Tuesday, May 10, 2016 ESGR Lecture:
Women in World War II


The May 2016 monthly meeting of the Erie Society for Genealogical Research will take place at the new Thomas Hagen History Center, adjacent to the Watson-Kurtze Mansion on West Sixth Street, Tuesday, May 10th, at 6:30pm. Our speaker this month is Sarah Felmlee: Women in World War II.

Our meetings are free and open to the public. Ms. Felmlee’s talk will begin at 7pm, immediately following a brief society meeting. Please arrive between 6:15pm, and 6:30pm. Free parking.

Hope to see you there!

ESGR Meeting Tonight: Brick Walls


Tonight’s monthly meeting of the Erie Society for Genealogical Research is all about brick walls. In place of a speaker, members will have an opportunity to present a specific genealogical problem and meeting attendees will brainstorm strategies for solving the problem. The brick wall portion of the meeting will begin at 7:00pm, at the Hagen History Center, and will be preceded by a brief membership meeting.

To make the most of our time together, please bring notes about your problem, including details of the ancestor, i.e. dates and places, and a list of the records you’ve already searched.

Even if you don’t have a brick wall to discuss, please join us anyway, as listen to discussions on others’ problems may help you with your own research strategies.

Hope to see you there!

ESGR Breaking Down Brick Walls Special Interest Group (SIG)

The Erie Society for Genealogical Research has decided to offer some special interest groups (SIGs) that will meet outside of our regular monthly membership meetings; and, I’m excited to announce, I am spearheading the Breaking Down Brick Walls SIG. We will meet on the 4th Tuesday of each month in the Heritage Room at the Blasco Public Library 6pm-8pm. The group is only open to members of the genealogy society; however, once a quarter, the meetings will be open to the general public. The first public meeting will be April 26, 2016. Closer to the time, I will create a Facebook event on my Lantern Genealogy Facebook page inviting everyone to attend the meeting. The library will also be publicizing the event. If you aren’t on Facebook, it would be helpful if you could post a comment here, to indicate you’ll be attending the public meeting, as the library’s staff would like to know how many guests to expect that evening.

The group is still in the formative stage, but my initial thought on the meeting structure is it will be something like this:

Any attendees looking for help with a particular brick wall will have a chance to explain their problem and the group will brainstorm ways to push beyond the wall. Meetings are two hours long, so, depending on the number of problems, we’ll have to limit the brainstorming time to, say, 15 minutes per problem. It might be a good idea for people to post a summary of the problem on either the Facebook page or here, in a comment, ahead of time, so there’s more time for problem solving during the meeting. I’d also suggest bringing a list of the sources you’ve already searched.

If there’s any time left, we could end the session with a discussion on strategies for solving brick walls: perhaps one strategy per meeting, with a handout.

Here is the tentative schedule for the year:

March 22, 2016

ESGR members only

April 26, 2016

Open to the public

May 24, 2016

ESGR members only

June 28, 2016

ESGR members only

July 26, 2016

Open to the public

August 23, 2016

ESGR members only

September 27, 2016

ESGR members only

October 25, 2016

Open to the public

November 29, 2016*

ESGR members only

No December meeting

Happy holidays!

January 24, 2017

Open to the public

*This meeting will be held on the fifth Tuesday, to avoid Thanksgiving week.

These meetings will be work sessions. If you have an active library card, you will be able to access the Internet using the library’s Wi-Fi, so feel free to bring a laptop or tablet. We will also have access to the Heritage Room’s resources, including their computers, and the library has generously offered to make additional staff available to us on the nights we open the meetings to the public.

As I mentioned, we are still in the planning stages for this SIG. I welcome any and all comments!

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Erie Post Office (Postcard Series)

Postcard; post marked 1914; collection of the author.

Postcard; post marked 1914; collection of the author.

This beauty was demolished in 1937, and replaced with the U.S. District Courthouse that now sits on South Park Row at the corner of State Street. Built in 1887 under the direction of renowned American architect Mifflin Elmen Bell, it opened in 1888, and functioned as both a post office and federal courthouse.[1]

For more information on the construction of the building, see Debbi Lyon’s post, “Old Federal Courthouse Was Majestic,” over at Old Time Erie.

Wordless Wednesday is a weekly blogging prompt sponsored by Geneabloggers.


[1] Erie Federal Courthouse, “History of the Federal Judiciary,” Federal Judicial Center (http://www.fjc.gov : accessed February 2016).

Are You Thinking About Joining a Lineage Society?

Being accepted into a lineage society is a goal of many genealogy researchers. There are myriad reasons for belonging: it’s an honor; it’s a means by which to test the quality and veracity of your work; it puts you in touch with potential family and other like minded people; and, it preserves your research for those who come after you.

There are many different types of lineage societies. Some are associated with ethnicity, a specific war, or residency in an area of the country during a particular time period. To qualify for one, you need to prove you are directly descended from an ancestor who meets that society’s criteria for eligibility. Three which are popular with people whose ancestors were in Northwest Pennsylvania in the early 1800s are: Daughters [and Sons] of the American Revolution (DAR/SAR); The Society of the War of 1812; and, First Families of Pennsylvania.

The application process can seem daunting. You will need to document the birth, marriage, and death facts for many generations, and your trace your lineage back to your eligible ancestor. In my experience, the best way to begin is to use a worksheet that mimics the society’s application. This will help you stay focused and will reveal holes in your research.

Here is a PDF of a worksheet you can download and print to keep track of your research:
Lineage Society Worksheet

The most critical part of the application is the proof between generations. The earlier you go back, the less likely you will find vital records with direct evidence of parentage, so you will likely need to locate a variety of records which, when take together, will connect the generations. Many lineage societies have local chapters with registrars or membership helpers who can help guide you through the process.

Here are some links to societies that you might be interested in:

National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution
National Society, Sons of the American Revolution
General Society War of 1812
First Families of Pennsylvania
First Families of New York

You will also find links to many more societies at Cyndi’s List.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Erie County Courthouse (Postcard Series)

Postcard; postmarked Erie, 1947; collection of the author.

Postcard; postmarked Erie, 1947; collection of the author.

Erie’s County Courthouse, located at 140 West Sixth Street, was erected and opened for business in May 1855.

Erie County was established 12 March 1800, but for its first three years, it was attached to Crawford County. The very first Erie court was held in 1803, at Goerge Buehler’s hotel at the corner of French and Third Streets. The first official courthouse was erected on the West Park, north of the soldier’s monument, in 1808. That building, and its entire contents, burned 23 March 1823. A new building, built on the footprint of the first, took two years to complete, and served as the county seat for thirty years.[1]

Wordless Wednesday is a weekly blogging prompt sponsored by Geneabloggers.

[1] Samuel P. Bates, History of Erie County… (Chicago: Warner & Beers, 1884), 512-514.

Upcoming Genealogical & Historical Goings-On in Erie, PA

Edinboro Area Historical Society Annual Dinner

Wed, January 27, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
Nick’s Place, 12246 Edinboro Road, Edinboro

The Society’s keynote speaker is Caleb Pifer. Pifer grew up in Erie and Perth, Australia. He received a B.S. in Political Communications from the University of Texas at Austin.

He has worked professionally in Houston,Texas, and Newport, Rhode Island. Pifer served as the Program Director for the world’s only floating preparatory school and engaged in a world voyage which finished in 2007 covering the continents of North America, Europe, Africa, and South America. He then went on to co-found Educational Partner-Ships in Newport, Rhode Island. The company is a management consultancy that works in the museum and higher education fields.

He recently served as executive director of the Erie County Historical Society, where he was responsible for the leadership and growth of Erie’s oldest cultural organization. Pifer joined the historical society in September 2012 after spending three years with the Flagship Niagara League, the last as director of marketing and development. “I returned to Erie to work with the Flagship Niagara League, and have tried to show through both organizations that Erie possesses truly world-class cultural assets. Erie is hungry for new leaders with fresh ideas,” he said. [This information was extracted from the Erie Yesterday website].


Talk by Claire Varrieur Butler, on Evernote for Genealogists

Tuesday, February 9, 2016, 7:00pm
Thomas B. Hagen History Center
356 West Sixth Street

Free to the public. Claire will share tips on how genealogists can take advantage of this popular note-taking software’s web-clipper, notebooks, tags, and many other features, to capture and organize vast amounts of information from many sources. Sponsored by the Erie Society for Genealogical Research.

Please arrive between 6:30 and 6:50pm. The lecture will be proceeded by a brief society membership meeting at 6:30pm.


The Tale of the Steamer The Erie – Lake Erie Calamity

Tue, February 23, 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Jefferson Educational Society, 3207 State Street, Erie

In the 1800s, any news from America was exciting, even horrific accounts. One such event was the conflagration of the steamer “The Erie,” which left 270 dead, most of them German immigrants. Inspired, novelist Theodor Fontane wrote his bestselling poem “John Maynard,” a larger than life rendition of the true helmsman Luther Fuller. The work has been on many reading lists to the point that Buffalo erected a historical marker dedicated to John Maynard. Discover a heroic saga and how literature and a real event created an enduring fable across the ocean. – Angela Beaumont, M.A

Register online at the Jefferson Society Website

[This information was extracted from the Erie Yesterday website].


Autograph Books: More Genealogical Gold


Autograph books. A bit of a novelty in today’s world, but I still have the one my parents gave me when I was in the fifth grade. I asked all my school friends to write in it, mainly so it wouldn’t draw attention when I asked the boy I’d secretly been crushing on since AT LEAST fourth grade. It went nowhere, by the way. The little 3×5 album traveled with me to England the next December when we visited my family in Northamptonshire for the holidays. The Brits really know how to fill a page with rhyming wit, and reading their words of wisdom masked in no small amount of silliness stills makes me smile. It’s tucked in a special box of childhood ephemera and remains one of my treasures.


In my work at the ECHS archives, I’ve discovered many family collections contain autograph books, and they never fail to provide interesting insight into their young owners’ lives. Last week, I was thrilled to find two in the Virginia Drown Smith Collection, dating back to the 1880s. Beautiful and charming in their own right, they reveal something of the personalities of the owners and their friends and family, and they also confirm relationships suggested by other colder, dryer records [finally coming to my point :-)]

Master Cyril Myron Drown’s autograph book begins with sage advice from his father Hosea:

Strive to improve in some way each day
so that you cannot say with regret at night
‘This day was lost.’

It’s filled with many tender sentiments such as the entry from his cousin Jessie Drown:

May virtue guide and love direct
This little boy whom I respect.
                ~March 15, 1884

The humor of a brother, January 27, 1889:

Remember Me When
Far far off where the
Wood chucks die off Whooping
                ~Your brother, Samuel H. Drown

And this, from his younger brother:


Vintage children’s autograph books are miniature wonders. If your ancestors’ family papers were donated to a local archive, or if you are lucky enough to find a personal stash of family memorabilia tucked away in the attic of your ancestral home, be sure to keep an eye out these little gems. They are a wonderful find!

In closing, I’ll leave you with my own Father’s words of wisdom, dated Winter 1974:


This page is gold-so in life be bold;
if it appears green-believe what you have seen;
if it appears blue-remember I’m watching you;
if it appears red-keep a cool head; and
if days might seem black-just never look back.

Thank you, Dad!
Autograph books belonging to two of Hosea Drown’s children, Victoria Drown Smith Collection, No. 149, Erie County (PA) Historical Society Library & Archives, Erie.

Nuggets of Gold: Our Ancestors’ Diaries

My very first assignment as a volunteer at the Erie County Historical Society was to transcribe the 1859-1862 Diary of Hosea Drown. It was love at first sight 🙂 Hosea was born in Greene Township around 1833 and lived his entire life in this county. He was many things: He farmed with his father and brothers; he taught school in the earliest schoolhouse in Belle Valley; and he served as constable, as well as several other offices as needs arose. In later life, having retired from farming, he moved his family to town and sold real estate. Although a simple man in many respects, one thing became clear to me as I read his diary. Hosea was an educated man. A man of deep thought and good conscience. A man with introspection enough to understand himself and those around him, an appreciation for an individual’s role in community, and the forethought to document what went on in his.


I had an opportunity, while working on another project this week, to revisit Hosea’s diary, and I was instantly reminded of the wealth of information to be gleaned in these sort of archival treasures.

Hosea Drown was born fifty-two years before the advent of vital registrations, but his observations on family and the society all around him paint a much richer picture of our ancestors’ nineteenth-century lives than any vital record I’ve ever seen.

A few entries from 1859 Spelling, punctuation, or lack there of, is Hosea’s own:

13 February: FRANK BECKAS died this morning at Eagle village after a long illness.

27 March: Went up to see JOSEPH HIRT who is sick with the measels.

7 April: Went up to see JOSEPH HIRT in the evening he is very sick & his recovery is rather doubtful.

8 April: Went up to set up at night with JOSEPH HIRT who is not expected to live he has the nervous fever.

12 April: Went to the funeral of JOSEPH HIRT who died yesterday aged 21 years he was a youth much respected by all who knew him. The good & noble are seldom left till the last they are taken seemingly to be drawn from the temptations of evil—we are rapt up in a misery which death alone can unfold.

3 April: Sunday, I felt slightly indisposed but I went over to see how LEROY PINNEY was he is getting better—sick with the typhoid fever.

16 April: LEROY PINNEY died of typhoid this morning, at the age of fourteen.

24 October: We went out to GEORGE OGER’s wedding we had an enviable time without a doubt any quantity to eat & cider to drink. There was a dance at night but it was considerably crowded.

-ALBERT was there although he wasn’t invited he was allowed a seat with those that were or at least he took it—towards the noon of night the unfortunates began to pipe up some unearthly music & sounds outside but as soon as they observed there was no one to step it off they began to consider it wouldn’t pay & decamped accordingly though not ‘till they had unloosed a horse & upset old HUMPETER’s wagon & rack in the middle of the road.’

-Taking everything else into consideration the generality of the crew & the temptations the wedding went off grand in the extreme & agreeable enough to make every old maid & bach’ envy the lot of the wedded pair—except the girls generally drank a fearful amount of cider.

Despite the fact that Hosea fails to name George’s wife, the value of this entry goes beyond that of a marriage license application, which, while typically brimming with its own genealogical gold, really provides little beyond the cold, dry facts of the matter. I’d take this kind of detail any day 🙂

1859-1862 Diary of Hosea Drown, Victoria Drown Smith Collection, No. 149, Erie County (PA) Historical Society Library & Archives, Erie.

Erie PA Genealogy & Historical Goings-On for November

Talk by Jennifer Liber Raines, on The Erie County, New York, Poor House Project

Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 7:00pm
Thomas B. Hagen History Center
356 West Sixth Street

Free to the public. Sponsored by the Erie Society for Genealogical Research. Please arrive between 6:30 and 6:50pm. The lecture will be proceeded by a brief society membership meeting at 6:30pm.


Lecture at the Erie Maritime Museum – Commercial Fishing by Jerry Skrypzak

Sunday, November 22, 2:00pm – 3:30pm
Erie Maritime Museum, East Front Street, Erie

RSVP to Andrew 814.452.2744 ext 225 or outrech@flagshipniagara.org


Fairview Area Historical Society Public Meeting

Wednesday, November 18, 7:30pm – 9:00pm
Sturgeon House, 4302 Avonia Road (Route 98) in Fairview.

Meetings are open to the public. For more information, contact the Society at (814) 474-5855.


Elk Creek Historical Society Coffee House

The Little Church on the Hill, 16410 High Street, Albion, PA Saturday, November 21, 7pm – 9pm.

Are you interested in music, history, and fun? Then stop by The Little Church on the Hill’s monthly coffee house in Wellsburg, PA. The music begins at 7 pm and goes until 9 pm. There will be refreshments, door prizes, and a 50/50 raffle during intermission. All donations go towards the restoration and preservation of this 156 year old historic landmark. Bring friends and family for a night of music and fun. For additional information, contact the Elk Creek Historical Society at echistoricalsociety@gmail.com.