Friday, February 24, 2017

Westmoreland County Historical Society Scheduling Two Programs

Program: Hope in Hard Times: Norvelt and the Struggle for Community During the Great Depression
Presenters:  Timothy Kelly, Margaret Power, and Michael Cary
Location: The Westmoreland County Historical Society, Calvin E. Pollins Library
Date: March 9, 2017Time:  7:00 p.m.
Fee: Free for WCHS members, $7 for others
Reservations: Recommended due to limited seating. 724-532-1935 x 210

In 1933, the federal government developed a number of initiatives to combat the ravages of the Great Depression as part of a comprehensive plan known as The New Deal.  The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) allocated $25 million to create ‘subsistence homesteads’ for displaced and unemployed workers.

On April 13, 1934, Westmoreland Homesteads was established on 1,300 acresof farmland in Mount Pleasant Township, Pennsylvania.  The community was renamed Norvelt in 1937 in honor of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

More than 1,800 applied to the program in the hope of transforming their desperate situation; 254 families were selected to participate. They worked with the federal government, under the guidance of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), to envision a new kind of community that would raise their standard of living through a cooperative lifestyle and enhanced civic engagement

Norvelt stood out as a model among the nearly 100 homestead communities established nationwide during the Great Depression. Their efforts won them a nearly mythic status among those familiar with Norvelt’s history.

With the aid of the New Deal, these residents, who hailed from the hardworking and underserved class that Jacob Riis had called the “other half” a generation earlier, created a middle-class community that became one of the more successful of such programs.

Timothy Kelly, Margaret Power, and Michael Cary will discuss their book, Hope in Hard Times, and explore the many transitions faced by those who undertook this experiment. The authors will examine this still-unfolding narrative of transformation in one southwestern Pennsylvania town, and the struggles and successes of its original residents, against the backdrop of one of the most ambitiousfederal endeavors in United States history.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase.Please visit and follow our activities on the Westmoreland County Historical Society Facebook page, and on Twitter @WCHistory

Program: Irish Genealogy Workshop
Date: Sunday, March 19, 2017
Time:  9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Location: Senator John Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman Street, Pittsburgh, PA  15222
Admission: $30 for members, $40 for non-members
Registration:  Advance registration is required. For more information, and to register, please visit or call 412-454-6361

Description: Join Irish genealogy experts Fintan Mullan, executive director, and Gillian Hunt, research officer, of the Ulster Historical Foundation, Belfast, Ireland for a workshop that will provide researchers with valuable insight into investigating the rich genealogical sources found in Ireland.

This in-depth workshop will benefit beginners and seasoned genealogists alike.  Mr. Mullan and Ms. Hunt will examine a multitude of historic records and electronic resources that will enrich your Irish genealogy research.

Irish Genealogy Workshop presentations include: Intro to Irish and Scots-Irish Family History Research Using Printed Sources for Irish Family History: Newspapers, Street directories, Ordnance Survey Memoirs

 Emigration from the North of Ireland to North America: Strategies for Researching Emigrant Ancestors

Irish Education and School Records: a Valuable Alternative to Non-Available Census Records for Nineteenth Century Research

One of Irish Genealogy’s Best Kept Secrets: Using the Registry of Deeds, with a Short Introduction to Irish Wills

 Solving Your Brick Walls: an Extended Q&A Session

Participants may pre-order a box lunch for an additional $10.95.In addition to the Ulster Historical Foundation, representatives from the Westmoreland County Historical Society, the Detre Library & Archives of the Heinz History Center, the Museum Conservation Center, and other local genealogical societies will be on hand to share information about local resources and tips with fellow researchers.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to attend a special curator-led tour of the History Center’s Irish American collection on display within the museum’s fourth floor Special Collections Gallery.

The Westmoreland County Historical Society presents this workshop in partnership with the Senator John Heinz History Center.  Please visit and follow our activities on the Westmoreland County Historical Society Facebook page, and on Twitter @WCHistory.

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