A resource to help you dig up info

June 18th, 2015 6:17 pm

First Posted: 2/14/2014

Here’s a vital resource for the area’s genealogists. Records of the city of Wilkes-Barre’s oldest cemetery are available online, free of charge.

The original city cemetery was at East Market and North Washington streets and was established as the town burial ground in the 1700s. When the land was needed for a new City Hall as the 1800s drew to a close, the remains were moved. The current City Cemetery is along North River Street, near General Hospital, adjacent to Hollenback Cemetery.

For many years the records were held at City Hall.

The web address for the PDF file is a whopper. Go to www.wilkes-barre.pa.us/forms/wbcemeteryrecordscomplete. You can also go to the Google Advanced Search and type in “Wilkes-Barre City Cemetery Records” on the main subject line (just like that, in quotation marks). If you want to make a printout, put lots of paper in your printer’s tray. The file is 145 pages long. You’ll have to use the print size tool to make it readable. As an added problem, the records are extremely wide.

But the file is rich in information about the people buried there. You’ll find the name of the person (or funeral home) who requested the interment and the date of interment or move from the previous site.

Of course you will find the name of the deceased and his or her age, occupation and country of birth. The cause of death is also listed, along with the exact date of death. If the body was later moved to another cemetery, that fact is noted. Some of the causes of death could generate as much mystery as they solve, such as “summer complaint.”

Each entry concludes with “remarks,” which by themselves could fill in a genealogical gap or two. Take one Evan Evans, a Plainsville (Plains Township) man who died at age 50 in 1898 in a railroad accident. The remarks section tells us that he was originally buried as an “unknown” in Wapwallopen, but then exhumed, identified by his daughter, Mrs. Goodrich, of Plainsville, and re-interred at City Cemetery, with Charles Evans, presumably another relative, as the applicant for burial.

All in all, this free vital record from Wilkes-Barre’s history of more than 200 years could answer a lot of genealogical questions.

Thanks to the city of Wilkes-Barre for maintaining the records and allowing them to go online.

At the Osterhout Free Library is an unusual resource that could help fill in some information about ancestors – if they played sports at high schools in the area between the 1890s and the late 20th century.

Researcher Jim Walsh compiled a stack of scrapbooks on local sports – chiefly (but not exclusively) football, basketball and wrestling. There are game stories, team photos, league standings, team records and a lot more in the various books, which are stored in the local history cabinet.

There’s a whole volume on defunct schools and their teams, with histories and records. There are lists of state wrestling champions and football all-stars. The old Kingston High School even gets a volume of its own.

None of the scrapbooks, as far as I can tell, cover girls sports – an area that, hopefully, some new researchers will attend to.

The volumes are not indexed, for the most part, meaning that a reader must spend a lot of time turning pages. But, given Walsh’s great work, even that turns out to be fun.