From homework assignment to obsession…

Pedigree ChartMy grandmother, Florence Loreen Kuhns (Mom-mom), first got me hooked on family history research, and I remember it well. I was in the fifth grade; I received an assignment of creating a family tree; I went home with my mission and got started. I took the blank pedigree chart given me by my teacher and started filling it out. I wrote in Joan and Larry (my parents), Mom-mom and Pop (paternal grandparents), and Mimi and Grandad (my maternal grandparents). I was pretty proud of my little chart of names, but I had questions, and I had blanks to fill in. The chart had empty spaces for birth, marriage, and death information–it had space for my great grandparents. I did not know the answers; I thought this was going to be an easy assignment. I became obsessed with the blanks; I needed help; I needed my mom.

My mother, Joan Claire (Hogner) Stroschein, was a bus driver for Des Lacs-Burlington School District. When I grew up in North Dakota, it was a semi flat, sparsely populated state (things have changed little since then except for the oil boom). My mother’s bus route was vast and consumed about two and a half hours to complete. Living on a farm, I had afternoon chores to do. Once completed, all I could do was wait. Little did I know, back in the old days of genealogy there was a lot of sitting around and waiting.

When my mom returned home, I was all over her asking questions about my parents, grandparents, and these unknown great grandparents. My mother explained that both she and my father were born and raised in the Pittsburgh Pennsylvania area. She was born in Pittsburgh and raised in Glenshaw. My dad was born in Wilkensburg and raised in Irwin. I started hearing names that I may have heard before but meant nothing to me. My paternal grandfather was Russell Albert Stroschein (Pop), and he was born and raised in Pitcairn Pennsylvania. So was my paternal grandmother, Mom-mom. My mother was a little sketchy with details on my paternal great grandparents and said we needed to call my grandmother.

Unbeknownst to me, Mom-mom was a genealogist, I didn’t even know what it meant. She had been researching her family as well as Pop’s side of the family for many years. She was able to fill in my tree a lot more. I learned my paternal great grandparent’s names and birth places. Mom-mom’s parents were Sarah Jane Wallace, who lived her entire life in Pitcairn, and her father was Lorenzo Dow Kuhns, and he was born in Scottdale, Fayette County, PA before moving to Pitcairn. She also filled me in on Pop’s family.

Pop’s parents were my first immigrant ancestor brick wall. Mom-mom knew they were both from Germany but no place particular. August Stroschein had immigrated to Braddock where he met and married Wilhelmina “Minnie” Staats also from Germany. My grandmother knew both of my paternal great grandparents, and they frustrated her enormously. Though she had tried for many years to garner where in Germany they came from, neither would give up the information.

Shortly before my grandmother passed away, we spent several evenings speaking about family and family history. We spoke of Civil War soldiers in the family, her English side, and, of course, her nemesis, the Stroschein/Staats origins. She wished for me to take on the mantle of the family’s historian. Even at this point, I did not know what kind of commitment/obsession this would become. As it is with many a researcher, I wish I could have recorded all of those sessions, but my grandmother had done her job, she planted the seed. I was determined to solve the nativity problem of my Stroscheins and Staats.

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