Calls for family tree research help come from distant places

July 4, 1999

Even the sultry days of summer can't stop these genealogists. People from three states are researching ancestors in our area. Can anybody help them?

  • Mary Russell of Pittsburgh is researching her DUNN ancestors, who lived in Dushore, Sullivan County.

    "The Dunns are said to have been instrumental in the building of the first church in Dushore -- St. Basil," Russell writes. Her grandmother, Alice Julia Dunn, was born there in the late 1800s. Russell is interested in histories of the Dushore area as well as anything about the Dunns.

    Mary, there are a couple of research sources for that area. The Sullivan County Historical Society in Laporte is operating on limited hours for the summer, afternoons Thursday through Saturday. But it offers a paid research service.

    Contact the society by phone at (570) 946-5020; by postal mail at P.O. Box 252, Laporte, Pa. 18626.

    The Sullivan County Library in Dushore has several histories of the area in its reference department. The library is on Center Street in Dushore. Phone (570) 928-9352. A librarian tells me it is best to visit in person to do research.

    Since your ancestors were so active in their church, you might want to see if there is a history of St. Basil's.

    Contact Russell by telephone at (412) 782-3286; by postal mail at 410 Brilliant Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa. 15215; by e-mail at

  • Robert J. Tigue, of Willimantic, Conn., who is researching the Pittston area, is looking for information about what port of entry Irish immigrants to Pittston might have used in the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s and about backfiles of the Pittston Gazette and The Times Leader.

    Robert, I don't know of anyone who has catalogued the ports of entry our area's Irish used. But my experience has been that a lot of immigrants to Northeastern Pennsylvania -- whatever their ethnic group -- came through the ports of New York and Philadelphia. Some of my ancestors from Ireland landed at Baltimore, Md. I've read that many Irish of the 19th century sailed to Canada because of cheap passage there and then moved south to the United States.

    Some histories of the Pittston area are available in local libraries. One good starting place would be the Wyoming Historical and Geological Society's library. Among its holdings are "The Ethnic Settlement of Three Communities in the Wyoming Valley," by Garth Myers (1980); and the Pittston Centennial Book (1954). The society's Edward Phillips collection contains a section on origins and history of Pittston.

    The Pittston and West Pittston libraries have "History of the City of Pittston," by James Bussacco (1996). Some older histories, such as those by Bradsby in the 1890s and Harvey-Smith in the 1920s, contain chapters on the history of Pittston.

    In 1900 and 1950 the now-defunct Pittston Gazette published special editions on the history of Pittston. The West Pittston Library has a copy of the 1900 paper, while The Times Leader has a copy of the 1950 paper.

    The Historical Society and the Osterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre have complete microfilms of the Luzerne County census going back to 1790.

    There is also a history of the Diocese of Scranton, available in various local libraries.

    Contact Robert J. Tighe at 71 Roanoak Ave., Willimantic, Conn. 06226.

  • Mike Daniel of Maryland is seeking information about his wife's grandfather, William RHOADES, who died in Wilkes-Barre about in the early 1950s. Rhoades, who was a Spanish-American War veteran, was born in Centralia, moved to Shamokin and worked as a plasterer. He moved to Wilkes-Barre in 1942 and was employed at Saylor's Cafe on South Main Street, living above the cafe.

    Daniel knows only that Rhoades was buried from the Kniffen Funeral Home, which lost many of its records in the 1972 flood. The newspaper funeral notice Daniel has bears no date.

    Contact Mike Daniel by phone at (410) 437-3904; by fax at (410) 437-5371; or by postal mail at 8415 Alvin Road, Pasadena, Md. 21122.

    Letters: Catherine Scheff of Dallas, whose family scrapbook was the subject of a column several months ago, says that response to the article has been overwhelming. "I cannot tell you how many people were interested in my father-in-law's scrapbook or how many people came up to me and told me about the scrapbook they have," she writes. Since that time she has discovered that her father, an avid baseball player, also kept a scrapbook and thereby left her an exciting history of his career.

    Tips: Every census has its peculiarities, and they can be easy to miss. The latest newsletter of the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society points out that the 1880 Soundex microfilm reels place all hospital and other institutional listings after the final "z" alphabetical listings for individuals and families. So if you can't find your ancestor in what seems to be the right place on the reel, go to the end.

    News Notes: It never hurts to publicize your searches for ancestors or the information you have compiled about them. A recent Associated Press news story is a case in point. Frank Findlay of Missouri was able to find the long-lost burial place of his great-grandfather, a Union Civil War soldier killed fighting the Confederates in 1864, because Findlay's wife, a family genealogist, had publicized her research on the Web. The discovery happened after writer David Evans learned the identities of three unknown Union soldiers buried in Marietta, Ga., and then tried to locate descendants. He found the Findlays' information on the Web. The result was Findlay's trip to a ceremony dedicating new tombstones for the three, one of them his ancestor, Pvt. James Harris of the 5th Iowa Cavalry.

  • Help is on the way for Pennsylvania's libraries, and that should be good news for genealogists. Just eight days ago, Gov. Tom Ridge signed into law a bill containing a $17 million increase over last year for library funding. That increase is the first part of a two-year, $32 million state commitment to improvement of services in public and school libraries, according to a press release.

    The state said the series of increases will move Pennsylvania from 10th in the nation for state support of libraries to third.

  • The Osterhout Free Library's main branch will close (except for the children's department) from July 10 through Aug. 1 for a complete renovation. Computer work stations will be installed and the entire main room will be remodeled. The Hoyt Library in Kingston has been closing on Fridays for computerization of its card catalogue.

  • 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

    1999 The Times Leader