Finding Family Secrets

All genealogists will eventually run into a family secret.  It may be a black sheep, a scandal, skeletons, misfits, or information today that we would not consider to be secret-worthy such as adoption or divorce.  The following resources will help you uncover or delve deeper into these surprise findings.

  • How to Guide

Finding Your Famous {& Infamous} Ancestors –McClure, Rhonda – HSS *CS49.M35 2003 – Includes chapters on locating black sheep and uncovering skeletons.

  •  Select Erie County Resources in the Grosvenor Room

Adoption’s (sic) Recorded in Erie County Hall, Buffalo, 1874-1900 – Jewitt, Allen E. – Gro Ref. F127 .E6 J48 1984, 2 vols.

Annual report of the Board of Police of the City of Buffalo (many years 1880s-2000s) – Buffalo HV8378.B9 A1 – Homicides are recorded for most years into the 1950s.  Details given include information about the criminals, crime, victims, the arrest, and the sentence.  Many early years (1890s-1914) also include listings of “convictions for the year” which give criminal’s names, offense, date of arrest, court, and sentence.

Annual Report of the Commissioners of the Erie County Penitentiary to the Board of Supervisors of the County of Erie (1859-1898) – Buffalo HV8378.E8 A2  – Includes lists of persons who were discharged by paying a fee in most years from the mid-1880s-1890s.

Annual report of the Erie County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (many years 1882-1938) – Buffalo HV4702.E6 – Reports from 1894-1909 detail serious cruelty offenses.  Most entries list the offender’s name.

Erie County Records, Adoptions 1857-1876 – WNYGS Microfilm ML 139, Book 3 – Not a comprehensive set of Records.

Local History File – A select index to Buffalo newspapers, magazines, books, and other resources.  Look alphabetically under: Crime and Criminals, Executions, Mentally Ill, Prohibition, Smuggling, and Vice in Buffalo.

Newspapers – The Grosvenor Room carries numerous Buffalo newspapers, with many going back to the mid-1800s or earlier.  Newspapers are a great resource to look in for trial reports, arrests, and feature articles on controversial topics.

Records of the Evangelical Lutheran St. John’s Orphan Home…1865-1961 – Coppola, Mrs. R. Donald et al, comp. – Buffalo F129 .B8 C763

Vertical Files – The Local History Vertical Files include materials such as articles, pamphlets, brochures, and other materials.  Topics of interest include: Asylums and Orphanages, Crimes and Criminals, Terrorism, and others.

  • Ancestry Library Edition – Available for use in-library at any B&ECPL location.

Read 10 Things to Know: Black Sheep an Ancestry.com newsletter article that lists contents related to black sheep including US criminal case files and penitentiary records; UK criminal registers, blacklists, and parole lists; as well as Australian convict registers, pardons, death registers, transportation registers, and bank books.

U.S. Census Records – List individuals in institutions including prisons, asylums, and orphanages.

U.S. Special Census Schedule, 1880 – “Defective, Dependent, Delinquent” schedules

  • Websites

Black Sheep Ancestors

Hunting for Witches in the Family Tree

This entry was posted in Genealogy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.