/Transcription:
Newton Steamer Company #1
My father, William Charles Strait, Jr. served in the Newton Fire Department from around 1968 to 1980. He trained for service at the County Homestead where there was a school. The fire he remembers most was the fire that completely burned the Williams and Hibler Lumberyard and 2 neighboring houses in August 1970. Twenty companies responded to that fire. When he first joined, there were a lot of out of town fires since Newton FD covered a large area. This gradually decreased as the outlying areas got their own engines and equipment. Barn fires were common and tricky to put out.

Right: Bill drives the team pulling the antique engine used in town parades.

[Caption for group photo] Bottom Row, Left to Right: Jim Mills, Frank Sisco, Chester Zucowski, Don Lance, Chief John Garrigan, George Bird, Jr., Earl Decker, George Danley, Clarence Danley
Middle Row, Left to Right: Charly Gorkey, William Strait, “Chip” Odgen, Craig Bough, Ronnie Van Hise, Jack Blauvelt, Edmund Zucowski, Jr., Everett “Buddy” Sisco
Top Row, Left to Right: Bob Elchin, Billy Wagner, Parker “Parky” Pearson, Jack Coates, Jimmy Scabet, Ed Kragowski, Kurt DeGroat, Mr. Pelt, Dave “Roach” DeGroat

Analysis: Scrapbooking really goes hand-in-hand with genealogy. Both are a way for someone to get the story of their family into a form for others to understand or view. Scrapbooking is a visually pleasing way to do that. I used this scrapbook to gather the stories, interests, photos, and artifacts of my family into one place.

While putting the pages in the scrapbook together, I tried to pull in a lot of little details relating to the person or topic. For example, on the Steamer Company #1 page the cut outs of the badges and wool patches are actual scans (not to size) of my father’s artifacts. The group photo includes him in the uniform he wore while serving with the Steamer Company #1. I asked him about the fires he fought and incorporated that into the short narrative. The other photo shows him driving the team used to pull the antique fire engine that was used in the town parades.

On a page for my maternal grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary,[4] I have incorporated a copy of their original marriage license on a tag tied to their picture with gold thread, a photograph and corresponding newspaper article that ran in the local paper, and their marriage and 50th anniversary dates.

On a page for my paternal grandmother,[5] I tried to simulate the look of a 1920s greeting card since that’s about when the pictures displayed on the page were taken. The purple is reminiscent of her love of violets and the flowers resemble those. I included a short biography of her along with a picture of her with her parents, George and Anna Repsher. This largest photo is a school photo.

On a page for my paternal grandfather,[6] I wanted to give the viewer a feel for the sort of man my grandfather grew up to be. He was an oak tree of a man; very tall, massive hands, and stoic. A short biography is included at the bottom left. A bittersweet photo of him standing in the graveyard next to his father’s tombstone shows how young he was when he lost his father. The photo of him in winter clothes gives a feel for the types of buildings and country he experienced as a boy. The focal point of the page is a school photo.

The scrapbook from which the Steamer Company #1 page came from is an authored work. It is a unique creation based on how and what I chose to incorporate into each page. The information found on the page is a mixture of both primary (firsthand) and secondary information. My dad knew what fires he fought and shared his recollections with me. The caption on the group photo is secondary in that I’m taking my father’s word for who each person was in the fire department at the time. The evidence is indirect for the research question, “Did Bill Strait of Sussex County, Newton, New Jersey, serve in Steamer Company #1 in Newton during the 1970s and 1980s?” Yes, the page implies that he served but there is nothing directly connecting Bill to the Steamer Company, no roster or roll from the fire department is present.

Scrapbooks, like family bibles, can be anywhere. I’ve found them with family members, in historical societies, in libraries and archives, and sometimes on-line. Be creative in where you think to look for these!


Scrapbooks can run the gamut from being just of a collection of newspaper articles to being very artistic with fancy embellishments and artwork. Some are chockfull of genealogical information. Since they are usually kept with the family or the person who create them, scrapbooks can be hard to find but worth the effort to ferret out.

[1] http://scrapbooking.lovetoknow.com/Scrapbooking_Industry_Statistics
[2] Zephirin Normandin and Eugenie St. Hilaire, marriage page with portrait of the couple, in Marie Elmire Normandin Scrapbook, ca. 1850-1920; privately held by Mrs. Evelyn Worth, Penn Yan, Pennslyvania, 2011.
[3] Mercedes Strait’s Shirley Temple Scrapbook, pink bunny card page, 1936-1945; privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017. Original scrapbook exists only in digital format now. Individual items were removed and stored in archival folders.
[4] Westra’s 50th anniversary page, in Jodi Lynn Strait Scrapbook, 2003-2012; privately held by Miss Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017.
[5] Beatrice Repsher’s violet page, in Jodi Lynn Strait Scrapbook, 2003-2012; privately held by Miss Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017.
[6] William Strait’s acorn page, in Jodi Lynn Strait Scrapbook, 2003-2012; privately held by Miss Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017.

52 Documents in 52 Weeks #34 – Henry McMahon’s Burial Plot

Person of Interest: Henry McMahon
Relationship: Brother-in-law of my 1st great grand uncle

Source Citation: Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, “Catholic Cemeteries,” database, Catholic Cemeteries: Archdiocese of Newark (http://www.rcancem.org/find-a-loved-one-search/ : accessed 14 January 2012), Henry McMahon (1942).

Document Description: The word “document” is used here very loosely. The search for Henry McMahon on this website (www.rcancem.org) yields two results, one of which is for the Gate of Heaven cemetery. Clicking on that particular entry brings up a nice screen that has his burial date, plot, and a google map showing were he is in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery located at 225 Ridgedale Ave, East Hanover, New Jersey. I screen clipped this and saved it as the document. This source is really a cemetery database. Surprise! Not every grave listing is on FindAGrave or BillionGraves. I happened to find this particular database when I read a blurb in the New Jersey Genealogy Society newsletter about the work that the Archdiocese of Newark was doing in getting these listings online.

mcmahon-henry-plot-locationDocument Scan and Transcription:
A ministry of the Archdiocese of Newark
Henry McMahon
Henry McMahon was buried on 05/18/1942 at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Sec-38 Blk-B Tr-K Gr-51 1A.
[google.map here, with location pinned, in satellite view]

screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-3-58-01-pmAnalysis: I had a clue on where to look for Henry’s burial place. In my great-grandmother’s family group sheet binder, she made a note about Henry’s death. Henry is a brother to Margaret who married one of my great grand uncles, Lewis Allen Repsher.[1] I wasn’t actively researching his branch of the family but it was nice happenstance when I read the  blurb about the database. The Archdiocese of Newark is still adding to it. They have a note stating that it’s updated daily and that work is being done to add new cemeteries. screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-11-18-20-am

They also specifically state in this notice that “If you have questions or need additional information concerning individual records, we suggest you contact the cemetery directly to discuss your findings.”

This is a database and as such makes this record a derivative record source. This means the original record has been transformed in some way. In this case, the Archdiocese of Newark has taken the original records, transcribed them, combine them with other catholic cemetery records, indexed them and made them searchable. It looks nothing like the original (whatever form that is, we don’t know) and is subject to errors of transcription or omission. You are relying on the person updating the records to be accurate and diligent during in their entry.

It is primary information in that this comes from the cemetery that buried Henry. Someone was there to witness the hole digging, collect the fee for the burial, erect the gravestone (if there’s one), cover him up, and record where they planted him.

It is direct evidence in that it answers quite explicitly the research question, “When and where was Henry McMahon of New Jersey buried?” It’s indirect in that it somewhat answers the question, “When did Henry McMahon of New Jersey die?” We can answer it with “sometime before the 18th of May in 1942” but that’s all we can say. We need other evidence to combine with this in order to find out a more specific death date.


This “document” is more than sufficient for entering Henry McMahon into my family tree. He’s on a collateral branch and not a research focus for me at this time. However, this is definitely an interim research step. I would need to either contact the Gate of Heaven cemetery directly, as recommended by the Archdiocese of Newark who maintains the database, for their detail or make a trip to (or have someone else) go take a picture of the tombstone. Databases that don’t have original images attached are a stepping stone to finding the original records and digging deeper into your person of interest.

[1] 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. 77; privately held by held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2017.

52 Documents in 52 Weeks #32 – Jacob Newhart’s 1900 Census

Person of Interest: Jacob Newhart
Relationship: Husband of 2nd great grandaunt Ann Maria Bonser (sister to Caroline Bonser, my 2nd great-grandmother)

Source Citation: 1900 U. S. census, Carbon County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Lower Towamensing Township, ED 11, p. 14B (penned), dwelling 279, family 300, Jacob Newhart; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 July 2017); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1390.

Document Description: These documents are part of the Twelfth Census of the United States which was taken in 1900, at the turn of the century. It is the twelfth census taken since 1790. The U.S. census counts every resident in the United States. It is mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution and takes place every 10 years. The  U.S. Census Bureau is responsible for taking the censuses. After 72 years (and not before owing to privacy reasons), the records are released to the public by the National Archives and Records Administration. In accordance with the 72-Year Rule, the National Archives released the 1900 records to the public in 1972.  The U.S. Census Bureau provides the interested researcher a great overview of each census. In the 1900 overview, we find that “Hawaii, which had been annexed in 1898, was included in the census for the first time.” Census day for this census was 01 June 1900 and William McKinley (left, Photo Source: http://www.census.gov) was the president on that day.[1]

Per the 1900 overview:

“In the act authorizing the 1900 census, Congress limited census content to questions dealing with population, mortality, agriculture, and manufacturing. Reports on these topics, called “Census Reports,” were to be published by June 30, 1902. The act also authorized special census agents to collect statistics relating to incidents of deafness, blindness, insanity, juvenile delinquency, and the like; as well as on religious bodies; utilities; mining; and transportation, among others. These statistics were to be collected following the completion of the regular census. The preparation of the special reports developed from these statistics was to be accomplished in such a way so as to not interfere with the completion of the Census Reports.”

Both Ancestry.com (fee site) and FamilySearch.org (free) offers digitized copies of the census and are searchable by name.

Document Scan/Transcription: Numbers relate to columns on the population schedule.

Page 3 Header
State: Pennsylvania; County: Carbon; Name of Incorporated Place: Lower Towamensing Township; S.D. No.: 3; E.D. No.: 11; Enumerated by me on the 26th day of June, 1900; Enumerator: Ambrose E. Noll; Sheet No.: 14B.

Page 3B Detail
lines 52-58, Caroline, Robert and William Repsher, Lilian, Jennie and Elizabeth Cobb, and Harry Sharbaugh Jr. [respectively with ; between]

Place of Abode
Street Name: [blank]
House Number: [blank]
1. Dwelling number in order of visitation: 279
2. Family number in order of visitation: 300

3. Name: Newhart, Jacob; —-, Ann M; —-. Della,; —-. Emma; —-, Mary E.; —-, Harry R.; —-, George E.; —-, Beulah M; Bonser, Emmaline

4. Relation: Head; Wife; Daughter; Daughter; Daughter; Son; Son; Daughter; M-in-law

Physical Description
5. Color or race: W; W; W; W; W; W; W; W; W
6. Sex: M; F; F; F; F; M; M; F; F
7. Date of birth, month and year: Feb 1862; Oct 1860; May 1885; July 1891; Sept 1893; Apr 1895; Apr 1897; June 1899; Mar 1830
8. Age at last birthday: 38; 39; 15; 8; 6; 5; 3; 11/12; 70
9. Whether single, married, widowed, or divorced: M; M; S; S; S; S; S; S; Wd
10. Number of years married: 14; 14; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
11. Mother of how many children: [blank]; 10; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
12. Number of these children still living: [blank]; 7; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]

13. Place of birth of person: Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania
14. Place of birth of father of person: Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania
15. Place of birth of mother of person: Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania

16. Year of immigration to the United States: [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
17. Number of years in the United States: [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
18. Naturalization: [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]

Occupation, Trade, or Profession
19. Occupation: Carpenter; [blank]; [blank]; At school; At school; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
20. Months not employed: 3; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]

21. Attended school:  [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; 6; 3;  [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
22. Can read: Yes; Yes; Yes; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; Yes
23. Can write: Yes; Yes; Yes; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; No
24. Can speak English: Yes; Yes; Yes; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; Yes

Ownership of Home
25. Owned or rented: R; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
26. Owned free or mortgaged: [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
27. Farm or home: H; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
28. Number of farm schedule:  [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]

Analysis: The above listings/transcriptions are a bit hard to read, I admit it. So why go through the pain of typing it all out? It forced me to look at every single box and tick mark and code and notation. So, let’s put the above in a more user-friendly, narrative format:

Jacob Newhart (38, born Feb 1862) and wife Ann M. (39, born Oct 1860) were living in Lower Towamensing Township, Carbon County, Pennsylvania, with daughters Della (15, born May 1885), Emma (8, born 1891), Mary E. (6, born 1893) and Beulah M. (11/12, born June 1899), sons Harry R. (5, born Apr 1895) and George E. ( 3, born Apr 1897), and Ann’s widowed mother Emmaline Bonser (70, born Mar 1830). Jacob was renting the home they were living in when enumerator Ambrose E. Noll visited the household on 26 June 1900 to record the family’s information. Mr. Noll was working in his Supervisor’s District of 3 which oversaw Enumeration District 11. In order of visitation, the family was labeled as living in dwelling #279 and as family #300.

Jacob and Ann had been married for 14 years which makes their marriage year around 1886. Ann had ten children by 1900 of which seven were still living. Widowed mother-in-law Emmaline had eleven children by 1900 of which six were still living. Everyone in the household was born in Pennsylvania as were all their parents. 

Jacob was working as a carpenter and reported that he hadn’t worked three months out of the last year. Two children, Emma and Mary, were at school. Emma went for six months and Mary for three months. Parents Jacob and Ann, along with Della and Emma can read, write and speak English. Mother-in-law Emmaline can read and speak English but was reported as not being able to read it. 

Jacob and Ann Newhart took Emmaline Bonser into their household sometime before 1900. Unless Emmaline was invalid, she must have been a great help to the household with six children under the age of 15. If she was invalid, Ann certainly would have had her hands full running the household.

I was familiar with Monroe County as many of the Repshers are there but had to take a look to see where Carbon County was located in Pennsylvania. Turns out, it abuts Monroe County on the left side:

Carbon County, Pennsylvania

Monroe County, Pennsylvania

Instructions to the enumerators are a good way to make sure you understand what each item on the census means. The instructions for the 1900 are found on a handy website called IPUMS which stands for the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series. From these instructions, we learn a bit about the way the states are divided up:

“74. Township or other division of county.-Every county is divided into parts, and the sum of these parts makes up the whole area of the county. But the names given to these county divisions differ widely. In the north central states, except Wisconsin, and also in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and California they are called townships. In New England, New York, and Wisconsin they are called towns. In the South and far West they are usually called districts or precincts; but in Mississippi they are called beats; in Louisiana wards; in Delaware hundreds.”

Further perusing the instructions for the 1900 census at IPUMS shows that:

  • Care was to be taken to get a person’s exact age. Enumerators were warned that, “Many a person who can tell the month and year of his birth will be careless or forgetful in stating the years of his age, and so an error will creep into the census. This danger can not be entirely avoided, but asking the question in two forms will prevent it in many cases.”
  • Women in the household were to provide the number of children they had and it does provide clarification about stillborn children. “This questions applies only to women, and its object is to get the number of children each woman has had, and whether the children are not living on the census day. Stillborn children are not to be counted.”
  • Some instructions around nativity were provided:
    • Write Ireland, England, Scotland, or Wales rather than Great Britain. Write Hungary or Bohemia rather than Austria for persons born in Hungary or Bohemia, respectively. Write Finland rather than Russia for persons born in Finland.
    • Note, also, that the language spoken is not always a safe guide to the birthplace. this is especially true of Germans, for over one-third of the Austrians and nearly three-fourths of the Swiss speak German. In case a person speaks German, therefore, inquire carefully whether the birthplace was Germany, Austria, or Switzerland.
    • In case the persons speaks Polish, as Poland is not now a country, inquire whether the birthplace was what is now known as German Poland or Austrian Poland, and enter the answer accordingly as Poland (Ger.), Poland (Aust..), or Poland (Russ.).
  • Occupation questions applied to persons 10 years and older. Special care was to be given to ascertain what exactly the person labored at. “Indicate in every case the kind of work done or character of service rendered. do not state merely the article made or worked upon, or the place where the work is done. For example, the reply “carriage builder,” or “works in carriage factory,” is unsatisfactory, because men of different trades, such as blacksmiths, joiners, wheelwrights, painters, upholsterers, work together in building carriages. Such an answer, therefore, does not show what kind of work the person performs.”
  • Space was at a premium in Column 19 (occupation), so some abbreviations were given to the enumerator to use:
  • Occupation instructions were quite extensive. They ran from #153 to #223 with instructions on how to distinguish fisherman, mechanics, peddlers, teamsters, salesman, etc.
  • Home was defined as “By the word “home” in the census is meant any place of abode inhabited by any person or person, whether it is a house, a tent, a boat, or whatever it may be. If any such place of abide is inhabited by more than one family, it is the home of each of them, and it may accordingly be counted as two or more homes instead of one.”

Sometimes, handwritten notations were added after the censuses were compiled. The only hand notation found on the page was a “0976” written at the top right in the header section. The page before this one has “0967,” the page after has “0981,” and the page after that has “0996.” It is unclear what these were being used for or if they were a running tally of some sort.


This was a good exercise in tracking down my 3rd greatgrandmother, Emmaline Bonser, in the 1900 United States census. I found her living with her daughter and son-in-law Ann and Jacob Newhart. While Jacob labored as a carpenter, Emmaline was most likely a significant help to Ann running the Newhart household. The Newhart family in Carbon County, Pennsylvania, was not too far from the rest of the Repshers located in Monroe County.

[1] https://www.census.gov/history/www/through_the_decades/overview/1900.html

52 Documents in 52 Weeks #31 – Shirley Westra’s Wedding Announcement

Person of Interest: Shirley Ann Westra
Relationship: 1st cousin 1x removed (my mother’s first cousin)

Source Citation: “Miss Westra is Bride,” marriage announcement, the Courier-News (Bridgewater, New Jersey), 27 June 1961, p. 12, col. 5; image copy, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/218844987/ : accessed 07 April 2017), Historical Newspapers Collection.

Document Description: This is a digital image of a marriage announcement that ran in the Courier-News of Bridgewater, New Jersey. The entire newspaper page for this day has been digitized and these are the screen clippings.

Document Scans/Transcription:
Miss Westra Is Bride
Bedminster – Miss Shirley Ann Westra, daughter of Mrs. Herman Westra of Springdale, R.D. 1, Newton, and the late Herman Westra, became the bride recently of James Gregory Conroy, son of Mrs. James Conroy of Main St. and the late James Conroy.

The ceremony was performed by the Rev. George Everett in St. Elizabeth’s Church, Far Hills. A reception followed in the home of the bride.

Given in marriage by her brother John Westra of Newton, the bride wore an ice blue brocaded satin gown with a sequin crown and illusion veil. She carried a bouquet of carnations.

Mrs. John Westra of Newton was matron of honor. She wore a blue silk organza over taffeta gown and carried a bouquet of white carnations.

Mrs. Jerome Bird of Far Hills was bridesmaid. She was dressed identical to the matron of honor.

Best man was Harry Metzler of Bedminster. Gary Westra of Newton was an usher.

The bride is a graduate of West Morris Regional High School, Chester. The bridegroom attended Bernards High School in Bernardsville and is employed in Perrone’s Shell Station, Bedminster.

Following a wedding trip to Atlantic City, the couple will reside in Springdale, R.D. 1, Newton.

Analysis: This short article in the newspaper is a treasure trove of genealogical information. From it, we learn the following information:

  • Shirley Ann Westra’s father was Herman Westra
  • Herman Westra passed away before the wedding in 1961
  • Shirley Ann Westra’s mother was still alive as of the wedding in 1961
  • Shirley Ann Westra’s mother resided in Springdale, New Jersey, on R.D. 1
  • Shirley Ann Westra was married around June 1961
  • Shirley Ann Westra married James Gregory Conroy
  • Shirley and John Conroy were married in Far Hills, New Jersey, at St. Elizabeth’s church by the Reverend George Everett
  • James Gregory Conroy’s father was James Conroy
  • James Conroy passed away before the wedding in 1961
  • James Gregory Conroy’s mother was still alive as of the wedding in 1961
  • James Gregory Conroy’s mother resided in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Main St.
  • Shirley Ann Westra had a brother named John Westra
  • John Westra was married prior to the wedding in 1961
  • Shirley Ann Westra graduated from West Morris Regional High School in Chester, New Jersey
  • John Gregory Conroy graduated from Bernards High School in Bernardsville, New Jersey
  • John Gregory Conroy was employe at Perrone’s Shell Station in Bedminster, New Jersey
  • Shirley and John Conroy lived in Springdale, New Jersey in 1961

What we can’t get from the announcement is the exact date of the wedding. While the announcement ran on 27 June 1961, the article only says that the couple was married recently. It may have taken a while for the article to get into the paper. We also can’t discern the name of Shirley’s mother, James Gregory’s mother, or John Westra’s wife. Just based on this article, I suspect that Gary Westra was another brother but the article does not explicitly tell us this information.

We also get some small details about what the bride and some of the wedding party were wearing. I had to look to see what an illusion veil is and it seems to be a veil made of a very gossamer fabric. From the picture of Shirley that accompanied the article, we can see the type of bouquet she was carrying and the style of her dress.

This is an original document in that the wedding announcement appeared in the paper and we seem to have a digitized, true copy of it. This information found within the article is both secondary and undetermined since, most likely, the reporter/editor or typesetter did not witness the wedding firsthand.  They are relying on information that someone else provided to them. The evidence is a mixture of direct and indirect depending on the research question asked.


Newspaper wedding announcements are some handy documents to ferret out for genealogical information. Be aware, though, that wedding announcements can range from very lengthy to very short. It depends on how much information was provided to the newspapers and/or whether the marriage occurred in a church or the couple eloped. This was a nice article that allowed me to enter a husband for Shirley Ann Westra into my family tree. It filled out a few leaves on a branch of the Westra tree.

52 Documents in 52 Weeks #30 – Ann (Ranney) Abbott’s Family History

Person of Interest: Ann May (Ranney) Abbott
Relationship: 4th cousin 2x removed (Abraham and Charlotte (Comer) Strait were Anne’s 3rd great grandparents and my 5th great grandparents)

Source Citation: Ann Ranney Abbott, “Strait Genealogy,” Strait Family descendent report, narrative and photos, 1750-2005; supplied by Abbott, Columbus, Ohio, 2005. This compilation offers only a general list of materials referenced, with no specific documentation for any piece of data. This copy contains photos, family biographies, and copies of newspaper clippings from local Ohio newspapers. Ms. Abbott passed away on 01 September 2009.[1] Current location of the original is unknown.

Document Description: Ann sent this “Strait Genealogy” to me when I corresponded with her in November of 2005 and early 2006. It is a blue, 3-hole report folder with a label on the front. (Pictured to the right.) There are seven 8-1/2 by 11 inch pages in total and she explained, “As you see, I do my genealogy a bit different. I like to read something about my ancestors so if I find interesting info I include it and hope it’s true.”[2] This is not a straight photocopy of the document as what she sent me includes some copies of photos on heavier card stock glued onto the 2nd and 4th pages. All the pages are single-sided except five and six which are on a single sheet.

Document Scan/Transcription: Since Ann has passed away and I don’t have permission from her family to share this with you, I won’t be able to show you the document in its entirety. Bummer, but it keeps me out of copyright trouble! I will provide a general description of what the document contains.

Page 1: Her first page begins with the first generation of Abraham and wife unknown coming from Holland. The six children are listed using the basic descendent report format. While family tree programs will do a nice job of automatically numbering for you, it helps to understand why things are organized the way they are. For a great book about genealogical numbering, please see Numbering Your Genealogy produced by the National Genealogy Society.[3]

She continues with the second generation and has some references listed at the bottom. They are:

  • J. Percy Crayon’s book, Rockaway Records published in 1902
  • Family files at Goshen, Orange County, N.Y. Public Library
  • Elaine M. Mason, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
  • Nancy J. Pascal, Ft. Pierce, Florida

However, Ann does not tell the reader what facts are associated with what references. This is not so unusual; J. Percy Crayon’s book does the same thing as do many home-compiled (published or not) family genealogies.

Page 2: Ann continues with the 3rd generation and has photos of James D. Strait, W. Sherman Strait, and Mary Doran Strait (mother) at the bottom of the page. The page is filled with narrative and mentions Abraham and Charlotte Comer, land deeds, the David Smith farm that the family purchased in Plain Township, Franklin County, Ohio, in 1855, and Maplewood Cemetery, New Albany, Ohio. No references are given on this page.

Page 3: The completion of the 3rd generation occurs on this page and the 4th generation begins with Dennis B. Strait, Ann’s great grandfather. There are no pictures or references on this page, just narrative about Dennis and his life.

Page 4: Continuing the 4th generation, this page has a line drawing of Dennis, a photocopy of his home, and the listing of Dennis and his wife Ann’s children are provided on this page. The line drawing of Dennis appears to be the same one found in the county history discussed last week. At the bottom,  Ann references:

  • N.A. Hist. Soc.
  • Fr. Co. Hist. Soc.
  • Josie Garner
  • family notes

Page 5: Provides the photos of Whitney Strait (top left), Cordelia (Strait) Ranney (top right), and Anna Eliza (Strait) Brooks (bottom left) along with a photo of Anna Eliza and her husband Lewis H. Brooks (bottom right). The last photo has a credit saying it is from grandson Clark Cubbage.

Page 6: This page has photocopies of what look to be clippings from mostly unidentified Ohio newspapers. All articles are about Dennis B. Strait or his children. The first clipping is dated 06 April 1891 and is a lengthy obituary with a crude line drawing most likely inexpertly copied from the fine line drawing above. The second article is a very short death notice about his daughter Dulcena. The third is a 1907 article from the one identified newspaper, the Ohio State Journal.  This article tells about a lamp explosion incident at the Dennis residence that happened 31 years ago. The fourth clipping is another obituary and dated 06 April 1891.

Page 7: This page continues with the 5th and 6th generations. It is all text and slightly confusing as it does not follow the neat presentation method of the family groups as found on page one. The bottom references the Ranney Genealogy.

Analysis: This short genealogy is a great example of an unpublished family history. I’m not sure if Ann provided her local genealogy society with a copy, gave/mailed copies to others, or where else it might reside but I am glad she shared it with me.

This is an authored work as Ann has a particular way of presenting her information that is unique to her. She chose what narratives, pictures, family facts, and references to include. She organized it and laid it out according to her own sensibilities. It is a hybrid of both original and derivative materials. Ann didn’t write the obituaries but chose to pick pieces out of them to enhance her narrative.

The information found in this compiled genealogy is either secondary or undetermined. Since there are no hard links to what facts go with what references Ann makes, there’s no way to determine the reliability or quality of the information provided. Her references to “Fr. Co. Hist. Soc.” could mean that she consulted any number of things or people at that Society. It is unknown if she was looking at vertical files, other people’s genealogies, books, letters, city directories, etc. As a good genealogist, this unpublished family history is a great jumping off point for the location of more original records. It’s a great clue book.

Depending on the multitude of research questions that can be crafted from this source, the evidence found here would be either direct (explicitly stating the answer) or indirect (needing other evidence) or negative. There’s just too much in here to classify it strictly in one classification or another.


Fortunately, for me, Ann was kind enough to share what she had on the Ohio branch of the Straits. I enjoyed reading her narratives and appreciated that she chose to include photos of the people discussed within it. The photos and narrative added to the story of the family and enriched my understanding of them.

Unfortunately, unpublished genealogies could be anywhere: historical societies, libraries, in personal files, on-line, and even languishing on some computer somewhere because some now-deceased author never chose to share it with others. Research and its results are made better when it is shared with others, discussed, analyzed and improved upon. You need to ask yourself: Where in the process am I with my genealogy? I encourage you to write up it up and get that sharing going!

[1] “Ann M. Abbott,” obituary, the Columbus Dispatch [Ohio], 01 September 2009, Online obituaries (www.legacy.com/NS/ : accessed 27 November 2012).
[2] Ann Ranney Abbott, Columbus, Ohio, to Jodi Lynn Strait, letter, 17 November 2005, regarding Strait genealogy; Personal Correspondence, 2005; Strait Family, Strait Document Files; privately held by Jodi Strait, Tucson, Arizona.
[3] Joan Ferris Curran, Madilyn Coen Crane, and John H. Wray, Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems and Complex Families and International Kin, (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogy Society, 2008).

52 Documents in 52 Weeks #29 – Dennis B. Strait’s Biography

Person of Interest: Dennis B. Strait
Relationship: 1st cousin 5x removed (his grandparents are Abraham Strait married to Charlotte Comer, who are my 5th great-grandparents)

Source Citation: The History of Franklin and Pickaway Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of the Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers (n.p.: Williams Bros, 1880), 585.

Document Description: This is a biographical sketch within a larger body of work. Dennis B. Strait has a short biography on page 585 and he also has a lovely line drawing featured in the book along with his signature underneath. He is featured under the section titled “Biographical Sketches” starting on page 584.

Background on county histories: In the late nineteenth century, the writing of county histories blossomed as the country experienced a desire to celebrate the centennial of the country in 1876 along with a a surge in popularity of genealogy. These large tomes were published all over the country and are a wealth of information. The bi-centennial celebrated in 1976 also caused another increase in the publishing of county histories.

They contain detailed coverage of various topics including things like local histories, schools, churches, oral traditions of an area, associations, cemeteries, participants in the Civil War (or even Revolutionary), government and its structure, biographical sketches and illustrations of noted individuals, listings of public officials, descriptions/histories of long gone villages or towns, bodies of waters, business and industry data, geology of the area, lists of long-lived residents, weather, maps, roads and transportation, and much more.

Sometimes called brag or mug books, almost anyone could contribute their biography if they had the dollars to get it included. If the person was writing the biography he was contributing (or relaying the facts to a ghost writer), it was most likely favorable. No sense in publishing the dirty laundry when you could portray yourself as a fine, upstanding, industrious, and/or pious person.

Document Scan/Transcription:
Dennis B. Strait.
county commissioner, was born in the State of New Jersey, on May 20, 1824. He is the second of a family of eleven, the children of Abraham and Dulcena Strait, who removed to Franklin county in 1839. They located in Plain township, and here the mother died, not long after. The father died in June, 1862.

The education of the gentleman who is the subject of this sketch, was acquired at common schools, and was quite limited, owing to the fact that his parents were in indigent circumstances, and his being obliged, at an early age, to seek his own living. At the age of twenty years he struck out to battle with fortune, having rough but strong hands, and a brave heart to aid him. Accoumulating some means be sought and obtained the hand of Miss Ann, daughter of Caleb and Eliza Farmer, to whom he was married on November 20, 1851. Soon after he purchased one hundred acres of land in Plain township, this county; this, by industry and economy on the part of Mr. Strait, aided by his good wife, has been added to, until he now owns six hundred and twenty-five acres,

the greater part of which is under a profitable state of cultivation. His life work has been that of a farmer and stock raiser. Of the public life of Mr. Strait, the writer learns that he was first elected county commissioner in the fall of 1860, and served two terms of three years each. Upon the expiration of the second term he was appointed auditor of Franklin county, and it this capacity he served two years. In the fall of 1876 he was a third time elected to the office of commissioner, his term expiring in the fall of 1879. Politically, Mr. Strait is a firm adherent to the teachings of the Democratic Party. For the past twenty years he has been a member of the society of Free and Accepted masons.

His children are: Whitney, Cordelia (Mrs. B. Ranney), Ann Eliza, and Dulcena, and Edward L., who are deceased.

Analysis: This biographical sketch found in the Franklin county section of the book is a great source of genealogical information. We learn the following genealogy information from this sketch:

  • Dennis was born in New Jersey on 20 May 1824
  • Dennis’ parents were Abraham Strait and Dulcena whose maiden name is not revealed.
  • Dennis was one of eleven children
  • The family emigrated to Ohio in 1839
  • His mother Dulcena died shortly after 1839
  • His father Abraham died June 1862
  • Dennis married Ann Farber, the daughter of Caleb Farber and Eliza, on 20 November 1851
  • He purchased land Plain township, Franklin County, Ohio (100 acres which grew into 625 acres)
  • He was a farmer and stock raiser most of his life
  • Dennis was county commissioner from 1869 to 1874
  • Dennis was auditor of Franklin county 1874 to 1876
  • He was elected as commissioner again for a term that ran from 1876 until Fall of 1879
  • Dennis was in the order of the Free and Accepted Masons
  • Dennis and Ann had five children: Whitney, Cordelia, Ann Eliza, Dulcena, and Edward L.
  • Daughter Cordelia married a man named B. Ranney

Now that’s a pretty good start on the family of Dennis B. Strait if this happens to be the first document you ever come across. It gives you a place to look for his birth record (New Jersey), the clue that he had a number of siblings (10), an emigration to Ohio, a place to look for his mother’s death record and when (Ohio, sometime around 1839), a place to look for his father’s death record (Ohio, 1862), a place and date to locate a marriage record for him (Ohio, 1851) and the names of his children to explore further including birth and marriage records for them. Additionally, he was land owner so some deeds might provide useful information.

The source type is an authored work. As we look through the entire book, it most likely had multiple writers putting each of the sections together. The information in the book is undetermined as we can’t be sure if it is primary, secondary, or even tertiary or worse. There is a combination of direct (explicit), indirect (not explicit) and negative (not explicit or missing when it should be there) depending on the research question(s) asked.


The residence of Theo. Leonard, Sr. in Columbus, Ohio.

I’ve picked out a few of the illustrations from the book for you to peruse.

County histories are a great way to immerse yourself in life and times of your ancestors. They give a good overview of what it was like to live in the county at the time of its publication. Even if you’re lucky enough to have an ancestor that has a biographical sketch, don’t ignore the rest of the book. There may be maps with details or people pointed out that relate to your family. There may be business ads that relate to your relative’s business activities. The ancestor may be listed as a school teacher, military participant, or one of the oldest people still residing in the county. The oral traditions and geology of the county might explain why your relative got married in the county next door. It’s interesting to look at the clothing and hairstyles found in the line drawings.

Explore and don’t be afraid to learn some history!