52 Ancestors 2015 Edition: #1 Peter Strausser (1818 – 1890) – A Fresh Start and a Genealogy Do-Over

Posted by: Eileen A. Souza


Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small asked, “What ancestor has been so confusing to research that you’d like to have a fresh start?” I had to select my 3rd great-grandfather, Peter Strausser. And it isn’t that researching Peter, himself, is so confusing, it is trying to research his origins and parentage that has been driving me nuts.

On December 15, 2014, Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers fame announced his Genealogy Do-Over to start on January 2, 2o15. He invited all of us to join. His frustration resonated with me and I decided to join the Do-Over with my focus being Peter Strausser.

Yes, I am going to start from scratch researching this ancestor. I have already put on hold all prior research and set up a new research folder just for Peter. I have been inundated in men named Peter and/or Johann with this Pennsylvania German family. And sometimes the Johann is John and sometimes he is Heinrich (his middle name).

Years ago when I started my research to find Peter Strausser’s parents, I think I did everything wrong. I collected names even from Ancestry trees (OMG!), I have snippets of information on any Strausser, Strasser, Strauser, Strawser that existed in Northumberland and nearby Pennsylvania counties. I have been trying to do cluster research but correlating the data was becoming impossible. I needed a better approach.

What I really needed was a fresh start. Thank you, Amy for suggesting this theme and Thomas for your Genealogy Do-Over.

I have documented evidence (the marriage record from the Diocese of Harrisburg) that my 2nd great-grandfather, Theobald Meisberger married Mary Catherine Strausser on 15 April 1860. Their next door neighbor in the 1860 US census is Peter Strausser and his family. In the 1880 US census, Peter and his family are living in the same household as Theobald and Mary. I have blogged about these relationships before. Please see my post “52 Ancestors: #23 Mary Catherine Strausser – Evidence Analysis.”  While I am fairly satisfied that Mary Catherine Strauser is the daughter of this Peter Strausser, I do not feel that I have sufficient evidence to attempt a valid proof argument. This will be the foundation for my research on Peter Strausser.

For Week 1 of the Do-Over, I have completed the following first week tasks:

Setting Previous Research Aside

At this time, I have placed those paper and digital documents relating only to Peter Strausser and his family in separate folders. I created a new database in FTM 2014 called Peter Strausser and located it within the Peter Strausser Do-Over 2015 folder. I have not finalized this decision as I may decide to take this opportunity to try out other software.

Preparing to Research

I created a digital folder on my hard drive named Peter Strausser Do-Over 2015. All digital documents and images will be placed under this folder.  I have not decided whether I will use sub-folders or let the file naming convention control all my files.

My current system is to file by color coding (Blue – Paternal Male, Green Paternal Female, Red – Maternal Male, and Yellow – Maternal Female). Each folder is the surname name of a couple (ex., Souza – Furlani). Children are filed with their parents until married when they get their own folder. Each family folder contains the following sub-folders:  Birth-Baptism, Census, Church, Correspondence, Death, Education, Immigration & Naturalization, Marriage, Media, Military, Passenger Ship Manifests, Passenger Ship Photos, Research Plans, and Wills & Land Records, This system applies to my paper and digital files. This has always worked well for me but it may be time to look at some other methods of organization.  Here are some examples of my current folder system.

Example of Primary Family Folders

Example of Primary Family Folders

Example of Category Sub-Folders

Example of Category Sub-Folders


I’ve decided to try the file naming convention suggested by Diana Ritchie in her Genealogy Do-Over post on Facebook. This naming convention would work whether or not I use folders and sub-folders. I have also begun gathering my tools for research. So far, the tools I have chosen to use for this project are:

  • Microsoft Word 2010 and Excel 2010
  • Microsoft OneNote 2010 as my research log
  • Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills for citation guidance
  • Evidentia from Evidentia Software, LLC to enter and analyze sources
  • Family Tree Maker 2014 as my database (tentatively)

I have to admit I did not “get” the research warm-up exercises.

Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

Finally, I reviewed my research process. I decided I needed to apply the same diligence to my own research as I would a client, so I am going to treat myself as a client. One item that will be close at hand throughout this process is the wonderful Research Process Map by Mark Tucker of ThinkGenealogy.




Week 1 of 52 Ancestors 2015 Edition, a blogging challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow in her blog No Story Too Small.

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