Minersville is a town nestled in the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania [map] in Schuylkill County. (Schuylkill is pronounced SKOO-kull.) The region is exceptional for its large deposits of anthracite coal. Anthracite is high quality coal; it burns hotter and cleaner than other types of coal. Inconveniently enough, it tends to be buried in the ground. In the 1800s, coal mine operators realized that one doesn't need to speak English to use a pick and shovel. What better way to extract it than to hire a bunch of unskilled labor straight off the boat? Thus began a steady stream of immigration to Minersville and other towns like it in the anthracite coal region.
Life as a miner was hard. According to the US Mine Safety and Health Administration, over 31,000 anthracite coal workers have died in accidents since mining started in the late 1700s. That's an average of one death every sixty hours since the time of the American Revolution. You can read more about mining on the Pennsylvania Coal Region History WebRing.
Anthracite mining peaked just before WWI, and in part due to the instability in Europe plenty of the immigrants who landed in the anthracite coal region stayed and became U.S. citizens. Among those were plenty of people from the Bukowsko Triangle, including my father's father.
There are a number of Minersville cemetery transcriptions online. See the Online Resources section at the bottom of this page.
The federal government's 1890 census records were damaged by a 1921 fire and the remainder were later destroyed, despite outcry from genealogical societies. Various attempts have been made to fill this gap, and I talk about some of the ones that cover Schuylkill County below.
Pottsville, PA (home of Yuengling, America's oldest brewery) is the county seat. The Pottsville Free Public Library is located on the main drag and holds, on microfilm, the census records for the area going well back into the 1800s. Some census records are online -- see the online resources section below.
In August of 2005 I got an email from Becki White, Head Reference Librarian at the Pottsville Library. She'd wandered across this page and was kind enough to take the time to correct some of the inaccuracies in my original version. In addition to the census records I mentioned above, she clarified that --
The Pottsville Free Public Library has a copy of the 1890 Directory of the Census. As far as I've heard no one has the original records, but this publication is a cross between a city directory and the census information. Listings are alphabetical by ward, with names, ages and occupations of each male in a household and the names of each female. This publication is available both in print and on microfilm, and the library does have both.
Second, the library also has a nearly complete set of the inspector of mines reports, starting in 1869 (which is for Schuylkill County only, and is owned by very few libraries in the state). Reports up to and including 1920 list names of miners injured and killed in the mines, along with the locations and dates; reports after 1920 list only the numbers of accidents and tonnage of the mines. People can identify who has which reports at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's list of annual reports on mining activities.
Finally, the Pottsville Library also has the Pottsville Republican newspaper on microfilm, starting with the Oct. 1884 beginnings and continuing to the present. The Republican is the primary daily in the area, and is available to anyone who comes in to the library. If you'd like more details about our genealogical collection, we have a fairly complete list online. We do answer genealogy-related email questions when we can, although short-staffing has placed some restrictions on our services.
The Schuylkill County Historical Society has a wide variety of publications. Among the most interesting is a book that reconstructs from courthouse records the information in the 1890 census. The book covers Schuylkill County only and is organized alphabetically by both township and borough.
There are a number of similarly-named anthracite museums in Pennsylvania, and I think I can explain some of them here. The state-owned Anthracite Museum Complex is composed of four entities -- the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum in Scranton, Eckley Miner's Village, the Ashland Museum of Mining (I've taken their interesting mine tour) and the Iron Furnances. The two museums contain some records, although I gathered that the Ashland collection is much smaller than the Scranton collection and might even be just a subset of it. According to the guy I spoke to in the Scranton museum, both collections consist of mine inspection reports. These are reports of mine accidents and fatalities only -- no other mine business is covered. The Scranton collection covers the years from 1870 - 1920 and is organized by year. There is no name index. Records exist for the years after 1920, but only rarely mention individuals by name.
There is also a place called the Pottsville Anthracite Museum which I learned about from a page on RootsWeb. That page says, "The Pottsville Anthracite Museum is housed in the original 1905 Reading Anthracite Railroad Co. headquarters and has detailed records of every aspect of this area's mining industry including over 4,000 photographs and thousands of journals and catalogs making it a wealth of information of those conducting genealogical research." However, the Schuylkill County Historical Society tells me that this place was never strictly a museum but more of a private library open to the public. Furthermore, the owners pulled the plug on the "public" aspect of the library. Currently (May 2004), these records are still in private hands and not open to anyone, even Schuylkill County Historical Society members.