Tom Mooney

June 6, 2000

It's time to recognize some local people for the work they're doing to encourage genealogy or make research easier.

Mary Slaby, language arts teacher at Lake-Lehman Middle School.

To give her students experience in the many uses of language, Slaby has them interview older family members and construct family trees. She's a strong believer in having students do original historical research, rather than pick facts out of books, and she realized genealogy would teach them what she wanted them to learn. That was how to ask questions, study up on background and write down their results.

``I started it as another kind of research - interview and primary-type research,'' she said. ``It was a good way to employ all the language arts in one unit.''

For many of her students, she says, genealogy and other forms of history are real eye-openers.

``A lot of these kids were born in 1986 or '87. So the '90s are all they know. Even 20 years ago is ancient history to them.''

Jesse Teitelbaum, incoming executive director of the Luzerne County Historical Society.

Realizing that the society's library on Wilkes-Barre's South Franklin Street is growing increasingly popular with genealogical researchers, Teitelbaum already has plans to make it more user-friendly.

``One of the things I want to do is update the catalogue system,'' he said. ``That would make it a lot easier to do research.''

His goals also include more frequent exhibits at the society's museum, just two doors down the street, and an expansion and updating of the society's Web page to include events throughout the county.

The day before Memorial Day, Teitelbaum and librarian Jeff Frank hosted a tour of the library, located in a former mansion built in 1873, showing visitors resources such as mining maps, films and documents in addition to the book holdings.

Janice Williams, leader of the effort to restore the Shawnee Cemetery in Plymouth.

The service held at the cemetery on Memorial Day was the capstone to years of hard work by Williams, her colleagues from the General Federation of Women's Clubs and a host of volunteers.

By the 1990s, this once-elegant resting place up on the mountain had become overgrown and jungle-like, with some areas having caved in. But Saturday after Saturday of brush cutting, junk hauling and general cleanup have restored the cemetery, one of the largest in the area.

Now people may check the plot maps she has prepared, read the lot purchase books and once again walk the winding, tree-shaded lanes to find their ancestors.

Searching: Eleanor Parry Wallace of Utica, N.Y., is hoping some local family can help her identify a man who died young in Wilkes-Barre in the late 19th century. She thinks he might be her great-grandfather.

Wallace understands that a William Parry, secretary to the mayor of Liverpool, England, came to America on a lecture tour in 1876. While in Wilkes-Barre, where he stayed with a relative, he suffered sunstroke and died on Aug. 7. Family sources indicate William might have been a relative. But, Wallace wants to learn, was this for sure the same William Parry whose son Thomas later emigrated to upstate New York, becoming her grandfather?

The Wilkes-Barre paper of the time, the weekly Luzerne Union, carries no mention of a William Parry around August of 1876. But the paper's obituaries in those days were sketchy. She has not been able to locate records from the Presbyterian churches (her family's denomination) from that era.

Anyone who can help is asked to contact Wallace by e-mail at or by phone at (315) 736-6981.

Tips: Wondering if it was Jones Lake or Jones Pond where great-grandfather did his fishing? Or maybe you heard he lived on a mountain whose name has come down to you with three different spellings. What's worse, the road maps, wall maps and atlases you've checked don't even show the fishing hole or the mountain.

What you need is a gazetteer. That's a book of highly detailed sectional maps of a state, concentrating on physical features rather than communities and roads as the standard atlases do.

Gazetteers are generally sold in bookstores. They cost more than atlases. Library reference rooms generally have them for their states.

Here's how they work. The DeLorme Pennsylvania Atlas and Gazetteer divides the state into 96 grids and devotes a page to each one. Turn to the pages for the Wilkes-Barre and Scranton areas and you'll find the smallest geographic features, such as Silver Lake, Buck Mountain and Walker Run, clearly outlined.

Of course urban communities are shown. You can even make out individual streets and city blocks in them. Keep a magnifying glass handy when you open up the gazetteer, though. It's a mass of detail.

DeLorme has gazetteers for most states. Try DeLorme, P.O. Box 298, Freeport Maine 04032. (207) 865-4171.

Local History Moment: The Great Depression caused people in Wyoming Valley to make many sacrifices and cutbacks - even in a high school graduation. In 1934, the graduates of Kingston High School had no caps and gowns to wear for their big day, the School Board having ruled that academic robes were too expensive to rent. Even the diplomas the students received were economy models, having been reduced to eight by 10 inches in a money-saving move.

News Notes: Because the Times Leader's e-mail system was down from Thursday of last week to Tuesday of this week, a good many e-mails undoubtedly failed to get through to this column. If yours was returned to you by your system during that time, please send it again.

The Forty Fort Meeting House, which might well be the oldest structure in the Wilkes-Barre area, will be open to the public this summer. This building, constructed in 1808 according to Times Leader files, was once a Presbyterian and Methodist house of worship. People may tour the meeting house Sundays noon to 3 p.m. from June 18 through Sept. 24.

Remember, this column is now accessible through your computer at Then click on ``Generations.''

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