Times Leader Arts & Entertainment

Books aid genealogy research

August 9, 1998

Times Leader Staff Writer

People doing genealogy often ask me what books they should read to reconstruct the world of their Wyoming Valley ancestors and gain information about businesses and families of the past. Here are some to start with.

General histories:

  • "Luzerne County: History of the People and Culture," by Paul J. Zbiek (1994, $14.95). Very heavy on photos, this volume covers the overall history of Wyoming Valley.

  • "Bridging Change," by Sally Teller Lottick (1992, $14.95). This is an overview of the region's history, with a good many photos and images from the Historical Society's collection.

    Specialized topics:

  • "African-Americans in the Wyoming Valley," by Emerson I. Moss (1992, $8.95). Tells of the thriving African-American community that goes back to the Valley's earliest days.

  • "Steamboats on the Susquehanna," by F. Charles Petrillo, (1993, $14.95). Tells of the steamboats that were a common sight on the river in the 19th century.

  • "150 Years of Photography in the Wyoming Valley," by F. Charles Petrillo and Annie Bohlin (1990, $3.50). Some magnificent photos by the area's best picture-takers of decades past.

  • "Wyoming Valley History Revisited," by Sheldon Spear (1994, $18.95). This volume is a series of historical articles on notable people and major events of the region's past.

  • "Wyoming Valley's Earliest Settlers," by Sally Teller Lottick (1997, $3.75). Gives an overview of the American Indian settlers of the area.

  • "Philadelphia's First Fuel Crisis," by H. Benjamin Powell (1978, $5.95). The fabled Jacob Cist helps develop a market for anthracite coal, which leads to the area's prosperity.

  • "Albert Lewis: The Bear Creek Lumber and Ice King," by F. Charles Petrillo (1998, $14.95). A biography of the great local entrepreneur and study of the once-thriving ice industry.

  • "A Connecticut Yankee in Penn's Woods: The Life and Times of Thomas Bennet," by Charles E. Myers (1993, $8.95). Early settlers and the struggle to establish the community.

  • "Anthracite and Slackwater: The North Branch Canal, 1828-1901," by F. Charles Petrillo (1986, $16.25). With maps and illustrations, this book tells of the canal that contributed so much to the region's prosperity in the 19th century.

  • "Anthracite Trust," by Aileen Sallom Freeman (1994, $14.95). The leaders of the early days of the anthracite coal industry and their rise to power.

  • "Cold and Gold from the Poconos," by Robert A. Janosov (1997, $8.95). The Stegmaier Brewing Co. was for generations a major employer in Wilkes-Barre and the dominant brewery.

    Buy them in your bookstores or at the Wyoming Historical and Geological Society's library on South Franklin Street in Wilkes-Barre.

    A few fine books, unfortunately, are out of print or otherwise not readily available. Look for them in libraries. One of my favorites is the 1983 volume "Wilkes-Barre Architecture 1860-1960," by Vito J. Sgromo and Michael Lewis. It offers not only many, many photos and sketches of the city's most memorable buildings, but also a discussion of the architectural theories and styles that made them stand out.

    Another is Edward George Hartmann's 1985 "The Welsh of Wilkes-Barre and the Wyoming Valley," a history of the local Welsh community and its churches and organizations.

    For more books that might help you with your genealogy, go to the library and look for a copy of "Luzerne County: A Bicentennial Bibliography." This booklet, published in 1976, lists a lot of general histories, town histories and specialized volumes such as books on floods, mining and the Molly Maguires. What's nice is that it tells you which local libraries have these books, or at least had them as of 1976.

    . . .

    Buffalo, N.Y., resident Ellen Hooven, who recently made a trip to Wyoming Valley to research ancestors, reports getting a lot of help from an employee at the Luzerne County Courthouse.

    Writes Hooven, "I was able to get copies of deeds on properties that had been in our family in the early 1900s. At the office of the recorder of deeds, Len Krufka helped us for almost two hours. Not only was he super help, but he did it with good humor."

    Incidentally, Hooven's announcement in this column several weeks ago of her upcoming visit to Wyoming Valley bore fruit when Wyoming resident Marie Claire Ward read it. The two women met, compared notes and learned that they are second cousins.

    "Ellen and I thank you for helping us find each other," Ward writes.

    . . .

    News Notes:

  • The Northeastern Pennsylvania Genealogical Society has received a grant with which to buy a microfilm reader-printer. Next on its list of needs is a site for its growing library, now housed in a private home.

    "The library has just outgrown the area where I had it," said society President Tammy Lamb. "We're in desperate need of a place for storage." With a better site, the society will be able to offer regular days and hours for public visits, instead of having to set up individual appointments.

    The society's meetings will resume in September, with the first one of the season scheduled for Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Veterans Hospital), Plains Township.

  • I expect to offer my two-hour session in writing the family genealogy newsletter this fall during the Campus of Courses at Boscov's in Wilkes-Barre. Most likely it will be offered on Sunday afternoon again.

    A family genealogy newsletter is simply a roundup of your work in genealogy for the year or so, mailed to any relatives you think might be interested. It's wonderful for getting relatives all over America to join in and help with the genealogy you're doing. And it's not very difficult to write, either.

  • Remember, this column is now accessible through your computer at www.leader.net. Then click on "Arts and Entertainment."

  • 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.

    © 1998 The Times Leader