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Church records hold clues for family history

Carbon County is in the middle of eastern Pennsylvania, and in the middle of the county is the town of Jim Thorpe, formerly Mauch Chunk. In Mauch Chunk is a little old Lutheran church where the records of the maternal side of my father's family are kept. My sister has just been there for a family wedding. I wish I could have made the trip. In the copies of records my sister brought back are notes from some historian telling how the German Reformed and Lutheran Church of East Mauch Chunk was established.

"There was neither "Jew nor Gentile,' " the old notes say. "Protestants of various shades of persuasion as well as Catholics mingled side by side at the first services in the old schoolhouse."

The historian writes of the doubtful character of the wandering ministers who came through the area, gathering the assorted congregation. One "patronized the rum shop during the week, imbibing the spirits that do not tend toward Christianity." Think of it.

Another wore a silk top hat over a skull cap, performing alternately as a Catholic priest and minister of whatever other faith was called for.

"These were but precursors," the historian comments.

However, a plot of ground was purchased in 1853 and the old German church was formed. Into this congregation in this very year came John Rauchenberger, 45, a subject of the King of Bavaria, and my great-great-great-grandfather. His grandchildren all went to this little church and my sister has brought back their birth and communion records.

We have discovered some curious things from these. One: We had an Irish great-great grandmother. Another: We had a great Uncle Andrew who died of diphtheria at 30.

And an even stranger thing: People back then were recorded in the old church records as dying of "old age" at 64 and 68.

Think about that a while.

Anita Treiser, St. Petersburg programs manager in downtown redevelopment, was presented the Virginia H. Lazzara Community Service Award at the recent installation dinner of the Junior League of St. Petersburg.

Ms. Treiser, who is serving her third year as president of the YWCA board, is on the advisory council for Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), has served the American Red Cross for 20 years and has been active in the United Way. Special Olympics is one of her chief interests and she has been active here and elsewhere. Involved on both sides of the bay, Ms. Treiser has taken part in Paint St. Pete Proud, Hillsborough River Cleanup, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and has both cooked and delivered for Meals on Wheels.

She was selected for the Institute of Government Executive Fellows program at the University of South Florida, which she completed. She said it was a good opportunity for networking, learning administrative skills, new trends, hearing speakers, getting involved in projects, presentations, public speaking and educational opportunities.

With a full-time job where does her energy for community interests and projects come from?

"It provides a balance in my life," Ms. Treiser said. "I love what I do professionally, but there's another whole part of me that wants to give and share. This sort of thing has been a family tradition. I have two brothers in Naples who do the same things, and my parents were always involved. I believe that taking action does make a difference."

The award is named for the late Virginia H. Lazzara, a Junior League member who served the community in many ways, and after whom the YWCA emergency shelter has been named.

All Pinellas County public-school art teachers (about 160 people) were honored at a wine-and-cheese reception at the Salvador Dali Museum Thursday. The teachers are not strangers to the museum. Many bring students on field trips and come on their own as well.

"But this was just our way of honoring them because they do so much," said Wayne Atherholt, a museum official. "We feel their good work was illustrated through student art displayed around town during ARTWORKS!"