Sunday, July 15, 2001

Lots of folks out there are looking for information about their ancestors from Luzerne County. So let's check out the mail.

1) ``I'm trying to put together the Helfrichs I found in the 1860, 1870, 1880 and 1900 Wilkes-Barre census.'' Lew Zwiebel, Kentucky.

Lew, as a former Wilkes-Barre resident you're aware that the Helfrich name has been known here for a long time. In looking through our old clip files, I came across a 1900-era story about a branch of the Helfrich family emigrating here from Laemmen, Bavaria, as far back as the 1820s. It has plenty of names and dates.

Where did this odd article come from? A century ago a local journalist named Dr. Frederick Johnson, president of the Wilkes-Barre Record Co., became fascinated by history and genealogy and ran many articles on these topics in his paper. He collected them every year in bound volumes known as The Historical Record.

Although no date or source is listed for the article, it is probably something Johnson published. I'm sending the article to you. Hope it helps.

Anyone else who can offer Lew Zwiebel information may contact him at his postal address of 4011 Wimpole Road, Louisville, KY 40218-4735, or by e-mail at

2) Some time ago Gwyneth Schultz of Maryland was trying to find out something about a couple of now-defunct 1900-era clubs in this area, one of them being the Knights of the Golden Eagle.

The usual sources, such as obituaries and the old Wilkes-Barre Record Almanac's annual list of local clubs and organizations, never mentioned the group. But then, purely by accident, the information recently turned up. In March 1919, the Knights held their state convention in Wilkes-Barre, and the result was a series of news stories.

One of those articles describes the group as ``a fraternal, beneficial and military order,'' founded in 1876, with 35,000 members in Pennsylvania as of 1919. It operated a home and orphanage for members and families and over the years dispensed millions of dollars in aid to member families.

Schultz's question suggests the need for a national directory of now-defunct clubs and organization - one that would tell when they flourished and what happened to them and their records.

Times Leader librarian Renee Burns tells me that, unfortunately, no such directory exists. So until someone compiles one, we will have to continue the grind-it-out searching of microfilms, town histories and similar sources, often finding our answers by sheer luck.

3) Mike McGinley of Philadelphia is looking for information on his Wilkes-Barre ancestors and the grocery store several brothers operated in Wilkes-Barre many years ago.

``My ultimate goal is to locate my great-grandmother Bridget O'Donnell McGinley's place and date of birth,'' he writes.

Mike, the Wilkes-Barre City Directory for 1910 lists a McGinley's grocery at 372 Scott St. At least five people named McGinley appear to have been involved in it, with some living right nearby.

A McGinley was a grocer in that area as far back as the 1880s, with the last references appearing in the late 1930s. My recommendation is that you pursue your search through the City Directories. Anyone who can help may contact McGinley at

Projects: Nick Pucino wants to get in touch with anyone who has good information or historic photos of the Hanover section of Nanticoke, once known as Rhone.

``I do know that the area was once known also as `Auchincloss,' named perhaps after the breaker that stood at Middle Road and Prospect Street and (as) Espy and Espy Run before becoming a part of Nanticoke City,'' he writes.

Pucino is helping the Nanticoke Historical Society put together a book on the area's history. Anyone with information may check out his Web page at or contact him by e-mail at

Local History Moment: The expression ``It was a simpler time'' has never been better illustrated than by Wilkes-Barre's serial hugger of 1905. Under the headline ``Hugger of girls caught at last; would-be masher has come to grief,'' the Record newspaper told the story of a ``desperate fellow'' named Brown who apparently could not restrain himself from following and embracing young women who caught his fancy. Brown met his match, however, when he trailed a ``highly respected'' North End lady home on the trolley car late one evening, only to end up in the hands of her brother, an angry mob and - finally - the police. A contrite masher Brown was fined $5, sent to jail and ordered to stand trial for his earlier escapades.

News Notes: Eager to use the Internet in your genealogical research but unsure how to get started? Stop by the meeting of the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society on July 26, where Karen Brannigan Walizer will explain how to get your family research started online. The meeting, which is open to the public, will be held at 7 p.m. in the second-floor meeting room of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, just behind Wyoming Valley Mall.

The Pennsylvania Archives is making huge quantities of material available online and free.

``The system currently has 200,000 images of service cards on file for Pennsylvanians who served in the Revolutionary War, Spanish-American War and World War I. More than 300,000 Civil War and Mexican Border Campaign service cards are being loaded into the system,'' the Associated Press recently reported. County birth, death and marriage dockets from the 19th century will eventually be included.

Access the archives at Hats off to the workers and volunteers at the Luzerne County Historical Society for the new museum exhibit - a timeline of local history. Artifacts range from an American Indian log canoe to the shirt worn by former Red Baron Jon Zuber during his 21-game hitting streak. The photos, and there are plenty of them, show us steamboats, downtown scenes and personalities and give us a view of the progressively unfolding community as our ancestors would have experienced it. Stop by and visit.

Remember, this column is now accessible through your computer at

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