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

Come to the 2021 ESGR Picnic!

ESGR Members: For the first time in nearly 17 months, ESGR members will be gathering in person for the 2021 Picnic! We'll gather at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, 1531 East Grandview Boulevard, Erie on August 10, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Gather at 5:30 p.m., eat around 6:30 p.m.) The site is very accessible. The picnic area is in back of the church. We will enter there, not at the front of the building. Please park at the back of the parking lot.  Members are invited to bring a guest, and a dish -- appetizer, side or dessert. Please be sure to label your dish and serving utensils so we can be sure you get them back. ESGR will provide meats, water, coffee, pop/soda, paper products (cups, plates, silverware) and hand sanitizer. We will have air-conditioned indoor space for setup and serving, and plenty of indoor seating. We will also have the use of the outdoor picnic pavilion.

In keeping with Health Department guidelines, masks are required for anyone who has not been vaccinated. The Health Department also requires separate serving utensils for each dish.

Please Note: This Website Will Be Moving

This website will be taken down by July 13. It will be back in mid-August.
Our new website has the same URL (genealogyerie.org) as this one. It has a lot of great features and will be up and running very soon. Our domain email addresses (i.e. research@genealogyerie.org, info@genealogyerie.org, surnames@genealogyerie.org, keystonekuzzins@, and so on) will be interrupted briefly as we move content to new servers. Please follow us on our Facebook page for updates. Thank you!  

June 8, 2021: Thomas MacEntee on the 1950 Census

"Many genealogists remember the amount of excitement in April, 2012, around the release of the 1940 U.S. Census," Genealogist Thomas MacEntee told ESGR members on June 8. The U. S. Census report for 1950 will be released on April 1, 2022. MacAntee discussed the types of information and resources you can expect to tap when all of that data is released next year, and what you can do to prepare. He credited the website stevemorse.org for its invaluable resources and tips. His handout is in the Members Area.

DNA SIG May 12: DNA Painter - Ancestral Trees

Did you know that DNA Painter is not just for people who have had their DNA tested?  ESGR’s DNA Special Interest Group leader Helen Shimek gave a presentation via Zoom on May 12 at 6:30 p.m. to demonstrate how to use DNA Painter in your genealogy research. The presentation showed how to use the “Ancestry Trees” feature on dnapainter.com: how to make pedigree charts, how to easily identify and visualize gaps in your ancestral line, and how to create dimensions that display countries of birth, decades of birth, or customized layers such as city of birth, age at death, etc.  The handout is available to ESGR members in the Members area of this website.  

May 11, 2021: Erie County in World War 1

ESGR Board Member and World War One Committee Chair Mary Jane Koenig joined us with other speakers at 6:30 p.m. to give a presentation on the forthcoming bookAnswering The Call: Erie County, Pennsylvania in World War One."  Produced by the Erie County World War 1 Centennial Committee, the book is organized into five sections: At War; The Homefront; Sketches; Bios of the 200 Men From Erie County Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice; A List of 2300+ Men and Women From Erie County Who Served. The book will become available on May 25 at a special event at the Hagen History Center.

Annual Meeting and Election Results

ESGR Members: The ballots have been counted, and the election results were reported at our annual meeting, Tuesday, March 9. The results: Jodi Schersten elected to a second term as President; Patricia Mickel elected Vice President; Bill Klauk reelected Treasurer; Alice Henneberry reelected Secretary. Directors elected: Maureen Buckel, Nancy Schaaf, Linda Waha, and Kathy Mastantuono. Thanks to all of our board members! 

Sept 14, 2021: Researching Funeral Home Records

At the September ESGR meeting, Speaker Ari Wilkins will speak on the valuable genealogical information often available in the information that funeral homes collect. Funeral home records often contain extensive information on the family's genealogy, church affiliations, business activities and other topics valuable to family history researchers. Wilkins, a graduate of Louisiana State University, has been researching family history for more than 20 years. She works at the Dallas Public Library and teaches genealogy classes there. She specializes in African American research, and has spoken at the National Genealogical Society, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, Roots Tech, the American Library Association and many local societies.

ESGR Speaker April 13, 2021: Linda Waha

"Discoveries in the Attic" -- Speaker Linda Waha offered tips on how to sort out those family boxes in the closets, attic or basement. Many of us are downsizing, and can use some advice on sorting out the good stuff, and preserving and organizing interesting finds for your genealogy research -- and for future generations of your family. Linda offered a lot of good ideas.

Feb. 23: Finding Your Female Ancestors (Zoom)

ESGR Computer SIG Leader Sue Mueller discussed special challenges in finding your female ancestors; how and where to search; using indirect proof; women and the law; military; immigration and naturalization. The handout is available now in the Members Area, under Minutes and Handouts/2021.

A Pause While Sheltering in Place

Please note, this addendum (April 2021): We now have access to our phone messages, though we are not yet able to meet in person. We are accepting research requests again. Please send them to research@genealogyerie.org. We are transitioning to a new website in June. Thank you. ESGR

March, 2020

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

DNA Helped Solve a 200-year-old Mystery

At the ESGR Member meeting on February 9, 2021, Speaker Paul Francis gave a presentation on how he and several newfound DNA cousins used a combination of archival research, family oral history, a comparison of family tree research and meticulous analysis of their DNA results to solve a 200-year-old mystery about his ancestors. His presentation is posted in the Members Area under "Minutes and Handouts/2021 ESGR Handouts."

Finding Military Records (2021 Zoom session)

On Tuesday, January 26, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., ESGR Computer SIG Leader Sue Mueller gave a presentation on using Military Records in your genealogy research. Why, what and where to find Service Records, Pension and Land Grant and other records; Extended strategies; what you need to know about records that were lost or destroyed. Handouts have been posted in the Members Area here, under Minutes and Handouts/2021 ESGR Handouts.

Genealogist Laura Cubbage-Draper Dec. 2020 Meeting

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. 2020

Our ESGR Computer Research SIG meeting met on ZOOM November 24, 2020 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, 2020 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.

2020: Using Cemeteries and Death Records

On September 22, 2020 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).

ESGR's September 8, 2020 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, 2020. 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, 2020

Two knowledgeable ESGR members presented at our Zoom meeting Tuesday, August 11, 2020. 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."

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.

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)


Searching Erie's Old Almshouse Records

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.

September 14
Researching Funeral Home Collections
Speaker Ari Wilkins on the valuable genealogical information often available in the information that funeral homes collect. Funeral home records often contain extensive information ...