Luzerne County Historical Society, Wilkes-Barre

I entered the Luzerne County Historical Society formerly the Wyoming Historical and Geological Society on Thursday, September 11, 2008. I was late by an hour. They are open from 12 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Friday and Saturday 10 to 4 p.m. They are not open on Monday or Sunday. Look for the turret.

I arrived around 1 p.m. I set to work after paying my $5.00 to do research. Get there at 12 noon to get your money’s worth they do not prorate the $5 fee as the day goes by. I also signed a form about their rules. I found a Seward Account book with the name Peter? written together in the card catalog. It was dated around 1869. It was for a lumber company.

I asked if it could be copied but was told it was too delicate and the answer was “no.” I asked if I could take a photo (of course without flash) and was informed that they only allowed photos of the maps? This was not the Enos Seward Account book that I was looking for per Paul’s manuscripts, it was another Seward and I recognized names in the account book. It covered a lumbering business. I asked if I could get special permission to photograph it but was again told no.

There are three main rooms. You enter the main hall and walk into the area where the reception desk is located. There is a table provided. That area has the card catalog file that are subject and people oriented. They have an atlas stand with a very good warrantee atlas of Luzerne and more. The Phillips Collection is a study of the local newspapers covering a 30-35 year span indexing newspaper articles. There are city directories back to 1871 for Wilkes-Barre and some other areas, also family history books. They have items for sale in the bay window. I found some interesting books and things that I purchased.

The back room has bookcases with local history books such as the Michael Shoemaker book. The History of Wilkes-Barre and more. If you can’t find the book on the shelf, check the card catalog and get the call number and the receptionist will pull the item for you. There are filing cabinets along the wall. One section of approximately 9-10 cabinets holds family histories and inquiries of the last 30 years. There are about 4-6 filing cabinets that hold subject and name files. They have an index for these. On top of the family history files is a surname cemetery card file that gives the name of the person and where they are buried. The cemetery records are either listed in the card catalog or in files in the subject files. I pulled a stack of files for cemeteries for Huntington and Fairmount Township and found some interesting information. There are more cemeteries in these file folders. My interest was specific to Huntington Twp. and Fairmount Twp.

Manuscripts are accessed by asking for the indexes. The receptionist will obtain those for you. Make sure you get the printout in the folder and the two boxes of card catalogs. I was told they were the same, but I checked the titles I had written down from the printout with the card files and did not find the same information so I do not think they are the same? You have to ask for the manuscripts. I found many interesting items of which I made a list of what I thought was pertinent to my family research. Unfortunately I did not have time to view these items as this was my last day and you can only do so much in 4 hours. There never seems to be enough time to do research! This was a trip to see what was available as well as do some research. I did ask to view one particular item. It was great to find it there. It made my day! (See my profile for my direct e-mail).

There microfilm room is small and filled with a reader and a reader/printer. There is a book on laying on the top of the cabinet that indexes the films. Grab that and review it first. There is a microfilm cabinet containing census films, newspapers, index films for the courthouse records. In the very back of the book are the Westmoreland Township Records (Litchfield Co., Connecticut) which are not in the microfilm filing cabinet. It is a good description of their contents. You have to ask for them. There are two rolls to search. They are very difficult to read (negatives with bleed through), poorly filmed and no index. The Pennsylvania Archive has a copy but I was told this copy was better and I agree. It did say duplicate on the film rolls. I think that they originals are at the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford but I will need to check on that first so don’t believe me yet. Their collection of newspapers on microfilm looks very good and is extensive. The Pennsylvania Archives also has a fantastic newspaper collection. Once on the reader/printer you have 2 hours. So get in there first thing at 12:01 p.m. and do the films for other researcher come and want o use them and it gets busy.

You can get off their website a summary listing of their holdings before you come or pick one up at the reception desk. There is also a Luzerne County Area Key that I have a copy of through the Family History Library that gives a list of what they have and lost after the 1972 flood.

They have very strict rules, no food, drink, no photos except for maps, no pens, no noise (cell phones off or on vibrate). The receptionist does the copying for you. So don’t wait till the last minute (last copying is about 3:45 p.m.) and be ready to pay for your copies. They do accept credit cards.

It gets busy as the afternoon passes so plan your research carefully to take that into account. The research area is not very large so it gets a little crowded and tight. I found it hard to negotiate around the tables to get from one end to the other for people were blocking the aisle way seated in chairs and not intentionally. They have volunteers sorting boxes and they occupy some of the research table space. I found being in the other room with the filing cabinets a lot easier to move around.

Digging deeper into Luzerne County History…!


About BJ MacDonald

Interested in travel, really into genealogy and researching my family history, classic novels and movies, fantasy and science fiction, photography, history and more... Here is a tip. Make sure you are commenting on the blog you were visiting and the post you were interested in. My blogs are listed by hovering over my pictures and clicking. Clicking one of them will take you back to the correct blog. You can try me here:
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One Response to Luzerne County Historical Society, Wilkes-Barre

  1. Pam Zanni says:

    I am searching (and searching and searching) for information on Levi Seward’s daughter, Sarah, who married David Rood. Any hope that you have information? My DAR application and Mayflower applications are hanging in the balance. 🙂 Pam

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