Church's genealogical info coming to Web

March 14, 1999

Times Leader Staff Writer

Sometime during spring or summer, part of the world's greatest treasure trove of genealogical material will become available online.

Recently, officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints announced plans to put part of their vast holdings of genealogical material (estimated to include 2 billion rolls of microfilm) online on a new Web site.

However, the latest information from the church indicates that some recent news reports of when it will become available were too optimistic.

"Nobody knows the date for sure," said spokesman Mike Otterson, director of media relations at the church's Family History Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. "Hopefully, it won't be too long."

The church will begin testing the new site this month or in April, Otterson said. The testing will take several weeks. Then the site will go offline, and it will return when it is ready for public use.

"This kind of thing takes time to do right," he said.

Some of the church's holdings are already online through FamilySearch, which is available only at the church's Family History Centers. The nearest one is at Clarks Summit. The new site will be available to anyone with a computer.

Otterson advised online genealogists to keep an eye on the church's main Web site at for announcements about the new site.

. . .

Donald G. Cronan of New York is looking for information about his ancestor, Azor CURTISS, a Revolutionary War soldier from Massachusetts who he believes participated in the July 3, 1778, Battle of Wyoming. Cronan writes that, according to family lore, Curtiss escaped the slaughter, swam the Susquehanna River, and returned to Valley Forge, where he died on July 17, 1778, after a fever.

A check of the Wyoming Monument Association's list of participants in the battle does not list any Azor Curtiss among the Army troops, surviving or slain.

Old records, however, do list an "Azer Curtis" as living in Northeastern Pennsylvania in the 1770s. In Volume 2 of his "A History of Wilkes-Barre," Oscar Jewell Harvey lists Azer Curtis as one of the Connecticut settlers who met at Forty Fort on March 6, 1776, to organize a military force to resist incursions by Pennsylvanians coming up from the Philadelphia area.

Some pages later, in a 1777 list of area landowners, Azer Curtis appears as a "North District" resident who could have been either away with the Continental Army or at home, farming his acreage. The expression "North District" is not clear, but it possibly means present-day Wyoming or Lackawanna counties.

If you have any information, contact Donald G. Cronan at 150 E. First St., Apt. 1509, Oswego, N.Y. Phone (315) 343-1502.

Communiques: Walter Chilman of Falls Church, Va., was intrigued by a recent mention of the Anthracite History Journal and asked for information about it. The journal is a quarterly publication devoted to the history of anthracite coal mining. It runs articles, photos, book reviews and news of upcoming events, all related to mining in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Subscriptions are $12 a year. Postal mail: Eric McKeever, 8506 Valleyfield Rd., Lutherville, Md. 21093. Phone: (410) 828-5626. Fax: (410) 828-8624. E-mail: Web:

Tips: Looking for a way to find out what the Pennsylvania State Archives has for you? Check out the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission's general Web site at Jonathan Stayer, head of the archives' reference section, says this site will get you into the archives' holdings.

Searching: Deborah Roessler Jones of California is seeking information on the biological parents of her father, who was born Francis DILLON but was later known as Gerald George ROESSLER, b. Wilkes-Barre May 24, 1935 or 1935. He was adopted into the Roessler family after biological father Charles Dillon was killed in an auto accident. Biological mother was Margaret HINES.

Contact Deborah Roessler Jones by postal mail at 2 Decker Way, San Jose, Calif. 95127; by phone at (408) 929-3680; or by e-mail at

News Notes: Did you have a Civil War ancestor who served at the Battle of Antietam, the bloody 1862 Maryland encounter in which the U.S. Army halted the Confederates' northward advance? The Wyoming Historical and Geological Society is sponsoring a one-day bus trip to the battlefield on April 10. For more information, contact the society at 49 S. Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre, Pa. 18701.

  • If you are researching ancestors from Eastern Europe, you will find the next meeting of the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society just the ticket. Local genealogist Dorothy Knafla, who has researched her ancestors from Slovakia and has coped successfully with variant spelling of names, will be the speaker.

    The meeting will be at 7 p.m. March 23 at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Veterans Hospital), Plains Township, near Wyoming Valley Mall. It will be in the second-floor meeting room.

  • Genealogists have long regarded microfilmed U.S. Census records as indispensable to their search for ancestors. But when family researchers of the distant future study the 2000 census, they might end up dealing with the most controversial census in our history. Congress has been bickering over the use of sampling -- a method of estimating large numbers of people who could otherwise be missed. Some elected officials want sampling, some don't. Federal authorities have been quoted in recent news stories as saying that planning for the 2000 census is behind schedule because of the dispute.

  • Have you solved some tough genealogical problems in your research? Do you have some tips you'd like to share with others? Would you like to report a success story? Drop me a line here at the paper. I'll get in touch with you and help you bring the benefits of your experience to others.

    © 1999 The Times Leader