Sunday, January 25, 1998



Genealogist's mother lode


   Imagine having detailed records of your family back to the late Middle AgesThen imagine that your original American family property is now a museum, visited annually by dozens of relatives who can all

contribute information and fill in gaps.

   Lucky, lucky Joseph Booth.

   It wasn't as if everything fell into his lap, though.

 As Booth of Exeter was growing up he heard scattered stories from relatives about his family's arrival in New England back in the 17th century. He also was told that a Booth had come to Wyoming Valley in the


   Then, at a time of life when he "just became curious," he decided to try to tie these tales together and find out exactly who his ancestors were.

   So when an uncle told him that a cousin out in Illinois owned a professionally researched book titled "The Genealogy of the Booth Family," Booth had to have it. The research, commissioned by cousin Eden

Booth and carried out by famed genealogist Don Jacobus, traced the descendants of Adam DeBooths from England in the 13th century through the emigration of Richard Boothe to Connecticut in 1639 up to the 1950s, when the book was written.

   But for Joseph Booth that didn't settle the issue by any means. One more step was necessary.

   "I tried to verify everything I had found and had been given to see if it was authentic," he said. His quest for truth began at the Fairfield County, Conn., probate office, where he looked up the wills of his ancestors. It continued when he put on a rain slicker to go prowling through the cemetery in Glen Castle, N.Y. And it didn't stop there.

   "Even though it was done, I still wanted to go to the graves of all the grandfathers since Richard Boothe died in 1688," Booth said.    Stratford, Conn., mentioned often in the family history book, turned

out to be the second key to his quest. People knowledgeable in that town's history told him about Boothe Park, a complex of land and buildings deeded to Stratford years ago by the last members of the Booth

clan to live in the old family house there and now maintained as an historic site. Like some of the other relatives, they used an "e" on their name.

   Records at Boothe Park connected up perfectly with the records Booth already had.

   Boothe Park is now the focus of Joseph Booth's genealogical pursuits. The human resources director at Little Flower Manor in Wilkes-Barre, he travels to Stratford several times a year to meet other Booth family members, also drawn to the park because of its personal associations.

   "You never know who's going to show up or bring a paper in," he said.

   While most of Booth's genealogy is done, he still has extensive plans. He and his relatives want to set up a Booth family history museum in one of the buildings there and centralize their records.

   "Of course we want to computerize everything," he said. He also hopes to push knowledge of the family's line back beyond the 13th century. One successful recent project was obtaining from Britain's College of Arms the heraldry granted to an ancestor whom he's proven to be his own.

   In the meantime, he's happiest expanding his circle of acquaintances.

   "I'm always out looking for new cousins," he said. "And that's the fun part of it."

   Karen Walker of Vestal, N.Y., is researching the local roots of a man who served as postmaster general under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was Frank Comerford Walker, who held the post from 1940 to 1945 and chaired the Democratic National Committee in 1943 and 1944.

   Walker was born in Plymouth, according to Times Leader files. But parents David Walker and Ellen Comerford Walker, sister of area theater magnate Michael Comerford, moved the family to Montana.

   Father David's parents were William Walker and Mary Kennedy, married at St. Rose Church, Carbondale. Karen Walker is researching the family because she believes Mary Kennedy was the sister of her great-grandfather.

   If you can help, contact Karen Walker at 268 Academy Drive, Vestal, N.Y. 13850. Or e-mail her at

   Another recent e-mail hit very close to home. Mark Fraley, of Nashville, Tenn., wrote to ask if anyone can help him with his search for information about his great-grandmother, Nancy Mooney Conway.

   If Mark has the first name wrong, and it is actually Ann Mooney Conway he is researching, then Mark and I are cousins. My great-aunt Ann Mooney married William Conway, and one of their daughters married Edwin Fraley.

   I'll be sending Mark copies of clippings from my personal files as soon as I get his postal mailing address. In the meantime, anyone who can help Mark is urged to contact him at

   News notes:

   The plan, announced several years ago, to computerize the records of all Civil War soldiers and sailors is not yet completed, according to Scott Hartwig, of the National Park Service. When it is finished, it

will allow visitors to four national battlefield parks to research the military men's records on computer, bypassing some of the time-consuming paperwork that is now necessary. Gettysburg is one of the parks slated for the facility.

   My next round table on writing a family genealogy newsletter is scheduled for 1-3 p.m. on Feb. 1 at Boscov's Department Store, South Main Street, Wilkes-Barre.

   I constantly urge genealogists to write up the results of their researches once a year and send copies to relatives. In that Sunday afternoon session I'll offer tips on doing just that. It's a wonderful way of getting the whole family involved in your search.

   The session is free and will be in the fourth-floor auditorium. Bring something to write on. Register at Boscov's fourth-floor courtesy desk or call the store at 823-4141.

   The Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Non-members are invited.

   Remember, this column is now accessible through your computer at 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.

   Tom Mooney, The Times Leader, 15 N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, Pa. 18711