The cozy little library of the Luzerne County Historical Society will become even more of a magnet for the area's genealogists if new Executive Director Jesse Teitelbaum has his way.
``About 95 percent of our visitors are doing family history,'' he said recently. ``We have people coming in who are just starting and people who have been doing it for 20 years.''
To that end, Teitelbaum and his staff are beefing up the society's holdings of local records. Ready for cataloguing are more than 55 new microfilm reels of Luzerne County vital records - birth, death, marriage and others. These reels will join the society's microfilmed county census records and Wilkes-Barre newspapers, already heavily used by researchers.
He would also like to obtain municipal records from the county's many communities and more backfiles of weeklies and other newspapers from towns outside Wilkes-Barre.
The growing tilt toward genealogy is part of a general evolution of the 142-year-old organization. Known until this year as the ``Wyoming Historical and Geological Society,'' it changed its public name (though not its corporate name) to better describe its modern research mission and emphasize its relevance to all of Luzerne County. It no longer bothers collecting or displaying geological specimens, once a major focus of members' interest.
Teitelbaum, 27, grew up with the society. A Mountaintop-area native, he majored in history at King's College and thought about becoming a teacher. But when a college internship program sent him to the society's museum, ``the hands-on experience switched my interest around from teaching.''
He eventually moved two doors up South Franklin Street and spent three years at the society's Bishop Library as librarian/archivist. He continued working part-time at the society while studying for an MA in history at the University of Scranton, moved to Harrisburg for a time and in July was called back and named executive director, filling a post that had been vacant six months.
Plans abound. One of the most important is reaching out to historical and civic groups throughout Luzerne County in an effort to abolish the common perception that the society is interested only in the Wilkes-Barre area.
``With the changing of the name, this is the perfect time to do this,'' he said.
Other goals include updating and expanding the society's Web site, which has languished for the past year, and turning it into a solid resource.
``We would like to have specific information from our library collection. To start out with, we'd like to get some holding lists, indexes. Then eventually we'd like to put on some records.''
Helping Teitelbaum are Jeff Frank and Patti Golubieski, but Frank will be leaving in December, creating a major gap. Also, the library's ability to deliver increased services is handicapped by the small rooms and lack of storage space in the 19th-century private home.
Still, Teitelbaum is confident the society will continue its evolution and be able someday to offer one-stop shopping for family history researchers.
``We don't want to be left out in the cold. We want to help people find their roots.''
Tips: ``Any off-hand insights you have regarding how Luzerne County maintains records will be appreciated.'' Bill Manley, Coral Springs, Fla.
Bill, if you go into the Times Leader's Web site of timesleader.com and open up ``Generations'' you will discover the Luzerne County Genweb. Open up Genweb and you will find two sections that will help you. Near the top is ``Places to Find Records,'' which includes a quick summary of the holdings of relevant county courthouse offices. You can also scroll down to ``Luzerne County Online,'' where you will find a link to the county prothonotary's site and description of holdings. The county site will include addresses and phone numbers for all the county offices as well.
``I am a former resident of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. I would like to order the book describing the 1972 flood.'' Anne Marie Slabinski.
I'm not sure which one of the six flood books that I wrote about two weeks ago you are referring to, Anne Marie. But four of them - the ones by Warnagiris, Romanelli, Kozemchak and the Times Leader - are available to borrowers at the Osterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre. If you live out of area, get full particulars from the Sept. 19 column and ask your public library if they can be obtained through interlibrary loan.
``Books in Print'' does not list them as being available on the market. But if you'd like to buy one, let me know and I will try to locate the authors to see if any copies remain.
Queries: Brian T. Atherton of Great Britain is trying to locate a World War II-era friend named Frank or Francis KIJOWSKI (pronounced kee-off-ski). He is not quite certain of the spelling. He was from Pennsylvania (not sure of home town) and was a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps, at Freckleton Wharton, near Blackpool in Lancashire. Anyone with information may contact this column or Brian T. Atherton, 67 Ridge Way, Penwortham, Preston, Lancashire, England, PR1 9XW, 01772 742066.
Local History Moment: Lawbreaking left a bad taste in the mouths of some young people in Jenkins Township in April 1942. Troubled by youths flouting the curfew law, Police Chief George Rowlands announced offenders would be brought to headquarters and given castor oil. ``We will give them as much as we can get down them and then take them to their homes,'' said the chief in a Wilkes-Barre Record story.
News Notes: I will offer my ``Getting Started in Genealogy'' program at Boscov's Department Store in Wilkes-Barre next month. The free session is set for 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1. It will be repeated at the same time on Oct. 15. The sessions are held in the fourth-floor auditorium.
To register, call the store at (570) 823-4141. I will give a brief introductory talk on basic procedures, offer some handouts and then open up the session to questions. Bring a notepad and be ready to join in a round-table discussion with your fellow genealogists.
I will also be appearing at the Kirby Library, Fairview Township, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 17, for an introductory talk on genealogy.
The Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Plains Township. You don't have to be a member to attend.
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 email@example.com