Member Spotlight

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Name/Location and any other credentials/background that you would like to provide:  My name is Carol DiPirro-Stipkovits, I am the Niagara County Genealogical Society President, a Member and have a monthly genealogy column in the Niagara Gazette and Lockport Union -Sun and Journal. I was born in North Tonawanda but now live in Cambria.

How long have you been researching your family tree? I’ve been dabbling since before the internet, when it was Microfiche at my local library in my teens. I started back at it about 15 years ago. but when my sister gave me my maternal grandmother’s notebook where she kept dates, recipes, grocery lists, etc. …i was hooked. I needed to know more about her life.

Who is your favorite ancestor? I admire my paternal grandmother, Estella Giardino Rosso, very much. She traveled from Italy for weeks on a ship with her two small children (2 & 3 years old) shortly after the death of her oldest child, to join my grandfather in the US. Upon arriving she was held in the Ellis Island infirmary for 2 more weeks waiting to be released to my grandfather. They eventually went on to own a home and raise 10 children with very little. They achieved the American dream.

Estella Giardino Rosso

Describe one of your brick walls – My great grandmother, Nellie Constantina. After my grandfather was born, her husband, Francesco Rosso/Russo, left for America never to return to Italy for his family. I struggle to find records on her.

What are some of the surnames in your family tree that lived in our Western New York area? Giardino, Cote, LaPlante, Rosso, Russo, Rossow,

What was something surprising that you discovered while researching your family tree? My Mom’s ancestors have deep roots in Canada dating back to the founding of it as New France in the early 1600’s. Many of their names are listed on a commemorative plaque of Quebec’s earliest pioneers.

What are some of your favorite online resources? I upgraded my Ancestry subscription to Full Access and LOVE it. Depending on the region I am researching my favorites are Patriomoinequene.ca, familysearch.org, italiangen.org, hungaryexchange.com, findagrave.com, Fultonhistory.com, genealogiequebec.com, fold3.com, newspapers.com and I love chat boards (yes, they still exist!) for particular branches of research. I have about 35 Google alerts set that have helped me too. I am also a member of many societies, via online, in countries and states that are significant in my research. Genealogists are so eager to help each other.   Facebook groups are amazing in that way too.

What are some of your favorite local resources? Our NCGS library, of course, is not only a great resource for records but the librarians are very knowledgeable. Joining local societies really kick started my research. The people I interact with at programs make me feel like a newbie! So much to learn if you just reach out and ask.  The local historians office is a great resource too. They know the history of your area, old street names and clues about the people who lived there.

What are some of your favorite ways to educate yourself to become a better genealogist? I read so much! Not only about genealogy standards and research but the history of where my ancestors originated which gives me a better understanding of the world’s timeline. Look for anniversary books from historical societies in your area of research. For $15 I purchased a 200 year history of the small town in Canada my maternal grandparents were from and found biographies of so many ancestors. I also try to attend as many local/regional seminars as possible every year and take online courses in the cold winter months.

Have you had you DNA tested?  If yes, which websites? Yes, I did the Ancestry DNA test. When I only vaguely understood my results and everything that went with it, I offered to teach a DNA class at our society. This forced me to figure it out and it was the best thing I could have done! I now consider myself a bit of a DNA guru. I’ve also found new cousins which is a bonus!

What is some advice that you would share with a beginning genealogist?

Talk to your elderly relatives now. I put it off and its a big regret. Take a recorder and ask them questions, let them talk. Years from now when you’re tree is leafy, listen to these recordings and you’ll recognize the people in your tree.

Don’t add anything to your family tree without a source attached and don’t trust anyone’s info unless you see the source yourself.

Take your time. Genealogy research is so much more than copying and pasting facts. Learning who your ancestor was when alive will add so much to their story.

Find your tribe! Join a genealogical society and get involved, you won’t regret it.

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Member Spotlight

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Name/Location and any other credentials/background that you would like to provide:
Shelley Richards, Niagara County Genealogical Society Board Chairman and Member

How long have you been researching your family tree? Since 1990

Who is your favorite ancestor?Aunt Liz Flynn, she supported her extended family from the 1890s to 1940 as her father died. She retired at 71 and died when she was 72.

Describe one of your brick walls. Gg grandfather John Smith. Need I say more?

What are some of the surnames in your family tree that lived in our Western New York area? Richards, Gaygen, Hall, Foltz, Smith, Flynn, OConnell, McCarthy, Cahill, Cunningham

What was something surprising that you discovered while researching your family tree? My gg grandfather was a friend of President James Garfield.

What are some of your favorite online resources? Fultonhistory.com,county bios and cyclopedias often published via google.

What are some of your favorite local resources? Our NCGS library!

What are some of your favorite ways to educate yourself to become a better genealogist? Just listening to the advice of others.

Have you had you DNA tested?  If yes, which websites? Ancestry

What is some advice that you would share with a beginning genealogist? Go for the low hanging fruit to get you excited. Get a binder and keep organized. Don’t pay for info until you know your basics.

Member Spotlight

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Name/Location and any other credentials/background that you would like to provide:
Denise Myers Knox – Prefer to be called Denise Myers, Spruce Street in North Tonawanda . Please stop in at the Niagara County Genealogy Library and say Hello, I would be pleased to help you.

How long have you been researching your family tree?
I started researching my husband”s family in 2008, because I found his grandmother’s bible with all the family information. I Started mine in 2010.

Who is your favorite ancestor?
I have a deep interest in War so it would be my 2 great-grandfather (John S. Myers) from Steuben County NY. He was in the Civil War.

Describe one of your brick walls.
My third great-grandparents who lived in Steuben County, are almost impossible to trace before that. They were not born there, but were born in America. I was told all my life that they were born in Germany.  Not so according to the Steuben County 1840 Census. My DNA says I am German. So I must keep searching.

What are some of the surnames in your family tree that lived in our Western New York area?
Genovese, Guercio, Myers, Starks, Musceco, Casada

What was something surprising that you discovered while researching your family tree?
My 2nd great-grandfather was with a NY regiment in the Civil War and was lost in a Civil War battle.  After being wounded, he was picked up by a North Carolina Regiment that misspelled his name.   My 2nd great-grandmother collected his pension because they misspelled his name as “John S Miers” while he came home and had three more boys.

What are some of your favorite online resources?
Ancestry, Find-A-Grave, Fulton History, Family Search, Locate a Loved one/Forest Lawn, Adoption Birth parent search.

What are some of your favorite local resources?
Buffalo Library (Grosvenor Room), Cemeteries (ALL)

What are some of your favorite ways to educate yourself to become a better genealogist?
Read every book in the Niagara County Genealogy Library, Get books on Italian Genealogy from the local Libraries, and other books on Genealogy from my own book collection and buy at least 4 new books a year, and go to programs.

Have you had you DNA tested?  If yes, which websites?
Yes! I have had mine done thru 23 & Me, and Ancestry.

What is some advice that you would share with a beginning genealogist?
When lost take a break and try another day!

A family photo from Denise’s Collection: 

Denise’s second great-grandparents at Ellis Island 1913.
Angelo and Dominica Genovese arriving from Italy.
Member Spotlight

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Name/Location and any other credentials/background that you would like to provide:
Cindy Waters

How long have you been researching your family tree?
10 years

Describe one of your brick walls.
I would love to learn where my Rhinehart relatives came from in PA and when and where they came from to this country.

What are some of the surnames in your family tree that lived in our Western New York area?
Rhinehart, Underwood, Van Dusen, Robertson

What are some of your favorite online resources?
Ancestry, GenWeb

What are some of your favorite local resources?
Our NCGS Library

Have you had you DNA tested?  If yes, which websites?
Yes, Ancestry

What are some of your favorite ways to educate yourself to become a better genealogist?
Attending workshops, meetings, reading articles and books

What is some advice that you would share with a beginning genealogist?
Take your time, when you find info on someone else’s tree – verify as many ways as you can.

Member Spotlight

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Name/Location and any other credentials/background that you would like to provide:  

Jeanette Sheliga – Lockport, NY.  I am a NCGS Board Member and the Society Vice President.  I also organize the North Tonawanda Library Genealogy Club.  


How long have you been researching your family tree?  

I have always been interested in it since I was a little girl but I formally began in 2002 when I took an online course through a community education program.

Who is your favorite ancestor?

My 3rd Great-Grandmother, Ida Harding.  She was born 29 Apr 1859 in Liberty, Tioga County, PA and died 28 Nov 1942 in Buffalo, Erie County, NY.  She was always so fascinating to me as she lived such a long life beginning with the Civil War, through the invention of electricity, to eventually learning how to drive a car!  Family members have told me that they had to put blocks on the pedals for her to reach them as she was so short.  She divorced her first husband in 1893 and owned her own millinery shop.  

Describe one of your brick walls:

My paternal Great-Grandfather, Frank Szeliga.  He abandoned the family around 1930 and I don’t have a birth or death date for him.  I have recently connected with descendants of his siblings that live in the Buffalo area through AncestryDNA.  They weren’t sure what happened to him either but they were able to help me find out where he was born in Poland in a village called Witkowice!  It’s on my to-do list to send a letter to the records archive in Sandomierz, Poland and see if I can at least get his date of birth from the civil registrations.  I was hoping that the NYS Death Index might come up with his name for his death date, but no luck there so far.  


What are some of the surnames in your family tree that lived in our Western New York area?

Szeliga, Hetzel, Gollwitzer, Parkin, Larkin, Johnson, and Whittaker.

What was something surprising that you discovered while researching your family tree?

Is that how many of my ancestors were musicians like I am.  Though she is not a direct ancestor, I was surprised to learn that my 3rd Great-Aunt, Winifred Preston, was performing at the age of 9 in 1907 at the Idle Hour Theatre in Tonawanda.  I’m sure it didn’t hurt that her dad was a manager of the Theatre but I still it’s neat and I would like to learn more about the Idle Hour Theatre.  I’m not even sure if the building is still standing, or if I could find a picture of it at a local historian’s office/repository.  It’s yet another thing to add to my to-do list!

What are some of your favorite online resources?

I spend the bulk of my time on Ancestry, FamilySearch, and FultonHistory.  

What are some of your favorite local resources?

We are so fortunate in our area to have so many different genealogy clubs, societies, and libraries to take advantage of.  With each of those organizations come a wonderful wealth of knowledge and friendly people willing to help.  Thank you to everyone that has helped me answer a question in the past and, I’m sure, will help me with my research in the future.

What are some of your favorite ways to educate yourself to become a better genealogist?

In addition to networking with local genealogists, I watch online presentations and webinars all of the time.  I watch them on FamilySearch, RootsTech, AncestryAcademy, Legacy Family Tree Webinars, GenealogyGems, the Virtual Genealogical Association, and YouTube.  I have also signed up for my first GRIP course this June.  I am going to be taking Mastering the Art of Genealogical Documentation with Thomas W. Jones, Ph. D., CG, CGL, FASG.


Have you had you DNA tested?  If yes, which websites?

Yes, I have my DNA at Ancestry, MyHeritage, and LivingDNA.  I also have downloaded my raw DNA from Ancestry to FamilyTreeDNA, but I barely log into there.


What is some advice that you would share with a beginning genealogist?

The first advice I would give is to keep educating yourself with genealogical methods to try to help prevent you from accidentally connecting to a family that isn’t actually a part of your family tree.  Secondly, to come up with a back up system so that if a disaster strikes, you won’t lose all of your research.