Research Guide
How PHPS Can Help
For research on all people and things relating to Portville, N.Y., the Portville Historical and
Preservation Society is the place you need to begin.  Our holdings include many research aids for the
student, historian, and genealogist such as county histories, obituaries, census indices and the
genealogies of many Portville families.  We have collected over 100 files and pamphlets on Portville
churches, industries, maps, cemeteries, schools, veterans, government, houses, buildings, the canal,
and various local events.  We also have old school yearbooks dating back to 1938 and a complete
listing and look-up database for Chestnut Hill Cemetery.  Your ancestor might be found among our
2500 obituaries on file or in one of the area's cemeteries, Chestnut Hill, Pine Street, East Portville, or
that old cemetery on the Haskell that you always wonder about when you drive by it.

EXTRA EXTRA!  Read all About It!

Another great source of information is the Portville Free Library.  Did you know that Portville used to
publish its own newspaper?  The library has all of the old Portville Autograph, Portville Review, and
the Portville Star issues, dating 1901 to 1969.  They also maintain an extensive obituary file, kept
current by volunteer Mrs. Kay Anderson, and other directories and publications.

The Portville Free Library's collection of old newspapers is one of the greatest tools we have for
researching Portville's people, places and events.  Years ago, the original Portville Autograph, the
Portville Review and the Portville Star were all stored on microfilm.  This enabled the preservation of
the original newspapers which become brittle with age, and a way to print excerpts from the film on a
piece of paper.  Microfilm readers are still in use today, however the library's reader has not been
working for some time.  Even with the machine, the quantity of data to search through makes finding
information this way quite tedious.

The technology to digitize the newspapers for use on the computer is available today - for a fee - but
the funds to tackle this type of project have been limited.  Both the Library and PHPS have been
dreaming of the day we would have this capability and now our  prayers have been answered in a
most unexpected way.

Local artist and Chestnut Hill Cemetery "enthusiast", Mark Weitzel, contacted a fellow in Fulton, NY,
named Thomas Tryniski.  He maintains a website called and has an interest in local
newspapers in New York.  He has scanned the library's microfilm at no cost and posted it to his site.  
Since he has tackled the search and storage problems of such a huge volume of documents, we are
forever in his debt for the three newspapers' digital records.  Bea Eldridge would be thrilled that her
newspapers are making another comeback!

Before you get started sifting through the newspapers, you may want to visit our
Newspaper Index
page that has recently been added to this site.  It is very helpful to narrow down the year that a news
item occurred.  Files are stored as printable PDF but take time to download to your browser.  Sorted
by year, the listings are alphabetical but there is no "search" so you will have to read through each year
to find what you seek!  

Go To Fulton History to search Portville's Newspapers - This is an external site.

By the way, it helps to start your "search string" with the word "Portville" to target our newspapers,
then add the surname and date you are looking for.  For Example:  "Portville Smith Parish 1942".  
Samples will appear and you will have to methodically go through each "hit" on your search criteria.  
Good Luck!

The Portville Autograph (1901-1908)
The Portville Review (1908-1952)*
The Portville Star (1952-1969)

*Please note that the year 1913 microfilm was missing when the films were sent in.  We are going to
ask that Mr. Tryniski scan the master reel and include it with the rest of the Portville postings.
Tracing Your Roots Using the Internet
If you have ever wondered about your family history, the answers lie within reach thanks to the
increasing availability of genealogical information on the Internet.  Much of the information is FREE!  
Armed with a bit of curiosity and some time to sleuth, you can use the following techniques to
recreate your family’s history.

The easiest place to begin is with what you already know.  Start with yourself and your siblings by
recording birth dates and locations.  Add your parents and their siblings, their parents, and so on.  If
you have the opportunity, interview older relatives and bring a tape recorder with you to keep the
information accurate.  Keep track of everything: dates, locations, residences, cemeteries, family
stories, old photos with captions, etc.  Chances are, someone has this information already written
down somewhere.  Each piece of information you gather is a clue that may be useful at some point.  
Before you know it, you will have enough names and dates to start your research.

There are a couple ways to go about researching on the computer and it depends on the information
you have to start with.  If you do not have access to a computer on the Internet in your home, you
can usually use the computers at your local library.  The
Portville Free Library has several computers
available for patrons with a current library card.  Bring a floppy disk with you to save your data.

From your computer's Internet browser, a good place to begin is the
Family Search website at www.  Just go to “Search” and enter your information as prompted.  You will be surprised
at what you may find.  They have a complete listing of the 1880 U.S. Census, as well as vital records,
ancestral files, social security death index, etc.  A common name will deliver many similar results so
use your birth dates and locations to narrow the possibilities of a match to your ancestor.  Searching
through the results takes time, so be prepared and be patient.  Searching gets easier as you become
more familiar with the kind of information they can provide.  

Another great tool to use is an advanced Internet search such as
Google.  Start with the location (city,
state), and add something specific, like “cemeteries,” “history,” or your surname.  The results will
include any website that finds your search words.  Use the ‘cached’ version for easy reference to
your specific words, which will each be color-coded.  The kind of information you may find using
this tool are links to cemetery listings, historical societies (and their reference materials), wills on
public record, other researchers’ websites and family histories,
Civil War records, and much more.      

Here is a list of other helpful sites for Western New York research:  

Painted Hills
Olean Public Library
Rootsweb's site for Cattaraugus County (NY GenWeb)
Cattaraugus County Museum, Machias, N.Y.
Allegany Area Historical Association (AAHA)

New information is being added to the Internet every day, so bookmark the websites that you find helpful and check them periodically.  Once you get started, the resources are endless.   You never
know where you may find references to your ancestors!  

As a word of caution to researchers, sharing your family history information on the Internet is not
entirely safe.  Be wary of joining on-line organizations or using “forums” to post surname inquiries
with your email address.  Many genealogical sites are being hacked and the result is unwanted email
spam, or worse, identity theft.  A good rule of thumb is: never post any information related to living
family members.  Another place to exercise caution is fee-based services.  Many organizations like require a subscription fee for a year's membership.  These can be costly to join so start
with the free sites and see what you can find on your own.  Whether you join a fee-based service or
not, never input a credit card number to an unsecured website!

If you reach a point where you have exhausted your research on the Internet, check your local
resources.  Start with the Portville Historical and Preservation Society and check out our archives,
then visit the
Olean Library, where you will find many of the state census records (check their website
for a listing), and other local groups such as the
Allegany Area Historical Assn, Ellicottville Historical
Society and Museum, and others.  The
Family History Library's branch facilities, Family History
Centers (FHC), are also a great resource and are located everywhere.  Worldwide addresses can be
searched for at the
Family Search FHC webpage or check the Genealogy Home Page.  These centers
have access to any existing microfilm census records as well as many historical texts.  Olean has an
FHC at 1935 Windfall Road.

In order to keep all your genealogy information organized, you may want to consider investing in a  
software package for your computer, such as
Family Tree Maker.  As your tree grows, the huge
number of names and dates can make sorting it very difficult.  Family tree software is a filing system
to sort all of your information in a way that makes it easy to find.  This makes it much less confusing,
especially when you find that your family liked to use the same names, generation after generation.  It
is a good idea to look for a free trial membership as a part of the package. often offers
various free memberships with Family Tree Maker packages.  

If you still need additional assistance getting started with your research,
contact us.  With all these
resources at your fingertips, you will be climbing your family tree in no time!  Good luck!
The Portville Historical and Preservation Society
Portville, NY 14770
Portville, New York
Chestnut Hill Cemetery Directory
This page was last updated on 02/28/2013