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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cemetery, the NEPGS is a white shingled structure that is now devoted to housing a large collection of genealogical and historical documents.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.

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