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This page last updated on:
January 12, 2002

Skinner Heaven in Lockport

by Michele REID


8 Dec 2000

I have just returned from Lockport and the viewing of the best [Skinner] collection in the world. I am astounded with the amount of work that Doris Wahl had done. She has it arranged in duo-tangs - about 30 pages per duo-tang and believe it or not - about 300 duo-tangs. I photocopied the first 6 today, and am returning tomorrow for more. The unfortunate part is that there is no indexing system to her work. I am working out a deal with the society that I will index the folders in exchange for copies of all of the folders. There are an additional 7 or 8 binders of stuff as well. What they don't have is her book nor do they have the book that Natalie Fernald wrote either.

At first glance, it appears that there is information in these files that has not made it into any web sites that I have found nor your website. This is definately not a process that will only take a few hours. It is more likely to take a few years. The society is very pleased that I am interested and pleased that I am willing to work on it and work with them. I will keep you posted. Any questions regarding this tonight, Friday or Sat. please use this web address for mail. After that, I will be back at my normal address.

Shaking my head as to where to start,

Michele Reid



Well there is even more than I thought. When I returned yesterday, the volunteer had phoned just about everyone in the society. I had a greeting party when I got there. I turns out that in addition to the folders, there are 5 large (3' x 3') boxes of binders, plus another 6 three inch binders as well. They also have a bound copy of Natalie Fernald's book Skinner Kinsmen and copies of Doris Wahl's books as well. They are keeping these books in archieval boxes to prevent any damage, but I am allowed to use them if needed.

Yesterday, I copied another 18 folders, and have only made it through half of the first of eight drawers. The members don't quite know how we will exchange information yet - they are concerned that I spend $60 US ($90 Cdn) on photocopies only to copy a small small portion of the material. I did however convince them that there should be another copy of the collection housed somewhere else. This material is extremely valuable not just from a personal stand-point, but also a historical standport for both the United States and Canada. There are many historical accounts both first-hand and excepts from written material included in this collection. Do you know of anywhere that we may apply for grant money to copy and collate this information? I have suggested that I will pay a local kid to copy the booklets, but I can only afford about $125 U.S. per month. I don't know how else to do this - any suggestions?

As for queries, they are not set up to do any research for us or any other inquiries. I had said that you may put the information about the collection in the Update, and maybe on the website, and they were fine with that. They did however, have concerns about people visiting without contributing to their organization (they are strictly volunteer and self funded). I suggested that they encourage those using the facilities to become a member for a mere $13. They agreed, so maybe, if you put this in the update, you could include that gentle reminder.

I hope to return to Lockport next Fri and Sat to photocopy more booklets, but that will be it for a while. I did find some interesting things while I was photocopying. Example, Otis Skinner the well-respected actor in the late 1800's and early 1900's was indeed a Skinner descendent of the Thomas Skinner line. I had been after this information for a long time and now I have proof that it is true.

Gregg, I have the ability to copy the information that I have gotten so far (900 pages) and mail them to you in California if you want. Are you interested? I know that you are swamped in paper, but you may want this collection.

I think you can tell how excited I am. I wish I could win the lottery so I could take a couple of years off just to deal with this stuff. But that is only a dream, and I must live in reality - reality bites!

I look forward to hearing from you,



01 Jan 2001

I was just spending some time organizing the copies that I made over the weekend. As I flip through the pages, I am amazed at the information collected, especially without the aid of computers. I thought I had done very well with my 6700 names, but as I flip through the first four booklets, I am sure that I am missing 50% of what is included. To think, I have only gone through four of approx. 350 - it really astounds me. I thought I would send you the first part of the index so that you may peruse it at your leisure. Please find it attached.

I hope to return on Friday (if I get my school prep work done in time), to copy another 20 to 40 folders. After that, I won't have the time to get there again for a while. I don't know what to suggest we do with this. For me to index it I need to get copies of it. I am three hours away from Lockport, and I can't take time off from school to go there on Thurs. or Fri. Furthermore, my heavy semester is coming up (the one where I don't get a prep) and I have four courses to prep for. It will leave me very little time to travel on the weekends. What I had suggested, although I don't know what the response was, is to hire someone (maybe a reliable local high school student), pay them $6-7 /hour (I don't know what your minimum wage is, ours is $6.90 and I would prefer to pay them a little more than minimum wage) plus pay for copying costs - billed by the local copy store at 4 cents/copy - (for this I could leave a float with the society from which they could draw from), and have this student work on these until they are done. I could then travel down once in a while to pick them up and continue to work on them as I have time. I plan to get my secretary at night school to help me in the new year (after I train her how to use Excel). If I can get three or four books per week done, then I should be done in about a year or so. I would really like to ask our fellow readers for $$ to offset the costs of copying. It makes great sense to have copies in other locations for safety purposes. The costs for me are 1 1/2 times as great as for most of our readers being that our dollar STINKS! What do you think - I need your ideas to make this work!

This is an exciting process and I am willing to put my own research on hold while I index this. I think the society members are worried that I will lose interest and not follow through with my intentions, but I can assure you that I always finish what I start and I rarely break a promise. This is very important to me as I am sure it is to you. I do know that I will be the talk of the next Society meeting - hopefully, all good.

Also, find attached the blurb for the newsletter (maybe a little long winded). Please edit at will. I just threw it together very quickly so it may be a little rough around the edges.

Well - let me know your thoughts as soon as you can.

Happy New Year,



28 Jan 2001

I was just down in Lockport again and copied another 1400 pages of the Wahl collection - that makes about 2200 so far. It is amazing. There are many names I know I haven't gotten from internet sites and lots of stories to go with them. Of course, being the expert geneologists that they were, everything is referenced. I am having a great time. I have already indexed the first 27 booklets. Its time consuming and tedious, but I love every minute of it.

The NCGS (Niagara County Geneology Society) members are very helpful. Two volunteered to help me copy on Saturday. They are thankful that the collection will be indexed and therefore usable at last. I was wondering if we could get a copy of the Skinner Update for them, of if you will give me permission to copy mine. They really should have it, and it will possibly encourage people to purchase subscriptions.



11 Feb 2001

Glad to hear from you - I thought you got lost. I have been busy working on the index, I just finished book 36. I am going to send you the Excel file so far - it is big. I hope you have Excel so that you can open it, if not let me know and I will send it in comma delineated format.

I am really enjoying this indexing. I hope to get the first 60 books into my tree a.s.a.p. and then I can just send you my tree in GEDCOM for the site. I spend as much time as I can but that is going to get tougher in the next few months. It will be especially bad from mid April to the end of June. That is when I will be teaching four out of four periods a day at school. But until then I will put my all into it.

As for meeting up with you on Sept. 28/29 - its a date - I will put it in my Palm Pilot. I suggest that you stay on the Niagara Falls, Ontario side (its cheaper - Canadian dollars and all) and I should be able to get you some discounts. It is only a 20 minute drive to Lockport from there. Lockport is a very small town and I am not sure what the Hotel situation is like. I can be down to the Falls by 6:00 on the Friday night and if you would like we can meet up for dinner. Anyways, it is still a long way off and we can work out the details later.

If and when we meet up, I will give you a copy of what I have copied so far. I will start copying them soon, and as you can imagine, I am up to 9 - 1 1/2 inch binders. Mailing them would be hard but transfering them would be easy.

Last time I spoke with the NCGS, they were confused about what we would want to put on the website. I think this is going to take a little bit of convincing if we are to put the index on the website. As for the copies of the collection - they wanted to know what I was doing with them. They came across as somewhat protective of the collection, although they are more than happy to help me copy it for my records and for the purpose of indexing. I think the microfilming will be a delicate issue - it may take some work.

I will talk to them about setting up a Skinner Duplication Fund as soon as I get a chance. I think that is a great idea and consider the first $125 US my donation. I am sure that they won't have a problem with it. They really liked the article that promoted them so this part should be a snap.

Lastly, Wendy Walter from Seattle, WA is willing to help with inputting. I provided her with the information that linked her family into the Thomas of Malden line. She is greatful and has offered. Emily Skinner of Seattle, WA is also a web designer and has offered her help with the collection as well. She is another one I have helped solidify the relationship to the Skinner clan. I have about four others that I have been talking to regularly, so the help is there when ever we need it. Todd Skinner offered money.

I look forward to hearing the response after the next issue of the Update comes out. Keep me informed please. Enjoy the index and don't be too jealous - it really is a big job and it is hard to spend the time on the index and not stop to put them in my tree - I think this is the most difficult part. The sacrifices we make for the rest of the family!

Take care,


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