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!

52 Documents in 52 Weeks #27 – David Curtain’s Social Visit

Person of Interest: David Curtin
Relationship: Absolutely none!

Source Citation: “A Pleasant Little Social Visit,” news, the Pittsburg Press (Pennsylvania), 27 August 1890, p. 7, col. 3; image copy, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/141342906/ : accessed 30 June 2017), Historical Newspapers Collection.

Document Description: A digital clipping from a Pennsylvania newspaper found online at Newspapers.com.

Document Scan/Transcription: A Pleasant Little Social Visit.
Charles Munday and his wife were charged before Alderman Ayer with assaulting David Curtin. Curtin alleges that he went to pay the Mundays a social visit, when the whole family attacked him. Mrs. Munday got in several hard knocks on Curtin’s eye and then pulled his hair until he cried for mercy. She was arrested and in default of bail was sent to jail to await a trial. Her husband was released.

Analysis: It’s a holiday week and I’m also at the mid-way point of this 52 Documents in 52 Weeks (52D52W) project. So, this one is not family related and on a much lighter note. I was looking for a newspaper article about one Repsher (or relations) who visited another. What I was finding was a lot of little snippets, with no Repshers, which didn’t inspire a blog post, for example…[1]

or this…[2]

Interesting but not exactly what I had in mind. Then I came across the subject of this week’s post! It made me laugh out loud. There has to be a wonderful, untold story in this “pleasant little social visit” that turned out not so pleasant for one Mr. David Curtain and landed Mrs. Munday a trip to the pokey.

For me, so many questions pop out from reading this one paragraph:

  • How did David Curtain know the Mundays?
  • What was the motivation for David’s visit?
  • What time of day did this occur? What was the weather like?
  • How old were all the parties involved?
  • What are the nationalities of the parties involved?
  • What was everyone wearing?
  • What sort of house or apartment did the Mundays live in? Who were their neighbors?
  • What was said that caused made the WHOLE family attack him? Who did the whole family consist of?
    • Was there a daughter involved that perhaps David Curtain was seeing?
    • Perhaps David had a crush on Mrs. Munday and was professing his love?
    • Was there alcohol involved and a bit of liquid courage or belligerence going on?
  • What was the fight like?
    • What sort of punches was Mrs. Munday throwing? Jabs? Left hooks? All-out roundhouses?
      • Is pulling hair allowed in a fight?
      • What did David say when he was crying for mercy? “Uncle!” or “Mercy” or some other colorful phrase?
      • What was a good cuss phrase in 1890?
    • How loud was the ruckus?
      • Did any furniture get broken?
      • Did a physician attend to anyone’s wounds?
      • Who ultimately broke up the fight? Neighbors? The police?
  • Why did they not put up bail for Mrs. Munday to get out? Was the family in financial straits?
  • Why did they release Charles Munday? Was Mrs. Munday the only one doing the punching?

Giving this little snippet to a creative writing class as an assignment to write the background story would yield a bunch of wildly variant stories!

Genealogically, though, what is the value of this entertaining newspaper snippet? Well, it does serve a couple of purposes. It tells us that David Curtin knew a Mr. and Mrs. Charles Munday. Thorough research involves exploring all aspects of family unit, including friends, associates, and neighbors a.k.a the F.A.N. network. This vignette adds to the tapestry of the Munday’s story. Also, it tells us that there’s most likely court documents that we could pursue to dig up some information on the Mundays and possibly David Curtain. An exploration of their neighborhood in 1890 could provide some insight into the way they were living and/or stress they were under as they led their day-to-day lives.


Despite the headline, David Curtain’s visit to the Munday’s house could not have been pleasant for him. He ended up being attacked and, as a result, Mrs. Munday was thrown in jail to await trail on assault charges. The newspaper clipping provides a good jumping off point to dig up court documents and motivation to ferret out the “rest of the story!”

[1] “Society in Braddock,” news, the Pittsburg Press (Pennsylvania), 24 July 1898, p. 12, col. 5; image copy, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/141935126/ : accessed 30 June 2017), Historical Newspapers Collection.
[2] “Gloucester City,” news, the Philadelphia Inquirer (Pennsylvania), 16 December 1894, p. 22, col. 5; image copy, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/168073484/ : accessed 30 June 2017), Historical Newspapers Collection.

52 Documents in 52 Weeks #26 – Elaine Struss-Feret’s Memory Card

Person of Interest: Elaine Marie (Struss) Feret
Relationship: 1x cousin 1x removed

Source Citation: Elaine M. Struss-Feret Memory Card, 2016; privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, AZ, 2017.  Elaine M. Struss-Feret paper memory card created by Morgan Funeral Home in Netcong, NJ, for funeral services. Lists full birth and death dates.

screen-shot-2016-12-25-at-8-30-52-pmDocument Description: Memory or prayer or holy cards have been around for a long, long time. The earliest known example is a hand-colored woodcut print of St. Christopher from 1423.[1] As more modern printing techniques came into use, hand-coloring gave way to lithography. Then, as printing became even cheaper in the 1900s, these cards became widely distributed to friends and family members at the funeral homes that attended the deceased. The fronts of the cards generally feature either a picture of the deceased or some sort of religious, especially Roman Catholic, imagery or sayings. The backs generally have the person’s name, sometimes their birth and death dates in varying degrees of completeness, and a prayer or poem. This card is 2-1/2″ by 4″ in measurement and printed on both sides. The front of this card is full-color. There are full birth and death dates for Elaine listed.

memory-card-elaine-m-struss-feretDocument Scan and Transcription: Back of Card
In Loving Memory of
Elaine M. Struss-Feret
September 11, 1949
December 7, 2016

I’d like the memory of me
to be a happy one,
I’d like to leave an afterglow
of smiles when life is done.
I’d like to leave an echo
whispering softly down the ways,
of happy times and laughing
times and bright and sunny days.
I’d like the tears of those
who grieve, to dry before the sun.
Of happy memories that I leave
when life is done.

Morgan Funeral Home, Inc.
Netcong, NJ

Front of Card: Printed with various images


Analysis: The funeral home was nice enough to send me a number of cards, eight in total. I’ve scanned four of them for this post to give a feel for the types of things found on the front of the cards. Sometimes the family chooses on one image, sometimes there are a variety.  Elaine’s cousin, Annie, chose a beautiful selection of flowers and sayings for the front and a joyous poem for the back to celebrate Elaine’s life.

Even if I didn’t already know that Elaine was Roman Catholic, the classic symbolism on the front of the cards would point me in that direction. The white lily is a symbol of purity and is closely associated with the Virgin Mary. The lamp (featured on two cards) symbolizes the presence of God and the existence of the soul. The wheat is a symbol of the bounty of the Earth and the connection to the Holy communion wafer. A white dove is the symbol of the Holy Spirit and the thorns are an expression of grief or sin. Along the left-hand sides of the cards are found Latin crosses, Greek letters of Chi Ro (P with the X over it), and an individual Ro all which represent Jesus as the anointed one.[2]

Additionally, this document gives you hints about what to look for next. Usually, the funeral home is the one who handles the interment which leads to the cemetery the person is buried in. Most likely the funeral home is located very close to the cemetery being used. The town in which the funeral home is located will give you a hint about what newspaper to look for a death notice or an obituary. The state will give you a hint on where to write for a copy of the death certificate.

This is an original record printed by the Morgan Funeral Home in Netcong, New Jersey, and sent to me here in Tucson. The information is both primary and secondary. Elaine’s birth date is secondary, someone had to tell the funeral home when her birthday was. Elaine’s death date is primary in that the funeral home was involved in the preparation of the death certificate and transport of the body to the funeral home on the day or next day after her death. The evidence is direct in that it answers the research questions, “When was Elaine of Netcong, New Jersey, and daughter of William Struss and Helen Repsher, born and when did she die?”


Depending on how much the funeral home or family choses to print on the card, these playing-card sized documents can be helpful in pinpointing when a person died. The minimum information that I’ve seen on the cards I have are the person’s name with a birth year and a death year or the person’s name with their death date and no birth date. Elaine’s is nice in that it list her birth and date places in their entire month-day-year format.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_card
[2] http://www.boston-catholic-journal.com/a-primer-to-catholic-symbolism.htm and http://www.catholictradition.org/Saints/signs4.htm

52 Documents in 52 Weeks #25 – Mercedes Strait’s Graduation

Mercedes Marie Strait, circa 1955

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.

Document Scan/Transcription:
Front Page:
Annual Commencement Exercises of Newton High School
Wednesday Evening, June 22, 1955
High School Field
Newton, N. J.





Inside Cover:
Invocation…..Rev. Marple Lewis
Flag Salute…..Led by John Power
The National Anthem
Salutatory…..Shirley Layton
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
Valedictory…..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
Alma Mater

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
Nancy Baltjes
Joseph Anthony Barthel
Martin James Bedell, Jr.
Donald Frederick Begraft
Mabel Elsie Belcher
Robert Leeroy Benson
Roy Rhynier Bischoff
* Sally Bixler
Frank Black
Lester Eugene Blumhagen
* Elizabeth Jane Boole
Ruric William Brandt
Ann Elizabeth Brown
Catharine Howell Buenz
* Carol Halley Christine Byrnes
Estelle Marie Kathryn Campbell
Domenick Carriera
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

The old Newton High School on Halsted Street, 1940 postcard

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
Joyce Hussey
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
Melvyn Miller
Andrea Mitchell
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
Rochelle Roche
William Henry Ruschmeier
Gail Patricia Ryan
Lewis Branton Savacool
* Helen Emily Schaffer
Gayle Marie Scott
Lydia Semenuk
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
Barbara Specht
Virginia Specht
Kurt David Steckley
James Grant Stevens
Janet Doris Stewart
Janet Lynn Stiansen
Mercedes Marie Strait

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.[1] 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.

The new Newton High School, built in 1954

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.[2]

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!

[1] http://www.newtonnj.net/Pages/newtonschools.htm
[2] Ibid.

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.

52 Documents in 52 Weeks #23 – Andrew Mery’s 1930 Census

Person of Interest: Andrew Leo Mery
Relationship: Husband of my great grand aunt Jennie (Repsher) Mery

Source Citation: 1930 U. S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, East Stroudsburg, ED 45-6, page 3A (penned), dwelling 51, family 56, Andrew Mary; digital image, Ancestry.com (http:www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 May 2017); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 2080.

Photo Source: http://www.census.gov

Document Description: These documents are part of the Fifteenth Census of the United States which was taken in 1930, shortly after the stock market crash which occurred on 29 October 1929. Herbert Hoover was the president on the day of the census. It is the fifteenth 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 1930 records to the public in 2002.  The U.S. Census Bureau provides the interested researcher a great overview of each census. In the 1930 overview, we find that Congress legislated The Fifteenth Census Act, which was approved on June 18, 1929, and that it authorized “a census of population, agriculture, irrigation, drainage, distribution, unemployment, and mines [to be] taken by the Director of the Census.” The unemployment piece of the census became vitally important after the stock market crash.

According to the 1930 overview site, some crisis and controversies arose from the data collected during the census:

“In the time between the passage of the act and census day, the stock market crashed and the nation plunged into the Great Depression. The public and academics wanted quick access to the unemployment information collected in the 1930 census. The Census Bureau had not planned to process the unemployment information it had collected – which some statisticians considered unreliable – until quite a bit later and was unequipped to meet these demands. When it did rush its data on unemployment out, the numbers it reported were attacked as being too low. Congress required a special unemployment census for January 1931; the data it produced confirmed the severity of the situation.

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
Abbreviations to be used (found at the bottom of the schedule)
[Use no abbreviations for State or country of birth or for mother tongue (Columns 18, 19, 20 and 21)]
Col. 6 – Indicate the home-maker in each family by the letter “H,” following the word which shows relationship, as “Wife – H”
Col. 7 – Owned – O, Rented – R
Col. 9 – Radio set – R, make no entry for families having no radio set
Col. 11 – Male – M, Female – F
Col. 12 – White – W, Negro – Neg, Mexican – Mex, Indian – In, Chinese – Ch, Japanese – Jp, Filipino – Fil, Hindu – Hin, Korean – Kor, Other races – Spell out in full
Col. 14 – Single – S, Married – M, Widowed – Wd, Divorced – D
Col. 23 – Naturalized – Na, First Papers – Pa, Alien – Al
Col. 27 – Employer – E, Wage or salary worker – W, Working on own account – O, Unpaid worker, member of the family – NP
Col. 31 – World War – WW, Spanish-American – Sp, Civil War – Civ, Philippine Insurrection – Phil, Boxer Rebellion – Box, Mexican Expedition – Mex

Entries are Required in the Several Columns as Follows (found at the bottom of the schedule):
Cols. 6, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 18, 19, 20, and 25 – For all persons.
Cols. 7, 8, 9, and 10 – For all heads of families only. (Col. 8 requires no entry for farm family.)
Col. 15 – For married persons only.
Col. 17 – For all persons 10 years of age and over.
Cols. 21, 22, and 23 – For all foreign-born persons.
Col. 24 – For all person 10 years of age and over.
Cols. 26, 27, and 28 – For all persons for whom an occupation is reported in Col. 25.
Col. 30 – For all males 21 years of age and over.

Page 3 Header
State: Pennsylvania; County: Monroe; Name of Incorporated Place: East Stroudsburg Borough; S.D. No.: 11; E.D. No.: 45-6; Enumerated by me on April 3, 1930; Enumerator: Olive S. Kistler; Sheet No.: 3A; stamped page number: 68.

Page 3A Detail
lines 40-47, Andrew L., Jennie F., Blanche C., John A., Jane E., Leona M., Raymond L., and Kenneth A. Sharbaugh [respectively with ; between]

Place of Abode
1. Street, Avenue, Road, etc: Elizabeth St.
2. House number: 87
3. Number of dwelling: 51
4. Number of family in order of visitation: 56

Name and Relation
5. Name: Mery, Andrew; —- Jennie F.; —- Blanche C.; —- John A.; —- Jane E.; —- Leona M.; —- Raymond L.; Sharbaugh, Kenneth A.
6. Relation: Head; Wife – H; Daughter; Son; Daughter; Son; Daughter; Daughter; Son; Nephew

House Data
7. House Owned or Rented: O; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
8. Value of home, if owned, or monthly rental, if rented: 6,000; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
9. Radio Set: R; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
10. Does this family live on a farm: No, [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]

Personal Description
11. Sex: M; F; F; M; F; F; M; M
12. Color or race: W; W; W; W; W; W; W; W; W
13. Age at last birthday: 34; 28; 9; 7; 5; 3-10/12; 1-10/12; 19
14. Marital condition: M; M; S; S; S; S; S; S
15. Age at first marriage: 24; 18; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]

16.  Attended school or college anytime since Sept. 1, 1929: no; no; yes; yes; no; no; no; no
17. Whether able to read and write: yes; yes; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; yes

Place of Birth
18. Person: Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania
19. Father: France; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania
20. Mother: France; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania

Mother Tongue (or Foreign language) of Native Born
21. Language spoken in home before coming to the U.S.: [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
A. State or M.T.: 58; 58; 58; 58; 58; 58; 58; 58
B. Country: 12; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
C. Nativity: O; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]

Citizenship, etc.
22. Year of immigration to the U.S: [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
23. Naturalization: [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
24. Whether able to speak English: [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]

Occupation and Industry
25. Occupation: Tire dealer, none, none, none, none, none, none, Sales man
26. Industry: Auto tire shop, [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; Auto tire shop
D. Code: 8289, [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; 4589
27. Class of Worker: E, [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; W

28. Whether actually at work yesterday (or last regular work day), yes or no: yes; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
29. If no, number on employment schedule: [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]

30. Whether a veteran of U.S. military or naval forces, yes or no: yes; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]
31. What war or expedition: W.W.; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]; [blank]

32. Number of farm schedule: yes; [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:

On 01 April 1930, Andrew L. Mery (34), head of household, was living in the borough of East Stroudsburg, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, with wife Jennie F. (28) and daughters Blanche C. (9), Jane E. (5), and Leona M. (3-10/12), sons John A. (7) and Raymond L. (1-10/12) and nephew Kenneth Sharbaugh (19). Andrew owned the house, valued at $6,000, on 87 Elizabeth St. when enumerator Olive S. Kistler visited the household on 03 April 1930 to record the family’s information. Ms. Kistler was working in her Supervisor’s District of 11 which oversaw Enumeration District 45-6. In order of visitation, the family was labeled as living in dwelling #51 and as family #56. The family owns a radio set.

Andrew was married when he was 24 years old and Jennie was 18. Everyone else in the household is single. Blanche and John were the only ones in school. Andrew was born in Pennsylvania but his parents were born in France. Everyone else was born in Pennsylvania as were their parents.

Andrew was a tire dealer within the auto tire shop industry. He was an employer and, since nephew Kenneth is working as a salesman in the auto tire shop industry, he most likely employs Kenneth in the shop. Andrew worked yesterday (or the last regular working day),  although Kenneth’s answer was blank.

Andrew was also a veteran of the World War. There is no designation for I or II since World War II had yet to occur. 

A family photo corroborates that fact that Andrew was a tire shop owner. I have a wonderful photo of his shop located in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. The people aren’t identified, but I’m pretty sure Andrew was the gentlemen wearing the tie and white shirt and highly suspect that his nephew was the young man on left. Looking at the detail in the photo shows that they sold the General Tire brand of tires and Sinclair gas. I also suspect that the family may have lived over the shop given the architecture of the building.

It is unclear why Kenneth Sharbaugh was living with the Mery family. Was it because Andrew employed him? How long had he been living with them? How was he nephew, through Andrew’s sister or Jennie’s sister? All interesting questions that this census, taken by itself, does not answer.

Instructions to the enumerators are a good way to make sure you understand what each item on the census means. The instructions for the 1920 are found on a handy website called IPUMS which stands for the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series. Perusing the instructions for the 1930 census at IPUMS shows that:

  • How names are to be written.-Enter first the last name or surname, then the given name in full, and the initial of the middle name, if any, except that where a person usually writes his first initial and his middle names, as “J. Henry Brown,” you should write “Brown, J. Henry,” rather than “Brown, John H.”
  • Occupants of an institution or school, living under a common roof, should be designated as officer, inmate, pupil, patient, prisoner, etc.; and in the case of the chief officer his title should be used, as warden, principal, superintendent, etc., instead of the word “head.” Pupils who live at the school only during the school term are not usually to be enumerated at the school.
  • Owned homes.-A home is to be classed as owned if it is owned wholly or in part by the head of the family living in the home or by the wife of the head, or by a son, or a daughter, or other relativeliving in the same house with the head of the family. It is not necessary that full payment for the property should have been made or that the family should be the sole owner.
  • Negroes.-A person of mixed white and Negro blood should be returned as a Negro, no matter how small the percentage of Negro blood. Both black and mulatto persons are to be returned as Negroes, without distinction. A person of mixed Indian and Negro blood should be returned a Negro, unless the Indian blood predominates and the status as an Indian is generally accepted in the community.
  • Indians.-A person of mixed white and Indian blood should be returned as Indian, except where the percentage of Indian blood is very small, or where he is regarded as a white person by those in the community where he lives.
  • Persons retired or incapacitated.- Care should be taken in making the return for persons who on account of old age, permanent invalidism, or other reasons are no longer following any occupation. Such persons may desire to return the occupations formerly followed, which would be incorrect. If living on their own income, or if they are supported by other persons or institutions, or if they work only occasionally or only a short time each day, the return should be none.
  • Unusual occupations for women.-There are many occupations, such as carpenter and blacksmith, which women usually do not follow. Therefore, if you are told that a woman follows an occupation which is very peculiar or unusual for a woman, verify the statement.
  • Those men are to be counted as “veterans” who were in the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps of the United States during the period of any United States war, even though they may not have gotten beyond the training camp. A World War veteran would have been in the service between 1917 and 1921; a Spanish-American War veteran, between 1898 and 1902; a Civil War veteran, between 1861 and 1866.

When recording country of birth, some special attention was given to countries affected by World War I:

  • Since it is essential that each foreign-born person be credited to the country in which his birthplace is now located, special attention must be given to the six countries which lost a part of their territory in the readjustments following the World War. These six countries are as follows:

    Austria, which lost territory to Czechoslovakia, Italy, Yugoslavia, Poland, and Rumania.
    Hungary, which lost territory to Austria, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Poland, Rumania, and Yugoslavia.
    Bulgaria, which lost territory to Greece and Yugoslavia.
    Germany, which lost territory to Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Danzig, Denmark, France, Lithuania, and Poland.
    Russia, which lost territory to Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Turkey.
    Turkey, which lost territory to Greece and Italy and from which the following areas became independent:
    Iraq (Mesopotamia); Palestine (including Transjordan); Syria (including Lebanon); and various States
    and Kingdoms in Arabia (Asir, Hejaz, and Yemen).

  • If the person reports one of these six countries as his place of birth or that of his parents, ask specifically whether the birthplace is located within the present area of the country; and if not, find out to what country it has been transferred. If a person was born in the Province of Bohemia, for example, which was formerly in Austria but is now a part of Czechoslovakia, the proper return for country of birth is Czechoslovakia. If you can not ascertain with certainty the present location of the birthplace, where this group of countries is involved, enter in addition to the name of the country, the name of the Province or State in which the person was born, as Alsace-Lorraine, Bohemia, Croatia, Galicia, Moravia, Slovakia, etc., or the city, as Warsaw, Prague, Strasbourg, etc.

One instruction in particular popped out at me as a lesson in looking at censuses: “Enumerators must make a special effort to obtain returns for all infants and young children. Children under 1 year of age, in particular, have frequently been omitted from the enumeration in past censuses.” This could explain the lack of finding someone (negative evidence) who should have been listed as a person in a household in a prior census, especially if they were less than 1 year of age.

This census also has some notations in the column labeled D for the family members that are employed. Andrew had “8289” and his nephew Kenneth had “4589.”  IPUMS also is handy for looking up industry codes. Andrew’s code translates to “Retail dealers, automobiles and accessories” but Kenneth’s is not listed in this table. So, I checked on Steve Morse’s One-Step pages, and found that Kenneth was classified as a salesman at an “Automobile agency or accessories store; Automobile filling station; Automobile service station (filling station).” Both make sense and match what the 1930 has listed for them as occupations.


Andrew and Jennie Mery’s family seems like the typical family found in 1930. They have five children together and have taken in Kenneth Sharbaugh. What is unclear is how the stock market crash affected them. It may have been too early for the effects to trickle down to his tire shop. Some research into city directories between 1931 and the next census in 1940 might help to figure out if his tire shop survived the extreme downturn in the economy.

52 Documents in 52 Weeks #22 – Hiram H. Strait’s Last Will and Testament

Person of Interest: Hiram Heally Strait
Relationship: 1st cousin 5x removed

Source Citation: Sussex County, New Jersey, Wills Volume M 1900-1905: 37-39, Hiram Heally Strait (1901), last will and testament of Hiram Strait, recorded 24 January 1901; Digital image, Ancestry, “New Jersey, Wills and Probate Records, 1739-1991” (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 May 2017); Citing records from Sussex County Surrogate’s Office, Newton.

Document Description: This is the digital image of the last will and testament of Hiram Heally Strait from Sussex County, New Jersey, found on Ancestry. It is handwritten by the county clerk and is the proving of the will for Hiram after his death in early 1901. The executrix of his will was Martha F. Strait and she brought the will into the Surrogate’s Office to be proved so that she could open a probate case to administer his estate.

Document Scan/Transcription:
Will Volume M, page 37 (very bottom of page)

Last Will and Testament
Hiram H. Strait, Deceased
Sussex County Surrogate’s Office
In the Matter of the Probate of the
Last Will and Testament
Hiram H. Strait, Deceased.



Will Volume M, page 38
Be it remembered that on the Twenty fourth day of January A.D. 1901, the Executrix name in the last Will and Testament of Hiram H. Strait, late of the Township of Hardyston in the County of Sussex, deceased, appeared before the Surrogate of the County of Sussex, and made application to have the said will proved; and on such application said Surrogate adjudged the said Will to be a valid Will, and the proof thereof to be sufficient, which said last Will and Testament, and the proof thereof, are as follows, that is to say:
I, Hiram H. Strait, of the township of Hardyston, county of Sussex, New Jersey, do hereby make and publish this my last will and testament, as follows:-
After the payment of all my just debts and funeral expenses, I give, bequeath and devise all my property both real and personal, wheresoever situate, and whatever the same may be, to my sister, Martha F. Strait, of the township of Hardyston, county of Sussex, New Jersey, to her and her heirs or assigns forever.
I hereby nominate and appoint Martha F. Strait, sole executrix, without security, of this my last will and testament.
In witness whereof, I have hereto set my hand and seal this sixteenth day of December, 1892.

Hiram H. Strait [His seal]

Signed, published and declared by the
said Hiram H. Strait, to be his last
will and testament, in the presence
of us, who were present at the same
time, and subscribed our names as
witnesses in the presence of the testator.
Witness – Joseph P. Crayon
Witness – John Henderson
Witness – Helen Dunn

Sussex County S.S.
Joseph P. Crayon, one of the witnesses to the annexed writing purporting to be the last Will and Testament of Hiram H. Strait, the Testator therein named, deceased, being duly sworn, doth depose and say, that he saw the said Testator sign and seal the said annexed writing, and hear him publish and declare the same as and for his last Will and Testament; that at the time of the doing thereof, the said Testator was of sound disposing mind, memory and understanding, as far as this deponent knows, and as he verily believes that John Henderson and Helen Dunn the other subscribing witnesses is thereto, were present at the same time with this deponent, and together with him subscribed their names thereto as witnesses in the presence of the Testator and of each other, and at the request of the Testator and that the said Testator departed this life on the Thirteenth day of January A.D. 1901, according to the best of this deponent’s information and belief.

Joseph P. Crayon [his signature]

Sworn and subscribed before me this
24th day of January A.D. 1901.
Jacob M. Demerest, Surrogate.

Will Volume M, page 39
Sussex County S.S.
Martha F. Strait, the Executrix in the annexed writing named, being duly sworn doth depose and say that the said annexed writing contains the true last Will and Testament of Hiram H. Strait the Testator therein named, deceased, as far as she knows, and as she verily believes, that she will, as the Executrix thereof, well and truly perform the same, first by paying the debts of said deceased, and that the legacies therein specified, as far as the Goods, Chattels and Credits of said deceased will thereunto extend, and the law charges; that she will make and exhibit into the Surrogate’s Office of the County of Sussex, a true and perfect inventory of all and singular the said Goods, Chattels and Credits, as far as the same have or shall come to her possession or knowledge, or to the possession of any other person or persons to her use to her knowledge; and that she will well and truly account where thereunto lawfully required.

Martha F. Strait [her signature]

Sworn and subscribed before me
this 24th day of January A.D. 1901.
Jacob M. Demerest, Surrogate.

Sussex County Surrogate’s Office.

Order for Probate.

In the Matter of the Probate of the
Last Will and Testament
Hiram H. Strait, Deceased.
Application having been made to me by Martha F. Strait for probate of the last Will and Testament of Hiram H. Strait, deceased, and letters testamentary thereon, and the deposition of one of the subscribing witnesses to the same having been duly taken and it appearing to me upon such proof that the Will produced was duly executed according to law, and that more than ten days have elapsed since the death of the Testator, it is ordered and adjudged that the said Will be and the same is hereby established as the last Will and Testament of the said deceased, and that the same shall be and is admitted to probate, and that letters testamentary be granted thereon.
Dated January 24th A.D. 1901.

Jacob M. Demerest, Surrogate.

State of New Jersey
Sussex County Surrogate Office.
I, Jacob M. Demerest, Surrogate of the County of Sussex, do certify the annexed to be a true  copy of the last Will and Testament of Hiram H. Strait, late of the County of Sussex, deceased, and that Martha F. Strait, the Executrix therein named, proved the same before me, and id duly authorized to take upon herself the administration of the Estate of the Testator agreeably to the said Will.
Witness my hand and seal of office, the Twenty-fourth
day of January in the year of our Lord One Thousand
Nine Hundred and One.  Jacob M. Demerest
Filed January 24th 1901 and recorded by Jacob M. Demerest, Surrogate.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I make no attempt to make this lawyerly at all. This is not lawyerly advise. Please consult a lawyer if you have lawyerly questions!

Analysis: Let’s discuss some terminology first before discussing the document itself.

Testate: Having a will or testament
Intestate: Not having a will or testament
Bequeath: To leave one’s personal estate (real or personal) to a beneficiary

  • Will: Bequeaths real property
  • Testament: Bequeaths person property

Real Property: Land, houses, barns, buildings
Personal Property: Clothing, furniture, clothing, money, artwork, animals, etc.

Testator/Testatrix: Male/Female person making the last Will and Testament
Decedent: the dead person
Administrator/Administratrix: Male/Female person appointed by court to administer the estate when decedent is intestate
Executor/Executrix: Male/Female person appointed by the decedent to administer the estate
Beneficiary: person(s) who benefits from the decedent’s death
Heirs: person(s) who holds the rights to receive property

Types of wills:

  • Written – usually prepared by a lawyer or someone other than the person bequeathing
  • Nuncupative – verbal will. Must have two witnesses. Can only deal with the distribution of personal property.
  • Holographic – written out completely in the hand of the person also signing it
  • Codicils – a supplement or amendent to the original will

Probate: the legal process wherein the estate of a decedent is administered

In this case, Hiram was testate since he has a last Will and Testament. He has bequeathed (given) all of real and personal property to his sister, Martha F. Strait. This document is the point in probate where the principal heir (Martha) has applied to the court to begin the probate process. This document shows the will has been accepted and Martha has been granted the authority to deal with Hiram’s estate.

A short chronology based on these pages can be formed:

  • 16 December 1892: Hiram drafted, signed, and published his will and it was signed by three witnesses.
  • 13 January 1901: Hiram departed from this life – he died, thus setting the probate process in motion
  • 24 January 1901: Hiram’s executrix, his sister Martha, presented the will to the Surrogate’s Office for proving
  • 24 January 1901: Hiram’s witness to his will, Joseph P. Crayon, swore in a deposition that he was present with the other witness when Hiram drafted, signed, and published his will.
  • 24 January 1901: Hiram’s executrix, his sister Martha, swore that she would pay Hiram’s debt and present the court with true inventory of Hiram’s estate.
  • 24 January 1901: Based on will presented and letters of testamentary, the surrogate admitted the will to probate.
  • 24 January 1901: Surrogate appointed Martha as the executrix of Hiram’s estate.

Hiram’s last Will and Testament was a short and uncomplicated one:

I, Hiram H. Strait, of the township of Hardyston, county of Sussex, New Jersey, do hereby make and publish this my last will and testament, as follows:-
After the payment of all my just debts and funeral expenses, I give, bequeath and devise all my property both real and personal, wheresoever situate, and whatever the same may be, to my sister, Martha F. Strait, of the township of Hardyston, county of Sussex, New Jersey, to her and her heirs or assigns forever.
I hereby nominate and appoint Martha F. Strait, sole executrix, without security, of this my last will and testament.
In witness whereof, I have hereto set my hand and seal this sixteenth day of December, 1892.

Hiram H. Strait [His seal]

He left everything he owned to his sister and well as appointed her the sole executrix. Done!

Genealogical tidbits gleaned from this document are sparse. Hiram’s death date is revealed.  Hiram’s sister, Martha F. Strait, is named. The fact that she still was going by the last name of Strait would hint that she is a spinster or had married a cousin with the last name of Strait.

This is an original document, drafted by the Surrogate of Sussex County, New Jersey and records the administration of Hiram’s estate just ten short days after his death. With regards to the will and the proving of it, it is primary (firsthand) information. Martha was physically at the Surrogate’s Office, a witness to the will Joseph P. Crayon has attested he saw the will being drafted, signed and published, and the proceedings were being recorded very close to the time of the event (the death of Hiram) making it more reliable than a document recorded years afterwards.

The evidence is direct (explicit) for the research question, “When did Hiram H. Strait, of Hardyston Township, Sussex County, New Jersey, draft his will and when did he die?” The answers are explicit with 16 December 1892 and 13 January 1901, respectively. It is indirect for the research question, “What did Hiram H. Strait, of Hardyston Township, Sussex County, New Jersey, own when he passed away 13 January 1901?” Another document needs to be combined with this one to answer that question.

This document does provide clues on what to look for next. Martha had been ordered to provide the Surrogate’s Office with true inventory of Hiram’s estate. That should be in the probate files and the next thing to find. The inventory would give a nice feel for how meagerly or lavishly Hiram was living at the time of his death.


Locating Hiram’s short and sweet will provides a good look at the first step in the administration of an estate, the proving of the will. While he had an uncomplicated will, the fact that Martha was ordered to provide an inventory of his estate gives this researcher a good next step.