Times Leader Arts & Entertainment

Ohio woman writes books on local ties

November 1, 1998

Lois Scarazzo isn't satisfied with merely researching her family and filing the information away.

She writes books about her genealogy and distributes them among relatives.

Scarazzo considers her writing to be fun rather than work.

"I've just been fascinated ever since I began to learn how extensive my family was in the area," she says.

A retired home economics teacher in Youngstown, Ohio, Scarazzo grew up on Wyoming Valley's Larksville Mountain, then a largely rural area including parts of Larksville and Jackson Township. Her mom was a teacher in the Lehman schools. Scarazzo's maiden name is Steele, and her brother still lives on Steele Road.

Scarazzo's first book was on her mother's Harrison and Lippincott families. She paid for 100 copies to be printed, all of which she distributed. Her newest book, which she hopes to have finished by 2000, will focus on her great-grandfather, George Palmer Steel. (Earlier generations did not use the final "e"). It will range back to his ancestors, the first Steels in America, and forward to the many descendants in the present.

"I just felt he was the place to start," Scarazzo says.

In the meantime, Scarazzo would like anyone with information about the Steels and their descendants to contact her.

The Steel family, it turns out, was prominent in the Hanover Township and Nanticoke areas for many decades, ranging from the late 18th through the 19th centuries. Scarazzo has traced them back to Peters (note the "s") and Jean Bell Steel, who first turn up in Hanover in the U.S. Census of 1790.

Peters emigrated from Ulster, Northern Ireland, settling originally in the vicinity of Chester County in southeastern Pennsylvania. He served in the Army during the Revolutionary War. Scarazzo does not know exactly when he moved to Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Peters, she says, eventually bought a plot of land in Nanticoke and operated Steel's Ferry, offering transportation across the Susquehanna River. She understands the ferry's base was known as Butzbaugh Landing.

The Steel children were Hannah (child of Peters and first wife, Hannah Normand, m. James Lasley), David, Jacob (m. Lydia Harrison), Andrew (m. Susan Rabert), Mary (m. Cyrus Fellows), Elizabeth (m. Truman Trescott), Joseph (m. Sarah Ransom), Margaret (m. Amos Franklin), John (m. Elizabeth Fellows) and Peter (m. Charity Lamoreaux).

Scarazzo is a direct descendant of John and Elizabeth. Several of the names in her overall family line became those of streets in the Hanover Township area, suggesting that people with those names were substantial property owners. Other names are current today.

George Palmer Steel (1822-1901), the focus of her book, is a grandson of Peters and Jean Bell Steel. He is buried in Jackson Township.

The sheer size of the Steel family produced an enormous number of further descendants, nearly all of whose names Scarazzo is trying to research. One is Charles D. Linskill, a Wilkes-Barre newspaper publisher and columnist of the 19th century and one of Wyoming Valley's last surviving Civil War veterans.

"When I began I had no idea I was related to just about all the people in the area," Scarazzo says.

Contact Lois Scarazzo by postal mail at 4935 Hopkins Road, Youngstown, Ohio 44511, or by email at rscarazzo@compuserv.com.

. . .

Wondering how to write your own family history? The genealogy publishing companies' catalogues I mentioned in the Oct. 18 column list several books that will tell you how to do it. Check your local bookstores as well. Some of the genealogy books you find in libraries also contain chapters on writing the family history. The Osterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre has a copy of Scarazzo's first book.

Finally, from time to time I give a presentation on writing an annual family genealogy newsletter -- which can become the groundwork for a book-length work.

Books: Anybody researching Irish ancestors who emigrated to America would do well to read "The Famine Ships: The Irish Exodus to America," by Edward Laxton.

While the book concentrates on the famine era of 1846 to 1851, it also provides a lot of information on Irish emigration in general and could provide valuable insight for the researcher into Irish family history of all periods.

For instance, the book tells us that much of the emigration was to Canada, with the Irish immigrants later filtering down into America. This information helps explain the heavy concentration of Irish in the small towns of upstate New York years ago and also suggests avenues for locating immigration records.

Laxton offers excellent detail, including cost of passage, rations issued to passengers, scheduling and size of ships plying the Irish-American route. Check your library or bookstore. (Henry Holt and Co., New York, 1996, 250 pages, paperback edition of 1998 $14.95).

  • 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's genealogical column appears every Sunday.

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