Michelle Ann Kratts

Archive for the ‘The Italians of Niagara Falls, New York’ Category

Stories from Niagara’s rich ethnic past told in “Melting Pot”

In Coming to America, Irish Americans, Niagara County, Niagara Falls, Polish Genealogy, Recipes, The African Americans of Niagara Falls, The Armenians of Niagara Falls, The Italians of Niagara Falls, New York, The Polish of Niagara Falls, Tradtional Ethnic Costumes, Uncategorized on July 18, 2017 at 7:32 pm

Melting Pot; Niagara’s rich ethnic heritage

By Michelle Ann Kratts, Lewiston Public Library

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I will always see Niagara Falls as a delicious melting pot of cultures, languages and traditions. In fact, just last summer, I found myself at an international crossroads while sitting on a bench at the State Park. It seemed the world passed me by as I snacked on an ice cream cone. Women strolled by wearing colorful Indian saris or Middle Eastern hijabs. Men presented themselves with Hasidic tendrils or donning Sikh turbans. My ears discerned voices speaking every manner of language imaginable. I could even smell the traditional spices of the world’s cuisines mix and mash with the rising mist as these men and women marveled at the brink of the great cataract.  Some things never change.

Niagara Falls is a great American story. Throughout the years we have nurtured a sacred tradition in which we have welcomed and embraced people from every corner of the world. Our history includes the stories of brave refugees of war, genocide and famine. So many came to Niagara Falls to make a new start. At the dawn of the past century and for many decades afterwards, the factories and the railroads brought in thousands of much-needed workers and their families. They came from the cotton fields of the Deep South, from depression-ravaged towns. Some came from exotic countries– utterly desperate souls– and occasionally with only false papers, as they would never have been allowed in the lawful way. They crowded onto sea vessels with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They said their last farewells to their loved ones and to their homelands—and most often, never again stepped foot on the land of their ancestors. Niagara Falls was the last hope for so many.


Our new book, Melting Pot; Niagara’s rich ethnic heritage, published by the Lewiston Public Library, is a celebration of these people and their stories. Over the past few years, as the local history librarian, I have collected the stories of our immigrant ancestors for the purpose of sharing their struggles, as well as their triumphs. As you read through the narratives, you will see that oftentimes great hardships precipitated remarkable achievements. Despite differences in ethnicity, these Niagarans shared common housing, jobs, and churches and even married into each other’s families. They shared meals with one another and learned bits and pieces of each other’s languages and traditions. They crafted businesses out of what they did best and introduced our area to unique foods, music and customs. They also valiantly fought prejudice and bigotry whenever it arose—from the violent threats of the Ku Klux Klan to racist intimidations from unkind neighbors.

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Novak Family at Ellis Island 

Some of the personal stories mentioned include insightful histories of African Americans in Niagara Falls. Exquisitely written by Dr. Michael Boston, assistant professor of African American Studies at Brockport, and a trailblazer and researcher of Western New York African American history, these chapters highlight the importance of “family” as well as leadership in the African American community at Niagara Falls.  Our friend, Bill Bradberry, a Niagara Falls Gazette columnist and the chair of the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Area Corporation, as well as the winner of the Civil Rights Achievement Award in January of 2017, opens the book with a poignant and nostalgic look back in time at the multiculturalism present in individual neighborhoods throughout Niagara Falls.

Other stories in Melting Pot include: the brave and invincible Armenians, heroes and heroines, who defied all odds before coming to our city; the industrious Germans, who dominated local industry and business; the story of coalmining Italians who ventured into Niagara Falls from a dismal life in Pennsylvania; Polish tales of hardship at Ellis Island, and lost connections with the Old Country; the children of Spanish immigrants who had worn the customary clothes of Spain to American schools; the ancient Ukrainian tradition of the painted Easter eggs, or pysanky; and recipes from a war bride from Wales. Many of our Irish stories were submitted by the local chapter of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians. Another Irish chapter, written by Niagara Gazette columnist, Don Glynn, reveals a modern day friendship with ties to the Lynch and Buttery families. Yet another tells the story of St. Mary’s Church.  Melting Pot also contains precious family recipes, collected and written with great care, family photos and nostalgic news clippings.

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Sdao Family      

The front cover of Melting Pot proudly displays the marriage of Lithuanian born Zygmont Puisys and Ursula Anna Zugzda at Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in 1912.  Ursula, an orphan, had been raised in a church rectory in Igliauka, Mirijampole, Lithuania.  It was said that Zygmont had “escaped” his homeland under a hail of gunfire. Their story is representative of how many of our Niagara Falls stories begin…with despair and gunfire.

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                                                              Puisys-Zugzda Wedding 

Melting Pot; Niagara’s rich ethnic heritage will be available at the Book Corner, located at 1801 Main Street in Niagara Falls,    and through Amazon.com. We welcome any new family stories for future volumes.


The Story of Niagara’s early Italian-American culinary traditions

In Recipes, The Italians of Niagara Falls, New York on July 14, 2014 at 6:19 pm
Mama D'Avolio from Macri's Italian Grille

Mama D’Avolio from Macri’s Italian Grille

If you are interested in a history of Niagara’s early Italian culinary traditions, then this is the book for you! Written and compiled by The Italian Research Group at the Lewiston Public Library this is the story of your favorite restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, pizzerias and so much more.

Buon Appetito is now available at the following website:


St. Joseph’s School, Niagara Falls

In Niagara Falls, School Days, St. Joseph's Church, The Italians of Niagara Falls, New York on April 29, 2014 at 10:02 pm

Step back into the 1920’s with this photograph revealing a classroom at St. Joseph’s School in Niagara Falls.  The only student we can name is:  Sam Carlo (the arrow points to him).

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Buon Appetito; the families of Niagara’s early Italian culinary traditions

In Niagara County Resources, Restaurants of Niagara Falls, Saloons, The Italians of Niagara Falls, New York on March 15, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Check out our new blog concerning Niagara’s early Italian families. We welcome comments, suggestions, additional stories and photos, etc.


New Microfilm from Gimigliano, Catanzaro, Italy

In Lewiston Public Library, Microfilm, The Italians of Niagara Falls, New York on February 12, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Maria Teresa Scalzo Ciambrone

Thanks to the Friends of the Lewiston Public Library the Genealogy Department will be adding new microfilm to our collection.
The microfilm on its way from Salt Lake City includes the following records from Gimigliano, Cantanzaro, Italy :

Registri dello stato civile di Gimigliano (Catanzaro), 1809-1900
Nati 1809-1825
Nati 1825-1847
Nati 1847-1861 –
Processetti 1809-1818
Processetti 1819-1830
Processetti 1830-1848
Processetti 1849-1860 — Notificazioni 1810-1845
Notificazioni 1846-1861 — Matrimoni 1809-1861 — Morti 1809-1828
Morti 1829-1861
Nati 1866-1888
Nati 1890-1910 — Pubblicazioni 1866-1910 — Matrimoni 1870-1900
Matrimoni 1901-1910 — Morti 1866-1910

Many Niagara Falls area residents of Italian descent may find valuable family history information in these records.

Microfilm Available at the Lewiston Public Library

In Deaths, Irish Americans, Lewiston, Lewiston Public Library, Microfilm, Niagara County, Niagara County Resources, Niagara Deaths, Niagara Falls, Official Records of Niagara County, Polish Genealogy, The Italians of Niagara Falls, New York, The Polish of Niagara Falls, Town of Lockport on February 5, 2014 at 12:41 am

Microfilm at Lewiston Public Library

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?






Some Vintage Ads from (Fortuna’s) Deluxe Restaurant

In Niagara Falls, Restaurants of Niagara Falls, The Italians of Niagara Falls, New York on August 13, 2013 at 9:10 pm

The De Luxe Grill was an Italian-American restaurant located at 827 19th Street, Niagara Falls, owned and operated by my great grandfather, Francesco Fortuna–an Italian immigrant to the Niagara Falls area. Born in L’Amatrice, in the province of Abruzzo, my great grandfather had run away from home while just a young boy to apprentice with his uncle in Rome–who had been a chef at a well known restaurant. He brought his passion for the culinary arts to the New World and the De Luxe Grill was born in 1946. My grandmother, Gina (Jean Ann), worked at Bell Aircraft during the War and handed over all of her checks to her parents to help purchase the building on 19th Street. Most of the family worked in the restaurant and my sweet uncle, Victor Ventresca, a returned veteran of the Second World War, was officially my grandfather’s business partner. Through Uncle Victor came the prized liquor license. The restaurant was located deep in the heart of Niagara’s “Little Italy.” It is still in operation today thanks to my cousin, Joseph Fortuna…the third generation to run Fortuna’s Restaurant.

In the process of researching for a new book, “Buon Appetito; the families of Niagara’s early Italian culinary traditions,” I came upon these wonderful vintage advertisements from the Niagara Falls Gazette.

There will be much more to share in the future on all of Niagara’s Italian culinary institutions!

Grand Opening--January 1946

Grand Opening–January 1946


September 1946

September 1946


March 1, 1947

March 1, 1947


January 29, 1954

January 29, 1954


April 1955

April 1955


April 21, 1960...Closed for Remodeling

April 21, 1960…Closed for Remodeling






St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Cemetery Register, January 26, 1969 to May 22, 1978

In St. Joseph's Cemetery Records, St. Joseph's Church, The Italians of Niagara Falls, New York on July 3, 2013 at 4:44 pm

This book contains records from the Cemetery Register from St. Joseph’s Cemetery, from January 26, 1969 to May 22, 1978.

Index A-D
Index D-M
Index M-S
Index T-Z
January 26, 1969-August 25, 1968
September 1, 1969-February 3, 1972
January 26, 1970-August 5, 1970
March 13, 1971-November 13, 1971
December 30, 1972-July 3, 1973
April 20, 1973-January 9, 1974
January 6, 1974-July 11, 1974
May 11, 1974-November 29, 1974
November 26, 1974-May 25, 1975
April 3, 1975-November 28, 1975
March 6, 1976-August 18, 1976
August 16, 1976-March 31, 1977
January 15, 1977-August 6, 1977
August 11, 1977-March 18, 1978
January 12, 1978-May 25, 1978

St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Single Graves, March 1931-March 1942

In Niagara Deaths, Niagara Falls, St. Joseph's Cemetery Records, St. Joseph's Church, The Italians of Niagara Falls, New York on July 1, 2013 at 8:30 pm

This book contains the burials at St. Joseph’s Cemetery from March 1931 to March of 1942.

March 21, 1931-August 29, 1931

September 7, 1931-September 1, 1932

September 3, 1932-August 2, 1933

August 7, 1933- March 15, 1935

April 1, 1935-March 16, 1936

March 26, 1936-June 2, 1937

July 21, 1937-June 2, 1938

June 2, 1939-August 23, 1941

September 21, 1941-May 28, 1942 (some 1922)