Genealogy for Beginners
At the ESGR April meeting (Tuesday the 9th) at the Watson-Curtze Mansion, Sue Mueller gave a rich presentation on genealogy for beginners. The session focused on free resources and websites, for the most part, including some that even experienced genealogists may be missing. She included a broad range of useful information, from good sources for various kinds of records (birth, death, marriage, divorce, land, military and more) to good tips on how to organize and record family data. The first rule: Start now. Everytime a family member passes away, their life stories and unique memories go with them. Mueller strongly suggests that family researchers digitize their records. It makes them easier to store and share with interested relatives, for one thing. Sue provided a great handout. It can be found here in the Members Area. Just log in with your membership password and look under Speaker Handouts.
ESGR Election Results
ESGR members on March 12 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 from the Corry Area Historical Society gave a powerful presentation at our November 13 meeting 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
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 email@example.com.
(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.
If 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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Computer SIG: Using Land Records to Solve Genealogy Puzzles
SIG Leader Sue Mueller will teach a session on Solving Genealogy Puzzles with Land Records: Where to find deeds and maps; What you'll find; ...
The meeting will focus on A Closer Look at New Tools on AncestryDNA. This meeting is free and open to the public.
Communities and Churches of Erie's Polonia
Speaker Bobby Sulecki will give a presentation on Erie's Polonia - its churches and its neighborhoods.