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Proudly Celebrating 50 Years

Our Anniversary (1974-2024)

With a proud history dating back to 1974, the Western New York Genealogical Society is excited to celebrate our work, our impact, and the dedication and passion of our members and volunteers.

50th Anniversary Memories


As we look back over the past fifty years of the Western New York Genealogical Society, we all have our own memories of how we became interested in genealogy and of our time in the Society. Please share with us any special or unforgettable memories you have.


Submissions: Send them to We will share them throughout the coming year.

Shared Memories

January-March Memories

  • Memory 1: Carolyn Dawley (#18) of Chandler, AZ   [1/3/2024]

  • Memory 2: Glenn Atwell (#13) of Buffalo, NY [1/10/2024]

  • Memory 3: Lynda Zaky Wood (#3560L) of Buffalo, NY [1/17/2024]

  • Memory 4: Barbara Keil (#3684) [1/23/2024]

  • Memory 5: Beth Benson (#4034) [1/31/2024] 

  • Memory 6: Nancy Cluff Siders (#2954) [2/7/2024] 

  • Memory 7: Lois Lane (#3782L) [2/13/2024] 

  • Memory 8: Rhonda Hoffman (#3495L) [2/21/2024] 

  • Memory 9: Marie-Cecile Tidwell (#3625L) [2/28/2024]  

  • Memory 10: Doug Batt (#3098) [3/6/2024]  

  • Memory 11: Doug Batt (#3098) [3/13/2024]  

  • Memory 12: Marsha A. Smith (#3978) [3/20/2024]  

  • Memory 13: Nancy Gavin Koester (#3650L) [3/27/2024]


April-June Memories

  • Memory 14: Shirley Vivion [4/3/2024]

  • Memory 15: William Martin [4/10/2024]

  • Memory 16: Brian Cotton (#3512) [4/17/2024]

  • Memory 17: Michele Bewley (#3392) [4/24/2024]

  • Memory 18: Shawna Rose-Wickman [5/1/2024]

  • Memory 19: Nancy Bernard Watson [5/8/2024]

  • Memory 20: Ae Dustin [5/14/2024]

  • Memory 21: Brenda Rainey Farrara [5/22/2024]

  • Memory 22: Larry Naukam (#1163) [5/29/2024]

  • Memory 23: Wilfred Vasile (#69L) [6/5/2024]

  • Memory 24: Gale Murray (#416L) [6/12/2024]

  • Memory 25: Delores Calandra (#3566) [6/18/2024]

  • Memory 26: Diane Kujawski (#1764) [6/26/2024]

WNYGS 50th Logo 3.png

Click to see most recent Member Memories

Click to see previous Member Memories (#1-13, January-March 2024)


Memory 26: Diane Kujawski (1764)


I enjoy reading Memories Project that others have sent in, I started thinking what got me started on this journey. I wanted to teach my very young children respect for the grandparents, great aunts and great uncles. My Mother-in-law died in February 1986. My Father-in-law died in October 1987. My children didn’t get a change to know them personally. I thought the next best thing would be genealogy and family background. 


Since the Kujawski side of the family lived close by, I would start with that side. Some of them wouldn’t me any information. But others gave information as far back as they knew with off shots from wife’s or husband’s family. At times. I felt overwhelmed. But it is very addicting to get odd pieces of information and that sends you looking for more. 


But the special memory is with a WNYGS trip to the Western Reserve Library in Cleveland. I believe it was in June 2000, but I’m not sure. I remember riding in a white mini bus with tall windows and about 30 people or so on the trip. If we spent over night or just one day, I don’t remember. I was just excited to see what I could find about 4 different sides of the family trees, what I did find was my mother’s side of the family (Shepardson) from the 1600s to the 1920s ending with her father as a young boy in New Jersey. When my mother saw her side of the family back so far, she just read and read then decided she should write her memories of her life during the depression. 


I believe I also found a book that gave meanings of names. My maiden name is Grose-the English meaning is a large, stout man. I’m under 5 feet, just slightly overweight woman. It just seemed ironic to me. 


I wish I could go back to do more research. My enthusiasm has waned in the last 10 years with other interests, unfortunately. But I sis enjoy interacting with others who were also interested in genealogy and with close and distant relatives.


Memory 25: Delores Calandra (3566)


My cousin and I started a family tree several years ago when we started having a summer picnic. It lasted many years, but ceased after a few relatives came. 


We attended many meetings of your organization and enjoyed them very much. Sadly, we had to stop going. 


Hopefully, I will start my adventures again. 


We traveled to many sites in the city for finding adventures. 


One day, I can really sit down and write about what we did.



Memory 24: Gale Murray (416L)


My best memories are in 2018 when I went cemetery snooping from Batavia all the way down to Olean. 


I first got interested in family in 1974 when I first visited Glenwood Cemetery where my great granddad and gramar are buried. I met the late Mr, and Mrs. Fonda. I joined WNYGS as a lifetime member. 


This led me to find Eugene Beach from Minnesota and Beach line with help from others I got back to 1086 in Boomsbey Book. Through New England Genealogical societies, I got to meet for the first time my “now late” cousin Helen who was so very much a help getting my Howland and Soul line done. I used to go in to Buffalo and look at very old census which was a great help in finding people and wills. As I work Saturdays and do not get to Buffalo and have no computer to get Many lines are left and sometimes I really should work on them. But in reality, no one is at all interested. My one cousin was quite interested at one time when she learned she could join the DAR, but now at 92, I think that’s done as none of her sons have contacted me. So this is about all. 


All I can say to new researchers, start the same thing I heard when I first started. 


  1. Interview oldest living family members.

  2. Get all old pictures you can and write names and dates on them.

  3. Visit Buffalo City Hall. They have a great place for wills and old census from 1850.


This is about all so same where I hope this here. I am related to a Wood family in N Glenwood. My great gram was Melvina Wood married to Burwell Hawkins. Thank you.


Memory 23: Wilfred Vasile (69L)

My genealogical journey began in 1955 when I was twenty. Having three grandparents alive gave me a head start. 


In those days there were no computers or genealogical societies. Research had to be done in person or correspondence. When I wrote for my grandmother’s birth certificate I got a big surprise. A five generation chart. “I know someone working on that family” the town clerk said. When I showed the chart to the town historian in the town where I worked. His comment “I know someone who has a book on one of those families”. And again back to “The Mayflower” and to a “Gateway Ancestor” 


In 1971 I moved to Leroy NY. A good friend and I spent many Saturdays either at the library in Rochester or in Buffalo. At that time, I was allowed to search in the stacks. 


We were not original members of WNYGS but members 68 and 69. Attending meetings for the next five years was always a treat. With the passing of my friend, I only attended a few more times. 


In 2018 I joined Ancestry and had the DNA test. WHAM! The bottom fell from my family tree. Again, I was fortunate as I was able to learn the identity of my biological father and a niece had done the genealogy. 


There are still “brick walls”. People in the 6th and 7th generations remain mysteries. 


Much of my time has been spent trying to help others. I get excited about finding other families as much as I do finding my own relatives. 


An so the genealogical journey continues with the hope that yet another door will open.


Memory 22: Larry Naukam* (#1163)


I started researching my family in 1978. One part was from Rochester, but the other was from Buffalo. The earliest people that I have in Buffalo were from Alsace, and were in the city by 1835. That particular family was a challenge to find as they had mostly daughters who moved out of state, and the sons died early, even if they had children. They were folks of modest means, and did not own very much.. My own named ancestors came to Buffalo about 1866, and after 40 years of looking I did find the town in Germany where they originated. They were wanted by the tax police! 


I did find many sources in the Erie County Clerk's office, at the Archives at SUNYAB, in the Buffalo History Museum by Delaware Park, and so on. Quite a merry chase, but it was very enlightening. I did a pamphlet/book in 1982 about this family and gave the descendants at that time.

* Congratulations to Larry on his selection as the National Genealogical Society's 2024 Rabbi Malcolm H Stern Lifetime Achievement Award for his "positive influence and leadership have fostered unity and helped make family history a vital force in the community."


Memory 21: Brenda Rainey Farrara


Empty nester who enjoys history. 


Thought genealogy would help me understand my father better, fill in who his people were, maybe the why ... 


Vaguely knew a few details like an Ancestor who founded a village, the hugely incorrect Native American lineage, followed by Irish Ancestors. 


Found the village. Sherman, Chautauqua Co. 


Married there on Maint St Edwardian Attire by 2 J.P. during Sherman Day. 


Dispelled both N.A. & Irish rumors. 


Have 100+ "new to me" paternal cousins. Reconnected to childhood cousins. 


I still consider myself an Amateur Genealogist who has learned many many tips & tricks from this group.


Memory 20: Ae Duston


I live in Oregon, and I joined in part to find the graves of my Dutch ancestors in the Buffalo area. We're talking 1870s-1880s. Plus simply to learn about earlier life in that part of the country.


Memory 19: Nancy Bernard Watson 


About 35 years ago my best friend came over for coffee and 2-3 hr chat. I did not know she was into genealogy until that day, nor was I into it. She mentioned a frustration with finding a great grandfather’s docs in Scotland. I was intrigued and started asking questions with no destination in mind other than helping her. I was very computer literate (college major at that time) so I deep-dived. She had been searching for 10+ yrs at that point. And I found her some prime sources within 2 days. And this brief dive inspired ME to look into my own family! 


My maternal roots are 2 generations in Buffalo NY and then back to Italy. I’m stymied with my grandma’s 1st husband (they married in Buffalo in 1920). I need to take the time to look for anything in Buffalo... naturalization, marriage record, etc. 


Memory 18: Shawna Rose-Wickman 


A random walk in the cemetery and I came across a headstone that interested me and it lead to another and I started research on influenza pandemic 1918 and in a particular the number of soldiers who died from being sick especially at army camps or died overseas. Oh and I’m adopted. I did a tiny bit of that, not as interesting hee hee hee


Memory 17: Michele Bewley (#3392)


The need to know our roots seems to be a human need embedded in our DNA – just open the book of Genesis and for pages one reads a summary about who begat who. 


For anyone whose ancestors were fortunate enough to own a bible or possessed the ability to read, families added their lineage in the front pages. Unfortunately, many of one’s early ancestors had neither. 


In 1976 US Bicentennial and the television premiere of Roots took genealogy from being predominantly upper-class pursuit to an everyman – and woman’s - obsession. Around this time the US post office provided free one-page family group sheets the size of a placemat. My parents knew little about their ancestral lines past their parents, so, using the post, mailed the form to my aunt who it turns out was just as obsessed was me with history. Her goal however was not to be Holly Hobbie but to be a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. My aunt was member #207 of the Western New York Genealogical Society, joining in 1977. For 50 years WNYGS has been instrumental in uniting families to their ancestral identities. I now understand that institutions such as WNYGS are mostly fueled by love – the love of genealogy and the kindness of its volunteer members who have offered their precious time to share what they have learned with those who asked for their help. 


Nobody I have ever met begins knowing everything about genealogy, and many of those just starting out may feel like they have nothing to offer WNYGS, or don’t feel they have the time to spare. With all the exciting discoveries happening these days, thanks to technologies like digitization, DNA and AI, a group like WNYGS is needed more than ever to inform and inspire. No commitment will ever be too small to a group fueled only by its members volunteering. I send my thanks to WNYGS for helping launch my genealogical journey!


Memory 16: Brian Cotton (#3512)




It is all of seventy years since I first saw photographs of my father’s cousin (Annie) who had been born in England but was said to be living in the United States. One of the pictures had her posing with the Captain of the British R100 Airship. This led me to believe that Annie and her husband must have had some standing in their community. Later, when I had been bitten by the family history bug, it gave me geographical pointers to Montréal in Canada where the craft had been moored and the date: 1930. 


The next step, although I did not fully appreciate it at the time was when one of my cousins in Australia told me that his father (my father’s brother and a prolific letter-writer) used to write to a relative in Buffalo. Did that ease the search? Only up to a point: do you know how many Buffalos there are in the world? Once I had found half a dozen I stopped counting! That hint had not got me very far at the time, other than raising my anxiety levels, that is! 


The next development was when I found I had a hitherto unknown cousin in New Zealand. On one of her trips to London, she told me her late father used to write to his sister in Buffalo, NY. My spirits lifted: I thought I was getting somewhere. My cousin told me that this relative was married to a car dealer and had a ‘Dutch-sounding name.’ Sometimes seemingly hot clues drive you backwards and I have spent much time and treasure in hot pursuit. In this case pursuing Buffalo’s Dutch-sounding Ford dealers! I am afraid for a time I was putting a number of WNYGS members through some hoops as they tried to help. And at one stage I was planning a trip to Buffalo to see the records and directories at first hand. I even pulled in aid some of my Canadian relatives. 


The fact was, though, I was some distance away from my target and, it could easily have remained so. It was a recent DNA analysis that saved the day (and an expensive air trip). Through tree matching I have found relatives of Annie scattered in other parts of the USA, But to my surprise it turned out that it was not Buffalo where I needed to look initially, it was to be in Canada, in Montréal no less. The ‘tree-matching.’ results showed that throughout her married life, Annie had assumed the forename of Nancy. It was our Nancy Archdekin who told me that this forename was once a popular derivative of Annie. I thought I had not been aware of that but then I recalled that my mother’s cousin, Nancy, had been baptised as Annie. (A tip worth the remembering for some, maybe). 


But it was the Canadian connection that floored me. My late wife was born and brought up on the Island of Montréal, indeed we married there in 1965. And, would you believe it, we had on several occasions walked down the street where the 1921 Canadian Census identified Annie/Nancy as living. 


After we married we established our home in the UK, but of course over the years we had family visits back to Montreal and many Canuks dropping in on us at our UK homes over the years. If only I had known of this Canadian connection earlier. Our relatives and friends would have been so helpful had I known more at the time. Another coincidence is that in World War I Annie’s husband served as a radio officer in the (Canadian) Mercantile Marine and later carved a career for himself in broadcast radio. That's pretty much what I did, too!! 


My message to you: keep at it, clock every titbit you get and above all question your cousins and aunties very closely. Above all stay in membership of the WNYGS, it pays off in the end, believe me!!


Memory 15: William Martin

Hello, my name is Bill Martin and ancestor hunting has become a passion. Two categories are at the top of my search list.  


Finding otherwise unknown burial sights  


Finding photos of ancestors. Members of this group have been more than gracious in helping me. Pictures are very different to locate but it's extremely satisfying to be able to put a face to a name. My efforts continue as I am hopeful that pictures are in boxes somewhere.  


I'll tell you about burial site findings of my Great grandparents Henry and Margret Martin.  


A member of this group suggested that I contact Mount Calvary Cemetery Group for help in finding Henry. Since several of his children are interned in one of their cemeteries and he being an immigrant from Germany, I focused on United German and French Cemetery. Nice lady there found a church record from St Michael's Church and she located Henry in an unmarked grave in UGFC. I was saddened that Margret was not with him but pleased to discover that he was buried next to his sister in her family plot. Eventually I did find Margret in the graveyard of St Mary of the Assumption church in Lancaster with a marker. Such a beautiful discovery. Lastly, Henry and Margret had a farm in Lancaster. The building that was the schoolhouse for the children of farmers, including Martin ancestors is still standing but now a private residence. The owners invited me in. Standing in the place that my grand aunts and uncles were taught was such an amazing experience. 


Memory 14: Shirley Vivion

I met Rhonda at the NYG&B Family History conference just after we visited the library and let her know how helpful the staff at the library was.  I found a newspaper article that helped verify a descendant of my 3x great grandparents from Sardinia. Rhonda was busy presenting, so I didn't have a chance to ask about the pronunciation... :)

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