Tom Mooney

Sunday, July 29, 2001

Is an unsuccessful search for Frogtown getting you hopping mad?

Are you losing your taste for research because you can't find Cabbage Hill?

Difficulty in locating town and sectional names of past times - now largely forgotten - is an experience that frustrates every genealogist. That's why New Jersey researcher Graham Van Slyke is making another major addition to the Luzerne County Genweb's list of historic local place names.

The original place name listing, which Van Slyke set up two years ago with the help of Webmaster Tammy Lamb, is under ``Town and Borough Information'' on the Genweb. It gives authentic spelling, description, historical information and a key for finding the site on an accompanying map.

It tells you that Alberdeen is a section of Dorrance Township and that the name is still in use. It also tells you of oddities such as Brahl's Corner, a little part of downtown Wilkes-Barre now vanished but a place where you could have told someone to meet you more than a century ago.

An old reference to someone living in Heidelberg, which is nowhere to be found on today's maps, clears up when you learn that is the former name for the borough of Dupont. A birth certificate listing Parsons as the place where an ancestor was born proves no mystery when you read how that town merged with the city of Wilkes-Barre in 1927.

``I recently received an inquiry regarding the name `Turkey Hill,' '' Van Slyke writes. ``My first action was to use the search utility on the Genweb site. Sure enough, Turkey Hill came up. As I perused the pages where it was found, I discovered more place names that weren't in my list. So I compiled all of the new names from all pages that were new to me, then set about establishing where they were located.''

He's found some doozies

Before Nanticoke became a city, there were people living there in Potato Patch. Larksville had a section called White Wash, while Pittston Township had its Duck Pond.

Odd though some of the names might sound today, they were places where our ancestors lived, worked and raised their families. In an era of limited transportation, residents might even have identified with them more than with the larger towns of which they were part.

Van Slyke hopes to have his list completed and added to the Genweb's place name section by mid-August.

Update: Work on the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society's new building in Kingston Township is progressing. But when asked for an opening date, project overseer Dean Sawyer can only laugh and say ``as fast as we can do it.''

The building at 156 N. Main St. in the Shavertown section, formerly a United Water of Pennsylvania pumping station, has been gutted and is being completely rehabbed by largely volunteer labor.

On a recent Saturday, as a group of workers from the State Correctional Institution at Dallas took a break from hauling several tons of gravel, Sawyer offered a tour of his group's soon-to-be headquarters. What is now largely a shell with a partially concrete floor and exposed roof will house an office and library for the society's growing collection of local history and genealogical materials.

``Everybody's been terrific for helping us out,'' said Sawyer, a former president of the society and now head of its cemetery and church record microfilming project.

``But it all hinges on labor. As soon as we get the floor in, we can tell all those craftsmen they can come over.''

The new library will be readily accessible. North Main Street runs parallel to Route 309 in the Shavertown section, and the building is right behind Cooks Pharmacy.

Sawyer envisions a nerve center for genealogists, a go-to place for anybody doing work on his or her Wyoming Valley-area family history.

``We're only going to be open two or three days a week, probably. But we'll have a phone with an answering device and fax. We'll also have e-mail. We'll be doing lookups for people out of town for a fee.''

In the meantime, there is still a need for help - lots of it. People with construction skills are in demand, and anyone who wants to make a donation is welcomed. The finished office will also need appliances such as a coffeemaker and a microwave.

Contact the society at P.O. Box 1776, Shavertown, PA 18708-0776.

Local History Moment: Maybe it wasn't the crime of the century, but a break-in at a Wilkes-Barre Acme supermarket in 1961 probably seemed big-time to the perpetrator. On a Sunday morning, when the North Pennsylvania Avenue store was closed, a neighbor looking in the window spotted a young girl, ``her lips smeared with lipstick.'' A manager and the police arrived and gave chase, but the girl escaped - apparently through a smashed window in the men's room. Reported the Wilkes-Barre Record, ``A check revealed 10 tubes of lipstick opened and lying on the floor, and also a bottle of nail polish.'' The girl was described as 7 to 9 years old.

News Notes: Don't let the summer go by without visiting some of our area's historic sites. From the coal mine tour in Scranton to the Forty Fort Meeting House to Civil War Days at Eckley Miners Village, Luzerne County is rich in preserved sites and re-created events. Visiting these places is a fun way to gain insight into the lives our ancestors led.

Check out the collection of historic local photos at

You'll find an 1889 drawing of Wilkes-Barre, the GAR High School band of 1939 and many scenes of old streets and businesses. The site is an outgrowth of the Luzerne Connections Genealogy Group. You can also call it up by searching for nepaphotos on the Yahoo search engine.

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