Michelle Ann Kratts

Archive for June, 2013|Monthly archive page

Genealogy Journals Available in the Genealogy Room

In Genealogy Journals, Lewiston Public Library on June 28, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Sometimes the answers to the mysteries you are attempting to solve may be found in another person’s research. Sometimes they are published in popular genealogy journals, newsletters and magazines. Make sure you check out our collection in the Jon F. Popkey Genealogy Room. Most of these items have been donated.

American Genealogist
American Spirit (Daughters of the American Revolution)
Daughters of the American Revolution Newsletter
Der Blumenbaum
Detroit Society for Genealogical Research Magazine
Family Tree Magazine
German Connection
Heritage Quest
National Genealogical Society Magazine
Nationals Genealogical Society Quarterly
New England Ancestors
New England Historic and Genealogical Register
New York Genealogical and Biographical Record
Newsletters from Family Finder, Genealogical Association of English Speaking Researchers in Europe
Nexus, the news magazine of the New England Historic Genealogical Society
Palatine Immigrant
Palatine Patter
Tree Talks, Onondaga County Federal Census Abstract 1800
WNY Genealogical Society Journal

My Mother’s Mother’s Mother

In Coming to America, Niagara Falls, Niagara in Love, Restaurants of Niagara Falls, St. Joseph's Church, The Italians of Niagara Falls, New York on June 28, 2013 at 4:19 pm
Clementina, Gina and Francesco Fortuna

Clementina, Gina and Francesco Fortuna

The Ventresca family in Italy (not including Clementina, or her father, Angelo)

The Ventresca family in Italy (not including Clementina, or her father, Angelo)

My great grandmother, Clementina Ventresca

My great grandmother, Clementina Ventresca

I have always wondered if there is something mystical about being the first-born daughter, of a first-born daughter, of a first born daughter, etc. As far as I can tell by my research, my maternal line, the one that also carries my Mitochondrial DNA (passed only by mothers to their children) is a long series of uninterrupted first born daughters. Interestingly enough, I also gave birth, first, to a daughter. This special relationship was something that my family celebrated and I have been told that back in Italy things such as this are indicative of some sort of psychic prowess. The Abruzzo region, where my family originated, is known for its superstitious character so I am not surprised. Some things I have read have said it is the area in Italy most “prone to magic and superstition.” Bordered by the Apennines, Abruzzo is home to some of Italy’s wildest terrain. Silent valleys, vast untamed mountain plains and abandoned hill villages carelessly dot the ancient landscape today. Many unusual stories have been passed down and even in America we have a strong inclination toward unearthly things.

The furthest back in this special line of women–that I have had the privilege of knowing personally–was my great grandmother, Clementina Ventresca Fortuna. Her mother, Adelina, was also a first born daughter, however, she died a few years before I was born.

Clementina was born in the small mountain village of Torre Dei Nolfi, in the province of L’Aquila, region of Abruzzo, on November 16, 1901. Her life in Italy was far from idyllic. The eldest daughter on a farm, there was much work to do. Her father, Angelo Ventresca, was often in America, or traveling across the ocean, earning money at various jobs in order to ensure the family’s survival. Adelina, his wife, was left with the arduous task of managing the farm with her daughters. Her only son, Vittorio, was one of the youngest, and could not help with the major work. Clementina, my great grandmother, was a shepherdess and she spent her days tending to the sheep that grazed the primeval hillside. In this sort of natural solitude, her needlework often kept her busy in her loneliness, and of course, there was that other notion to keep her going…the love of a young man. His name was Giovanino. He was a policeman from Rome and over the years this sad, sad story concerning unrequited love has been passed from generation to generation. I only knew my grandmother as an old woman, but every time I looked at her I imagined the young girl she had been, because of this story.

It was really quite simple. They met, fell hopelessly in love, were forbidden to marry, threatened…and in the end he was dead and she was on a boat to America. Clementina’s youngest sister, my Aunt Phil (Felicetta) remembers how Giovanino would stand outside the window of their old stone house, in the garden, before the earthquake had struck, and he would sing his heart out to her sister. In my imagination, my grandmother was Juliet and poor desperate Giovanino was Romeo. A love so beautiful as theirs was destined for tragedy. The family was set against Giovanino as she had been promised in an arranged marriage to another, the son of the most powerful man in the village. But Clementina was not prepared to surrender. She embodied the stubbornness that we all share today. Even as various relatives did their best to instill fear within her, and even as another cousin who had also attempted to break with tradition and marry the man she had loved was brutally murdered and her body left in Clementina’s family’s garden (an obvious warning), Clementina refused to give in and marry a man she did not love. In fact, she hated him even more. And so, as they had promised, deep in the night, those who had found their love unsavory, murdered Giovanino. My grandmother was heart broken but even fear would not break her spirit. Emboldened by her anger and her grief she found there was only one thing left to do: go to America. Italy had broken her heart.

Lucky for Clementina, her father was in America. He was in Niagara Falls, New York, working on the railroad. He welcomed her to come. Little Felicetta was very small when her sister left for America and just a few years ago she told the story of her sister’s last night in Italy, while my uncle and I interviewed her on film. Clementina had been sweeping the barn when her sister ran in and she stopped her work and held onto her and cried for what seemed to be hours and hours. They cried their eyes out; the littlest sister and the oldest sister. And then she was gone. After close to 90 years, the memory still makes my aunt cry. We were all moved to tears and it was at that moment that I realized the story of America almost always begins with goodbye.

But fate would have it that for these sisters, goodbye would not be forever. For just a few years later, most of the family would be reunited in Niagara Falls. My grandmother also found much happiness and she did find love again. She bewitched yet another young man, Francesco Fortuna, my great grandfather and they lived happily ever after. They were married at St. Joseph’s Church on December 12, 1923, and had two children: Gina (Jean Ann, my grandmother, and their first born) and Joseph (my uncle and godfather). They opened a very popular restaurant located on 19th Street, known as Fortuna’s and it is still there today.

Marriage at St. Joseph's Church in Niagara Falls

Marriage at St. Joseph’s Church in Niagara Falls

Clementina never forgot Giovanino. As complete as her new life had become she made sure we all knew the story. I like to think it was more of a story of who she had been across an ocean and in that other world that didn’t include automobiles or electricity. It was a place and time where love and magic lit up the darkness and in some strange way a piece of me was, in fact, there and remembers everything.

I try to imagine what this special power might be that we all have, all of the first born daughters of first born daughters. Perhaps it’s the greatest power of all…the capacity to love completely and deeply no matter what the consequences. My grandmother’s little love affair with Giovanino is one of the only stories of her youth that has stayed with me. It speaks to me and to all of us and it says one thing: always choose love.

I have much research to do on the rest of our mothers’ mothers. I will be ordering great amounts of microfilm from L’Aquila and hopefully visit one day.
I wish I had more information on Giovanino. I would love to know more of him…this wonderful man, this Romeo, who always held a special place in my grandmother’s heart.

4 generations

Yearbooks are always fun….

In Amherst, LaSalle, Lewiston Public Library, Niagara County, Niagara County Resources, Niagara Falls, School Days, Yearbooks, Youngstown on June 28, 2013 at 2:48 pm

LaSalle yearbook

Over the past few years the Jon F. Popkey Genealogy Room at the Lewiston Public Library has amassed dozens of vintage yearbooks. As all good genealogists know, a yearbook is a treasure to behold. Along with photographs, we can get a little glimpse into the everyday lives of the area in which our ancestors lived. There are histories of the schools and pieces about individual students and faculty members. Sometimes we get lucky and find even more. We hope you will consider donating yours (or thinking of us when you find them at yard sales). Thank you to Amy Wall for donating the LaSalle Junior and Senior High School yearbook from 1946. It is our first yearbook from LaSalle!

Below is a list of the yearbooks (and one alumni directory) we have on hand in the Genealogy Room:

Albright College (Pennsylvania) Alumni Directory: 1998
Amherst Central High School: 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1938, 1940
Bishop Duffy (Niagara Falls): 1963, 1964, 1965
DeVeaux School (Niagara Falls) : 1953
LaSalle Junior and Senior High School (Niagara Falls): 1946
Lewiston Union School: 1947-1950
Lewiston Porter: 1951, 1952, 1953, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1964, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986,1988, 1992, 1995, 1998
Niagara Catholic (Niagara Falls); 1984
Niagara Falls High School: 1922, 1923, 1924, 1926 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940
Niagara University: 1963, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1984, 1986, 1989, 1993, 1999
North Junior High School (Niagara Falls): 1927, 1928
St. Bonaventure University (Allegany, New York): 1969

Come and check them out or contact us for lookups at:

Our Fathers Who Art In Heaven

In Arthur E. Barthel, Family Scrapbook, Gone But Not Forgotten, Niagara Deaths, Niagara Falls, Uncategorized on June 26, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Our Fathers

Our Fathers

By Michelle Barthel Kratts and Amy Salvatore Wall…In memory of our fathers

Our fathers are in heaven now. As another Father’s Day approaches some of us feel a sense of emptiness and loss. Yet some of us, like Amy and I, celebrate lives completed. For when all is said and done, all of our lives are a story–with a beginning, a middle and an end–and our fathers lived happily ever after.

Amy and I met just after our fathers had died. We were struck by all of the similiarities in our personalities and in our lives. We have this fear of water (we swear we must have been passengers on the Titanic), dislike of amusement parks. An intense love for cemeteries, history and magic. We love to dress up in period clothing. We love old houses and antiques. We want to go back in time. We married men with the same name (Mike) and even gave our sons the same name (Brendan). We are Italian, yet there is this common bond of early southern ancestry and Confederate soldiers in other family lines. There are even lines that show up in Salem, Massachusetts. But most of all, we share this unquenchable thirst to tunnel our way through our family histories and inevitably into the places where our ancestors now reside…the spirit world. There is a certain comfort we have in knowing that there is family on the other side. That if we know their stories, no one ever really dies. Especially our fathers–for they are our first link to everything that lies beyond.

Both of our fathers’ stories begin deep in snow…with a Niagara Falls winter. Benjamin Salvatore was born on January 11, 1938, to Joseph and Pearl Salvatore. Robert Barthel was born a decade later on February 3, 1949, to Arthur and Ada Johanna Barthel. Research into our family histories has proven that even our grandparents may have made some connections. Amy’s father’s mother, Pearl, lived at 1350 Cleveland Avenue in Niagara Falls and my father’s father, Arthur, lived with his cousins, the Schmidt’s, at 1634 Cleveland Avenue. It’s our little joke that they were friends…perhaps one day our research will shed some truth on that.

Ironically, our fathers both lost their lives to that dreaded disease, cancer, after retiring from the Sodium Department at Dupont. Some day we may find that they were friends…and that they had actually spoken of us–their crazy daughters! But long before the chemical factories and the cancer had claimed them, they took their children on a magic carpet ride through life. My earliest years were spent as an Army brat, traveling to different places, living in Europe. Amy’s father was a truck driver and her family moved over 20 times.

Ben and Bob were men with a certain magnetic energy that has transcended death. Bob’s great love was sports and a good story. Ben was an avid hunter and fisherman. They loved their families and their grandchildren, especially.

So on this Father’s Day, just a few years following our fathers’ deaths, Amy and I like to imagine that they are not really gone at all. In fact, they are our special guides when we search for the secrets of our ancestors and our past. And we are lucky to have them in that other place.

The Beautiful Lewiston Village Cemetery

In Cemetery Plots, Lewiston, Lewiston Public Library, Library Programs, Niagara Deaths, Old Lewiston on June 26, 2013 at 3:25 pm

We did something unprecedented on Saturday, October 31, 2009. About a dozen people surveyed the lovely Lewiston Village Cemetery for 24 hours.
As the sun came up, as the day wore on, as the moon and stars filled up the night sky…we we there with cameras.
We captured one day in a cemetery and here it is for you to enjoy!

More Vintage Summer Scenes from Niagara Falls

In Niagara Falls, Niagara in Summer on June 11, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Summertime9Summertime8Summertime7Summertime6Summertime5Summertime4Summertime3Summertime2Summertime1Girls in canoe

New York State Genealogical Research Index

In Digital Collections, Genealogy Websites, Niagara County, Niagara County Resources, Niagara Deaths, Official Records of Niagara County on June 11, 2013 at 7:17 pm

For New York State Deaths, 1957-1963, look no further than the New York State Genealogical Research Index, 1957-1963.
Please note that this does not include New York City.

Other New York Online Death Indexes may be found at the following website:

Summer in Niagara

In Niagar a River, Niagara Falls, Niagara in Summer, Pictures at Niagara Falls on June 7, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Women in Pretty Hats

Women in Pretty Hats

Perilous Picture-Taking

Perilous Picture-Taking

Girls on cycle

Girls on cycle

Girls in summer dresses at Crystal Beach

Girls in summer dresses at Crystal Beach

From the Private Collection of Amy Wall

Missouri Digital Heritage

In Digital Collections, Missouri on June 7, 2013 at 6:53 pm

It’s always great to find wonderful digital collections. If you are working on Missouri research, check this out….


New Niagara Area Microfilm available at the Lewiston Public Library

In Microfilm on June 4, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Thanks to a generous donation from the Friends of the Lewiston Public Library the library was able to purchase new microfilm that will remain on permanent loan. Anyone can view these films free of charge. Please make an appointment if you are interested.

Niagara County, Naturalization Papers (1830-1906)–as of June 4, 2013–we have the Index for 1836-1906 and the papers from 1830-1851
**We hope to purchase all available Naturalization Papers as funds become available**
These films include thousands of Niagara area immigrants–mostly from England, Ireland, Germany, Canada and some Italy. They usually include name, place and date of birth, date of first entry to America and signature. They also often include handwritten letters explaining further details.

US Recruits for the Polish Army, 1917-1919–includes numerous detailed records for Niagara area (Niagara Falls and Lewiston) Polish immigrants that signed up to fight in the Polish Army.
Text in Polish; some English.
Includes indexes.
Many recruits for the Polish Army in France were enlisted during 1917- 1918 in several of the United States with large polish populations. Before each group of records there is an alphabetical index which indicates the page number of the person’s form. Form A, the Application of Volunteer, gives the date, recruiting station, name of the volunteer, their street and city address, civil status, number of children, citizenship status, age, weight, height, when they will be ready to depart, signature, the date they were sent to the Recruiting Center, and name of the officer or recruiting sergeant. The volumes with form C which contain more genealogical information do not appear to have been microfilmed.
**We hope to purchase all available US Recruits for the Polish Army Records that include local residents as funds become available**

St. John’s Episcopal Church, Youngstown, NY
Microfilm of original records at Saint John’s Episcopal Church Rectory, Youngstown, New York.
Each volume includes index.
Contains baptisms 1868-1898, confirmations 1866-1899, marriages 1868-1900, deaths 1869-1900, baptisms 1899-1948, confirmations 1885-1936, marriages 1900-1926, deaths 1900-1949, marriages 1926- 1944, confirmations 1936-1948, marriages 1944-1948.

St. John the Baptist (Lockport) and St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic (Lockport)
Microfilm of original records at Saint Patrick Parish, Lockport, New York.
Most of text in Latin.
Some volumes include index.
Includes records from Saint John the Baptist Parish, Lockport, New York.
Contains baptisms 1853-1917, confirmations 1868-1916, marriages 1873-1917, deaths 1860-1917.

Profession Records, 1860-1932, Stella Niagara (Roman Catholic Church)
Microfilm copy of original records at Sisters of Saint Francis of Penance and Christian Charity, Stella Niagara, New York.
In Latin and English.
Contents: Items 1-2. Records including date and place of birth, baptismal name, and parents’ names — item 3. Records of Sisters who entered the Profession in the United States including name, parents’ names, date and place of birth, some deaths — item 4. Records of Sisters who entered the United States from Europe including religious and baptismal names, occupation, date and harbor of departure, date and harbor of arrival, date and place of death — item 5. Records of Sisters who entered the Profession in the United States including name, names of parents, date of reception, date and place of birth, date and place of death — item 6. Record of deaths 1912-1982 including an alphabetical index.
This convent was originally named Sisters of Saint Francis of Holy Name Province and was located in Buffalo, New York. In 1908 it moved to Stella Niagara, Niagara County, New York, and changed to its present name.