Times Leader Arts & Entertainment

Hunt for family plot pays off for N.J. man

December 13, 1998

A comprehensive collection of genealogy links

Think you're a cemetery hound?

Listen to the adventures of Jack McGeever, a resident of Medford Lakes, N.J., and his quest to find the family plot here in Wyoming Valley. His success in locating a grave shows how persistence and ingenuity pay off, whether you're Sherlock Holmes or somebody's descendant.

McGeever began his genealogical research about two years ago, intrigued by a Mass card for ancestor Neil McGeever and a photo of a pillow-style tombstone for Neil and wife Mary.

Phone calls to relatives turned up obituaries and other information that the ancestors were buried in St. Mary's Cemetery, Hanover Township. But, says McGeever, no one connected with the cemetery was able to give him a precise location for such early burials.

So all he knew was that his ancestors had lived on Hazle Avenue in Wilkes-Barre, that their funerals were held from St. Leo's Church in Ashley and that they were buried in the biggest cemetery in Wyoming Valley.

Give up? Not Jack McGeever. On a Saturday in April he arrived at the cemetery, hauling the gear he would need for his search mission -- in a cemetery that has had nearly 60,000 burials.

"With a crude sketch of four horizontal rectangles bounded by the road system, a camera, and binoculars, I was determined to do as much searching as I could that afternoon," McGeever writes.

"Fifty minutes later I found the marker in the third horizontal ... at the top of the hill. My shouts of joy must have been heard in New Jersey."

Jack McGeever's success is proof of some of the basic tenets of genealogy. Never give up. Bring your family in on the search. And, perhaps most important, use your ingenuity.

Searching: Sandra Hart of Florida is researching some Wyoming Valley ancestors and could use help. Her ancestors are Jacob ENGLE (1813-1889, first wife Frances EVERETT (1813-1878), second wife known only as Caroline B. They had 11 children: Samuel S., Ellanora, Stephen J., George Washington, Arnetta, John H., Elizabeth, Stewart H., Martin F., Sarah J. and William Charles. Two of the sons, Samuel S. and William Charles, married women named COVERT, a well-known name on Wyoming Valley's West Side. George Washington's wife was a PETTEBONE, another famous name in area history. Write to Sandra Hart at 1391 Meadowbrook Road NE, Palm Bay, Fla. 329055027 or email her at sandyhart@msn.com.

  • Colleen Buckley of California would like to correspond with anyone who has information about her great-uncle Christian PALLAMARY, who died on Aug. 6, 1963. He lived at 741 Shupps Lane, Plymouth, and was a hotel bell captain and translator. Although he was born in France, his family was from Greece. He lived most of his life in Philadelphia, moving to Plymouth about 1958. Christian's only son, Joseph, was a resident of Berwick and is deceased, Buckley said. Christian was a member of St. Mary of the Nativity church, Plymouth. Write to Colleen Buckley at 1236 Starview Drive, Santa Rosa, Calif. 95403.

  • Carol Drake of New York is looking for information about her grandparents, who lived in Wilkes-Barre. Her grandfather Christian SCHALLER (1873-1929) and grandmother Mary Schaller (1874-1941). The obituary for Christian, who died in a Philadelphia hospital and was buried in Oak Lawn Cemetery, Hanover Township, says he and his wife lived at 254 S. State St. in Wilkes-Barre. If your name is NELLIGAN you might be able to help Drake. A daughter, Catherine, married John Nelligan, both of whom Drake says are deceased. There was a John Nelligan listed at 254 S. State St. as the operator of a coal business in the 1940s and 1950s. That street no longer exists. Get in touch with Carol Drake by postal mail at 117 William Lane, Horseheads, N.Y. 607-739-7241 or by email at cdrake6955@aol.com

    Books: I'm hearing good things about "Guide to Naturalization Records of the United States," by Christina K. Schaefer. It's a survey of naturalization records at national, state and county levels in America, along with records for Guam and Puerto Rico and American Indian records. Naturalization records vary, but at their best they can be good sources of information about our ancestors' backgrounds and origins. Check your bookstore. This book, published in 1997, is also available from Genealogical Publishing Co., 1001 N. Calvert, Baltimore, Md. 21202. It's $25 plus $3.50 shipping.

    News Notes: Some Sunday during January or February, I will once again be offering a two-hour presentation on introductory genealogy at the Boscov's Campus of Courses in Wilkes-Barre. I give some tips on getting started and explain how to get your whole far-flung family involved through writing an annual family genealogy newsletter. Keep checking the paper. Boscov's will publish a list of courses over the next few weeks.

    The Northeastern Pennsylvania Genealogical Society's "Genweb" Web site has received an honor, placing third in the national competition conducted annually by Dick Eastman. Winning top honors was "Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet," a nationally known site by genealogist and author Cyndi Howells. The Susquehanna County genealogy site came in second. You may access the Luzerne County Genweb at www.pagenweb.org/~luzerne.

  • The society will not meet in December but will resume its meeting schedule in January. The group is still searching for a permanent home, something that is becoming increasingly necessary for its library as the project of listing and indexing all Luzerne County burials moves ahead. "It's just too hard with the stuff scattered in two members' homes for anyone to come and do their research in one shot," said society President Tammy Lamb. The society is also working on indexing news and obituaries from Hazleton newspapers as well as wills. Want to help? Contact the society at P.O. Box 1776, Shavertown, Pa. 18708-0776.

  • Need addresses and phone numbers of research sources in the Wilkes-Barre area? They're too space-consuming to repeat here, but if you write to me and include a stamped, self-addressed envelope, I'll send you a list. It will be especially useful for out-of-town researchers.

  • Ever wonder why your ancestors are sometimes not to be found in census records? Probably the census takers just out-and-out missed them. That happens. But if Mayor Thomas McGroarty has his way, that will not be the case in Wilkes-Barre in 2000. He and other city officials have been working with the U.S. Census to make sure that all addresses the census is using in trying to reach city residents with the mail-in forms are correct and that everybody who lives in Wilkes-Barre will be counted.

  • 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.