Michelle Ann Kratts

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Birth Records

In Births, Uncategorized on June 15, 2018 at 3:10 pm


Below is a PowerPoint regarding birth records in the Niagara/Lewiston area.

Finding birth records


Marriages in the Niagara Falls Gazette, 1859

In Marriages, Uncategorized on March 20, 2018 at 10:48 pm

Marriages in the Niagara Falls Gazette 1859



Death; understanding records of death and how our ancestors died

In Deaths, Powerpoints, Uncategorized on March 17, 2018 at 6:23 pm

Death Records

Death and Burial Records

Websites to Check for Death and Burial Records


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 Lewiston Public Library and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; “Dachau Opens”

In The Holocaust and Niagara Falls, Uncategorized on January 6, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Just recently, I became a contributor to an exciting project sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum called “History Unfolded; US Newspapers and the Holocaust.” You can find this at https://newspapers.ushmm.org/

The project asks students, teachers, and history buffs throughout the United States what was possible for Americans to have known about the Holocaust as it was happening and how Americans responded. As volunteers, our job is to scour local newspapers for news and opinions concerning 31 specific Holocaust-era events that took place both in the United States and in Europe and to upload them to a database. As of January 6, 2017, 920 participants from across the country have submitted more than 6,200 articles from their local newspapers.  I am proud to say the the Lewiston Public Library is now a participant in this very important work. Anyone is welcome to contribute, as well. I encourage you to do so. Check it out and see if you have some time to help the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with their research.

As for my contributions, they will focus on the news as it appeared in Niagara Falls and Buffalo. It is fascinating to read through these old newspapers and to almost become a part of history as it unfolded. Witnessing these events as they occurred brings history to life. Only through learning about our past will we be able to make prudent decisions in the present.

As the articles that I submit are published, I will also share them with our page and I will take you along on my trips back in time.

The first event, or topic, that they list is “Dachau Opens, March 22, 1933.” How did the Niagara Falls/Buffalo area present this information? Interestingly, I found the very first reference in the Niagara Falls Gazette to the Dachau concentration camp on July 31, 1933. Dachau was initially set up on the grounds of an abandoned munitions plant on March 22, 1933 to incarcerate political prisoners. According to the Niagara Falls Gazette article, “…thousands of people are in jail for political offenses. Estimates of the number vary between 20,000 to 50,000. The latter figure seems nearer the truth, since it is learned on good authority that there are no less than 5,000 prisoners in Dachau, the Bavarian concentration camp.”

Below is the link to the newspaper submission, followed by images of the original article.


Sanborn Newspapers Online

In Digital Newspapers, Uncategorized on June 15, 2016 at 3:10 pm

You can now view several Sanborn, New York, area newspapers online through New York Heritage Digital Collections.


–“Old Weird Herald” from Niagara County Community College, Sanborn, New York, (1969-1971)

Follow the following link to browse the available newspapers:


–“Entricy Herald” from Sanborn, New York (1964-1971)


–“The Spirit” from Sanborn, New York (1972-current)



Fort Niagara’s Wartime Newspaper

In 1940's Era Wartime Scrapbook, Uncategorized, World War II, Youngstown on May 3, 2016 at 7:42 pm

Thousands of area men were sent through Fort Niagara as part of their processing into the United States Army. Below are pages from their post newspaper, the Fort Niagara Drum,dated July 9, 1943.


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Wartime World,Part III: Easter Dinner, 1942

In Uncategorized on March 23, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Before we go on with our three meals a day, in “war-style,” I thought that we might be interested in celebrating Easter in “war-style.” I recently found this Easter Dinner menu in Mrs. Alex George’s column from Easter week, 1942.


April 2, 1942

Even as the war rushed on and the news told tales of violent RAF fights against the Germans, Niagarans went about their daily lives. Friday, April 3, was Good Friday and Mayor John H. Keller, had announced in the Niagara Falls Gazette that the afternoon of April 3, would be proclaimed a civic holiday as “a considerable number of the residents of this city of Christian affiliation will participate in the afternoon services to be held in their respective churches.”


Other major events on everyone’s minds included…will there be enough razor blades to go around? During the month of March, a rush of purchasing followed a dire news report stating that razor blade imports of high-grade Swedish steel would be entirely cut-off. Area stores, during the height of the rush, such as Walgreen Drug Company on Falls Street, said that some purchasers were hoarding a year’s supply. “Person’s who try to hoard, even if it is razor blades, should be held in scorn by the public” said one man who was interviewed by the newspaper. In the end, there were enough blades to meet the demand and a severe crisis averted.


Another great question of the day was… can the lights be turned on the Falls again–at least during the tourist season? Several important gentlemen met at the General Brock Hotel in Niagara Falls, Ontario, to form a committee to interview the Hydro Commission at Toronto to request that the board be allowed to illuminate the Falls from May 24 to Labor Day. Because of the war, the Falls were not to be illuminated. The committee believed that lighting the Falls would not interfere with the flow of Niagara power.

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And don’t forget those Easter Sunday outfits from Beir Bros.! Check out these popular and affordable “1942 Creations.”


And life goes on….


Wartime World, Part One: The National Loaf

In Niagara Falls, Uncategorized, World War II on March 1, 2016 at 11:11 pm

As we embark upon our trip “back in time” to 1943 it might be wise to know a thing or two about wartime bread.  In Britain, where food was quite scarce, a ban on commercially baked white bread went into effect on April 6, 1942.  As most of the flour used to make “white” bread was imported from abroad there was a great shortage.  The Ministry of Food introduced the “National Loaf” at this time.   This gray and gritty bread was to be the staple of British cuisine.  Bakers were banned from baking any other type of bread except the “National Loaf.”  Dubbed “Hitler’s Secret Weapon,” our British allies forced it down to keep from starvation.  But surprisingly enough, the health benefits of a diet based upon this bread were quite alarming.  The added vitamins along with the the wholewheat (wholemeal) flour (as opposed to the bleached white flour they had baked with before the war) gave the British the vigor to fight and win a world war.

So I searched for the recipe for this “National Loaf.”  I thought it would be a necessity for my week of wartime recipes.  The official recipe for commercial bakers was as follows:

National Loaf recipe:

(Yields: 10 loaves)
Potato Flour – 1740g
Salt Sea Fine – 140g
Tap Water – 4740ML
Vitamin C – 6g
Wholemeal flour – 5220g
Yeast – 210g

Mix all ingredients in spiral mixer for 3/5 min
Place dough in lightly oiled container, let rest for 45 minutes
Knock back and let rest for another 45 min
Scale at 1kg, first shape (round)
Rest 10-15 min, then second shape
Place bread in oiled baking tins, prove for 45-60 min at 28-32c
Bake at 208c top 204c bottom, with 5 sec steam. Open vent after 25 min, bake for a further 25 min
Remove from tins immediately and cool on a rack

Home bakers could make variations of the “National Loaf.”

I found the following recipe which I was able to make at home as my version of the “National Loaf”:

National loaf


1 ½ lb wholemeal bread flour
1 ½ tbsp salt
1 ½ tbsp dried yeast
1 dsp honey or treacle
450 ml tepid water 


Mix together all the ingredients and knead for about 10 minutes until you have a soft dough.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave until dough has doubled in size (around 2 hours).

Knock back the dough, give a short knead then cut into two equal pieces. Place in 1.5 litre loaf tins, allow to rise for a further 2 hours.

Pre-heat oven to 200°c then bake loaves for 30 min. To test the loaves turn them out of their tins and give the base a tap – if it sounds hollow they are ready. Allow to cool on a wire rack. 

This recipe actually worked out quite well.  It probably isn’t as dry and lifeless as the commercial loaf must have been.  The honey added a bit of sweetness that made it more flavorful than I expected.  My family was not as fond of it as I was, though. Oh well… for our week of wartime eating, they will learn to like it.

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So what was going on in Niagara Falls, New York, on March 1, 1943?

While you are baking your bread to prepare for your week of wartime eating, you may be interested in what life was like here during the war.

Probably one of the most important things to know was how to feed your family.  If you did not have the ration system figured out you would have been in quite a predicament.  Even as the shortages experienced in the United States were nothing like the shortages in Europe it still was not easy.  The Niagara Falls War Council provided block leaders to assist in helping residents with questions regarding point rationing and nutrition.



The sinking of cargo ships caused great anxiety as these ships often carried much needed food and supplies.  The British depended upon these ships for food and many food goods also came to the United States in this manner.  The Niagara Falls Gazette reported on March 1, 1943 that six US cargo ships had been sunk in the Western Atlantic during the month of February.

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It was actually a low month– however, loss of life exceeded 850 persons.  The month of January brought 30 sinkings.  The monthly average in the first year after Pearl Harbor was 45 sinkings per month.  Since December 7, 1941, the Allied and neutral nations’ cargo ships lost in the Western Atlantic numbered 616.  This was an incredible loss of food and supplies–not to mention human life.

Numbers such as these bring the practice of wartime rationing into perspective.  Cargo ships were not guaranteed to make it across the ocean.  We had to conserve and not waste.  We had to make do with what we had available.

Mary Truman, a Niagara County Demonstration Agent, felt it was the homemaker’s job to understand the rationing system.


Budgeting the family point allowance was necessary.  Planting Victory Gardens and producing your own fruits and vegetables was also a great way to save.


Canned and processed items were often shipped overseas and were scarce at times. Homemade soups and freshly prepared dishes were encouraged.

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There had actually been an eight day period in which “narry a can of fruits or vegetables could be sold legally anywhere in the United States” before rationed sales began.  Once the point rationing system was worked out and the rules established the market was re-opened.  Can you imagine an eight day period in which NO canned items could be legally purchased within the entire United States??  Could you survive?

Another aspect of wartime rationing was an important rule that deemed that individuals could NOT tear the ration tickets out themselves.  Whether their groceries were ordered by telephone or gathered in the store, the store employee (including delivery boys) must remove the ticket.


Before the day was over, it became quite apparent to me that the war was the top news on every page of the Niagara Falls Gazette and it was even mentioned in most of the advertisements.  Ordinary life was certainly uprooted.  So many things to think about…do you have adequate black out screens??   Breaking blackout was a serious offense.


And then there was the volunteer work.  If your husband was off fighting for his country you would hardly be sitting at home doing nothing at all.  There was the Red Cross–forever needing help from sewers and knitters for surgical dressings.  To be honest, I had no idea that American women made the surgical dressings during the Second World War.


For the more adventurous Niagarans, there was the Fighting French Relief Committee.


It wasn’t all hardship, though.  There were the movies.  Which would you like to go and see this week?



The radio was the main source of entertainment.  Orson Welles, Blondie and Dagwood, Radio Theater, some BBC news…all before falling asleep to the Benny Goodman Orchestra.



An Invitation to a Wartime World

In Recipes, Uncategorized, World War II on February 24, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Maybe it’s time we look back and remember the darkest days of World War II.  We have seen all of the movies.  We have read so many of the books.  We have spoken with the older people who remember it well.  The fear, the deprivation.  Times were so very difficult and yet…don’t we all sometimes wish that we could go back to the war years? We want to experience it ourselves.  There were also so many really good things about the era.  People pulled together for victory.  There was something greater than just themselves at stake.  They bravely accepted the sacrifices they were asked to make.  They went without so much.  They recycled.  NOTHING was wasted.  They helped their neighbors.  They pulled together and in the end they were the winners.

Jean and Henry

My grandparents, Jean Fortuna and Henry Borgatti at Niagara Falls, about 1943.  My grandfather served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and my grandmother worked for Bell Aircraft where she made bomb kits for the war.  

Over the next couple of weeks I am inviting you to step back in time with me.  It will not be March of 2016 anymore.  It will be March of 1943.  We will look back upon the news, fashion, entertainment, rationing and most importantly:  wartime recipes.  For what is more critical to our daily life than our daily bread?  For seven days we will not only immerse ourselves in real daily life of March 1943…we will also prepare wartime inspired meals three times a day.  We will see if we have what it takes to live during wartime.  And we will not just stop in wartime Niagara Falls.  We will also slip into Canada and England, too.  Some of our day’s meals will be the average rationed foods enjoyed by our allies.

Ration book

Until I began to seriously research the English diet during WWII, I hadn’t actually realized the extent of the hardship these people experienced.  Along with the very real threat of bombings (by May of 1941, 43,000 British citizens had been killed at home and 1.4 million made homeless) the British were hungry.  Very very hungry.  Before WWII, Britain imported 50% of its total food and much of this came from Europe.  They were cut off from much of the world during the war.  As a result the Minister of Food, Lord Woolton, oversaw a rationing system that would get the British through the hardest times.  In June of 1941, Lord Woolton appealed to American women to sacrifice to an even greater extent in order to help their British allies.  Americans were asked to go without even more in order to allow the United States government to ship food to Britain and thereby bolster food supplies as well as morale.  Could we do it?


March of 1943 brought even harder times.  German u-boats sank twenty-seven merchant ships on the Atlantic Ocean between March 16 and March 20.  Food rationing greatly expanded.  In the United States ration stamps were now required to purchase meats, cheese, canned milk, butter and other fats and all canned and processed foods.  It didn’t matter how much money you had if you did not have enough points leftover to purchase the items you required.  The way we fed our families changed.  Waste was a crime.  Every morsel of food was ingested.  Fruits and vegetables were the staples of our diet and the government promoted widespread canning–even giving more sugar out to those who canned.  Victory Gardens were integral to the war effort.


From the Niagara Falls Gazette 

Can you imagine a world like this?  Strangely, the people of Britain actually became healthier during their darkest hour.  Their lack of sugar and meats coupled with their uptake in whole grains and fruits and vegetables made them stronger and more vigorous.  I started thinking, maybe we can enter their world for a short time as a sort of experiment.  Truly feel what it was like to live in March of 1943.  Maybe coming back to 2016 we will find we are also better and fitter having experienced a sliver of life during wartime.

russian family

Niagarans were asked to help the Russians during March of 1943.  

So will you take the challenge? Get out your reddest lipstick ladies and fix your Victory curls.  We are heading back to 1943.  Bring an apron, too, as we will be doing a lot of cooking.

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