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.

CONCLUSION

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.

Sunday’s Obituary – Calvin C. Degroat – Died 04-December-2011

Relationship to me: husband of 1st cousin, 2x removed

This obituary was published in The New Jersey Herald on December 5, 2011, page A-3, column 2. It can also be found online at Legacy.com.

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-4-13-07-pm

“Calvin C. Degroat” – Wantage – Calvin C. Degroat, 86, died peacefully at his residence surround by his family on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011. Born in Wantage, he had been a resident of Wantage all of his life. He was the son of the late Ralph and Lizzy (Clark) Degroat.

Prior to his retirement, Mr. Degroat was employed for 30 years in the maintenance department of the Ames Rubber Corp., in Hamburg. A proud veteran of the United States Army, he served his country during World War II. He was awarded a Purple Heart for serving in the battle of the bulge. Most recently he enjoyed the sport of bowling with his friends and teammates at the Sparta Bowling Lanes. Last year he bowled a game with a score of 222, which helped his senior bowling league team win first place.  In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his wife, Carolyn (Strait) Degroat, and several brothers and sisters; Elizabeth Wilson, Arnold Degroat, Ruth Beemer, Warren Degroat, H. Clark Degroat, Vivian Lockburner, Florence Card, Oliver Degroat and Elsie Dunn. He is survived by his son, Dennis Degroat and his wife, Linda, of Stillwater; a sister, Louella Opellar of Hawthorne; grandchildren, Kyle and Brian Degroat, and his loving companion of the past few years of his life, Victoria Sapone.

Relatives and friends are invited to attend his graveside funeral service with military honors Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 11 a.m., at North Hardyston Cemetery (meeting directly at the cemetery in the old section).  In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory would be preferred and may be made to the Karen Ann Quinlan Hospice Charitable Foundation, 99 Sparta Ave., Newton, NJ 07860. Arrangements by F. John Ramsey Funeral Home, Franklin. To offer online condolences please go to http://www.fjohnramseyfuneralhome.com.

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

elaine-mc002elaine-mc003elaine-mc004elaine-mc001


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?”

CONCLUSION

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

Sunday’s Obituary – Jerry Westra – Died 20-January-2002

Relationship to me: maternal 1st cousin

I couldn’t find this obituary on the New Jersey Herald website but found it posted to a United Kingdom Ancestry.com message board. It was physically published in The New Jersey Herald on Friday, February 1, 2002, Page A-2.

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-4-07-35-pm

WESTRA, JERRY R., 45, Died Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2002, in Green Township.  Born in Newton, Mr. Westra lived in Green before moving to Fredon. A 1974 graduate of Sussex County Vocational-Technical School, Mr. Westra was the owner/operator of Jerry Westra Trucking in Fredon for 21 years. He was predeceased by his father, Ewald, on Aug. 16, 1997. He is survived by his wife of 18 years, Judy Petronaci Westra; one daughter Lindsay; one son, Jordan; his mother, Betty Van Auken Westra of Green: his brother, Albert of Newton, Two sisters, Patty Falotico of Stillwater and Kathi Iossa of Cherry Hill; and his grandmother, Etta Westra of Newton. A Memorial service will be held Sunday, 2 p.m., at the First Presbyterian Church of Newton, 54 High St., Newton, NJ. Memorial donations may be made to the Lindsay Westra & Jordan Westra Fund, 7 Francisco Drive, Newton, NJ, 07860. Arrangements are under the direction of the Smith-McCracken Funeral Home, 63 High St., Newton.

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:
Processional
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
Benediction
Recessional

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:
ALMA MATER
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!

Chorus
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.

CONCLUSION

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.