The Erie Society for Genealogical Research
P.O. Box 1403
Erie, PA  16512-1403
The Erie Society for Genealogical Research
Researching and Preserving Family History in Erie County, Pennsylvania

Hope Rising: A Holiday Greeting

Warm wishes from the Erie Society for Genealogical Research for happy holidays and a safe and healthy 2021. In Erie, 2020 will be remembered not only for the heart-breaking loss of hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens, but for the kindness of neighbors reaching out to help those in need. Christmas 2020 reminds us that loving one another is the most important gift.
Throughout human history, people in many cultures have looked to the skies as one year ended with the winter solstice and a new one began, searching for reassurance. On December 29, a full moon will rise over Erie. Fifty-two years ago, on Christmas Eve, American astronauts aboard Apollo 8 orbited the moon and broadcast a message back home as they became the first people ever to observe the splendor of Earth rising. “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the Earth,” said Major William Anders. “And God saw that it was good,” Commander Frank Borman said. Here's wishing all of you warm holidays with the people you love. Hope is on the horizon. Believe.

No General Meeting in January

Happy Holidays to all of our ESGR members. We hope you are well and staying safe, and we wish you a wonderful Holiday season and Happy New Year. Please note: ESGR does not meeet in January. Our next speaker meeting is February 9.

DNA Helps Solve a 200-year-old Mystery

At the next ESGR Member meeting, on February 9, 2021, Speaker Paul Francis will present his story of how DNA analysis and archival research helped him solve a longstanding mystery in his family history, and opened the door to many new generations of ancestors. Meeting via Zoom, beginning at 6:30. The Zoom invitation will be posted in the Members Area in advance.

Genealogist Laura Cubbage-Draper Speaker Dec 8

Genealogist Laura Cubbage-Draper spoke at our ESGR December 8 meeting.
Speaker's handout is in Minutes and Handouts/2020 ESGR Speaker Handouts.
Her topic: "Genealogical Timelines for Organization, Analysis and Problem Solving." The meeting was held via Zoom Said Cubbage: "In researching our family, we gather extensive amounts of records and information to be compiled. Timelines are a tool that allows us to organize our data, and to visually identify patterns, gaps, themes, and relationships. This program will provide examples of genealogical timelines (migration patterns, research gaps, specific record type, historical perspective, etc.) using Microsoft Word and Excel."

Immigration Records for Genealogy: Nov. 24 on ZOOM

Our ESGR Computer Research SIG meeting met on ZOOM November 24 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Topic: "Immigration Records for Genealogy." ESGR Computer SIG Leader Sue Mueller discussed how to figure out who came when; finding your immigrant ancestor's origin; searching passenger lists; destinations—why and where; naturalization records.   **Please note: There is no Genealogy SIG meeting in December.

Denys Allen Spoke Nov. 10, via Zoom

Denys Allen of PAancestors.com spoke at our November 10 meeting. Allen gave a presentation on how to use the online catalogs for the five largest archives in Pennsylvania. Her handout has been posted here in the Members Area. The meeting was held on Zoom. Allen, founder of PAancestors.com, hosts a popular genealogy podcast and runs a Facebook page (Pennsylvania Ancestors), a valuable resource for researching Pennsylvania family history.

Presentation on Using Cemeteries and Death Records

On September 22 at 7 p.m. on Zoom, Computer SIG Leader Sue Mueller gave a class on locating and using death indices, certificates, obituaries, cemeteries and beyond, with an emphasis on free online resources. The class was sponsored by the Lincoln Community Center Library site (lin@eriecountypa.gov).

Roots Tech 2021 Will Be Free

RootsTech, the world's largest genealogy conference, is going virtual in 2021. And for the first time ever, it will be free. Find more details and register here.

ESGR's September 8 Speaker, On Zoom

Lifetime ESGR Member John Mason spoke at our September 8 meeting on a topic he titled "Cemeteries, More Than Just Headstones." Mason explained that his presentation covered, "the online, print and local resources that can be used to locate the appropriate cemeteries, the records available at uniquely different cemetery organizations, the challenges you may face in obtaining records, as well as possible work-arounds,  and how these records may help guide you to other resources necessary to your genealogical research. They may even lead you to discovering living collateral family members who have other information to share." If you'd like to print out a copy of his presentation, it is available in the Members area, under Minutes and Handouts.

Zoom Class Census Handouts Available

Sue Mueller spoke via Zoom on Tuesday, August 25. Her presentation, "Census Records—More Than You Think," was so-sponsored by the McCord Library in North East and the Rice Avenue Community Library in Girard. Mueller explored federal and state census records; where to find them, and what you will find on the census; family and neighbor clues; linking census clues to other sources; other census schedules; census substitutes. Thank you to Sue: her handouts are available in the Members area, under "Handouts Other Events" in Minutes and Handouts.

ESGR Member Meeting August 11

Two knowledgeable ESGR members presented at our Zoom meeting Tuesday, August 11. Alice Henneberry, longtime chair of ESGR's research committee, explained how and where to access various documents of genealogical interest at Erie's Courthouse and other locations, and how to request ESGR's help. Connie Edwards gave an insightful presentation on how to get started writing your family history. Their handouts are available in the Members area, under "Minutes and Handouts."

Erie Gives Day

Thank you to everyone who participated in Erie Gives Day on August 11,  and especially to those who contributed to ESGR. This is the first year we've participated in Erie Gives Day. We're grateful for your support, which helps ESGR continue to develop historical and educational programs of interest to our members.

Alert: Ancestry Changes to DNA Matches

Ancestry is making some changes during August in the DNA matches it displays for members. See the full report on the Ancestry site, in the DNA section, where you can also find a detailed white paper that explains their analysis process. Of particular concern to many members: Ancestry will no longer display your matches of 7.9 cM or less DNA, "unless you have messaged them and/or included them in a note, or added them to a group (including your starred group). This means you will have fewer DNA matches and ThruLines."
While the company says the result will be more accurate matches, objections to the new pruning of distant cousins in the matches it reports to members have bought customers a little more time to explore those matches. Ancestry now says it will wait until "late August" to stop reporting the more distant matches "so you have time to review and determine if you want to save any very distant matches by sending them a message and/or including them in a note or group." Ancestry's idea of "accurate" may not always align with member interest in matches. After all, a distant cousin can be the link to a full branch of the family tree that you are trying to explore.

Alert: Ancestry Eliminating Message Folders

Ancestry members -- sharing an important alert from Sue Mueller re an upcoming change on Ancestry:
  In March, Ancestry eliminated the option of creating folders for your Ancestry messages. Now, as of August 31, they are going to delete all message folders on Ancestry.  This means that if you want to save your folders, you should do it now.  You can download folders you created to your computer until August 31st, 2020.  See instructions here. Here's the important part:  
      1. In the messaging center, click Download Folders at the bottom of the panel on the left side. You'll only see this option if you created folders in the previous messaging center.
       2. A .zip file will be downloaded to your computer. If you see it at the bottom of your page, click on it there. Otherwise, check your Downloads folder.

FGS to Hold Family History Conf. Online (Paid)

The Federation of Genealogical Societies has scrapped plans to hold its final Family History Conference, "Blazing Trails in the Heart of America," in Kansas City this year. (FGS has merged with the National Genealogical Society.) But the show will go on! The FGS Conference will be held online, starting with a stellar speaker lineup in an all-day live session September 2. Eight speakers (including Genetic Detective CeCe Moore) will present live online on September 2, from 11 a.m. EDT to 7 p.m. EDT. Program and Registration information here. Participants can choose from several different price-levels. Program offerings, depending on the level chosen, include an electronic syllabus, 16 free sessions on society management, 90 on-demand recorded sessions that will be available for viewing from September 15 until March 15, 2021, and a virtual exhibition hall that will be open for a month. As an incentive for participation, FGS will offer every ESGR member a $2 discount and, if at least ten ESGR members register at the "Regular" or "Super-Sized" levels, FGS will donate $10 to ESGR for each registered member.

Recording of Brick Wall Session

Members can access materials from the recent Brick Wall session, along with summaries of the research done by the members who submitted their "brick walls." There are also several good handouts from Susan Bowser Mueller, who moderated the session. Log in to the Members area, and find it in "Minutes and Handouts."

How to use Zoom

     ESGR members: If you have questions about how to use Zoom, see "Using Zoom" here in the Members Area. All you need to do is download the Zoom app (takes less than a minute) and then click on the meeting link we will send a day or two before the meeting. We also recommend Zoom's online tutorials on how to use it (at Zoom.us). There are also good YouTube Videos on how to use Zoom by Steve Dotto. Here's one.
     You can attend a Zoom meeting using your smart phone, computer or tablet. Best if your device has audio and video so that we can see and hear you. (But don't worry: if you're camera-shy, there's a button for that!) We usually run a chat box during the meeting so that we can see your comments or questions and bring them up. We hope to be able to gather again in person before long.

A Pause While Sheltering in Place

To our Members, Researchers and Friends:

 During the pandemic, our office at the Hagen History Center, the Erie Public Library and many public offices in Erie are closed or restricting visits now. In addition, we do not currently have access to the ESGR phone line. We would like to ask that research requests be postponed until the statewide shutdown is lifted. If you need to reach ESGR with a research request, please do so via email (research@genealogyerie.org).  We will be in touch once we can update our availability status.

Meanwhile, I find myself thinking of our ancestors and the various epidemics they endured. Here is a list of major outbreaks in U.S. history, including locations and the reported number of deaths. This information came from a website called Infoplease.

     Philadelphia: More than 4,000 residents died from yellow fever.

     July–Aug., New York City: More than 3,000 people killed in a cholera
     Oct., New Orleans: Cholera took the lives of 4,340 people.

     New York City: More than 5,000 deaths caused by cholera.

     New Orleans: Yellow fever killed 7,790.

     New Orleans: 3,093 perished from yellow fever.

     Southern states: Over 13,000 people died from yellow fever in lower
Mississippi Valley.

     Nationwide: Over 7,000 deaths occurred and 27,363 cases were
reported of polio (infantile paralysis) in America's worst polio

     March–Nov., Nationwide: Spanish influenza killed over
500,000 people in the worst single U.S. epidemic.

     Nationwide: 2,720 deaths occurred from polio, and 42,173 cases were

     Nationwide: Polio killed 3,300; 57,628 cases reported.

     Nationwide: An Asian flu outbreak killed 70,000 before it was
completely eradicated.

1981–Dec. 2005:
     Total estimated U.S. AIDS cases: 988,376; total estimated AIDS
deaths: 550,394 (Centers for Disease Control).

     Milwaukee, Wis.: A Milwaukee water treatment plant became
contaminated with cryptosporidium and killed more than 100; 403,000
cases reported.

     in April, H1N1, also known as Swine Flu, broke out and quickly
spread to more than 70 countries. The Centers for Disease Control
reported that between April and October, 22 million Americans had
contracted the virus, 98,000 required hospitalization, and about 3,900
people died from H1N1-related causes.

     California: An outbreak of whopping cough causes the death of ten
infants; 9,477 cases reported.

     Nationwide: A meningitis outbreak traced back to contaminated
steroid medication shipped to 23 states killed 36; 500 cases reported.

What strikes me is that while people died, people also lived. And
survived. and we are here because of them.

I encourage everyone to be diligent, careful but also to take the time
to continue your research. Find the stories of life and victory over
adversity. They sustain us in times like these.  You might want to
journal next couple weeks to pass on the experience to the next
generation. Facebook only goes so far in chronicling these events, and
your point of view is unique to you. And so worth recording. Imagine if
you could talk to your ancestor in the 1800s about the crisis of their
day and how they handled it. What a treat that would be. For your
descendants, your story will give a sense of pride, perhaps a good laugh
and hope for the future. Give the gift.

Jodi Schersten

Serving ESGR: Message to Members

ESGR Members, our Annual Meeting and Election was held Tuesday, March 10 in the Hagen History Center. We cancelled the election, as no one ran against the incumbents in the four open board positions: Vice President, Secretary, and two open Director positions. The incumbents will serve until members replace them. Participating in the governance of ESGR is a vital part of membership. If you value ESGR and attend our monthly meetings, please consider stepping up to do your part in keeping ESGR running. Contact ESGR President Jodi Schersten (president@genealogyerie.org) if interested in serving.

Finding Your Ancestors on Passenger Lists

Ever wondered how you can track down when your ancestors arrived in America, and on which ship? On Tuesday, March 10, Speaker Elissa Scalise Powell gave a terrific program at the ESGR Member Meeting on "Sailing Into The Sunset; Tips for Finding Ancestors on Passenger Lists." The meeting was held at the Hagen History Center, 356 West 6th Street.

Reunion Postponed to 2021

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Wagner, Vickey, Buetikofer, Muehlheim family reunion will be postponed to the summer of 2021. Information on the new time and place will be sent out to interested folks next year. 
The event was planned to introduce family members and gather information on different branches of the families. 
If you have any questions about the event, please contact Rita Stewart, 7300 Old Perry Highway, Erie, PA 16509 (email oneoftwo@roadrunner.com)
or, Carol Buetikofer, 6717 Manchester Farms Road, Fairview, PA 16415, (email cicijab@roadrunner.com). 

A Primer on Pennsylvania Records

Speaker Elissa Powell, Board Certified Genealogist and Western PA researcher,  was not able to join us at the Hagen History Center in Erie at ESGR's October 8th monthly meeting. But she did not leave us without a speaker. ESGR President Jodi Schersten was able to set up a live audio connection and collect questions from the members present for Powell to answer about her topic, "Primer to Pennsylvania Records."  Powell will be rescheduled to speak at an ESGR meeting in the spring. Meanwhile, she has forwarded some handout material, which can be found in the Members Area.

Titanic photos

Members, thanks to ESGR's John Szympruch, we have a few photos from local historian Patrick Gorman's recent presentation of the history and myth surrounding the sinking of the Titanic. You'll find them in the Members Area, in Photo Galleries. Click on each photo to view it in full size.

Deciphering Documents in Unfamiliar Languages

Our July, 2019,  speaker, Pam Israel, presented information about how to decipher clues in old family documents that are written in languages we don’t speak, along with her brother, Stefan, who is a Germanics linguist and is expert in old Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Dutch as well. It was one of the larger ESGR turnouts in recent months. Their presentation illustrated the long history of the German empire, whose borders once encompassed many individual nations. Pam showed a 'work passport' held by one of her ancestors, which he had to present at various borders within what was then Germany to show that he was a qualified professional apprentice. After the presentation, Stefan met with ESGR members to look at their heirloom family documents to give them a quick overview in person. He also provided contact information should anyone wish to engage him for a more detailed analysis. 

Historical Society Curator on ECHS Archives

Our June, 2019, speaker, Erie County Historical Society Curator Becky Weiser, gave an interesting presentation on the process of deaccessioning (formally removing) "3D" objects from the Society's collection. She described how she and her colleagues have carefully combed through the many thousands of historical artifacts in the collection to determine which best document Erie County history, and which can be deaccessioned. Many of the objects no longer needed by ECHS will be made available to other area Historical Societies. As part of the process, Weiser and her team have also instituted better storage procedures for the many objects stored in the archives. That part of the presentation was very useful for anyone storing antique fabrics, media or other objects.

2019 ESGR Election Results

ESGR members on March 12, 2019, elected their new President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary and four Directors to the board. Here are the results:
Our new officers are
President Jodi Schersten, Vice President Ron Bright, Treasurer (re-elected) Bill Klauk and Secretary Alice Henneberry. Our new Directors: Pat Mickel, Tom Greene, Dick Tefft and Linda Waha. Good luck to our new leadership team.
And many thanks from all of us to outgoing President Jerry Munzi, Vice President Helen Shimek and Secretary Kathy Szympruch. They've done a great job, have brought us consistently impressive speakers and accomplished much for ESGR during the past two years. In the last year alone, ESGR membership has increased by some 40 members!
We're delighted to have all of you in the society.

Have Photos?

Do you have photos from the ESGR Holiday party? If you do, or if you have a few photos from last summer's picnic to share, we would love to see them and share them here. Please send your favorites to jcerie@outlook.com so that we can process them into photo galleries here. Please be sure to tell us who took the pictures. Credit where credit's due! Thank you. (A special thanks to Carole Blakeslee, who suggested sharing photos here.)

Searching For Infants Born at the Veil Hospital

Speaker Lisa Puckly on Veil Hospital
Speaker Lisa Puckly from the Corry Area Historical Society gave a powerful presentation at our meeting on November 13, 2018, on the topic of the Veil Maternity Hospital, which operated in Corry from 1921 to 1945 as part of a chain of maternity hospitals started in Kansas City. Working with writer Karen Amos of New Hampshire, who plans to write a book about the Veil hospitals in Kansas City, Corry, Langhorne, Pa., and West Chester, Pa., Puckly has been helping families who are trying to identify babies born at the hospital and women who gave birth there.The search is complicated by the fact that the Corry hospital operated largely in secrecy, since unwed pregnancy carried such a stigma at the time. Moreover, at several points, hospital records were burned, or otherwise destroyed. Men identifying themselves as physicians at the hospital sometimes were not. Sanitary conditons at the hospital were poor. Babies slept in wire baskets, row upon row. Veil advertised its babies for adoption as "certified," and coming "from excellent parentage."  But many infants were bundled up and taken across the state line to New York over the years, often without paperwork. Puckly speculated that the babies taken away may have been viewed as "imperfect." It is not known what became of them. Even when birth (or death) certificates for Veil infants can be found, sometimes the baby's name was changed from its family name, and the parental names listed were fictional. Puckly has helped establish that of the thousands of babies born at Veil over the years, more than 100 babies were buried in unmarked graves at the nearby Pine Grove cemetery in Corry. There are indications that graves were opened periodically to add babies who died later. But who were they? How can they ever be identified? Cutting through the fog of secrecy, the availability of DNA services has enabled some families to find lost relatives. Through DNA, many individuals have discovered siblings or relatives they did not know existed. "I have shed the tears doing the research, and shared incredible joy with the families when we have success," said Puckly. "It is difficult to describe the joy you feel."         (Photograph by John Szympruch)


ESGR Bylaw Amendments Approved

ESGR members approved the proposed Bylaws amendments at the October 9 meeting. If you have not had a chance to familiarize yourself with our revised Bylaws, they are posted here in the Members Area. 
Sue Mueller gave a wonderful presentation on researching military records at Tuesday's meeting. She reviewed what's out there, how to find records, what information is in them, how reliable it is, and what's been lost or destroyed. See her handout here in the Members Area.

Searching Erie's Old Almshouse Records

Entrance to the Old Almshouse Cemetery in Fairview PA
Who lived at the Old Almshouse in Erie? The Erie Society for Genealogical Research is pleased to announce a new research opportunity. As part of ESGR’s Research Service, we can now search the records of the Erie County Almshouse, the institution which once offered free housing for the destitute. (Alms was the old English term for aid for the poor.) In addition to the poor, Almshouse residents included individuals who were disabled, or deemed to be mentally ill, or otherwise classified as unable to support themselves. We hope that by offering this research service, we will be able to help families identify long-lost family members.
Established in 1870, the Erie County Almshouse was located on 105 acres of donated land near 23rd Street and Pittsburgh Avenue. Most of the land was used to raise food crops for the residents. But part of the grounds were used for a cemetery. Some 690 individuals were interred there through December, 1920. Meanwhile, over time, some individuals who lived at the Almshouse were able to leave, while some insane residents were transferred to Warren State Hospital. In 1920, a new cemetery for the poor and the unclaimed dead of Erie County was developed in Fairview, on the Dobler Farm west of Erie. The original Almshouse cemetery was forgotten until 1977, when the Erie County coroner, learning that a business complex was to be built on the cemetery site, obtained a court order to unearth and rebury the dead.  At that point, 443 of the dead were exhumed and reinterred in seven vaults at the newer Almshouse Cemetery in Fairview. The other 247 dead remain at the original site.  A special rededication ceremony was later held at the newer cemetery, honoring those who rest there. They are memorialized on a plaque that reads, in part:  
       We rededicate this cemetery to all those souls who rest here.
       The sanctity of this ground is a reminder  that all life is precious,
       and in death, we are all the same -- God's children."
Thanks to a collaborative effort with the Erie County Historical Society, where the Old Almshouse records are stored, ESGR is now able to research the records of Almshouse inhabitants, including records of those who were transferred to the Warren facility. If you would like to request a search, please submit the form available here (on the left side of this screen) under “Research Service.”  Simply click on the term "Research Service" in the left margin of this page, then click on "Almshouse Research," download the form and print it out. The form is entitled “County of Erie – Almshouse Research Request.”  There is a small fee for the search. The records volumes are not indexed, so searches may take some time.  If you have any questions about the process, please email research@genealogyerie.org.
(Photo of the Old Almshouse Cemetery in Fairview courtesy of Bill Klauk)

Resources at genealogyerie.org

Our Links collection continues to grow. We've added links to most of the cemeteries in Erie County. We will be adding more information there. "Area Societies" is a category listing genealogical and historical societies. Most are historical societies, as local historical societies often house valuable local genealogical information and family histories. Use the drop-down menu at top left on the Links page to choose the category of information you are looking for.  
We have also added a category in "Events" called "Key Genealogical Society Events"  to help keep our members informed of important genealogy meetings around the United States. Find details there about upcoming meetings, exhibits and conferences you may have the opportunity to visit.
‚ÄčIf you're just getting started in the Members Area, you'll need to log in. Click on "Members Area" in the left-hand navigation. If you need more information about logging in, please write to webeditor@genealogyerie.org.
If you are not a member, we welcome you. To join, you can download the membership application found in the left-hand navigation column and mail it in with a check, or join online. 
 Have an idea for a speaker or feature? We welcome your suggestions and questions at info@genealogyerie.org.

Come Join Us

Welcome. If you have not yet joined ESGR, we'd like to tell you about some of the benefits of membership in our society. We hope you'll agree that joining ESGR is a great idea. We'd love to have you join us.
When you are a member of ESGR, you become part of a community of shared interest in the history of Western Pennsylvania and its families. Our members range from beginners to people with many years of genealogy research experience. Members receive the Keystone Kuzzins quarterly four times per year. They can access the members-only section of our website and the resources there. They hear knowledgeable speakers with expertise in specialized areas, such as the history of the German, Irish, British, Italian, Polish and other ethnic immigration into western Pennsylvania, methods for accessing military and immigration records, and deciphering federal census records. 
Members also receive a discount on ESGR publications, CDs and books, and a discounted membership rate for the Erie County Historical Society. ESGR members receive advance notification of genealogical events and conferences and may receive discounts on admission to events. They can receive help with “brick wall” research obstacles from our seasoned genealogists. They also have access to the library of handouts and other materials provided by our speakers. ESGR members have access to the ESGR surname database, and can add surnames of personal research interest. ESGR members also have access to the membership directory with member contact information.  If you’d like to join, please go to the Online Join section of our website. You can join online using your credit card or PayPal account, or you can download a membership application and send it in with a check. Please let us know if you have any questions about the process at membership@genealogyerie.org.

January 26
Military Records for Genealogy
ESGR Computer SIG Leader Sue Mueller discusses using Military Records in your genealogy research. Why, what and where to find Service Records, Pension and Land ...

February 9
DNA Solves a 200-year-old Mystery
ESGR Speaker Paul Francis will present his story of how DNA analysis and archival research helped him solve a longstanding mystery in his family history, and ...

February 23
Finding Your Female Ancestors
ESGR Computer SIG Leader Sue Mueller discusses special challenges in finding your female ancestors; how and where to search; using indirect proof; women and the ...