Sunday, September 2, 2001

By Tom Mooney

Let's get right into the mail. Lots of people are looking for genealogical information about Wyoming Valley.

1: ``I know my great-grandfather died before 1928 and was buried in a cemetery in Larksville, which I cannot locate. Supposedly it was abandoned. ... But no one seems to know the name.'' Doreen McLain, Michigan.

Doreen, the cemetery you describe sounds suspiciously like the one another reader inquired about several months ago - St. John's. My best information is that it was abandoned in the 1920s because mining underneath caused subsidences, and many bodies were moved. The subsidence, originally thought to have been under neighboring St. Hedwig's Cemetery, was noticed in 1922, and the movement of graves took place soon after.

If the name St. John's sounds familiar, let me know and I will try to track down the church that might have operated it. Incidentally, St. John's was not the only cemetery devastated by deep mining operations in the 1920s. Many, many people had to move the remains of their loved ones out of danger.

2: ``As a very young child I lived on Curry Hill (Plymouth Township). I have vague memories of hearing about someone who jumped off Tilbury Knob to avoid being scalped by an Indian. ... (Some) say it is just an untrue tale. My great-great-grandmother was Mary Tilbury Barber.'' Ann Carver Sladek, South Carolina.

Ann, the history of Plymouth Township included on the Luzerne County Genweb is detailed about battles between Native Americans and the white settlers who were moving onto their land in the 18th century. It describes numerous fatal conflicts in the 1770s, but there is no mention of a woman jumping to her death. In one major raid by Indians, in fact, ``the women were set at liberty upon the arrival of the Indians at the top of the Shawnee mountains.'' Of course this is not to say that such an event could not have happened.

In regard to your other questions, Curry Hill was named for landowner William Curry, who lived there about 1800. The Tilburys (sometimes spelled Tilberry) were early settlers as well, and probably gave their name to at least one section of town. Also, Bradsby's 1893 history of Luzerne County gives a biography of James Lewis, apparently the husband of your great-great-grandmother, and a list of their children. If you are interested, I will send you a copy.

3: To Sharon, who contacted the Luzerne County Genweb wanting to know the date of the NRA parade in Wilkes-Barre in the 1930s:
Sharon, the parade you are referring to took place Sept. 26, 1933. About 150,000 people watched 40,000 marchers make their way from downtown across the Market Street Bridge to Kirby Park. In the words of the Wilkes-Barre Record, it was the ``greatest demonstration ever held in Wyoming Valley.'' The same day, 15,000 more marched for the NRA in Nanticoke, and a few weeks later another huge parade was held in Plymouth. I'll send you some articles.

What was all the excitement about? Public officials all over America that year organized parades to demonstrate community support for the National Recovery Administration, a program designed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisers to combat the Great Depression. The program set codes of conduct to help businesses and offered protections for workers. Businesses that subscribed to it posted a sign bearing a blue eagle and the slogan ``We do our part.''

How could a researcher today find out about this long-forgotten event? It is contained in the day-by-day news summary of the Wilkes-Barre Record Almanac published in 1934. These almanacs, published from 1886 to 1963, are invaluable for local researchers trying to track down major events. Complete sets are available at the Osterhout Free Library and the Luzerne County Historical Society.

Research: If your ancestors came to America from the Leimen area of Germany's Rhineland, Lynn Mitchell would like to hear from you for inclusion in an anniversary book Leimen is publishing. The group is interested in names, dates of arrival, occupations, home towns and almost any other information descendants might possess. ``Many of the immigrants first settled in Wilkes-Barre,'' Mitchell writes. Contact Mitchell at cilldcm@att.net

Genealogy Classes: Looking for a concise introduction to genealogy, with an emphasis on resources available here in Wyoming Valley? Once again I have a pair of two-hour sessions scheduled for Boscov's Department Store's Campus of Courses this fall.

The first is 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 1. The second is 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6. Each session is complete in itself, and best of all they're free. But Boscov's likes participants to register so that the right-size room and enough chairs and tables can be made available. Coupons have run in the Times Leader starting last Sunday. If you don't find one, call 570-823-4141 and ask for Campus of Courses.

What do we do in these sessions? We go over the basic procedures for getting started in tracing your family history - interviewing, note-taking, record-keeping, use of charts. We also talk about the important local resources, everything from government offices to libraries and historical societies, including all sorts of little-known sources.

We don't neglect the Internet, or the publishers of specialized books and tapes on genealogy and history. We'll also talk about the local genealogical organizations and how they can help you.

Travel light. Just bring a notepad and pen, and be prepared to carry away the handouts I'll have for you. Bring lots of questions and problems too, especially if you've been doing genealogy for a while. If I can't help you, chances are that one of your fellow genealogists will.

The sessions are held in the fourth-floor auditorium of Boscov's downtown Wilkes-Barre store. You can park in the store's parkade, accessible from South Franklin Street. Just look for the ``genealogy'' sign on the auditorium door. See you in October.

Local History Moment: If you are old enough to recall the summer of 1936, 75 years ago, this past season must have seemed like a breath of fresh air. Says the book Pocono Weather, a study of the area's climate (and a good data bank on its weather), ``The scorching summer of 1936 stands pre-eminent in the annals of mid-continental heat in the United States.'' Talk about understatement! During July, 1936, 90-degree-plus temperatures were common, with the Wilkes-Barre and Scranton areas breaking the 100-degree mark several times. The Wilkes-Barre Record Almanac lists 105 as July's top figure for Wyoming Valley, with June and August close behind at 94 and 98 respectively. There were more drownings than usual that summer, testament to the desperation many people felt as they sought a means of cooling off in those Great Depression days when even a small tabletop electric fan was a luxury.

News Notes: Efforts are under way to preserve artifacts connected with the area's coal mining past. The Huber Breaker Preservation Society, which is trying to save the old Ashley breaker as a landmark, is raising money by selling calendars at Ashley businesses. As of press time, negotiations were under way to preserve the imitation, scaled-down breaker at Eckley Miners Village in Foster Township. The structure, which never functioned as a real breaker, was part of the set for the 1970 movie The Molly Maguires.

Intrigued by Internet genealogy? The August issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine offers an introduction to a wide variety of software options, describing their advantages and shortcomings. The article is entitled ``Dig Your Own Roots.'' Reprints: Postal mail, PARS International Corp., 102 W. 38th St., Sixth Floor, New York, N.Y. 10018; telephone, (212) 221-9595; fax, (212) 221-9195; e-mail, reprints@parsintl.com

Congratulations to the Pittston Library, which recently held the grand opening at its new location in the Broad Street shopping plaza just a few doors from its old site in City Hall.

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

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


1) The Drum and Bugle Corps of a Boy Scout troop from Forty Fort marches across the Market Street Bridge in the NRA parade of Sept. 26, 1933, in Wilkes-Barre.

2) A Weatherly Girl Scout troop marches across the Market Street Bridge in the NRA parade of Sept. 26, 1933, in Wilkes-Barre.

3) Floats make their way along West Market Street in Wilkes-Barre in the NRA parade of Sept. 26, 1933.

4) An unidentified marching unit crosses the Market Street Bridge from Wilkes-Barre in the NRA parade of Sept. 26, 1933.