Published: Sunday, January 13, 2002

Section: NEWS

Page: 1B


Plenty of genealogists are starting the new year right - pursuing leads of all kinds. Let's get to their questions.

Remember, a lot of information on family history is available here in the Wilkes-Barre area. It's often just a matter of knowing where to look.

Q. ``I was going through the list of (mining) accidents on the Luzerne (Genweb) site and wondered if it was possible to get the names of the casualties. In the year 1904 or 1905 I'm looking for a Patrick Walsh.'' Alice Russell, Sebastian, Fla.

A. The old Wilkes-Barre Record Almanacs for that time published annual lists of local deaths, and in some years the men killed in the mines received a separate listing. The almanac dated 1906 (which covers 1905) does have a listing for a Patrick Walsh, 23, of Ashley, who died April 30, 1905. He died of injuries suffered two weeks earlier when he

was squeezed between two mine cars. I'll send you the obituary.

Unfortunately, we do not have any comprehensive list of people killed in the individual mining accidents - and there were a lot of them. Compiling such a list would be a massive but worthwhile project for researchers, requiring months or years of reading microfilmed newspapers and consulting state and federal records. What's more, most of the miners who were killed - like Patrick Walsh - died in individual accidents that are not listed on the Genweb and might not even have been reported in the papers of the time because they were so common.

Q. ``Looking for (great-grandfather) William Reese, father of John Reese, husband of Mae Johns Reese. He died in1941 in Wilkes-Barre. I have no other information about him.'' Betty Murphy, Norristown, Pa.

A. Betty, your ancestor was quite a man. Times Leader backfiles say he held various foreman positions with the city of Wilkes-Barre, beginning in 1914, and sang with numerous area musical groups. Mayor Charles Loveland himself led a delegation of city officials to the funeral. I'm sending you the articles.

Q. ``My father once told me that we were related to `Butch' McDevitt.'' Nancy Dollar, Silver Lake, N.Y.

A. That would be an interesting connection, Nancy. John Jay ``Butch'' McDevitt, an eccentric and practical joker, was a true character around Wilkes-Barre in the first half of the 20th century. He once took a political payoff and rented a private train to go to New York City and become, as he called it, a ``millionaire for a day.'' He also took a statue of

himself to Washington, D.C., and tried to present it to the National Hall of Fame. McDevitt died Feb. 2, 1951. Check out his obituary, which I will send you, and pursue any trails you see.


Form the habit of surfing the Web. Even if the sites and pages you turn up don't have any immediate value, they or related sites could always become useful to your family history research down the line.

For instance, railroads used to be very important to the life of the Wilkes-Barre area. Thousands of people earned a living on the Lehigh Valley, the Central of New Jersey, the Delaware & Hudson and the other roads serving the community.

These days there are many Web sites devoted to the area's rich railroad lore. They are maintained by hobbyists, historians and collectors. What they offer is lots of information - and photos - that could be anywhere from mildly interesting to highly useful for genealogists researching their Wyoming Valley ancestors.

So if you recall grandmom talking about taking the Laurel Line to Scranton and you wonder what that was, go to your favorite search engine and type in ``Laurel Line.'' One of the sites you'll find is, a wonderful compendium of data on this once-flourishing electric rail passenger service.

Among the offerings there will be an old photo of the Laurel Line's Wilkes-Barre yard in back of the East Market Street terminal, the very spot where she would have boarded or debarked from the cars. You'll see colorful pictures of the electric cars themselves and the communities they passed through.

Beyond railroads, did your ancestors work at the Stegmaier Brewery? Did they heat their homes with Blue Coal?

You'll find sites on these and other subjects that will help you get back into their day and make better sense of references to long-gone institutions and places. So take a virtual trip back in time. At the very least, you'll enjoy it.

Local History Moment

Mining has always held danger, but fortunately that danger has eased since the days when Northeastern Pennsylvania was a center of anthracite production. In 2001, mining deaths fell to a historic low of 72 nationally, with 42 of them coming in coal mines, the Associated Press reported recently.

Compare 2001's figure with 1900, when 74 miners were killed in the coal mines just in the area of Luzerne County from Plains Township south to Nanticoke, then known as the Fourth Inspection District. By comparison, only one miner was killed in all of Pennsylvania in 2001.

The figure of 72 was the lowest total since federal authorities began keeping mining records in 1910, said the AP.

News notes

Looking to get into computer-assisted genealogy? Mark your calendars for the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society's March meeting. It will consist of a computer workshop by Michael Strauss, district director of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. on March 26 at the Gates Computer Lab in the Osterhout Free Library, 71 S. Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre.

There will be no meetings in January or February. Looking to join? Contact the society at P.O. Box 1776, Shavertown, PA 18708-0776. You don't have to be a member to attend the meetings.

Two more sessions of the Family History Workshop titled ``Beginning Your Family Research'' are scheduled for the Scranton Children's Library meeting room early next year. They will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Feb. 21. Preregistration is required. Call (570) 963-9561 or e-mail

The library of the Luzerne County Historical Society is closed, with reopening scheduled for the 29th. Watch for the annual lecture series, coming up in February and March.

The Luzerne County Prothonotary's Office will receive an additional $5,000 in state money toward restoring old documents. An initial $5,000 was used for preservation of naturalization papers on microfilm. A second $5,000 will go toward purchase of a microfilm machine. The money comes from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum


The Interboro Public Library, Lackawanna County, has received a $300,000 grant from the state for construction of a new 12,000-square-foot facility. It is part of the Lackawanna County Library System.

Keep checking your Times Leader for the next list of the Campus of Courses at Boscov's Department Store in Wilkes-Barre. I'll be offering my introduction to local genealogy twice next month.

``Out on a Limb,'' the Times Leader's award-winning local genealogy column, appears every other Sunday. It is also accessible at and on the Luzerne County Genweb. Back columns are archived on the Genweb.

Contact Tom Mooney, Times Leader, 15 N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711. E-mail is


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