Sunday, May 23, 1999




Household chore yields treasure trove

Catherine H. Scheff of Dallas had long heard stories that packed away somewhere in the house were some scrapbooks compiled many decades ago by her husband's grandfather, Joseph P. ScheffNot being interested in genealogy at the time, she paid little heed to those tales. Then one day while cleaning the basement she came upon the two old volumes, opened them up and was astonished by what she found.

Pasted across the pages were article after article about everything from major historical events to obituaries for relatives, some dating back to the 1840s, along with family photos. The books were virtual windows into her husband's family history.

"I was just fascinated by it," said Scheff. "It opened up a whole new world." Among the finds in the books are a photo of an ancestral home that was torn down when Wilkes-Barre's Kirby Park was built in the 1920s and newspaper articles with plenty of biography about her husband's great-grandfather Edwin H. Groff, a member of the 143rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, a Civil War regiment recruited in Luzerne County.

Spurred by the discovery of this treasure trove, Scheff is now seriously getting into genealogy. "This man left us two wonderful history books and a path to trace our ancestors," she said.

But Scheff found yet another value in the scrapbooks. She had long known that Joseph P. had been the owner of a bakery on Barney Street in Wilkes-Barre. But now his interests, his thoughts, his concerns were all revealed to her through the wide range of clippings. He had saved news items on topics such as aviator Charles Lindbergh and the events of World War II.

"The little things that didn't pertain to the family told me who he was and what he liked," she said. Because of her find, Scheff has become a proponent of keeping scrapbooks, believing them to be the best way to preserve in one place family-related photos and articles that might otherwise be thrown away or mislaid.

She likes to display a clipping from the old scrapbooks, one of a newspaper article from many years ago. Entitled "Keep a Scrap Book," it says "Beautiful ideas and thoughts do not get lost in a scrap book. And you have them for your friends any time you desire to pick them up."

Since her discovery, Scheff has preserved the old pages in plastic and has begun keeping a portfolio of her own, for the benefit of future generations.

"I don't think he realized what a legacy he was leaving," she said. Searching: Leon Gruskiewicz of Florida is looking for information about ancestor John GRUSKIEWICZ, who died in 1943 and is buried in Holy Trinity Cemetery, Nanticoke. Contact Leon Gruskiewicz by mail at 5 Redwood Drive, Davenport, Fla. 33837; by e-mail at; or by phone at (941) 424-5345.

Joseph Grandinetti of Mountaintop is seeking information about descendants of great-grandparents Michael QUINN (1855-1915) and Catherine QUINN (1867-1938), natives of Ireland, who settled in Pringle and lived on Pringle Hill with children Margaret, John, Michael, Peter, Catherine, Thomas, Helen and William (1899-1944). Grandinetti says the Quinns were members of St. Ignatius Church in Kingston and that Michael was one of Pringle's first borough council members. Contact Joseph Grandinetti by mail at 84 Valley View Drive, Mountaintop, Pa. 18707, or by calling (570) 474-9737.

Elizabeth D. Waters of New Jersey is looking for information that will help her find out what ships several of her 19th-century ancestors arrived on. They are great-grandfather Joseph Richards of Wales, arrived at the port of New York Oct. 10, 1880, sponsor George P. Richards of Luzerne County; and grandfather Morgan Davis of Wales arrived in New York April 14 1877, sponsor Thomas Jones. Both men came to Luzerne County. Write to Elizabeth D. Waters at 33 Johanna Court, Piscataway, N.J. 08854-5218.

Thanks: The old adage that it's the guide who makes an historical tour is proven once again through the work of historian and author John Michael Priest. Priest conducted a tour I took recently at the Civil War battlefield of Antietam, Md. So knowledgeable is he that he was able to point out the exact spot where my great-great-uncle's regiment was posted on that day, the bloodiest in American military history.

Tips: The National Archives and Records Administration now has a microfilm publications database available for genealogists, historians and other researchers. The archives has long been a storehouse of census records, passenger lists, pension files and other materials. But, according to a recent press release, "information about the existence and location of microfilm copies has been inaccurate and not easily accessible to either the public or NARA staff."

The new database contains descriptions of the approximately 3,100 numbered microfilm publications the Archives has. Researchers will be able to get into the database and then search and display the information about the publications by keywords in titles, by publication number, by record group number and by Archives facility location.

The information is available at

There is more good news for people with borrowing privileges at Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities. Under a system announced last week, library users will be able to access electronically the index and contents of the State Library and request books through interlibrary loan. The closest state-owned universities to Wyoming Valley are Bloomsburg and East Stroudsburg universities.

News notes: The next meeting of the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the meeting room of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Plains Township, near Wyoming Valley Mall. As of press time, no speaker had been listed. But the meetings offer a chance to meet other genealogists and discuss problems. You don't have to be a member to attend.

Interested in Maryland genealogy? The Anne Arundel Genealogical Society will hold a genealogy conference the weekend of Sept. 24-27, emphasizing topics of interest to Maryland researchers. Seminars are scheduled for Sept. 25, a Saturday. A visit to the Maryland State

Archives will be available on the 27th, a Monday. Contact the society at P.O. Box 221, Pasadena, Md. 21123-0221.

Remember, this column is now accessible through your computer at Then click on "Genealogy." All back columns are available there as well.

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.

Tom Mooney, The Times Leader, 15 N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, Pa. 18711 or