Finding “Lost” Family Members

Often genealogists hear stories of relatives whose names or life details have been forgotten. They often died young or moved away and lost contact with the family. The following sources may shed light on family members who have been lost to memory.

Federal and New York State Census Records

Census records are an excellent way to study the evolution of your ancestral families over time. Federal census records, taken every 10 years, are available for genealogy research from 1790-1950. New York State census records are accessible from 1825-1925 and were taken approximately every 10 years. Beginning in 1850 (federal) and 1855 (NYS) census records name every member of a household, their age, state or country of birth, as well as other data.

The 1900 and 1910 censuses record how many children women have given birth to and how many of those children are still living. The 1940 and 1950 census supplementary questions ask how many children married or previously married women have given birth to. Supplementary questions are only asked to some of the population (those whose names fell on certain lines on the census schedule). Similarly, the 1865 New York State census provides how many children adult women have given birth to. The numbers found in in these columns can help confirm a death or the existence of a forgotten child.

Census records available through the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library

Learn more about census records with our upcoming class, Climb Generations with Census Records. If you can’t make it to the class, look for it in the future on the library’s YouTube Channel.

This 1865 New York State shows Dorothy Newman on line three. It is recorded that she has given birth to two children, yet only one young child, John, is living with the family. This is possibly an indication that her other child passed away.
Source: 1865 New York State Census, Ancestry Library Edition.

Births, Deaths, and Marriages

Many civil and sacramental birth, marriage, and death records list parents’ names. If you are lucky, records for your ancestor’s locale have been digitized and indexed by parents’ names. Search those databases for the parents’ names and you may find previously unknown family members. The following databases are a great place to start for Western New York research:

New York, U.S., County Marriage Records, 1847-1849, 1907-1936 – available in Ancestry Library Edition*,, and FamilySearch. Not all counties are included.

New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962

New York Deaths and Burials, 1795-1952

New York Marriages, 1686-1980   

If there are no databases for the locale or religious institution that you are looking for, check print, scanned, or microfilmed indexes for individuals bearing the same surname as your family.

Vital records available in the Grosvenor Room

Church records available in the Grosvenor Room

From Birth to Death: New York State Vital Records – A free online genealogy class about New York State vital records and the Grosvenor Room’s vital records holdings.

Many Buffalo church records are digitized and browsable through the FamilySearch library catalog. Perform a “Place” search for Buffalo and restrict the records to “Online.”  Your search results will list records by category.  Choose the “Church Records” category and then browse the list for the names of the churches which were close to where your ancestor lived. 

When looking at civil birth records, check to see if they list how many other children the birth mother has given birth to.

Source: Erie County Marriage Records, Western New York Genealogical Society Collection, Grosvenor Room.

The Grosvenor Room also carries alternate death sources including cemetery records and early Erie County medical examiner records (1878-1902).

Newspaper Announcements

Check the obituaries and marriage announcements of the parents and known children for listings of living or deceased children or siblings.

Newspapers available in the Grosvenor Room

Newspapers digitized by the B&ECPL

Free newspaper websites

Search the Social Security Applications and Claims Index

The Social Security Applications and Claims Index covers over 49 million deceased persons for the years 1936-2007. Content is heaviest from the late 1960s forward. Important data included is name, birth and death dates, place of birth, and parents’ names. Search by parents’ names to find previously unknown children. The index is available in Ancestry Library Edition* and

Source: Ancestry Library Edition.

Wills and Probate Records

Check probate records of the parents, grandparents, and siblings of the lost relative. These records should list heirs and their places of residence and may mention deceased family members.

New York Probate Records, 1629-1971 – Browsable on FamilySearch. Check out the Grosvenor Room’s class, Finding Western New York Probate Records in FamilySearch.

New York State Unified Court System Online Records – Select records are online.

Erie County Surrogate’s Court – Erie County records not online can be ordered through the surrogate’s court.

This petition from an 1882 Erie County, N.Y. probate file names Mary Murphy’s heirs and their places of residence. Her brother Edward resides in Jersey City, N.J., her brother John in Lisarda, County Cork, Ireland, and her son’s last known residence was “Buffalo, NY, which place he left about three years ago to go to the state of Michigan and that he has not been heard of or from since.” Source: Erie County Probate Case File 15981, Mary Murphy, Erie County Surrogate’s Court, Erie County Hall.

Military Pension Files

Military pension files are an immense source of biographical and genealogical data. A soldier, their widow, minor children, or other dependent family members may have applied for a pension. A pension file may list a soldier’s children as well as current and former spouses. In order to receive a pension, a soldier would have to prove military service or a disability occurring during service, and a family member would have to prove their relationship to the soldier. The file may contain affidavits from family members attesting to a disability, military service, or a vital event such as a birth, marriage, or death. An affidavit may reveal a previously unknown family member. Sometimes bible records were used as proof of marriage or parentage.

Revolutionary War Pension Files – Available in Ancestry Library Edition*,, HeritageQuest Online**, and FamilySearch.

War of 1812 Pension Files – Most War of 1812 pension files are freely available online through Fold3. Indexes are available in Ancestry Library Edition*,, and FamilySearch.

Civil War Pension Files – Can be ordered for a fee through the National Archives. Indexes are available in Ancestry Library Edition*,, and FamilySearch.

Join us in August for The Anatomy of a U.S. Military Pension File: Revolutionary War Through the Civil War. If you can’t make it, look for it in the future on the library’s YouTube Channel.

This War of 1812 pension names the children of soldier Abel Aldrich and his wife Polly. Source: Fold3.

Freedman’s Bank Records

The Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company (1865-1874) was established after the Civil War as a bank for African American soldiers and the formerly enslaved. It was meant to help the formerly enslaved succeed as free persons. Researchers may also find their European ancestors in these records, as many immigrants established accounts, particularly in the New York City area. The bank quickly grew to have branches in 17 states, but in the end it failed due to mismanagement and corrupt practices. The bank’s “Registers of Signatures of Depositors” are very useful to genealogists. Detailed information was recorded in these registers which may connect family relationships and the formerly enslaved to their enslaved lives. Family members (including deceased family members) such as parents, siblings, and children are generally provided and well as the bank member’s birthplace, place brought up, current residence, and sometimes the enslaver and plantation were detailed. Freedman’s Bank records are available in HeritageQuest Online**, a database available from home to all B&ECPL card holders, and on FamilySearch.

A Freedman’s Bank register entry for Gabriel Naverrett of Orangeburg, S.C. His living and deceased parents and siblings are named. Source: HeritageQuest Online.

Adoption, Orphanage, and Poorhouse Records

In times of hardship, family members may have been split apart. Children may have been adopted out, indentured, or placed in institutions. New York miscellaneous county record books are a good place to look for early adoption records and indentures. These records are kept at county clerk’s offices and may be available online. Children’s birth names are generally indexed in these books and adoption records usually list the birth parents’ names and the circumstances of the adoption. Indentures may also list the names of one or more parent, although if the indenture took place when the child was living in an orphanage or poorhouse, the director of those institutions likely facilitated the placement. Miscellaneous record books for several New York counties are available in FamilySearch. The following sources detail how to these records.

New York State County Miscellaneous Records – An online class by the Grosvenor Room.

“County Clerk Miscellaneous Records: They May Be What You’re Looking For” – An article published in the Spring 2023 issue of the New York Researcher, a periodical available in the Grosvenor Room.

Before the 1870s, and sometimes later, the first stopping place for children (and parents) in times of hardship may have been the county poorhouse. Poorhouse records may include registers which documented a family unit, when they entered the poorhouse, and when they left. Entries for children will usually list who the children went with when they left the poorhouse or what institution, such as an orphanage, that they were placed with. The Grosvenor Room carries various Erie County Poorhouse records from 1829-1952.

The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library’s Digital Collections – This online demonstration includes more detail about the Erie County Poorhouse records.

The Grosvenor Room’s adoption and orphanage guides – Guides to historical adoptions and orphanage research as well as birth parent searching for living adoptees.

This 1847 image from the library’s Erie County Poorhouse Collection shows the Brandeymore children, who were eventually separated. Thirteen-year-old Almira was bound out to Isham Wells of Villenova in Chautauqua County and eight-year-old Joseph and five-year-old Emely were taken to an orphan asylum, though on different dates.

Immigration and Naturalization Records

If your lost ancestor was an immigrant and travelled to the U.S. with their family, look for U.S. passenger lists. Passenger lists from 1820 forward look similar to census records and those traveling together are generally grouped together on the lists.

Finding U.S. Passenger Lists – A Grosvenor Room online class.

Passenger Lists – A guide to immigration resources in the Grosvenor Room.

Naturalization records of immigrant parents may list the names of their living children (minors) along with their birth dates, birth places, and places of residence.

Using Western New York Naturalization Records on FamilySearch – An online Grosvenor Room class.

Miscellaneous Genealogical Records – A guide to select genealogical records in the Grosvenor Room, including naturalizations.

A U.S. District Court petition for naturalization for Morris Levend, which names his children, their dates of birth, and their places of birth. Source: FamilySearch.

For More Information

For more ideas on how to find lost family members, see the Grosvenor Room’s record selection table under “parents, children, and other family members.”

*Ancestry Library Edition is available for use in-library at every Buffalo & Erie County Public Library location.

**HeritageQuest Online is available for use in-library or from home with a Buffalo & Erie County Library card.

Comments Off on Finding “Lost” Family Members

Filed under Genealogy

Curtiss Training Camps: Learning to Fly Over Buffalo, New York

Many of us are familiar with the story of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company and the Curtiss Wright Corporation, which manufactured airplanes in Buffalo, NY from 1916 to 1946, but did you know that Curtiss trained pilots as well?

This undated brochure describes pilot training services available at the three Curtiss Training Camps in Buffalo, Hammondsport, NY (where Glenn Curtiss first started his eponymous company) and Newport News, VA.

Pilot training did not escape the eyes of the public, and the presence of airplanes over Buffalo was big news, especially in the summer of 1916 when pilot and instructor Phil Rader looped the loop above the area.

Buffalo Evening News 7/19/16 p.12

Students began to arrive and try their hand at getting a pilot’s license. As the Great War dragged on, students became interested in flying to possibly defend their country, as demonstrated by the “English Army Officer” and the “Harvard Men” described below:

Buffalo Evening News, August 8, 1916, p. 1

And yes, there were crashes. Unfortunately, the incident described below resulted in the death of instructor Major W.K. Campbell.

Buffalo Evening News, September 16, 1916, p.1
Buffalo Evening News 9.8.1916 p.1

Comments Off on Curtiss Training Camps: Learning to Fly Over Buffalo, New York

Filed under Local History

Charles Barth (1895-1976) – Writer, Activist, Hobo

Charles Barth was one of eight children born to German immigrants on Buffalo’s East Side in 1895.  Growing up in poverty and doing various odd jobs to help support his large family, Barth completed an apprenticeship as a painter and began his first job painting elevated tanks on the waterfront in 1916, work he would return to from time to time. Inspired by a fellow worker to travel and find more work on the open road, Barth began his life of transience only to return to Buffalo for his induction into the U. S. Army Engineer Corps in February of 1918.  As an engineer, Barth would have had a hand in numerous construction tasks, such as bridge and road repair, trench digging, removal of land mines, and building barracks, hospitals, shelters and target ranges, but was unlikely to have seen any frontline combat.

Barth would remain in Buffalo for a brief period after the war, only to continue his roving lifestyle and slowly build a career as a writer by starting as a poet of greeting card verses.  Later, as “Buffalo Chuck” he would become a longtime correspondent for newspapers devoted to migrant workers, such as the Bowery News and the Hobo News, writing articles on hobo-friendly places and the trials and tribulations of the occupants of Skid Row.  By 1969 he would begin a campaign to create shelters for the homeless, including war veterans like himself, and publish his two major works of memoir.  Shep: a reminiscence depicts his childhood in Buffalo in 1904 growing up in a large family and details his youthful high spirits amid the poverty of his “Iron Island” area, known today as the Lovejoy neighborhood.

After Barth died in 1976, his sole-surviving sibling donated his archive of literary material to the B&ECPL, a unique collection of manuscripts, letters, post cards, newspapers and documents that chronicles his life and writings as a hobo/activist and the many connections he made on the road.  The Charles P. Barth literary archive, ca. 1916-1980, as well as the manuscripts of his two books, Shep and Hobo Trail to Nowhere, now reside among the collections of the Rare Book Room.

Comments Off on Charles Barth (1895-1976) – Writer, Activist, Hobo

Filed under Collections, Local History, Manuscripts, Rare Books

Troop I, Post 665: a generous donation and a past cornerstone continues

A post by Courtney Johnt, SILS student at Simmons University and recent Grosvenor Room Intern..

Roster, 102nd Trench Mortar Division, 1917

Troop I was originally formed as a troop consisting of forty-two men, all from Buffalo, who were called into service at the Mexican Border in 1916. After finishing their service at the Mexican Border, the Troop was once again called into service for the First World War. During their training period the Troop was absorbed by the 102nd Trench Mortar Battery and was subsequently assigned to the 52nd Field Artillery Brigade of the 27th Infantry Division. While in service, the Troop served at the front lines of France until 1919, when the Troop was officially released from federal service.

Cover of the “Gas Attack,” the Newsletter of the Twenty-seventh American Division

Upon the Troop’s arrival home, the members of Troop I created an American Legion post at “Cavalry Farm” in Orchard Park, where they remained until 1939, when the Troop bought the “Hamlin House” at 432 Franklin Street from the German Orpheus Singing Society. From 1939 to 2022, Troop I, Post 665 used the Hamlin House as their base of operations. For those of you who grew up in Buffalo, you may remember Troop I, Post 665. The organization acted as a community cornerstone for many years, hosting a wide variety of community centered events and in general acting as a gathering place for veterans and their families. As was the case for many, the Covid-19 pandemic forced the Troop to make the difficult decision of selling the Hamlin House. The selling of the house marks the end of an era for the Post and its surrounding community.

Photo of Troop I American Legion Post 665 building,
a.k.a. the Hamlin House at 432 Franklin St. on December 10, 2022

Prior to the sale of the Hamlin House, the Grosvenor Room of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library received the Troop I, Post 665 collection from Troop historian Elizabeth Miller. The collection itself was in good condition, but needed a new home, as the Troop could no longer house the materials. Now, the history and memory of Troop I will gladly live on within the walls of the Grosvenor Room.

As a library science graduate student and intern here at the Grosvenor Room, this was the first collection I worked on exclusively by myself. In this post, I’d like to share my appreciation for both the archival process and of course for the collection itself.

When beginning to process a collection, there are a few guidelines which help maintain direction for archivists. These include creating preliminary inventory lists and processing plans, appraising materials, and planning for the collection’s preservation. While the early steps of processing admittedly seem relatively cold, particularly considering the personal nature of collections, they are essential. The creation of inventories during this initial stage proves to be a necessity, as this grounds the rest of your work. Despite essentially reducing individual histories into an itemized list, this is the stage when an archivist begins to familiarize themselves with the collection at hand. During this introductory period, I considered myself as a sleuth of sorts, attempting to form a full story of the organization and the people within it while sorting boxes, making sense of filed papers, and admiring photographs.

Meeting Minutes, Troop I September 22, 1919 calling for the organization of an American Legion Post

As I quietly worked on processing and preserving the Troop I collection, I found myself becoming attached in a way to the “characters” of the collection. With any organization, there are a few members who continuously stand out for their dedicated work and loyal presence, the same was true for Troop I. Of the seven scrapbooks which were included in the collection, nearly half were created by a Troop I member, Milton Klein. Within the scrapbooks, Klein’s life was laid out through pages of newspaper clippings, post cards, and personal photographs. Having served in World War I with Troop I, Klein’s scrapbooks acted as an invaluable resource to piece together not only the history of Troop I, but to also see how social and cultural events like wars impacted Americans on an individual level. Through the appraisal process, I found myself growing attached to the story of Klein and a number of other men who dedicated large amounts of time and energy to the growth and success of Post 665.

While conducting my work on the Troop I, Post 665 collection, I found that archival collections act as a way to follow humans and our growth. By interacting with the papers, meeting minutes, clippings, newspapers, and photographs of the collection, I felt as though I was growing with the Post members. Through photographs, original members grew before my eyes, their individual lives unfolding in front of me. In the Post 665’s visitor register which was used from 1939 to 1974, I saw entries of familial parties and weddings, showing how the physical building of the Hamlin House also witnessed this growth. As I progressed through the collection in chronological order, I began to find the obituaries of members, the correspondence from families to the Post thanking Post 665 for the secondary family they offered to many, the proof of an enduring relationship.

Membership cards may yield genealogical information

While the Troop I, Post 665 collection provides many valuable resources for those interested in genealogical searches, the collection itself acts as a window into what Buffalo was. Not only does the collection demonstrate community, but it also shows the growth of a narrow but important part of Buffalo’s population, veterans. The collection in an abstract and perhaps obscure way shows the need of community for veterans, regardless of years of service. Through working with the Troop I, Post 665 collection, I found the value of the American Legion and saw the support system that the organization offers to those who may need it. For the men involved in Troop I, Post 665, friendship and brotherhood was offered, and this extended to their families as well. The Post acted as an olive branch of friendship between not only veterans, but also the surrounding Buffalo community.

Centered in service for others, the American Legion Post 665 continued to act as a place to uplift others. From a wide range of activities including dances, dinners, the installation of gardens, and interactions with local youths, the members of American Legion Post 665 carved their names into the fold of Buffalo’s rich history by simply being consistently active. In interacting with the Troop I, Post 665 collection, I was amazed at the dedication a singular group of people can have for their community and in turn their country.

Though the future location of Troop I, Post 665 is uncertain, the lives of its individual members and the history of the Post itself continues to live on within the confines of the Grosvenor Room. I hope that each time a researcher or curious patron is interested in Troop I, Post 665, they are impacted by the collection in the same way I was. I’d like to thank the members of Troop I for
allowing me to experience their history and offering others this opportunity.

Comments Off on Troop I, Post 665: a generous donation and a past cornerstone continues

Filed under Genealogy

Psychics, Prohibition, and a Plunge

47 East Mohawk before it was the Mohawk Place

                The residents of this city are somewhat familiar with the haunted nature of our architecture; the specter of industrial titans, of a golden age a century past that is embodied in the grand designs of the downtown corridor.

                They are again familiar with the evidence of urban decline—a hollowing out, and the places that were born in that period of diminished glory. Held in high regard are those places that survived (or were reborn) into what appears to be a time of new growth.

                Just off the corner of Ellicott and Mohawk, the somewhat dive-y venue and bar in the shadow of the Sinclair building is one such site. A tentpole of the scene (punk, indie, et al.), Mohawk Place is undoubtedly a landmark in the recent music history of the city. However, its roots don’t merely go back to its opening in 1990—the management of Mohawk Place themselves note the building’s construction in 1896, and its history as housing for the workers in the city’s theaters and music halls.

                The building has gone by a few names: advertisements for lodging list it as the Leroy in 1898; the Hotel Stowell in 1901; and a decidedly anonymous boarding house through much of the 1910s and 1920s. Still within living memory is its tenure as the Theatre Hotel and Restaurant, a moniker that would persist into the later half of the 20th century.

                The focus of this piece is that history as presented in newspapers. For many businesses, the bulk of their presence in the historical record are advertisements they placed and articles that featured them. The following clippings are only a small selection of that record.

                Notable in the first years of 47 East Mohawk was the preponderance of psychics, spiritualists, and clairvoyants that occupied its premises–some even before the construction of the current building. Perhaps they were drawn there by the convergence of ley-lines and mystical energies beneath the property (or simply the cheap rent).

Buffalo Evening News, June 18, 1895.
Buffalo Evening News, September 30, 1898
Buffalo Evening News, February 22, 1904
Courier-Express, December 9, 1905
Courier Express, August 21, 1909

                Previously mentioned was the building’s moniker of the Theatre Hotel; the name would first appear in print in the 1927 city directory. It would shortly be followed by a report on the raid of the business by prohibition agents:

Buffalo Evening News, April 25, 1928

               Arthur Korst, the “alleged proprietor,” ran afoul of dry laws in the middle years of prohibition, and would continue to do so after his 1928 arrest. His 1933 obituary would characterize him as genial and a great friend to the performers that typified the patronage of the Theatre Hotel. A swimmer, the press took special notice of Korst’s attempt to swim a stretch of the Niagara.

Courier Express, July 14, 1930

               The hotel would continue after his death, housing performers for years after. It would make the front page of the Evening News in 1935 following the tragic death of a chorus girl:

Buffalo Evening News, December 28, 1935
Buffalo Evening News, December 28, 1935

Comments Off on Psychics, Prohibition, and a Plunge

Filed under Local History

No Gloves Required (Please Accept This to be True)

Quite recently—March 9, 2023—the New York Times ran an article “For Rare Book Librarians, It’s Gloves Off. Seriously” ( Therefore, we would like to take this opportunity to explain and reinforce the fact that you should NOT wear gloves when handling rare materials with very few exceptions.
For years, the staff who work with special collections everywhere knew that wearing gloves when handling rare materials might actually pose more risk of damage than not wearing them at all. This is because we lose our tactile sensation—i.e. we cannot fully feel with our fingertips—and clumsily become unaware of how much pressure we are putting onto delicate materials. This may lead to folds, tears or other unintended consequences of mishandling.

International Preservation News published “Misperceptions about White Gloves” a paper by preservation/conservation specialists Cathleen A. Baker and Randy Silverman in its December 2005 issue that concludes that gloves are not the best protection for rare books and that clean, dry hands are more reasonable and effective.

The exception to the no-gloves rule is only when handling photographs and/or materials with shiny surfaces. Because the slightest bit of skin oil may harm or chemically change such material, we would wear the gloves when handling them.

In most cases it is gloves off for most rare books, which are usually constructed of paper and vellum. Save those white gloves for formal occasions or your mime performance!

Comments Off on No Gloves Required (Please Accept This to be True)

Filed under Handling, Photographs, Preservation, Rare Books

Auto Racing in Western New York

With the 2023 NASCAR season underway and Formula 1 set to begin this weekend, it felt appropriate to take a brief look at Buffalo’s involvement with auto racing and the automobile industry in general. Unless you are a serious auto historian, it can be easy to forget that Buffalo was once at the helm of (to paraphrase an article about inline-6-cylinder engines from the latest issue of The Arrow) the engine design dynasty at the turn of the 20th century. And, given that numerous car manufacturers existed here, the main culprits being the Pierce-Arrow and Thomas Motor companies, it makes sense that Buffalo was very much involved with the earliest auto races, not only in the country, but in the world.

Pierce-Arrow began making a case for its dominance in the auto industry as early as 1901, participating in the New York to Buffalo Race (which was abruptly cut short due to an infamous presidential assassination) and would go on to win numerous Glidden Tours held between 1904-1913. Known as the National Reliability Runs by the American Automobile Association, these were long endurance races meant to put cars and drivers through rigorous conditions to demonstrate the stress these machines could successfully endure.

The Grosvenor Room has numerous resources to peruse regarding the Pierce Arrow Motor Company from books, newspaper articles, scrapbook clippings, a vertical file, and the entire run of the Pierce Arrow Society’s newsletter and magazine, The Arrow.

The Thomas Motor Company, while perhaps not as savvy as Pierce Arrow when it came to advertising, perhaps not quite as luxurious either, nevertheless holds the claim of not only being the only American car to enter into the 1908 New York to Paris Race, but also the winner. The original plan of the race was to drive from New York to Alaska, motor across (if frozen, otherwise ferry) the Bering Strait and then navigate through Russia and Europe until the finish line in Paris. This would be thwarted due to impossible driving conditions in Alaska, thus necessitating the vehicles be transported by ship from San Francisco to Japan, where the drivers would make their way to the the Sea of Japan and be shipped to Vladivostok in order to continue the overseas part of the adventure. This race was held at a time when viable roads were not guaranteed outside of major cities, cars were not driven during the winter, maps were not readily available, and bandits were a serious concern (serious enough that one of the French teams dropped out of the race before making it to Russia for fear of highway robbers – pardon the joke, there were no highways at the time). Somehow, after 169 days of driving and surviving, the Thomas automobile made it to Paris and was declared winner of the race.

This is from a Reader’s Digest article about the 1908 race, written by George Schuster, the only Buffalo mechanic/driver to be with the car throughout the entirety of the race. The painting depicts a moment of comradery despite the competition, when the Buffalo team helped the German team drag their vehicle out of the mud. You can look at a four page spread of the painting in Schuster’s book, The Longest Auto Race, which goes into much more detail about his journey.

If you want to take a more in depth look at the famous race that has never been equaled in either length or insanity (otherwise known as ambition), check out the New York to Paris Race, Thomas Flyer section in The Grosvenor Room’s Digital Collections. You can also look at our guide to relevant resources via this link.

Beyond learning about Buffalo’s early car manufacturing prowess and the wild endurance races that ensued, you can read about the history of auto racing in Western New York in Keith S. Herbst’s Western New York Heritage article from 2007, which focuses particularly on the 1930s and 40s races held at the Buffalo Civic Stadium. You can read about Buffalo native Jim Hurtibise in a profile written for Buffalo Magazine in 1967, browse our local history file and vertical files for more information, and, soon to be part of our collection, read Herbst’s 2006 Daredevils of the Frontier, the book that his WNY Heritage article was based on.

Article by Keith S. Herbst in the Summer 2007 WNY Heritage Magazine

Jim Hurtibise – after a bad accident forced the doctors to set his hands into a permanent position, Hurtibise told them to make sure they were set in a way that he could continue driving

Comments Off on Auto Racing in Western New York

Filed under Genealogy

Buffalo’s Neighborhoods Online Exhibit

In 2022, the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library and the Western New York Genealogical Society received a grant for the creation of an online exhibit about Buffalo’s cultural neighborhoods. The digital exhibit, titled, Buffalo’s Neighborhoods: Exploring Our Migrant & Immigrant Heritage, is now online at The project is supported with federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds allocated to the New York State Library by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The Western New York Library Resources Council (WNYLRC) oversees the funds locally.

The exhibit features historical narratives on Buffalo’s neighborhoods as well as digitized photographs, newspaper clippings, maps, books, programs, and other historical documents. Many local organizations collaborated for the exhibit, which we hope will promote an understanding of and foster connections with Buffalo’s evolving ethnic communities, as well as highlight local genealogical societies and repositories. We wish to thank the organizations which generously shared their time and resources to collaborate with the B&ECPL and WNYGS, namely:

  • The Buffalo Genealogy Society of the African Diaspora (BGSAD)
  • The Buffalo Irish Genealogical Society (BIGS)
  • The Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York
  • The Iroquois Genealogy Society
  • The Italian Genealogical Society of Western New York
  • The Jewish Buffalo History Center
  • The Polish Genealogical Society of New York State (PGNYS)
  • Trinity Old Lutheran Church

We hope you enjoy the exhibit!

Buffalo’s Foreign Populations Scrapbook

Comments Off on Buffalo’s Neighborhoods Online Exhibit

Filed under Genealogy

Burns in Buffalo?

Robert Burns (1759-1796), was a Scottish poet who wrote over 700 poems in his short life, including Auld Lang Syne and A Red, Red Rose. His life and poetry are celebrated the world over on the night of his birthday, January 25th. Since 1801 Burns’ friends and admirers have marked the occasion with a supper complete with neeps and tatties, haggis, and a glass or two of whiskey. But what does this 18th century Scotsman have to do with Buffalo, you ask?

One of the treasures of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library is the James Fraser Gluck Collection. In 1885 James Fraser Gluck, a successful local attorney, was named curator of the Buffalo Public Library, the predecessor of the B&ECPL. In this role, Gluck began soliciting and collecting literary and historical manuscripts for the Library.  The resulting collection contains over 400 manuscripts, including Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Representative Men and Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Sadly, Mr. Gluck died at age 46, on December 15, 1897, but not before he collected two songs written in Burns’ own hand, Robin shure in hairst and The banks of Nith, which are currently housed in the Grosvenor Room.

Manuscript of “Robin shure in hairst” from the James Fraser Gluck Collection. We are not sure why there are lines drawn through the texts, it is thought perhaps Burns crossed them out as they were typeset.

Robin shure in hairst
shurewi’ him.
Fient aheuk had I,

Yet I stack by him.
gaed up to Dunse,
To warp a wabo’ plaiden,
At his daddie’s yett,
Wha met me but Robin:
Robin shure, &c.

Was na Robin bauld,
Tho’ I was a cotter,
Play’d me sic a trick,
An’ me the El’er’s dochter!
Robin shure, &c.

Robin promis’d me
A’ my winter vittle;
Fient haet he had but three
Guse-feathers and a whittle!
Robin shure, &c

Manuscript of “The Banks of the Nith,” from the James Fraser Gluck Collection.

The Banks of Nith
The Thames flows proudly to the sea,
Where royal cities stately stand;
But sweeter flows the Nith, to me,
Where Cummins ance had high command:
When shall I see that honor’d land,
That winding Stream I love so dear!
Must wayward Fortune’s adverse hand
For ever, ever keep me here?

How lovely, Nith, thy fruitful vales,
Where bounding hawthorns gayly bloom;
And sweetly spread thy sloping dales
Where lambkins wanton through the broom!
Tho’ wandering, now, must be my doom,
Far from thy bonie banks and braes,
May there my latest hours consume,
Amang the friends of early days!

So even though Scotland is an ocean away, feel free to raise a glass to Robert Burns (and maybe to James Fraser Gluck as well) knowing that a small part of the legacy of Scotland’s National Poet resides here in Buffalo.

Comments Off on Burns in Buffalo?

Filed under Manuscripts

Buffalo Tabloid

A Buffalo newspaper from the 1920s that most closely resembled a sensationalist tabloid, such as today’s National Enquirer or National Star, would be the Daily Star and the Enquirer. While real news stories can be found among its pages, most often the journal that referred to itself as “Greater Buffalo’s Picture Newspaper,” grabbed the reader’s attention with lurid headlines and garish photographs.

Publisher William J. Conners, Jr. was following in his father’s footsteps as the senior Conners bought and ran the Buffalo Enquirer in 1892, later naming it the Morning Express in 1896. When the Buffalo Courier and the Buffalo Express merged in 1926 to form the Courier-Express, father handed the reigns over to his son, who became president and publisher, a post he held until his death in 1951.

Advertising itself as a tabloid picture newspaper that was “easy to read,” the Daily Star sometimes covered stories that were difficult to absorb. When a young boy, Joseph Gervase, is brutally murdered in April 1925, leave it to the Star to show an exclusive photo of the casket in the family home surrounded by grieving relatives.

Equally difficult to accept is the coverage of a nighttime Klan gathering in the town of Elma the following month.

Little else is known about the complete run of this tabloid as our library appears to be the only institution with any holdings, and the six very fragile bindings cannot be handled by patrons except in the rarest of instances. We are just grateful to be able to highlight this unique item in our collections and present parts of this fascinating piece of Buffalo publishing history.

Comments Off on Buffalo Tabloid

Filed under Collections, Local History, Periodicals, Photographs