Saturday, August 31, 2013

Expedition to Wilkes Barre - A Journey Back in Time - Day Two

After another quick breakfast, we headed out to the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society where Roseann Kebles was waiting for us.  Housed in what looked like an old caretakers house adjoining a cemetery, the NEPGS is a white shingled structure that is now devoted to housing a large collection of genealogical and historical documents.  They also have a Facebook page which is how I learned about them.

Today, we were on the hunt for Naturalization records.  On microfiche, Emily and I, with the help of Roseann  learned how to thread the film into the microfilm readers and started scrolling.  You can get dizzy from scrolling thru the hundreds of records on this film and it is easy to scroll right past the very one you are looking for.  Luckily, each record is numbered and I located records for not just my great grandfather, William Lentz, but also for my great great grandfather, Jacob Stoebener and several of the Strauch men.  The Strauch's were the family that provided room and board to my grandfather and his two brothers when they first arrived in the United States in 1905.

I learned that my great great grandfather Jacob, immigrated at the age of 31 in 1851 and applied for citizenship in 1855.

We spent several hours at the NEPGS.  One of the staff genealogists, Alan Durst, even fed us hotdogs to help keep our strength up!

Since we were on the far side of town, it made sense to run by the Oaklawn Cemetery which was nearby just to see if there were any ancestral graves located there.  It was not surprising to find familiar names and dates among the stones there and the caretakers were delightfully helpful!  Oaklawn is a beautiful cemetery, newer than the others and very well maintained.

On our return to town, it seemed a good time to drive thru the "old neighborhoods".  It is hard to believe that these houses are still standing 200 years after my ancestors occupied them.  They are old now and this end of town is run down, the houses occupied mostly by large Hispanic families unable to afford their upkeep.

We started at:   254 Kidder Street, the home of the Strauch's - the "landing pad" for my grandfather and his brothers.  Then we drove and found 145 Park Ave. where my grandmother Mary lived with her parents; William and Elizabeth and 7 siblings.  We continued to explore the area and realized that this had been a small community where all of the homes had been within walking distance of each other so it is not surprising that they knew each other, became friends, dated and even married!

It wasn't until I returned home and was doing some additional research that I learned that the Baltimore Mine ran directly underneath some of these homes and that in 1863, much of the area collapsed and was flooded in what was known as "The Great Mine Disaster of 1863".  Subsequent mining disasters in this area compromised the desireability of this area.  This would partly explain the large fenced off park like area not far from Hancock Street.  Several of the homes there had been lost never to be built back again.  Streets were re-named, re-aligned or just eliminated.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Expedition to Wilkes Barre - A Journey Back in Time - Wednesday, June 26, 2013

After a light breakfast, we drove to the Good Shepherd Church in downtown Wilkes Barre.  Good Shepherd had once been St. Paul's German Evangelical Lutheran Church, evident by the wording carved in stone still over the front door.  Adrienne French, the church historian, was ready for us and took us to a small room filled with filing cabinets and a large table on which she had already stacked old church record books for our perusal.  She left us alone but only after presenting each of us with a brick from the original wall of the church now undergoing renovation.  We each pulled on a pair of gloves (to protect the paper from body oils, etc.) and selected a book to begin examining.  Page after crumbling yellow page, we scanned the faded ink for familiar German names.  We had a hand scanning wand, an IPAD and two cameras on which to take photos of whatever records we could find - and WOW - did we find them!
My paternal grandmother, Mary Lentz, attended this church as did her mother, Elizabeth and her grandparents, Jacob and Anna Marie Stoebener before her.  Mary was baptized here, sang in the choir, was married here and had one of her babies baptized here.  Her siblings were also baptized and married here.  So much history!  The sermons were delivered in German by the Reverand Louis Lindenstruth and the congregation was a large and active one.

After several hours of record combing, we walked upstairs to see the sanctuary which still boasts stained glass windows from the early 1900's.  The original silver
communion vessels are in a locked viewing cabinet as is a quilt with the names of choir members, vestry and other officers of the church embroidered on it.  Looking at the underside of the quilt, we could see the name "Mrs. Lentz" emboidered next to many others.  The quilt was given by the church members as a gift to the Rev. Lindenstruth in the late 1800's  the time of my grandmothers service there.  His daughter donated the quilt to the church in  1976. 
We were in dire need of some food by now and so stopped in at a little outdoor eatery in the middle of downtown Wilkes Barre on the campus of Wilkes College. 
Then - on to some cemetery work!
Our next stop was Hollenback Cemetery....the offices here were a lot older and more deteriorated than I expected, but after all, they are over 200 years old!  We had been warned about the the grounds keeper here so we did not stop in the office but drove round and round trying to make sense of the map that had been sent to me previously by Joan Cavanaugh.  Joan is a wonderful and generous volunteer with Find a Grave and had gotten some headstone photographs for me previously.  We finally located the stones we wanted to find and others that we were surprised to find.  Unfortunately, we never located the gravesite of Anna Lentz, the first born of Wilhelm and Elizabeth Lentz.  Anna died of diptheria in 1885 at the age of nine.  Perhaps the family could not afford a marker for the young girl.
We had made arrangements to take Joan Cavanaugh to dinner to thank her for all of her hard work on our behalf and met her at 4:00pm across the street from Hollenback at a little bar and grill named "Patti's".  After ordering burgers and onion soup, we chatted as if we'd known each other forever.  Joan offered to take us grave hunting at the cemetery next to Hollenback, the Wilkes Barre City Cemetery, where Jacob and Anna Marie Stoebener found "eternal rest".  As Joan had taken their photo, she was able to quickly locate the gravestone which is in amazing condition for its' age.  She graciously took a photo of Em and I at the stone.  As far as I am aware, Jacob and Anna Marie were the first of our ancestors to arrive in the United States, having immigrated in 1851 from the Rhine Province in Bavaria.  Jacob, born in 1820 was 31 years of age.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Expedition to Wilkes Barre - A Journey Back in Time - Day One

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
On Monday, Emily drove to South Carolina from Alabama where her daughter, Taylor Ann is attending camp.  Emily has been working as a counselor there but had planned on spending this week with me on our second "genealogical journey".  After doing some camp laundry, she re-packed and got prepared for our trip.  On this next day, Tuesday, Em and I drove to the Greenville/Spartensburg Airport where we boarded a US Airways flight to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Upon arrival, we picked up our rental car, a White Toyota Camry, and drove the two hours to Wilkes Barre, Pa., where we checked in at the Mountain View Best Western Hotel and Conference Center.  We were pretty tired, but we unpacked and made our way downstairs where we had a quiet dinner in the hotel restaurant.  Once back in our room, we reviewed the agenda for the next few days and then I went down to the indoor pool for some badly needed stretching in the warm water while Emily rested and watched some television.  We both fell asleep quickly and slept peacefully through the night.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

On The Road Again

I haven't given up on my blog, no, it's just that sometimes life interferes.  The past year has been a difficult one for reasons I don't feel comfortable going into right now.  There have been changes, the loss of a grandchild, the addition of a new daughter in law.  God gives but He just as easily takes away.  My husband, Allen and I just watched the movie, "The Life of Pi" in which Pi said that is in times of tremendous stress that your faith is strengthened.  I would agree.  A fine movie if you haven't seen it.  

Well, here it is, 2013 and having done a lot more work on my paternal ancestral roots, Emily and I are preparing to travel to the town of Wilkes Barre, Pa.   I have made some wonderful contacts there - thanks to Facebook, the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, the Luzerne Historical Society, the Good Shepherd Church and Find a Grave.  Now we are ready to visit the home of Jacob Stoebener, my GGGrandfather, the home of his daughter, Elisabeth Stoebener Lentz, and her daughter, Mary Lentz fathers mother.  Wilkes Barre was the town to which my fathers father  immigrated from Bremen, Germany in 1905.  He met and married Mary there at St. Paul's German Evangelical Church where Rev. Louis Lindenstruth preached his sermons in German and Mary and several of her siblings sang in the choir.   The old church still stands at the corner of North and Main only it has been re-named Good Shepherd Lutheran.  The archivist there, Adrienne French, preserves the old records.  The records are also at the NEPGS where Roseann Kebles keeps watch and Joan Cavanaugh armed with her new camera hovers angelically over the Hollenback Cemetery taking headstone photographs for Find a Grave.  I can hardly wait to meet these wonderful women who have contributed so much to the discovery and preservation of my families history.

How does one prepare for a genealogical journey?  Well, having taken one already, I can say that we learned some things to help us with this next one.  First, my research documents are in a binder and I have a list of documents that are missing.  Documents most likely to be uncovered on our trip are highlighted along with notes on the places most likely to give us access.  Next, a good street map of the wasn't easy locating such a map.  The Internet maps had only small sections and Triple A sent a driving map but it was not detailed enough.  It was the Chamber of Commerce that sent me a decent street map of the area and I immediately highlighted the streets and roads we would be looking for.   Unfortunately, there seems to be more than one of every street so I'm not sure how we will figure out which of the streets apply to us.  The next item on my agenda was to write everyone there that has helped me to tell them when I would be arriving and to set up luncheon dates, etc.  I particularly want to thank, in person, people who have gotten documents for me or taken photos.  I also asked for recommendations on a hotel as not knowing the area, I want to make sure we stay in a reasonably safe location that is still close in proximity to areas we want to tour.  All that done, I ordered a few books about the town and have been reading to gain knowledge of the towns historical significance.  I have sketched out a rough schedule that covers our trip from arrival in Philadelphia on the 25th to our departure from the same airport on the 30th.
Before leaving South Carolina, I will message people I've connected with living in the W/B area and ask them to give me some idea of the weather they are expecting that week.  That will help me decide what to pack besides an umbrella and some good walking shoes.  My camera, my IPAD, my sunglasses and the re-charger cords I will need will be put into my carry-on bag so they are readily available.
The rooms are booked, the car is rented, the maps are marked.....let's go to Wilkes Barre!