Sunday, November 26, 2000

When Matthew Shaffer of Delaware turned on his computer and went looking for information about a 19th century Plymouth coal miner, he certainly never dreamed the answer would be just a couple of mouse clicks away.

Earlier this month, Seaford resident Shaffer posted on the Queries Board of the Luzerne County Genweb a request for data on ``a mining accident that occurred in 1893 in Luzerne County.'' He was interested in Joshua Golightly, one of the victims.

As Shaffer learned, the key fact was in the very same Genweb on which he had posted his query. Under ``Mining Information'' is a list of area coal mine disasters of the 19th and 20th centuries. There were three in 1893 - one in Plymouth, Golightly's home town.

In that Sept. 21 incident at the Lance No. 11 Shaft, which appeared the likely one since miners tended to live near their workplaces, eight men were killed in a gas explosion.

Using that date and going to back files of the Wilkes-Barre Record, the area's dominant newspaper of the time, a lengthy article on the disaster was found. It lists one Joshua Golightly among the victims and gives some biographical and family data about him.

Luzerne County Genweb, maintained by Tammy Lamb, is a storehouse of local genealogical information. Besides the queries section and a chat room, you will find a guide to genealogy-related records at the Luzerne County Courthouse, descriptions of major local historical events such as the Battle of Wyoming, lists of old community and neighborhood names and nicknames and a link to the Pennsylvania State Archives.

Genweb is easy to find. Just go into the Times Leader's Web site of timesleader.com and click on ``Generations.'' The table of contents includes the Luzerne County Genweb.

The Genweb isn't just local. The site also offers you a link to the U.S. Genweb Project, from which you can go into the other 49 states and find Genweb sites for all their individual counties.

That's not all you'll find. If you are working on the Queries Board and click on ``Visit Another Site,'' you will encounter GenConnect, the worldwide Genweb. Click on an individual nation and you will get genealogy-related sites for that nation's counties or provinces.

Whether you live here in Wyoming Valley or out of the area, familiarize yourself with Luzerne County Genweb's holdings. It could offer just what you need.

Tips: Did granddad fill your youthful ear with tales of his mighty autumn exploits on the gridirons of Northeastern Pennsylvania? Check out the records and histories of area high school football teams of the past century in a couple of scrapbooks at the Osterhout Free Library.

``All-Time Local and Area Scholastic Football Scores, 1895-1996,'' compiled by Jim Walsh, will give you a digest of 101 seasons of high school action, chiefly in the Wilkes-Barre area. A companion volume by Walsh, ``Local and Area Scholastic History and Highlights,'' offers stories about the origins and history of football at most area high schools.

You'll come across names of long-forgotten powers like Wilkes-Barre's old Harry Hillman Academy, and learn that 1920s coaching titan Arnold Kraft of Larksville really did produce an iron-man team that swept its schedule and never made a single substitution.

Also interesting are ``Wyoming Valley Scholastic Football All-Star Honorees,'' listing the top players year by year, and ``UNICO All-Star Teams and Highlights,'' the story of the annual UNICO all-star game.

The scrapbooks don't have call numbers. Look for them on the encyclopedia shelves in the main reading room.

Upcoming Events: Ever run into references to the Molly Maguires as you're researching your family? If so, you'll want to stop by the meeting of the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society on Tuesday and hear Karen Brannigan Walizer speak on what she's found out about the famous group while researching her ancestors.

The ``Mollies'' are a part of coal-region history and folklore. Authorities proclaimed them a secret society and terrorist organization in the eastern Pennsylvania coal fields of the 1860s and 1870s and blamed them for the killings of mine bosses. Suspects were arrested, and a series of sensational trials led to convictions and executions. Their defenders said the men were merely activists on behalf of oppressed miners, and the charges were trumped-up.

More than a century later, the group still spurs controversy. The late local historian Charles McCarthy wrote that, in his belief, the Molly Maguire scare was a hoax concocted by mine owners and authorities to justify a crackdown on miners.

The 1968 movie ``The Molly Maguires'' was filmed in Eckley, near Freeland, and afterward the old patch town was restored as a state historic site.

The meeting is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the second-floor meeting room of the Veterans Hospital, Wilkes-Barre, near Wyoming Valley Mall. You don't have to be a member to attend.

Local History Moment: Dread going shopping this time of year? You should have lived in Wilkes-Barre back in the days of Lydia Chapman. When the 26-year-old woman decided in November 1802 that she needed a new hat for the upcoming holiday season, a trip to the store was definitely an adventure. As her story is told in the Historical Record, she had to travel about 70 miles to Easton to buy the hat, since Wilkes-Barre was not yet much of a commercial center. So she paid her fare for the stagecoach and left on a cold morning in the unheated wagon, spending the rest of the day bouncing over mountainous roads amid a pouring rain. Fortunately, the chilled, weary passengers managed to find an inn for the night. They got an early start the next day, pushing still more jouncing miles through the mountains and spending a second night at an inn. They finally reached Easton on the morning of the third day, and Lydia was at last able to search out a milliner and get in some shopping before climbing back into the stagecoach for her return. All the excursion took was a week's time and a lot of aching muscles.

News Notes: Researchers recently discovered that 18,000 black men served in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War - about 8,000 more than previously thought. Their files will be placed in the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System Database, accessible through the Internet, The Associated Press reports. Check the Civil War database at http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/ and Naval history at http://www.history.navy.mil

Remember, this column is now accessible through your computer at timesleader.com. 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 tmooney@leader.net