Erie PA Genealogy Weekly for April 15, 2013

Local events and other goings-on for genealogy and family history enthusiasts in Erie County, Pennsylvania

National Library Week

As part of the Erie County Public Library’s week long celebrations, Debbi Lyon, author of the popular blog “Old Time Erie,” will give talk on Tuesday, April 16th, at 7pm, in the library’s Heritage Room.

My View II: The Smoke has Lifted, The Tullio Era Begins

Tue, April 16, 7pm – 9pm at the Jefferson Educational Society, at 3207 State Street, Erie.

The second half of a personal, “behind-the-scenes” account of Erie politics resumes with the beginning of the Mayor Tullio era: including observations and opinions of how the Erie political realm really operates; and explaining the historic battle over the sale of Erie’s Water Department. Presented by Patrick Cappabianca, M.A. Tickets are $10/person; $15 with a guest.

Erie County Historical Society’s Sally Carlow Kohler Lecture Series

Wed, April 17, 7pm – 9pm at the Cashier’s House,  419 State Street, Erie

Tom Yots, the Executive Director of Preservation Buffalo-Niagara will speak about historic Buffalo and the challenges, triumphs, and lessons learned from Buffalo’s preservation experiences.

ECHS members and children under 13 are free. Guests and non-members pay $5.

Erie PA Genealogy Weekly for April 7, 2013

Local events and other goings-on for genealogy and family history enthusiasts in Erie County, Pennsylvania

The Erie Society for Genealogical Research will hold its monthly meeting on Tuesday April 9, 2013, at 7PM at the Erie History Center, 419 State Street Erie PA 16501. This month’s speaker is Elaine McCleary, who will give a talk about “Uncle Sam.” Doors open  at 6:40 and close at 7:10. Call 454-1813 x29 for more information.

Transportation historian Kenneth C. Springirth will speak about his latest book Erie to Cleveland by Trolley. Mr. Springirth’s talk will be held in the Admiral Room of the Erie County Public Library on Sunday, April 14th, at 2pm, as part of the library’s week long celebration of National Library Week. Debbi Lyon, author of the popular blog “Old Time Erie,” is giving a talk on Tuesday, April 16th, at 7pm, in the library’s Heritage Room.

Dr. Verel R. Salmon will speak about his recently published book, Common Men in the War for the Common Man,  at a book signing event at Werner Books, 3514 Liberty Street, Liberty Plaza, Erie PA, on Saturday April 13th, 11am-1pm.

Tickets for the Erie Historical Society’s April 25th Historic Sixth Street Walking Tour, are on sale here. Call 454-1813 x24 for more information.

Erie PA Genealogy Weekly for March 24, 2013

Local events and other goings-on for genealogy and family history enthusiasts in Erie County, Pennsylvania

Reminder: The Blasco Library’s Family History Club for Teens begins its Spring Session tomorrow, March 25, 2013. Led by Debbi Lyon, the program is open to students age 12-17. It meets in the library’s Heritage Room, and consists of 7 classes held on Monday evenings from 6-8 p.m. Space is limited. For more information, or to see if there are any open spots left, call 451-6927.

This Wednesday evening, the Erie County Historical Society’s Sally Carlow Kohler Lecture Series will feature Sabina Freeman, a local historian, who will present a “Dialogue with Three Women.” The lecture will begin at 7:00pm at the Cashiers House located at 417 State Street. Members and children 12 and under are free. Guests and non-members pay $5.

SAVE THE DATE for the Erie County Historical Society’s popular Historic West Sixth Street Walking Tour, which will be held Thursday, April 25, 2013. The tour, which is self guided, encompasses 10 of Erie’s most beautiful buildings. The properties will be open from 6-9pm. Guests can visit in any order, spend as much time as they would like at each, and stop by the Watson Curtse Mansion for light refreshments.  Tickets go on sale to the public after April 1st, but are available this month to historical society members. For more information, or to order tickets, contact the historical society at 454.1813 x24.


Erie PA Genealogy Weekly for March 17th 2013

Local events and other goings-on for genealogy and family history enthusiasts

The Erie-Extension Canal.

I have long been intrigued by the Erie Extension Canal Historical Marker at the corner of 26th and Asbury. High school history classes do not spend much time learning about the history of canals on the Great Lakes,  and my only first hand experience with one was on a childhood trip to Niagara Falls, and truthfully, it was not one of the memorial moments of that vacation :-)

As a genealogist, I’m especially interested in the human element of canals: job opportunities they created, the people who built them, and the impact of the canal on families in 19th century Erie County.

So I’m particularly excited about a new exhibit which opens this week at the Erie Maritime Museum on East Front Street.

The Erie-Extension Canal, once known as the Erie & Beaver Canal, was opened in 1844. This inland waterway, which connected Lake Erie to Pittsburgh and the Ohio River, was instrumental in Erie’s industrial growth and its importance as an American port city

You can learn more about the history of the canal and its role in Erie’s economic and industrial development, at a new exhibit which opens at the Erie Maritime Museum  on Thursday March 21, 2013. The exhibit, The Erie-Extension Canal:  Gateway to the Great Lakes, is part of the museum’s regular admission, and will run through June. For more information, check out the museum’s website. You can also find information about the exhibit at VisitErie



Family History Classes for Teenagers

Did you know the Erie County Blasco Library has a Family History Club for Teens?

The Family History Club for Teens will begin it’s Spring Session on March 25, 2013. Led by Debbi Lyon, the program is open to students age 12-17. It meets in the library’s Heritage Room, and consists of 7 classes held on Monday evenings from 6-8 p.m. Space is limited. For more information, or to sign up for the classes, call 451-6927.

Erie PA Genealogy Happenings Week of March 11, 2013

The next meeting of the Erie Society for Genealogical Research (ESGR) is tomorrow, Tuesday March 12, 2013 at 7:00pm at the History Center on State Street.

We have a special guest speaker: Ed Bolla, who will speak about the role of Erie’s Shipbuilding in the War of 1812. A membership meeting will follow. Doors open at 6:40 and will be locked at 7:10.

March is the ESGR’s membership renewal month. Send in your renewal payment to stay current! If you have an interest in Erie history or genealogy, and have been thinking about joining, now is a great time to visit! The genealogy society shares space with the Erie County Historical Society in their Library & Archives H. O. Hirt Reading Room at 419 State Street. An ESGR membership is $15 per year. As a member, you’ll receive the society’s quarterly bulletin, Keystone Kuzzins; you may place free genealogical queries in that bulletin; and, you have free access to research materials in the historical society’s library and archives. The fee for non-members to use the library and archives is $7 per visit.

If you’d like more information, call 814.454.1813 x29, email, or visit our website at


Erie Cemetery

Last week I received a client request to visit the Erie Cemetery and photograph some grave markers. At the time, we were in the midst of an unusually balmy January (think global warming) and a stroll through one of my favorite cemeteries sounded like a great way to enjoy the outdoors. Next thing I knew, we had several straight days of lake effect snow and blizzard conditions, not to mention highs never getting above the teens for what seemed like forever. Suddenly an excursion to the cemetery lost its appeal.

Fortunately, my client appreciates the hazards of Northwest Pennsylvania winters, and is happy to wait until conditions are a bit more clement. In the meantime though, I’m going to suggest to him that, if he hasn’t all ready done so, he might have good luck checking the Erie Cemetery Association’s online burial database.

I use the database as a finding tool for burials at the three cemeteries which make up the association: the Erie Cemetery at 2116 Chestnut Street, Erie; Laurel Hill Cemetery at 4325 Love Road, Erie; and Wintergreen Gorge Cemetery at 2601 Norcross Road, Erie.

Finding the database takes a bit of work – it is not one of the navigational links at the top left of the home page. Scroll down, and you’ll see a “Search for your Family Genealogy” click here button, or scroll to the very bottom of the home page and follow the “search our genealogy database” link. Following either link brings you to the search page.

Last name is required, but all other search fields, such as dates of birth and death, and lot and section, are optional. You have the choice of filtering cemeteries or searching all of them at once.

A search of Nicholson at all cemeteries produced a long list. Here is the beginning of it:

Lot No
Birth Date
Death Date
Wintergreen Cemetery
Nicholson Adam W.
gr 2
Erie Cemetery
Nicholson Alex
Wintergreen Cemetery
Nicholson Andrew James
gr J
Erie Cemetery
Nicholson Anna
SE cor Hd E
Laurel Hill Cemetery
Nicholson Anna B.
gr 1
Erie Cemetery
Nicholson Catherine
Erie Cemetery
Nicholson ch of D. W.
Row R
B sgl
gr 21
Laurel Hill Cemetery
Nicholson Daisy D.
gr 1
Erie Cemetery
Nicholson Donald W.
NE cor Hd E
Erie Cemetery
Nicholson Dr. John
Erie Cemetery
Nicholson Eliza Jane
4.5′ W of NE cor Hd N
Erie Cemetery
Nicholson Emma S.
10′ SW of NE cor of S 1/2, 4′ NW of edge of lot
Erie Cemetery
Nicholson George
Reint fr Presbyterian Grounds 3/25/1852
Erie Cemetery
Nicholson George C. (or E.)
6′ E of SW cor Hd S
Erie Cemetery
Nicholson George Sheldon
Erie Cemetery
Nicholson Henry C.
Inner circle, E line, Hd E
Erie Cemetery
Nicholson Jamie Lee
Erie Cemetery
Nicholson Jane
Reint fr Assoc Reform Grounds 6/22/1854
Erie Cemetery
Nicholson Jane
Reint fr Presbyterian Grounds 3/27/1852
Erie Cemetery
Nicholson Jane
Inner crcl abt 4.5′ W of Alex’s stone, Hd SW

The website also provides a map of lots and sections, which makes locating the graves easier, as these are large cemeteries. I’d also recommend checking with the cemetery office to see the original records.

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Family papers and other unpublished manuscripts provide a kind of insight into the lives of our ancestors that cannot be obtained from vital records, court records, census records, and other official documents. Our ancestors’ letters, journals, clippings, and ephemera, were the stuff of their daily lives, and reading them can give us glimpses of exactly what those lives were like. They reveal their personalities, their cares and concerns. They offer explanations and a better understanding of our ancestors’ actions, and they add the color that is lacking in the black and white of their more official records.

If we are fortunate, we may discover that our ancestors’ papers are in the safekeeping of a relative, or are preserved in an archive. If not, we may still be lucky enough to find mention of them in the papers of their known associates. There are close to 1,000 letters in the Oren Reed Family Papers Addition, and while many represent the correspondence between Sophia Reed and her parents Otis Reed and Julia Nye, and her siblings, there are a substantial number of letters which Sophia received from her friends and distant relatives. If you consider that the letters people saved were the ones written to them, it makes sense that the letters contained in archive collections will frequently have more to do with friends and associates of the family.

No one can argue that the technological advances of the 20th century haven’t been wondrous, and certainly the Internet has brought the world at large into the comfort of our homes, but what of the newsy letter? Yes, paper is fragile, and handwriting can fade, but will our emails and social media activity be accessible to our descendants in another 200 years?

If not for the handwritten letter, how would we know of Julia Nye’s pride in graduating Edinboro Normal School in 1883, and her tormented decision, two years later, to turn down a teaching position to stay home and care for her father and younger brothers following the unexpected death of her mother? [1] How else would we learn of Otis Reed’s piety and his advice to daughter Sophia that playing cards are “the Devil’s greatest tools…”?[2] Could any other record of Sophia’s friend Ella Gochnauer’s marriage convey the bride’s appreciation for a wedding day that “… dawned with a leaden sky, but glints of sunshine soon appeared and when the eventful hour of nine–thirty had come, the sun was in its proper place….”? [3] How could official records possibly convey Sophia’s affection for her friends, or the importance of her lifelong correspondence with students she’d taught while living in New Jersey in the early 1900s?

Our ancestors lived lives just like ours. They had adventures, fears, hopes, and dreams; they found and lost love, felt great joy and knew terrible sorrow—the details of which would be lost to us were it not for their letters and journals. They were so much more than their birth, marriage, and death dates. Think for a moment how much of who you are will never be found in the official records you leave behind. Yes, today’s technology shrinks our world and encourages a communication which is virtually instantaneous, but will our digital history outlive us? Think of the thrill you’d feel upon discovering a collection of your great–great–grandparents’ courtship letters. What will your children’s grandchildren know of you?  Decades or centuries from now, what a treasure even one letter or journal entry written each year would be to those who come after us, eager to learn who we were. They needn’t be brilliant, just sincere. You needn’t tie them in satin ribbons, a simple cardboard box will do. They will help prevent the obscurity of forgotten souls, and will let us live on in the hearts of those we leave behind.

This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of Keystone Kuzzins, the quarterly bulletin of the Erie Society for Genealogical Research. The Oren Reed Family Papers Addition, and other collections like it, can be found at the Erie Historical Society’s Library & Archives, Erie, Pennsylvania.

[1] Viola Nye Nowell, handwritten letter to her sister Julia Nye, 1885; Oren Reed Family Papers Addition, box 2, ff 19.

[2] Otis Reed, handwritten letter to his daughter Sophia Reed, 1911; Oren Reed Family Papers Addition, box 7, ff 101.

[3] Ella Gochnauer McAllister, handwritten letter to Sophia Reed, 1912; Oren Reed Family Papers Addition, box 4, ff 57.

Erie County Historical Society’s Webguide to Collections

Those doing research in Erie County, PA, will be happy to hear that the ECHS Library & Archives is expanding their Webguide to Collections  to include more details of its vast holdings.

It’s not a complete index, but there is an alphabetical listing (by title) of over 120 collections and the list is growing. The web guide contains an overview of the contents and some highlighted items for each collection.

You can find the Webguide here.

ESGR Tour at the Erie Cemetery Tonight!

In lieu of a regular monthly membership meeting, the Erie Society for Genealogical Research will be hosting a guided, reduced walking tour of War of 1812 tombstones at Erie Cemetery, tonight. The tour will be led by our own Caroline Reichel, and will begin at 6:30pm. It is expected to last until around 7:45. See you there!!!!