Book on Frederick Douglass Family

special-deliveryLocal author. Rose O’Keefe, has published a new book of historical fiction, Special Delivery: From One Stop to Another on the Underground Railroad (North Country Books). It  is the story of eleven-year-old Lewis Douglass, son of Frederick Douglass. Lewis hears his father tell the family they are moving from their gracious home on Alexander Street to a homestead on the edge of Rochester, New York, and he feels shocked at leaving their lively neighborhood. But when his father tells him he must learn to drive a team of horses to help with the move, Lewis is at a loss for words at the thought of this daunting task – and has no choice but to agree.

Rose O’Keefe has written four other books dealing with the history of the Rochester area. Her previous book, Frederick and Anna Douglass in Rochester, NY: Their Home Was Open to All tells the story of the former slave, orator and author and his time in Rochester.

Rose O’Keefe grew up in the suburbs of New York City. After graduating from SUNY Potsdam during the Vietnam years, Rose moved to Rochester, NY, and discovered the beauty of the Genesee River Valley and Finger Lakes region on camping outings with family and friends. Since then, she has become an expert on western New York history. Her website is at where you can buy any of her books.

Rose will also do a short reading from her newest book, Special Delivery: From One Stop to Another on the Underground Railroad, from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 22 at the Fairport Historical Museum, 18 Perrin St., Fairport, NY. The reading will be followed by a book signing and sale.

Top Songs of 1964; #19

In 1964 the next song  to go to the top of the record charts was “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” by Manfred Mann. The song was written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich and originally recorded in 1963, as “Do-Wah-Diddy“, by the US girl group the Exciters. Their version barely made it on the record charts.

Do Wah Diddy Diddy” was the number one song on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Cash Box record charts for the weeks of Oct. 11 – 24, 1964.

Manfred Mann was a British group named after their South African keyboardist, Manfred Mann. They were popular in the 1960s with many hit songs. They would eventually have another number one song, “Mighty Quinn” in 1968. The group was re-formed in 1971 as Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Blinded by the Light.” The group still tours in Europe. They also released a new album in October 2014. Visit their official website.

Download Manfred Mann songs (for a small fee) from

NY Canals on National Register

2308cLast month, the National Park Service announced that it has listed the New York State Barge Canal on the National Register of Historic Places. The Barge Canal was the widened and in some cases rerouted Erie Canal. The National designation covers the period of 1905 when the canal began being enlarged and 1963 when the St. Lawrence Seaway opened. Over 790 features and 550 buildings over 450 miles were evaluated before being places on the Register. Being on the Register brings opportunities for federal preservation grants and an increase in the visibility and marketing potential of the canal.

NY State doesn’t often use the name Barge Canal even though it still is the official name. Instead they refer to the four canals that make up the system; Erie Canal, Champlain Canal, Oswego Canal and the Cayuga-Seneca Canal. The Erie was first completed in 1825 to connect the Hudson River to Lake Erie. The Champlain Canal goes from Albany to Lake Champlain. The Oswego Canal connects the Erie Canal to Lake Ontario. Then the Cayuga-Seneca Canal connects the Erie Canal to those two Finger Lakes.  Commercial traffic on the canals is almost nonexistent. They are used mostly by recreational boats along with bikers and hikers on the canal paths.

Visit the NY State Canal website.

Native American Day – Nov. 8th

Perry Ground

Perry Ground

Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to noon the Greece Historical Society is sponsoring a Native American Day. The event takes place a the Greece Senior and Community (Vincent Tofany Blvd.) an will celebrate the culture of our first inhabitants in the area – the Haudenosaunee (Seneca).

At 10:15 Perry Ground will tell stories passed down by elders of various Native American cultures. His stories will help you understand the Haudenosaunee. Perry’s mother is of the Turtle Clan in the Onondaga Nation and his father is of the Seneca Nation.

At 11:30 Frieda Schultz will be dressed in a leather dress her mother made for her. She will share what life was like growing up on the Tuscarora Reservation. She will  talk about school day, games she played, festivals, traditions ans some history of the Tuscarora Nation. Frieda will also bring other traditional clothing.

Anthropologist George Hamell will bring Native American artifacts that were found in Greece that are currently in the collection of the Rochester Museum and Science Center. This is a rare opportunity as these artifacts are not often on exhibit.

Old News – Telephone Upgrade

Some technology news from the past. This story tells of having dials added to a telephone so that a person could connect to another without the use of an operator.


Thursday, November 5, 1914


Federal Telephone Traffic More Than Doubled by Use of New Wonder Instrument and Both Business Men an Housewives Show a Distinct Preference for it.

ad-1914-11-05The Automatic Telephone service has convinced Buffaloians that the Federal Telephone and Telegraph Company has made a tremendous advance along the lines of simplifying and facilitating business by the adoption of the Automatic system.

The first half day of service 112,000 call flashed through the various exchanges, a number that has grown steadily every day until now upwards of 400,000 calls are completed daily. This is twice the number ever handled in one day by the old manual service the company recently discarded for the Automatic. This would seem to prove a distinct public preference for the industrious little mechanical operator, over the old way.

Apart from the superb service the system affords, the instantaneous calls and disconnects and the sharp, clear reproduction of voice tones, what has impressed the Buffalo public more than anything else is the nervelessness and mystery of it all.

To touch a little dial and instantly hear the voice of the very person you want is surely a unique experience. Being a machine, of course, it does not make mistakes; it doesn’t know enough to make a mistake. It affords the same sort of service, which is perfect service, at all times of the day or night. It never tires, never grows ruffled or discourteous and isn’t subject to whims or caprices of persons or weather.

The method of operation, we are told, is very simple. First the caller finds the number of the person desired. Even the Automatic directory is an improvement on the old one, and a unique arrangement of names, numbers and addresses hastens the work of looking for numbers very materially.

Assume that the number wanted is 44327. The subscriber first removes the receiver from the hook, puts the finger in the aperture over the figure “4”, then pulls down; then the same operation on 4-3-2-7 and the call is complete. Almost instantly the number desired answers. If perchance the called party is slow in answering, there is no uncertainty so far as the subscriber is concerned; the subscriber can hear the vibrations and knows the bell is ringing at intervals of seven seconds.

In the case the line is busy when a call is made, a mechanical device so informs the caller by means of the “busy buzz,” a persistent but not unpleasant buzz in the receiver.

Every possible contingency is provided against in this new system. For example, if a person calls a number that has been discontinued, his call goes automatically to a supervisor who says, “You are calling a number that has been discontinued.”

In case of trouble the location and nature of the trouble is shown on a battery of lights in the switchroom and the trouble is remedied nine times out of ten before the subscriber knows his line is in trouble.

In all the large department stores large automatic exchanges have been installed and they promise to revolutionize shopping for Buffalo women. The Automatic is so flexible that the housewife can sit in her own home, dial four figures and figuratively be in the midst of all the rush and excitement of the buying center. A skilled saleswoman answers her and takes her order or discusses requirements.

The first day this system was in operation at the Wm. Henegerer && Co store, four times the usual number of calls were recorded, which indicates that the Automatic is firmly established among the housewives of Buffalo.

It is plainly a triumph of mechanical art and marks a great advance in the telephone business in Western New York.

National Archives Genealogy Fair 2014

na-fair-2014Last week Tuesday through Thursday the US National Archives held a virtual genealogy fair online. Over the three day they presented 17 hour long sessions highlighting some of the things that you can find in the collection of the National Archives. If you missed any of theses sessions, you can now view them at your leisure. Each day’s worth of sessions have been placed on YouTube as one long video. You may have to scroll through parts of the long video if you only want to see an individual session.

Each day’s video starts out with a series of informational screens without sound that last from 10 to 15 minutes. You can easily skip those.

The presenters are mostly National Archive employees that work with the records every day. So they are very knowledgeable so what the speak about.

Handouts and the presentation slides for all of the sessions  are available on this web page.

Day 1 video on YouTube includes:

  • “Introduction to Genealogy” by Claire Prechtel Kluskens
  • “Preserving Your Family Records” by Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler
  • “When Saying ‘I Do’ Meant Giving Up Your U.S. Citizenship” by Meg Hacker
  • “Overview of American Indian Records and Resources on” by Jessica Hopkins

Day 2 video on YouTube includes these sessions:

  • “Great Granny Eunice came from Ireland, Grandpa Fred was in the War, Can Access to Archival Databases (AAD) Help Me?” by John LeGloahec
  • “The Genealogical Significance of the World War I Draft Registration Cards” by Zina Rhone
  • “What’s New at Ancestry from the National Archives” by Quinton Atkinson
  • “Finding the Correct Ancestor: Civil War Soldiers and Homesteads” by Jean Nudd
  • “National Archives Records Online at FamilySearch” by Carol Petranek
  • “Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Exclusion and Deportation files at the National Archives” by Zack Wilske
  • “Wagons West: Land Records at the National Archives” by Rick Martinez

Day 3 video on YouTube includes all of these sessions:

  • “FBI and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): 20th Century Family Research” by Britney Crawford &
    Netisha Currie
  • “Discovering Your Family’s Past in Military and Early Veterans Administration Personal Data Records and Selective Service Records” by Stephen A. Smith, Daria Labinsky, & David Hardin
  • “Individual Deceased Military Personnel Files (IDPFs)” by Bryan McGraw
  • “Vets and Feds in the Family Tree Military and Civilian Personnel Records” by Theresa Fitzgerald
  • “Friend or Foe? Documenting Alien Ancestors during Times of War” by Elizabeth Burnes
  • “Patently Amazing: Finding Your Family in Patent Records” by Christopher Magee

Top Songs of 1964; #18

Oh,_Pretty_Woman_Single_CoverThe next song to hit the top of the record charts in 1964 was “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison. The song was written by Orbison and Bill Dees. It would be become the largest selling song by Orbison selling over 7 million copies.

Orbison was known for wearing black clothes and dark sunglasses making him appear mysterious. He had string of hit songs in the 1960s but his career languished in the early 1970s. Then other artists starting recording his songs and that gave him a reason to start touring again. In 1980 he and Emmylou Harris won a Grammy for their duet “That Lovin’ You Feelin’ Again.” In 1988, he joined the group Traveling Wilburys with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne and also released a new solo album. He died of a heart attack in December that year of a heart attack.

Oh, Pretty Woman” was the number one song on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Cash Box record charts for the weeks of Sept. 20 – Oct. 10, 1964.

Download (for a small fee) Roy Obison songs from

Old News – Bicycles at Night

More news from the past. Hard to believe that bicycles were such a problem 100 years ago.


Thursday, October 29, 1914


Bicyclists Should Carry Tail Light at Night for Self Protection.

ads-1914-10-29“Ever motorists,” says Mitchell May, secretary of state, “is painfully aware of the fact that the bicyclist is one of the chief trials of driving by night, because of the difficulty of distinguishing him. It is only recently that a law was passed compelling him to carry a rear lamp, or even a device for revealing his presence by reflecting the rays of lamps from the overtaking car, while his front lamp is often so feeble that the patch of light it throws on the ground is not visible except at close range.

“Inasmuch as the rear lamp on bicycles are enormous help to other drivers and valuable safeguards to the bicyclist himself, it is an interesting speculation why they are not more frequently adopted, even since there is a legal obligation to carry them. Sometimes the reason would appear to be a lack of imagination–the same reason which leads some motorists to take risks that are a constant source of anxiety to the drivers of other vehicles, as making of erratic movements in crowded thoroughfares, or darting immediately in front of a heavy truck it is a physical impossibility to stop quickly.

“Sometimes the reason, it is to be feared, is a sort of defiant self-assertiveness; the bicyclist, riding the weakest vehicle upon the highway, feels that he is free to use the road as he chooses; and that it is the business of other vehicles to keep clear of him whatever he may do. This attitude. of course, is entirely incompatible with what may be called the economy of road use. It is not, however, confined to bicyclists; drivers as a whole are prone to think too much of their rights and too little of their duties and too few of them seem to ise to the conception that each should co-operate with each other in the spirit of give and take to the end that the road may be used to the best possible advantage of all.”

Hello, again

I’ve been sick. I spent 5 weeks in the hospital. It seems like most of the time was spent waiting for doctors to decide what to do to fix me up. Then for the last two and a half weeks I have been sitting at home just been trying to get better.

I missed a bunch of genealogy events. It may take a while to get back into keeping up with what’s happening.

Lecture and Songs of the War of 1812

ruch-daveOn Tuesday, Sept. 9th,  the Greece Historical Society will present a lecture and concert by Dave Ruch. He presents a fascinating portrait of the War of 1812 through the songs and stories of the people themselves. Ruch has dug deeply into archival recordings, diaries, old newspapers and other historical manuscripts to unearth a wealth of rarely-heard music which, alongside some of the classics from the war, offers a rounded and fascinating picture of this “second war of independence.” Special emphasis is given to New York State’s important role in the conflict.

Dave Ruch is a special musician and performer from Buffalo, NY widely noted for his ability to engage audiences of all kinds. He is equal parts historian, entertainer, educator, humorist and folklorist.  He last performed for the Greece Historical Society in Sept 2011

This program is at 7:00 pm at the Greece Public Library. It is free and open to the general public. It is made possible through the Speakers in the Humanities program of the New York Council for the Humanities with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities.