Sunday, January 21, 2001

Two projects half a world away from each other are worth a look for their potential benefits to genealogists.

The state of Texas now awards historical markers to specially designated cemeteries, focusing attention on them as sites worth preserving, according to a report in Columns, the Newsletter of the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors.

The aluminum markers, granted by the Texas Historical Commission, are given to any cemetery that contains at least one burial from before 1950 and has been deemed by the state worthy of preservation.

Of course the markers do not in themselves protect the cemeteries. But they can help publicize the old sites and encourage efforts to preserve them from development and decay.

Here in Wyoming Valley, volunteers have worked tirelessly to reclaim dilapidated cemeteries, such as the Shawnee Cemetery in Plymouth.

Programs like the Texas medallion effort could help such groups in Pennsylvania and other states by showing support for their efforts and highlighting additional cemeteries that need attention.

A second project deserving of recognition is Great Britain's three-year plan to photograph every historically significant structure in the country for inclusion on a cyber-library. The $43 million effort is under way and is expected to be completed in 2002, the Associated Press reports.

The goal is to offer future generations a record of how Britain looked at the dawn of the 21st century. The Web site is in place now but contains only a fraction of the photos it will eventually include - about 360,000 of them, everything from medieval castles to those unique red British telephone booths.

Wouldn't it be great if local historical and genealogical societies in American communities could combine on such a project? Imagine - a detailed photographic record of significant historical sites in Wyoming Valley towns, on the Web and perhaps in printed photo files, with accompanying background.

Mailbag: ``Can you send me a list of people who do research work.'' Betty Dettmore, Wilkes-Barre.

Local people who do research for a fee are mentioned in the newsletter of the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society. I'll send you a copy.

``My grandfather was one of Wilkes-Barre's finest. He was known as John `Devil' Burke. ... Do you know how to search records on the Wilkes-Barre police?'' Donna Burke, Wilkes-Barre.

You say the Police Department was unable to furnish you with records, the 1972 flood having destroyed many of them. So we'll try another tack. If I were you, Donna, I would research my colorful detective grandfather by poring over the day-by-day news summaries in the old Wilkes-Barre Record Almanac, available at the Luzerne County Historical Society and Osterhout Free Library. Look for references to him in stories about major police cases during his 1921-1942 employment and then go to local newspaper microfilms. Also, do you know of any retired officers who might have been friends with him after he left the department and started his own security agency?

Update: The Luzerne County Genweb is undergoing a makeover, and Webmaster Tammy Lamb promises that this storehouse of local historical information will become more useful than ever. For starters, she has added some coal mine disasters to the already-long list and has set up a message board for genealogists to get in touch with one another. Keep checking Genweb for further additions. Address is

Local History Moment: A century ago, local people were preparing for the most red-white-and-blue, flag-waving month of the year. That's because February of times past had as many as three days when the federal and state governments urged that the flag be displayed. Lincoln's Birthday and Washington's Birthday were separate holidays. Also, the state held its primary election day in February, not yet having moved it to the spring.

News Notes: With the U.S. Census for 2000 completed, genealogists now can look forward to the federal government's release of the Census of 1930. In accordance with federal policy, the census will be released April 1, 2002, the 72nd anniversary of the day the count began. The National Archives is now holding that census and will be in charge of the release, said David G. Hendricks of the Census Bureau's public information office.

Mary Ann Moran, director of the Lackawanna Historical Society, will be the speaker at Tuesday's meeting of the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society. She will discuss her organization's holdings and show how they can help genealogy researchers. Meetings are at 7 p.m. in the second-floor meeting room of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, near Wyoming Valley Mall. You don't have to be a member to attend. Bring your genealogy questions, and you'll probably find someone who can help you with them.

Incidentally, don't overlook the Society's Web site. You'll find it at is the RootsWeb) under ``Historical and Genealogical Societies.'' Click on ``Pennsylvania.'' The site offers lots of good information on the ongoing project of transcribing local burial records, tells you how to join when you live out of the area and offers links to many other useful sites.

Looking for an introduction to genealogy? I will offer a pair of two-hour sessions next month as part of the Boscov's Department Store Campus of Courses program. They are set for Sunday afternoons, Feb. 11 and 25, from 1 to 3 p.m. They're free, and anybody who wants to stay afterward and go over his or her personal genealogy project is welcome to do so. Just bring a notepad and pen and lots of questions. Capacity is unlimited, but Boscov's likes you to call (570) 823-4141 so adequate seating can be planned. Courses are held in the fourth-floor auditorium.

Remember, this column is now accessible through your computer at Just look for the Sunday page.

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. Email is