Early Erie County Medical Examiners’ Records are Available in the Grosvenor Room

Erie County Medical Examiners’ records, October 1878 – June 1902, are now available for research in the Grosvenor Room.  These microfilmed records are part of The June P. Zintz Memorial Library of the Western New York Genealogical Society.  The Zintz collection is accessible to all Grosvenor Room visitors.

Most of these medical examiner records pertain to deaths that took place in the City of Buffalo, but other Erie County locations are included.  Inquests were not performed for everyone who passed away.  Most of the deaths in this record set are unexpected deaths such as those that resulted from an accident.

The following information may be found:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Place of birth
  • Marital status
  • Residence
  • How long resided in city
  • Occupation and place of employment
  • Date and time of death
  • Place of death
  • Cause and circumstances of death
  • Place of burial
  • Physical description
  • Personal belongings (with deceased at time of death)
  • Undertaker
  • Physician/medical examiner’s name

An index to these records was published in the Western New York Genealogical Society’s JOURNAL.  See Grosvenor Room staff members for access to the index.

President William McKinley’s Medical Examiner’s Report

Posted in Genealogy | Tagged

An Obituary Index Is Now Available in HeritageQuest Online

HeritageQuest Online has recently released its first major content update since 2015.  The new dataset is called “Newspapers.com Obituary Index, 1800s-current.”  Newspapers.com is an Ancestry.com product that includes millions of scanned, keyword searchable newspapers for select U.S. and foreign locations.  Luckily for Central and Western New Yorkers there are numerous early local newspapers in the database, including: Black Rock, Buffalo, Depew, Dunkirk, Hamburg, Lancaster, Olean, Rochester, Springville, and Syracuse. To view additional locations covered, and the specific dates available for each newspaper, see the Newspapers.com Browse web page. The obituary database in HeritageQuest provides citations to obituaries and death notices found these newspapers.

Searching the database is simple.  Researchers can input keywords such as the deceased’s name, close family member names, a date range, city/town of residence, and general keywords.  It is only necessary to fill-in one field to search.  Results returned will include some of the details found in the obituaries such as age of the deceased; family members; dates of death and burial; and place of birth, death, burial and residence.  Use some caution when searching the database. Because the index was computer generated, and there may be errors in the data provided and some obituaries may be missed.  Even so, this is a powerful new record set that will help users further their research.

HeritageQuest Online is a genealogy database that is available at every Buffalo & Erie County Library location and from home with a valid Buffalo & Erie County Public Library card.  In addition to the new obituary index feature, HeritageQuest includes U.S. Federal Census records 1790-1940, over 25,000 full-text family and local histories, numerous city directories for all over the United States, Freedman’s Bank Records, Revolutionary War pension files and other content.  Access to HeritageQuest is available through the Library’s database web page.

Happy Hunting!

Posted in Genealogy

Buffalo Songwriter Jack Mahoney

Jack Mahoney edited




Most Western New Yorkers know of Buffalo songwriters Harold Arlen (“Over the Rainbow”) and Jack Yellen (“Ain’t She Sweet,”) but have you heard of Jack Mahoney?

John Francis Mahoney, a.k.a. Jack, was born in Buffalo’s First Ward on October 10, 1882 to Daniel Mahoney and Elizabeth Donovan.* He was a first cousin to William J. Donovan, Buffalo native and the founder of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA.)   His father was a ship captain, and his family lived on Buffalo’s Sea Wall Strip for a quarter of a century.

Mahoney moved to New York City in 1902 to become a songwriter, and by 1910 he had over two dozen songs to his credit.  His work was published by prominent Tin Pan Alley publishers such as Theodore Morse, Jerome Remick, Leo Feist, and M. Witmark and Sons. Mahoney primarily worked as a lyricist, though he also composed music.  His main focus was ballads, with comic songs a close second.  His most well known song,  which he wrote with Percy Wenrich, was “When You Wore a Tulip and I Wore a Big Red Rose.”  It was featured in the 1942 film For Me and My Gal starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly.

Mr. Mahoney died in New York City on December 26, 1945.  Much of his songwriting legacy can be found at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library.  The Library carries almost 100 pieces of his sheet music.  To view Mahoney’s sheet music, visit the Central Library’s Grosvenor Room.  Information on visiting the Grosvenor Room can be found on the Grosvenor Room’s web page.

Click on an image to expand it.


*Some sources report that Mahoney’s real name is Ruben Kusnitt.  The Library is unable to confirm or refute this information; however, he uses the name John or Jack Mahoney throughout his lifetime, and there was an infant named John Francis Mahoney born in Buffalo on Jack Mahoney’s birth date to Daniel Mahoney and Elizabeth Donovan.  A child named John Mahoney also grew up in their household and is listed as their son in census records.  A Buffalo Arts Journal article about Jack Mahoney names the couple as his parents.


Posted in Genealogy

Grosvenor Room Is Now a Family History Library Affiliate

FamilySearch, formerly known as the Genealogical Society of Utah, is a nonprofit organization associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). FamilySearch has collected genealogical records from all over the world since the 1930s. The organization originally microfilmed records but now collects them via digital media.

FamilySearch also maintains the largest genealogy library in the world, the Family History Library. It is located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Satellites of the Family History Library, called Family History Centers, are located in many LDS churches. Family History Centers offer research assistance, database access, and genealogy materials. One of the organization’s goals is to digitize its genealogical records and make them available freely to everyone via its website, FamilySearch.org.

Due to contractual restrictions, some FamilySearch records may be viewed only at Family History Centers and/or FamilySearch Affiliate Libraries. The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library’s Grosvenor Room is now a FamilySearch Affiliate. Now that the Library has been accepted as an Affiliate Library, we can provide free and greater access to FamilySearch databases and valuable genealogical records to Grosvenor Room visitors.

Come and visit us in the Grosvenor Room so that we can get you started with FamilySearch!


Posted in Genealogy

Black History in Buffalo

Blacks in Buffalo cover

In celebration of Black History month, we’re highlighting some of the historic resources in the Grosvenor Room’s local history collection.

The first Buffalo directory, published in 1828, printed a list of “Names of Coloured People,” documenting early Black settlers in the village. This list is available reprinted in the 1876 City Directory.  The next published directory, 1832, also has a page listing Coloured People.  This practice was discontinued in subsequent directories.

1828 city directory colored people

1828 list, reprinted in 1876 Buffalo City Directory.


The Buffalo Collection includes books on the local African-American community; a few are pictured below.  These popular books, and additional titles, are listed in our Black History in Buffalo research guide.


Black History books


The Buffalo scrapbook collection includes one volume titled Negroes in Buffalo: Clippings, 1930, 1936 & 1940.  Newspaper clippings are from an African-American paper, the Buffalo Star, along with others from the daily papers–Buffalo Times, Courier-Express, and Buffalo Evening News.  The following pages document “Negro History Week” in 1930 and 1931.

Negro Scrapbook 2

Langston Hughes poem

Negroes in Buffalo Scrapbook, pages 2-3.

Further African-American newspapers published in Buffalo and preserved in our collection include:

Challenger: Sept 12, 1963 – present.

Criterion: 1964 – present. Various issues 1954-1987 also online through NY Historic Newspapers.

Empire Star: January 1946 to December 1961.

For additional resources, please see our other African-American research guides focusing on family history, the Underground Railroad, and the Niagara Movement.



Posted in Local History | Tagged

Buffalo History books of 2018


The “New Books” shelf in the Grosvenor Room–check here for new titles!

In case you missed some of the local history titles published recently, here are a few of the popular books added to the Buffalo Collection in 2018.  Some may have been published prior to 2018, but are new to our collection.

Copies in the Grosvenor Room are reference only, which means we’ll always have them on hand for you to view. However, many of the books we add to the collection also have circulating copies elsewhere you can take home, whether from Central, or another B&ECPL branch.  Search our catalog or click on the links below to see available copies.


BABEL : the first 10 years. [Just Buffalo Literary Center]. Barbara Cole, editor.

Albright: the life and times of John J. Albright by Mark Goldman.

History of Buffalo music and entertainment: A nostalgic journey into Buffalo New York’s musical heritage from the 1830s to the early 1980s by Rick Falkowski.

A closer look at the Guaranty Building: Louis H. Sullivan’s masterpiece by Doreen Boyer DeBoth.

World War II Buffalo by Gretchen E. Knapp.

Buffalo memories IV: the early years and the 1960s [Buffalo News].

For more recently published Buffalo books, see this list in the catalog.

Posted in Local History | Tagged ,

Passing on Your Family’s Legacy

The holiday season is filled with family, friends, and togetherness.  Why not take the opportunity at this year’s family gatherings to begin passing on your family’s legacy?


Make traditions a part of everyday life.  Involve everyone and be sure to explain to young family members why you carry them out and the importance of each element.  Share stories about the family members who started a tradition or who brought one over as an immigrant.  Even if all of your family members do not follow the same traditions, YOU can still carry them out and younger generations can decide what traditions they would like to keep.  At the very least, they will remember you and your values.


Food is a common denominator across all generations. The smell and taste of our favorite dishes wraps us in the warmth of happy memories.

Ensure that your family’s favorite recipes are not lost over time. Involve children in cooking them when they are young. Make it fun.  Make it a privilege to put in certain ingredients or to use certain tools like a mixer or rolling pin.

Share your recipes.  Family members will appreciate it if you keep your recipe cards authentic (stains and all.) Photocopy or scan them.  Put them together in a binder and give them to your children and grandchildren. If they are difficult to read, include newly- typed versions of the recipes too.  If you are creative, make a recipe scrapbook.  Include memories and family photographs, such as pictures of the person who originated the recipe and of the dish itself.  Remember to add in those special touches that may not be on the recipe card, such as using a particular type of pan, adding more of an ingredient to taste, how long to knead the dough, etc.

Family History

Begin recording your family’s history now.  Memories can be lost in an instant, and that memory just lost may be the key to solving a family history puzzle.

Start with the most important details: names, dates, places of residence, and family relationships.  Begin with yourself and work back one generation at a time. Ask relatives what they know, especially those of an older generation.  If you are from the oldest generation, ask cousins.  Their parents may have shared different family details than yours did.  There are many free downloadable/editable/printable family trees and other genealogy forms online.  There are also websites that let you input family tree data online for free.

If you decide to dig deeper into your ancestry, come visit us in the Grosvenor Room.  The Grosvenor Room’s main genealogical focus is Erie County, but there are numerous resources for Western New York, New York State, the East Coast, and beyond.  The B&ECPL offers genealogy databases including Ancestry Library Edition and HeritageQuest Online.  Both databases can be used at any B&ECPL location and HeritageQuest can be used from home with a valid B&ECPL card.  Our most important resource in the Grosvenor Room is our library staff.  They are knowledgeable about family history research and look forward to assisting you when you visit.

Capture Your Family’s Stories and Personalities 

Journals and Q&A Books

Write about your life or your memories of relatives.  Don’t worry about the need to be an exceptional writer. Just put your personality in it.  If handwriting or typing is too difficult for you, get a family member to help. Ask grandchildren or nieces and nephews. Offer them their favorite meal or a trip to get ice cream as “payment” for helping you.  This is a good way to help insure that they will hear your story and this way they will be more likely to remember it.  Do it in short spurts so as to not overwhelm them.

Start a new holiday tradition.  Buy a question and answer book and have each family member pick a question to answer.  Or buy a blank journal and have everyone write down a favorite family story.  Make it quick and casual to alleviate the pressure of making their entries perfect or taking too much time away from visiting with each other.

Video and Audio Recording

Seek out the family technology wiz and see what creative ideas they may have for capturing family interviews. Let family members talk about what they think is important.  If you need help with getting the conversation going, see what books your local library may have about interviewing and oral history techniques.  Look for question ideas online. 


Instead of forcing family members to take the staged and uncomfortable annual family photograph, ask everyone to provide you with a copy of a few of their favorite photos of themselves.  Get their input as to the most cherished photos of deceased loved ones or important places and events.  Scan them, print them on photo paper and make copies for everyone.  Be sure to label the photographs so that names and faces aren’t forgotten.

Consider DNA Testing

Though contemporary DNA tests cannot provide us with our entire family history, they are helpful in genealogy research. Today’s tests can provide a list of genetic family members as well as ethnicity predictions for the last several generations.  And, who knows what the future holds?  Plus, this time of year, there are many deep discount sales on DNA testing.

If you or a loved one decide to test, be sure that access to the DNA account is given to family members.  Provide family with login information and the right to inherit the account through a will.  DNA testing companies may not provide access  to the account if descendants cannot prove a right to it.

In the near future, some DNA testing companies may offer artifact testing, specifically letters and postcards.  At least one major company predicts that it will offer testing of stamps and envelopes that may have DNA from your ancestors’ saliva.  Keep any letters, envelopes, or postcards in a safe place for future testing.

Talk to your doctor if you are considering medical DNA testing.

Think Practically

Keep your family history materials well-labeled, organized and to a minimum.  The more manageable and accessible your materials are, the more likely family members are to keep them or pass them on to an institution that will take them.  Make a list of potential libraries and societies that may be willing to accept your materials in the case your family cannot keep them.

Keep Preservation in Mind

Archival Materials

If you can, use archival quality materials to store and record your family’s history. These materials will not easily deteriorate, fade, or discolor.  Use acid free paper, pens, adhesives, folders, photo albums, and storage boxes.

Do not laminate your documents or photos. Lamination uses heat and adhesives that will cause the item to deteriorate or speed up the deterioration process. Instead, store your original documents and make duplicates to show family members and friends.

Electronic Media

Electronic media is a great way to save space. It also allows for easy duplication and document sharing.  But, enhancements and changes to electronic media happen rapidly.  Think of how many of us can play/read a phonograph record, cassette, VHS tape, or floppy disk anymore.  Know that electronic media such as that used to read and record digital photographs, audio, video, and word processing documents, will eventually go obsolete.  Be prepared to upgrade files and formats to keep media usable.

When you scan or record, be sure to use archival standards in terms of file size, format, and storage media.

Storage Location 

Avoid areas such as attics, basements, and out buildings.  Temperature fluctuations and moisture will ruin your files, photographs, and artifacts.  They will cause curling, discoloration, deterioration, and possibly mold.

If you have an artifact that already has mold on it, consider how important it is to you.  If it is something of lesser importance, like a newspaper clipping, you may want to make a high quality reproduction of the item (photocopy/scan) and discard the original.  If it is an important, irreplaceable item, keep it separate from your other documents as mold can spread.  The Smithsonian provides good advice on dealing with moldy documents at this link.

Consider keeping your most precious heirlooms in a fireproof safe or box.


Accidents and natural disasters happen.  Give copies of the final products of your family history projects and of your most precious heirlooms to multiple family members.  This way if tragedy strikes, your hard work will be kept safe at an alternate location.

For More Information on Preservation:




Posted in Genealogy