Sunday’s Obituary – Robert William Wood – Died 09-June-1973

Relationship to me: husband of grand-aunt

This obituary is a newspaper clipping from my grandmother Beatrice Strait. The newspaper is unnamed and undated but it is probably from the New Jersey Herald.


“Robert Wood” – Robert W. Wood Sr., 67, of 43 Sussex St., Newton, died Saturday at home.  Mr. Wood was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and lived in Newton since 1926.  He was a member of the Newton Moose Lodge and Newton Baptist Church.  He retired three years ago, having worked in the office of Limecrest Corp. for 42 years.  He was a member of the 25-Year Club.  Surviving are his widow, Bernice; three sons, Robert Jr. and Richard, both of Newton, and Donald S. of Jacksonville, Fla.; a brother George of Edison; and 12 grandchildren.  Services will be 2 p.m. tomorrow at Smith-McCracken Funeral Home, Newton, with the Rev. Allen Davis, pastor of the Newton Baptist Church, officiating.  Burial will be in North Church Cemetery, Hamburg.  Friends may call at the funeral home today from 2 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m.


Sunday’s Obituary – Bernice (Strait) Wood – Died 28-April-1979

Relationship to me: paternal great-aunt

This was undated, unsourced newspaper clipping that my grandmother saved, most likely from the New Jersey Herald.


Bernice Wood” – Bernice S. Wood, 70, of 43 Sussex St., Newton, died Saturday at Newton Memorial Hospital after a long illness.

Born in Lafayette, she lived in Newton all her life.  She was a member of the Newton Baptist Church, the Newton First Aid Squad Auxiliary and the American Association of Retired Persons. She was the widow of Robert W. Wood.

She is survived by three sons, Robert W. Jr. and Richard A. Sr., both of Newton, and Donald S. of Jacksonville, Fla.; a brother, Carl H. Strait of Andover Township; 12 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

Service will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Smith-McCracken Funeral Home, Newton, the Rev. Allan Davis officiating.  Interment will follow in the North Church Cemetery.  Friends may call at the funeral home Monday from 2-5 and 7-9 p.m.

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!

[2] Ibid.

52 Documents in 52 Weeks #12 – Hannah Hunt’s Widow’s Claim

Person of Interest: Hannah Jane (Longcor) Hunt
Relationship: 2nd Great grandmother

Source Citation: Declaration for Widow’s Pension, Form 3-015, 25 March 1918, Hannah J. Hunt, widow’s pension certificate no. 852,451; service of William H. Hunt (Pvt., Co. I, 70th New York Vol. Inf., Civil War); Case Files of Approved Pension Applications…, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Document Description: This is a single page document within the whole of her husband’s Civil War pension file. It is on legal size paper. The Declaration for Widow’s Pension was Form 3-015 in use when this was signed in 1918. Blissfully, since old handwriting can be tricky to decipher, the blanks on the page were filled in with a typewriter. Hannah J. Hunt’s signature is present as are the signatures of the two witnesses. It was signed by Hannah on 25 March 1918 and stamped as received by the U.S. pension office on 26 March 1918. This document was created due to the laws passed (see below) surrounding the administration of pensions for Civil War veterans.

Background information regarding widow’s of Civil War pensioners: See my post here for some basic background on Civil War pensions.

Act of April 19, 1908

There are two specific acts mentioned on this document: Act of April 19, 1908 and the amendment of the original by Act of September 8, 1916.

The original act was passed by the 60th Congress of the United States and passed into law with approval by the House of Representatives and the Senate under Session I and was Chapter 147 of that session. The Library of Congress has the wording in PDF format [1] for this act on their website. It provided an increase in the widow’s pension amount and now gave the widow $12 per month in pension. The widow was entitled to a pension if her husband had served 90 days or more and the veteran’s death did not need to be incident to service in order to receive the pension. The act also stipulated that veteran and his wife had to have been married prior to 27 June 1890. This stipulation was to prevent what were commonly known as “mercenary brides” from taking advantage 0f the pensions. Mercenary brides were those younger women who married much older Civil War veterans for the sole purpose of claiming a pension.

The amendment to the original act occurred in 1916 and increased the widow’s pension amount to $20 per month. This act also put some additional restrictions around the marriage language of the original act.[2]

Document Scan and Transcription:
Act of April 19, 1908,
Amended by Act of September 8, 1916.

State of New Jersey, County of Sussex, ss:
On this 25th day of March, 1918, personally appeared before me, a County Clerk within and for this County and State aforesaid, Hannah J. Hunt, who, being duly sworn by me according to law, declares that she is 67 years of age and that she was born January 23rd, 1851, at Sparta, Sussex County, New Jersey; That she is the widow of William H. Hunt, who enlisted April 28th, 1861, at Paterson, N.J., under the name of William H. Hunt, as a Private, in Co. I, 70th Regt., N. Y. Volunteers, (inf.) and Co. L, 1st Regt., N. Y. Engrs, and was honorably discharged June 20th, 1864, having served ninety days or more during the CIVIL WAR.

That he also served [blank here, not filled in] ________.

That otherwise than as herein states said soldier (or sailor) was not employed in the United States service.

That she was married to said soldier (or sailor) December 24th, 1868, under the name of Hannah J. Longcor, at Andover, Sussex County, New Jersey, by Rev. W. B. Wigg; that she had not been previously married; that he had not been previously married [blank here, relating to any prior marriages] and that neither she nor said soldier (or sailor) was ever married otherwise than as stated above.

[blank here, relating to former husband’s service]

That said soldier (or sailor) died February 23rd, 1918, at Newton, Sussex County N. J., that she was not divorced from him; and that she has not remarried since his death.

That the following are the ONLY children of the soldier (or sailor) who are NOW living and under sixteen year of age, namely: (If he left no children under sixteen years of age, the claimant should so state.)
(No minor children) [and all spaces to list children are blank]

That the above-named children of the soldier (or sailor) are not now receiving a pension, and that such child ____ {is a or are} member of her family and _____ cared for by her.

That she has not heretofore applied for a pension, the number of her former claim being _______; that said soldier (or sailor) was ______ a pensioner, the number of his pension certificate being 359,438.

That she makes this declaration for the purpose of being placed on the pension roll of the United States under the provisions of the ACT OF APRIL 19, 1908, as amended by the ACT OF SEPTEMBER 8, 1916.

Witness 1: Harvey S. Hopkins, 36 Liberty St., Newton, N.J. [this is the County Clerk]
Witness 2: Harry E. Demerest, 4 Academy St., Newton, N.J.

Claimant’s signature: Hannah J. Hunt
Claimant’s address: Condit Street,
Claimant’s address: Newton, N. J.

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 25th day of March, 1918, and I hereby certify that the contents of the about declaration were fully made known and explained to the applicant before swearing, including the words ______ erased, and the words _______ added; and that I have no interest, direct or indirect, in the prosecution of this claim.

Signature Harvey S. Hopkins [same as witness 1 above], County Clerk , Sussex Co., N. J.

[Pension office stamp dated Mar 28 1918.]

Analysis: Hannah applied for her widow’s pension shortly after her husband William H. Hunt died. The declaration she made in front of two witnesses provides a short biography of her life:

Hannah J. Longcor was born 23 January 1851 in Sparta, Sussex County, New Jersey. She was just over 10 years old when her future husband, William H. Hunt, enlisted to fight in the Civil War on 28 April 1864. Hannah was 17 when she was married to William on Christmas Eve (24 December) of 1868 in Andover, Sussex County, New Jersey, by the Reverend W. B. Wigg. Neither she nor William had been married previously and she was widowed on 23 February 1918 when William passed away. On 25 March 1918, when she applied for her pension, 67-year-old Hannah was living on Condit Street in Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey. At this particular time, she had no minor children (from William) under the age of sixteen.

This document is an original source found among the entirety of William H. Hunt’s pension file. It looks to be an unaltered photocopy of the legal size declaration.

The information found within the document is both primary and secondary. The primary information is Hannah’s marriage date, place and husband in that she was an actual witness to the event in which she participated. Her age of 67 is primary in that she observes the passing of each year and can attest to that. Her address at the time of application is primary. She knows where she was living and on what street. William’s death date may be primary. Hannah most likely witnessed his death as they were married for years and occupied the same house during that time. The secondary information relates to her birth date (while she was there, she wouldn’t remember it) in that someone had to tell her that. Her husband’s enlistment is secondary (although proved earlier with his application for a pension) in that she, as a 10-year-old, was most likely not present at the event. She knows these facts from other sources and from what William told her about his service.

Hannah Jane Longcor

The evidences is direct in that it answers the research questions, “When and where and to whom was Hannah J. Longcor of New Jersey married?” and “When and where was Hannah J. Longcor of Sussex County, New Jersey, born?” and “When and with what regiment did William H. Hunt of Sussex County, New Jersey, serve during the Civil War?” The information within this document provides specific answers to those questions without having to be combined with other information. The evidence in this document is indirect with regards to how much Hannah would receive per month as pension if she’s approved. To determine that, another document stating that she was approved must be combined with the language from the Acts of Congress. The absence of any minor children listed on this document cannot be considered negative evidence about the existence of children. There may be children resulting from the marriage of Hannah and William, they just weren’t minors when Hannah applied for a Civil War widow’s pension in 1918.


It’s not a surprise, given other research around William H. Hunt and his wife Hannah J. Longcor, that Hannah applied for her widow’s pension just 30 days after William’s passing. Other documents in his pension file show that William fought hard for his right receive his Civil War pension and Hannah wasn’t going to let that income go either. Being 67 years old, she needed some form of income to support herself now that William was gone. I knew, based on census records, that Hannah was born in January of 1851 in New Jersey but this document nicely provides a more specific birthdate and place of 23 January 1851 and Andover, Sussex County, New Jersey for Hannah. It also provided specific marriage information about her marriage to William. Nice! This is a good example of how a military pension file, while expensive, helped this genealogical researcher to fill in data gaps within my family tree.

[2] Laws of the United States Governing the Granting of Army and Navy Pensions Together with Regulations Relating Thereto, (Washington, D.C.:  Government Printing Office, 1921), 152-153.

Sepia Saturday – March 2017 – Beauty is the Arms of the Holder

The prompt picture I’ve chosen from Sepia Saturday for March is one of a two people with a dog. It is their number 357 which is out of sync with my ending 2016 numbering. I could have picked that dangerous looking railing to focus on or the porch or the lady’s outfit or the child’s sailor suit but I went with two people and a dog as a theme.

My first family photo that goes with this theme is one of my mom Martha and her sister Lena when they were young girls. It’s a winter photo:

Lena, Beauty and Martha Westra

My mom was the one sitting on the sled holding their dog named Beauty. Beauty was a Fox Terrier that was white with some brown patches on her. I’m going to call Beauty a her even though, while I was interviewing her about the dog, Mom consistently called the dog “him.” She couldn’t remember if the dog was a boy or a girl. With a name like Beauty, I’m going with girl. The picture also has all sorts of other details: a large snowbank, the buttons running along the leg of Mom’s snow suit, the pointed, crocheted white hat Lena was wearing, the hand-made head covering Martha was wearing, the type of sled, the buildings in the background.

Lena holding Beauty

Beauty really belonged to Lena and Martha’s older brother Ewald but she became the family pet. One day Ewald went down to Memory Park to play baseball with friends and Beauty followed him there. Something happened, either the dog ran off chasing something or someone picked her up. She went missing for a few weeks. The Westra family was upset and wondered what happened to Beauty. But she eventually found her way home and the family was thrilled when she showed up on their porch one morning. Beauty was with the Westra for quite a while.

Martha holding Beauty by the side porch at 3 Townsend Street, Newton, NJ

I have a photo of John and Ewald Westra with a dog but I’m quite sure this is not Beauty because this dog has too much black around its ear and eye. This photo was used in another Sepia Saturday post for 2016.

John and Ewald Westra

Later in her life, when I’d ask Grandma Westra why she didn’t have any pets, I’d get a stern “Ach, I don’t like animals in the house.” Ach is an Old High German expression of grievance or displeasure which my grandmother used frequently. So I was surprised when Mom said they had other animals besides Beauty in the house at 3 Townsend Street when they were growing up. Lena had a ginger tabby cat named Pete. He was an indoor/outdoor kitty. The Westra family also had a Pomeranian-type dog that was very anxious, jittery and hairy. It would hide behind the couch all day and had to be coaxed out. Given Etta’s neat streak, I’m sure the hair alone was probably enough to drive Grandma nuts. That dog didn’t last long; it was soon given away.

Another short-timer was a dog that Mom says Russell Van Entning found and for some reason Grandma brought home with her. The story goes that Etta had the dog leashed to a door knob on the front porch when other neighborhood dogs came visiting. They were amorous visitors. Shortly after, the Westras found out their dog was pregnant. Etta didn’t want a litter of puppies and the dog was given away.

So, with this post, I found out that there were animals at 3 Townsend Street. But only when the kids were there. And I’m sure that a younger Etta was a little more tolerant of the things both animals and kids would drag into the house.

52 Documents in 52 Weeks #10 – William Charles Strait’s Form SS-5


William Charles Strait, Sr.

Person of Interest: William Charles Strait
Relationship: Grandfather

Source Citation: William Charles Strait, SS no. 146-10-5034, 03 December 1936, Applicaton for Account Number (Form SS-5), Social Security Administration, Baltimore, Maryland.

Document Description: This document looks to be a photocopy of the microfilm of an original document stored at the Social Security Administration (SSA) in Baltimore Maryland. It is 5-1/2″ by 10″ in size but it is not clear from this document whether the scale has been adjusted for copying convenience. The form is the standard SS-5 Form which is an application for a Social Security Card and the form was created by the SSA. The original appears to have been tri-folded possibly to mail it in a smaller envelope.

Background information regarding Social Security: You can’t get away from doing some history homework while researching your genealogical records. It’s just not going to happen! The documents created by the Social Security Administration are no different. Knowing the progression of the laws surrounding Social Security help the researcher navigate records and point to where the documents can be found. According to the introduction provided by Social Security Administration website “this background material [1969 Abe Bortz book and the 1976 Newman “Preliminary Inventory”] is the narrative involving SSA’s organizational history. This is vital to navigating the Social Security records since they are almost always stored and cataloged by title of the SSA organization which created the records.” The Committee for Economic Security was established in June 1934 in response to the economic crisis brought about by the Great Depression. The committee was tasked with providing legislative recommendations to relieve economic insecurities. The committee presented its recommendations to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in January of 1935. Their recommendations, Roosevelt’s own ideas, and Congress’ ideas were all merged to create the Social Security Bill (R.R. 7260, Public Law No. 271, 74th Congress) which was signed into law on August 14, 1935.

People began applying for their unique Social Security Number shortly after 1935 and this SS-5 form was created to facilitate the issuing of numbers. The numbers are a nine-digit number which originally were in an “AAA-GG-SSSS” format. The first three digits were geographically related and the “numbers were assigned beginning in the northeast and moving south and westward, so that people on the east coast had the lowest numbers and those on the west coast had the highest numbers.”[1] The middle two digits represent a group number that, for administrative reasons, were not assigned in consecutive order. There was some logic that involved assigning even and odd numbers into four broad groups:

  1. odd numbers from 01 through 09
  2. even numbers from 10 through 98
  3. even numbers from 02 through 08
  4. odd numbers from 11 through 99

The last four digits are serial numbers are were issued consecutively within the assigned group number. However, to combat the modern problem of identity theft, in June of 2011 the SSA began a randomization project to eliminate the geographical significance of the first three digits.

Copies of a person’s Social Security Applications can be ordered only if the person is deceased. The application and some instructions can be found at the Social Security Administration website. There is a fee and some rules around how to order. You will be required to furnish proof of death if the person was born less than 120 years ago. Make sure to read up on all the requirements so that you don’t waste your money or delay getting your documents!

william-charles-strait-ss-applicationDocument Scan and Transcription: Form SS-5 Header
Treasury Department
Internal Revenue Service
U. S. Social Security Act
Application for Account Number
146-10-5034 [penned above the top line on the form]

Form SS-5 Body
1. Employee’s first name: William
1. Middle name: Charles
1. Last name: Strait [there is a “363” penned in after his last name]
1. (Married woman give maiden first name, maiden last name, and husband’s last name)
2. Street and Number: Brooklyn Road
3. Post office and state: Stanhope, New Jersey
4. Business name of present employer: Darlington Fabrics, Inc.
5. Business address of present employer: Mill Street, Newton, N.J.
6. Age at last birthday: 26
7. Date of birth, month-day-year, subject to later verification: 7 17 1910
8: Place of birth: Sparta Township [NJ pended in after this]
9: Father’s full name: Ora Simpson Strait
10. Mothers full maiden name: Audrey Hunt
11. Sex: Male/Female, check which: Male [checked]
12: Color: White, Negro, Other (specify), check which: White [checked]
13: If registered with the U. S. Employment Service, give number of registration card: No
14. If you have previously filled out a card like this, State place and date: No
15. Date: 12-3-1936
16: Employee’s signature, as usually written: William Strait [signature]

Detach along this line.

Analysis: This document has some powerful genealogical information contained within it. Especially nice is the request for either the applicant’s full or maiden name, if a married female, and the full maiden name of the applicant’s mother. It can be hard to ferret out a female’s maiden name and this application asks for those items specifically. From this form, a short biography for William Charles Strait can be written:

26-year-old William Charles Strait was working for Darlington Fabrics, Inc. located on Mill Street in Newton, New Jersey, on 03 December 1936 when he applied for his Social Security Number. He was born on 17 July 1910 to parents Audrey Hunt and Ora Simpson Strait. At the time he was living on Brooklyn Road in Stanhope, New Jersey, and commuting to work in Newton. He was a white male that was assigned SS#146-10-5034.

I have used this form to find the parent’s of some Repsher cousins when parentage was unclear. This can be especially useful when you have a number of people with the same name in the family. Straits and Repshers, I’m talking to you!

This SS-5 Form is an original document in that it looks to be a strict photocopy of the microfilm of the original records. There are no apparent changes to the document (no redaction or overprinting) and is in William’s original writing. It provides a nice example of his signature in case I need to compare it to other documents.

The information on the document that is primary (firsthand) relates to William’s current address, his age, his gender, his race, his employer, and his employer’s address. The secondary information relates to his birth date (he doesn’t remember his birth date, his parents have told him), his birth place, and his parents. It may seem weird that his age is primary when his birth date is secondary. While he wouldn’t remember his birth date, he can attest to the number of years that are passing that make up his age.

The evidence is direct in relation to the research question of, “When was William Charles Strait of New Jersey born and who were his parents?” in that the questions are explicitly answered by this form. The evidence that his parents were married would be indirect in that some other evidence must be combined with this to prove that his parents were legally married or presenting themselves as a wedded couple. Parentage and marriage are not necessarily the same thing.


SS-5 forms are a great genealogical resource. It can be useful in finding birth dates, places, parents’ names, maiden names, and current employment information. It can, however, be a bit tricky when ordering this record if you don’t have the applicant’s Social Security number, need to provide proof that the applicant is dead, or need to show that both of the applicant’s parents are deceased (born less than 120 years ago), especially when the purpose of ordering the application is to find out parents names. There wasn’t anything surprising that I learned about my grandfather by ordering this form but it does help provide confidence that I’ve done reasonably exhaustive research into this ancestor.


Sepia Saturday – February 2017 – Joseph and Beatrice Guirreri

The Sepia Saturday site has switched back to weekly posts so I’ve chosen one of the February posts, their number #353, to write about as my monthly Sepia post. It doesn’t match where I ended up on my Sepia postings (#363) because I wanted weekly posts to finish out my posts for the 2016 year.

Sepia prompt photo shows a beautiful photo full of light and shadows. It is the steps of Inglesia in San Tomas, Guatemala, and comes from the files of the State Library of Florida. This photo is from 1938.

My photo is from 1976.

Jodi, Jill and Jenni Strait with Lisa and Mike Ulmer.

Like the prompt photo, my family photo is full of shadow and light. You see the shadows of a person (most likely Mom or Aunt Sadie) taking the snapshot, a railing in the foreground and another figure on the right. You see the shadow of the kids. You see the shadows of the trees in the back. You see all of the kids squinting into the sunshine that lights our faces. And we’re sort of arranged in the same arch pattern as the prompt.

I know what the event is that caused someone to photograph the grandchildren of Beatrice Strait and the grandchildren of Joseph Guirreri together. It’s my grandmother Beatrice’s wedding to her second husband Joseph on 03 June 1976 which took place in Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey.[1]

Bea and Joe on their wedding day

I am ashamed to admit, though, that I remember absolutely nothing whatsoever about this day! I was 10 years old on that day. Memory is a very fluid thing and apparently this was not a memory I chose to store in my long-term memory banks. Try as I might, I can dredge up nothing about the ceremony, the church, what people were wearing, or the reception afterwards. I know the reception happened because there are photos of that too! Here, Beatrice and Joe are photographed enjoying their beautiful wedding cake. My sister Jenni’s arm is seen on the right-hand side and she’s wearing the same outfit as our group grandchildren photo above. You can bet that I didn’t miss getting a piece of cake on that day either.

So much for me being a reliable eyewitness. I wouldn’t even be able to cite this as personal knowledge in a formal citation. Even though photos show that I was a firsthand witness and most likely participated in the procession, since I see the flowers in our hands in the group photo. But the prompt photo did give me an opportunity to share those wedding day photos with you. No matter what I do or don’t remember!

[1] Elaine (Struss) Feret, compiler, “Family Record of J. J. Repsher Jr. and Caroline Repsher nee Bonser – Addenda”; (Handwritten family group sheets, Whippany, New Jersey, 1995-2013), p. 15; privately held by held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017.