Michelle Ann Kratts

Archive for the ‘Family Scrapbook’ Category

The forgotten ones

In Family Scrapbook, The Italians of Niagara Falls, New York, Who Do You Think They Are? on January 22, 2014 at 5:13 pm

We all have those boxes of photographs…the ones that grandma left behind.   The ones that no one knows anything about.  Who are they?  We recognize faces and expressions as if they are our own and see these lost souls in our children’s eyes.

Patricia DiNieri asked if I would share her forgotten ones.  There are a few notations on the backs of her photographs but often the notations only provide more mystery.

Let us know if you recognize anyone.  She feels that most of these photographs are of people related to the Scalzo or Critelli families and many of them were probably taken in Gimigliano, Italy.  These people are most likely related to the Scalzos of Niagara Falls, New York.

And, please, send me JPEGs of your own “forgotten ones” to include on this blog.  Maybe we can finally bring them back to life.



Critelli and Cubello

Joseph Critelli and Lena Cubello?


Possibly Fred Scalzo on right, his father on left. They last lived in Akron, Ohio.


Fred Scalzo?






One Union Soldier by Beverly Bidak

In Civil War, Family Scrapbook, Finding My Grandfather's War, Off to War on July 2, 2013 at 1:05 pm
Grave of Samuel McGee, courtesy Findagrave

Grave of Samuel McGee, courtesy Findagrave

When I started researching my husband’s and my family histories years ago, it was my intention to give my sons a look into their families past. To help them understand who they are and where they came from. While searching, I have learned that genealogy is not just about names, dates and places. It’s about people, our ancestors, our famlies and how they lived and left their mark.

With the help of a fellow researcher, I have uncovered the story of one interesting person from my past, my paternal great-grandfather. Samuel A. McGee was a third generation American of Scot-Irish descent. He was born on 9 April 1841 in Young Township, Jefferson County, Pennsylvania. He was the third of eleven children born to Robert and Catherine (Graffius) McGee and raised on the family farm. He was a farmer and lumberman.

When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, Samuel was 20 years old. He felt it was his duty to serve his country so he went to Pittsburg and enrolled in the Union Army on 3 September 1861. He was mustered in Company F of the 105th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers Infantry as a private on 9 September for a three-year term. The 105th was also known as the Wild Cat Regiment because the men were principally from the Congressional District popularly known as the Wild Cat District embracing the counties of Jefferson, Clarion and Clearfield. The regiment’s field officers were: Amor A. McKnight, Colonel; W.W. Corbett, Lieutenant Colonel; and M.M. Dick, Major. Captain Robert Kirk headed “F” Company.

The regiment was ordered to Washington in October of 1861 and assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Division III Corp. in Camp Jameson near Alexandria, Virginia. While in the winter camp, the regiment was carefully and rididly trained. Upon leaving the camp on 17 March 1862, the regiment took part in the siege at Yorktown and the battles of Williamsburg and Fair Oaks. After a month spent on picket duty, the 105th was again in action at Glensdale and Malvern Hill and, by the time it reached Harrison’s Landing, the ranks were so reduced by wounds and sickness that less than 100 men were fit for active duty. The 105th was at Fredericksburg, after which it spent the winter in camp near Brandy Station. In May 1863, the regiment was engaged at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Colonel McKnight and Captain were killed in that battle.

On 3 July 1863, the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Samuel A. McGee was wounded when a shell passed through his right thigh. He was treated at a field hospital and then transferred, as a private, to Company G, 11th Regiment, Veterans Reserve Corp (Invalid Corps) where he spent the remainder of his enlistment in the hospital until he was honorably discharged on 8 September 1864.

Samuel returned home and to farming. He married Mary Jane Crawford on 16 August 1866 in Suthersburgh, Pennsylvania. Mary Jane, a teacher, was born 8 March 1843 in Marchand, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Allen and Nancy (Brown) Crawford. The couple set up housekeeping in Bell Township, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania. Samuel and Mary Jane bred and raised five chidren: William Clay (born 21 November 1867), Olive Murtle (born 13 May 1870), Crawford Herbert (born 16 July 1873), Robert Earl (born 2 May 1875) my grandfather, and Alice Bertha (born 2 June 1877).

The war injury disabled Samuel but did not incapacitate him. He stood tall at 5 feet 11 inches although the right leg was a little shorter than the left; he limped and suffered soreness and pain as the years went on. He filed for and received a small disability pension, $2.00 a month, in 1876 and he continued to work his farm and raise his family.

Samuel lost his wife in 1903. In November of 1910 he was admitted to and resided in the National Soldiers’ Home in Elizabeth City Clounty, Virginia, a national home for disabled veteran soldiers. In September 1911, Samuel took a 90 day leave of absence from the home and returned to Mahaffey, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, where he died on 17 November 1911. Samuel A. McGee and Mary Jane (Crawford) McGee are both interred at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Clover Run, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.

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.