Global True Lithuania Encyclopedia of Lithuanian heritage worldwide


Pennsylvania is the home to the world's oldest Lithuanian overseas community, started in ~1865 by coal miners. 82 000-strong it is also the second largest in the USA. Back in 1930 three Pennsylvanian cities were among the US top ten by the total number (rather than percentage) of ethnic Lithuanians: Philadelphia (3rd), Pittsburg (8th) and Scranton (10th).

Lithuanian national musical instrument Kanklės detail at the Lithuanian Music Hall in Philadelphia.

Lithuanian heritage in Pennsylvanian Coal Region

The strongest presence of Lithuanian heritage is in the parts of eastern Pennsylvania known as the Coal Region. Coal, the oil of 19th century, was discovered there in the 1860s. People from poor European regions were recruited for hard and dangerous work (10 hours a day, 6 days a week, 25 ct wage per hour) living in the newly erected towns. Lithuania was at the time occupied and heavily persecuted by the Russian Empire, giving rise to emigrants known as "grynoriai" ("Free Air Men") for whom the conditions in Pennsylvanian mines were far better than persecution back in their agricultural homeland, where the Lithuanian language had been banned and serfdom abolished only recently (1861).

Memorial plaque for Little Lithuania in Shenandoah

Memorial plaque for Little Lithuania in the Southern Coal Regi

The Coal Region ran out of coal but the towns remained, in many of them Lithuanian populations still in their hundreds. There are lavish Lithuanian churches built of the hard-earned money by the early settlers and large Lithuanian cemeteries with their typical massive tombstones. More than 40 churches were built there. However, Lithuanian mass is no longer celebrated and Lithuanian dedications (Our Lady of Šiluva, Our Lady of Vilnius, St. Casimir, St. George) are largely removed where they existed, especially during the church closure spree of ~2008. After all, the Coal Region Lithuanian communities, unlike those in major cities, were not replenished by new immigrants and English language became dominant in the communities over some 4-5 generations. However, Lithuanian inscriptions, Lithuanian history-inspired church interiors and exteriors still remain where the churches are still used for religious purposes. It should be noted that Lithuanian church attendances were growing until at least 1980, contrary to regional trends.

'Shrine of Lithuanian history' in a Lithuanian-American church. From left to right: American, Lithuanian, and Vatican flags; the Soviet Genocide painting; the Mary painting in a folk-craft frame; the TV tower painting; the cross with images of those killed in January 13, 1991.

The Coal Region of Pennsylvania consists of two large areas.

The Southern Coal Region is centered around Shenandoah, a town that used to be known as "Vilnius of America" in the early 20th century. The area is important not only to the Lithuanian-American history but to Lithuanian history as a whole: in Shenandoah, the world's first Lithuanian novel was printed ("Algimantas" by V. Pietaris in 1904 when Lithuanian language was still banned back home), Lithuanian miner orchestra and other cultural institutions, newspapers, existed. Shenandoah had Lithuanian mayors for 42 years and it has 6 Lithuanian cemeteries. In general, Southern Coal Region consists of many small crumbling ex-mining towns, each of them having some 500-5000 people and a regular grid of streets. 15 of those towns had Lithuanian churches (despite them being just a few kilometers from each other) and many had Lithuanian cemeteries and massive schools. Some still exist, some are destroyed or abandoned. Lithuanian Days, the oldest annual ethnic festival in the USA, takes place in the area since 1914. The 20 miles wide area surrounding Shenandoah hosts many Lithuanian villages. In Seltzer (pop. 307) Lithuanians make 27,46%, in New Philadelphia (pop. 1616) - 16,97%, in Cumbola (pop. 382) - 15,06%. Lithuanian populations surpass 9% in the area's towns of Minersville (pop. 4686), Mahanoy City (pop. 5725), Barnesville (pop. 2076), Frackville (pop. 8631). All these locations are in top 20 US locations by the share of Lithuanians. Among these 20 as much as 16 locations are in Pennsylvania, 15 in the Coal Region. Much of the area is with Schuylkill county which, with 5% of its population Lithuanian, is the most Lithuanian county in the USA.

1950s postcard of Shenandoah churches (Lithuanian St. George church on the right).

The Northern Coal Region is much urbaner than the Southern Coal Region: essentially, it is one large conurbation of over half a million people, covering the cities of Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Pittston and more. These cities each have 1%-4% of their population of Lithuanian ancestry (Pittston has the most with 4,15% Lithuanians, making it the largest share of Lithuanians in a US city of comparable size). There were 14 Lithuanian churches in the area, as well as numerous large cemeteries and impressive monuments. The Northern Coal Region Lithuanian buildings are generally bigger than the southern Coal Region ones, as they served larger urban communities rather than smaller rural ones. There are also 4 surviving-and-open Lithuanian clubs, each some 100 years old (however, these clubs, while celebrating their Lithuanian past, now tend to accept all patrons). The most unique Lithuanian site in the area is the Lithuanian national Catholic church that is independent of the Vatican. The area also has Lake Kasulaitis, which is a Lithuanian-named lake that is the furthest away from Lithuania.

Pittston Lithuanian club hydrant

A fire-hydrant colored in Lithuanian colors near the Pittston Lithuanian club

Kasulaitis is also among a minority of surnames among those of Lithuanian Pennsylvanians which are still written as they are written in Lithuania. By the time immigration to Pennsylvania took place, there was no standardized Lithuanian orthography yet and the immigration service transcribed the surnames using various orthographies, including English, Polish or created ad hoc; they either added or removed word endings at will. Therefore in the Shenandoah Lithuanian cemetery, you may see surnames such as Bakszis and Bakszys (the modern Lithuanian spelling is Bakšys), Kutchinskas and Kutchinsky (modern Lithuanian: Kučinskas), Abrachinsky and Abraczinsai (modern Lithuanian: Abračinskas).

The grave of Publisher Bočkauskas family in Mahanoy City

The grave of Publisher Bočkauskas family in Mahanoy City Lithuanian cemetery

All over the Coal Region, there are possibilities to descend into the mines Lithuanians worked at and visit museums that present authentic and quite sad life as it was.

A distant Lithuanian outpost away from everything else in Pennsylvania is another coal town of DuBois, that has Lithuanian church and cemetery.

DuBois Lithuanian church.

Lithuanian heritage in the major Pennsylvanian cities

Much larger and more lively Lithuanian community exists in the state capital of Philadelphia. There, three large Lithuanian churches operate, St. Andrew and St. Casimir churches having especially Lithuanian interiors and St. Andrew still hosting a Lithuanian school. Given that many Lithuanian churches elsewhere are closed, Philadelphia is arguably the best city in Pennsylvania or the entire USA to see the Lithuanian communities and heritage as it once was. There is also a historic Lithuanian Music Hall (older than the Republic of Lithuania itself) and other Lithuanian sites. Unlike the Coal Region where most Lithuanians are 3rd-5th generation descendants of immigrants, Philadelphia also has many post-WW2 refugees and numerous recent immigrants.

Lithuanian music hall in Philadelphia.

Yet another major Lithuanian area in Pennsylvania is located in Pittsburgh, where the Coal Region coal used to be turned into steel. Pittsburg has Lithuanian communities, cemeteries, and churches (most are closed now, though, as Pittsburg Lithuanian community also is among the old ones and the lack of Lithuanian domination in any town or region meant that it has assimilated into other communities). The most famous Lithuanian site in Pittsburgh is the Lithuanian National Classroom, an entire room of Pittsburgh university funded by Lithuania that doubles as a museum of the Lithuanian nation. It is a popular tourist site among Lithuanians and Americans alike.

Lithuanian classroom in the Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning

Lithuanian classroom in the Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning

There were also Lithuanian communities and churches in Easton and Reading, although both are now closed. There is a surviving Lithuanian club in Osceola Mills.

Pennsylvania map with the Lithuanian "colonies" marked. The Coal Region is marked in red, while the major concentrations of Lithuanians are written in green. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The map

All the Lithuanian locations, described in this article, are marked on this interactive map, made by the "Destination Lithuanian America" expeditions (click the link):

Interactive map of Pennsylvania Lithuanian sites

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Comments (60) Trackbacks (0)
  1. My fathers family worked in the coal mines, Joe Werbela was in the Pottsville area, and my fathers “Bieliunas” kin is a question mark. Is there any way for me to obtain information about where they lived?

    • My grandfather was Joseph Werbela. 8 children total relocated to central new your with second wife. Died late 1970s in Bradford, pa. No relationship with my grandfather due to his physical abuse towards my father, Stanley, and his siblings.

  2. My fathers family worked in the coal mines, Joe Werbela was in the Pottsville area, and my fathers “Bieliunas” kin is a question mark. Is there any way for me to obtain information about where they lived?
    I live in Welland Ontario, Canada. I have visited Pottsville and intend to visit again.

  3. My “americanized” Bieliunas became Balonis. My family were coal miners in Mahanoy City. My Urlikas family were born in Tamaqua.

  4. Great stuff. Where did you get the numbers from?
    maybe some one has Kasulaitis lake pictures.

  5. I am looking to find out how this Mary Anna Cilcus fits into my family tree. Her father would be Walter Paul Cilcus (also spelled Cilcius). Her father would have been born in Lithuania but she was born in Pennsylvania. Could someone help me with information. The information below came from a librarian in Toronto.

    Name – Mary Anna Cilcus
    Birth place – 6 Nov 1916
    Birth place – Curwensville, Pennsylvania
    Father – Walter Paul
    Mother – Elizabeth Cilcus
    Death date – 21 Jul 2002

    Feb 1937 — name listed as Mary Anna Cilcus
    Dec 1943 — name listed as Mary Anna Paul
    Dec 1946 — name listed as Mary A. Mulford
    31 Jul 2002 — name listed as Mary Mulford

  6. I am looking for relatives of Ludwig Bingiel and Eva Roman
    I’m not sure who was born where. One was born in Vilnius, the other in Kona.
    Grandpap’s birth day was April 12 . He and my Bubba had 7 children. Helen, Jean Louis, Alma,Gustane, Michael Or John (He was known as both) and Martha. My Grandpap worked for Carnegie Coal Co. and lived in Atlasburg,Pa.

    • Hi Terri I think you need search under Kaunas city name not Kona becouse this is not even russian or polish translated name. Russian form would be Kovno Polish Kowno Jewish Kovne and German Kauen maybe this would help to find more information

  7. My grandfather was Jonas Queen who mined coal and lived in Fredericktown, PA. I am trying to connect with family to get more information regarding family line and names prior to my grandfather coming to America.

    • If you’d learn more about possible dates and locations and would like to continue the search in the Lithuanian archives – we may provide such services.

  8. looking for anyone related to Anna Karpavich (lithuanian Ona Karpaviciute or Karpaviciene). thanks!

    • We have an Ona Kurpaviciene (and some records spell the Karpaviciene), married to Juozas Levinskas. They were the parents of my husband’s mother, Brone (Bernice) Levinskaite Tamkus. Would love to compare notes. Please email me.

  9. I ama looking for family of Olga Samulevich . She was Olga Antonites and was sent to her uncle Stanley (or it could be Stanislau) from South Africa. Her father was Aleksander Josef Antonites (or it maybe Antanaitis) and her mother was Rozalie Sluzaitze. ( I am not sure about the spelling). Her family is South Africa were (she was the eldest of the siblings) Stanlislou (Stanley); Paul; Anna; Alex (Alexander)and Antonie (Anthony Mattheus) who was my late father. We would love to know if there are any of her family members left . The family tree is a riddle because they left Lithuania during the Russian era end of the 1800 and we couldnt trace any documentation eg the town where they come from birth dates etc . I would be much appreciated if you could contact me to see if we could exchange any information about our ancestors.
    Jurie Antonites Email< or

  10. I am looking for my great-grandmother birth place in Philadelphia. All I know she born in 1915, Her name was Stefanija Dreiniute. Her parents Juozas (Juozapas) Dreinius and Stefanija Dreiniene (Bieliauskaite). Also, I know they owned a laundry there…
    Is it possible to find out more details?

    • It may be, as the USA has a quite elaborate heritage search community so it might be possible to learn more about them from various sources, even online ( and similar).

      In any case, her home (and the laundry) was very likely in one of just a few areas of Lithuanian concentration in Philadelphia, which were around the Lithuanian churches and clubs. These locations are marked on this map:

    • Your great-grandmother, Stefanija Dreiniute, was born on October 31, 1915. She was baptized at St. Casimir church in Philadelphia on November 21. Where she was born in Philadelphia is not on her baptism record (my source). Civil records of births can be obtained from Philadelphia County (not the City) government. The civil record may have her parents’ address. I suspect it was a home birth. Vital records from the county are expensive relative to typical costs for these records in the United States. Her father, “Joseph,” married “Stephania Belauskaite” on June 28, 1914. This was not the first marriage of “Joseph Dreinis.” He was previously married Stephania’s sister “Anna” on November 27, 1909. There were children by both marriages. I have records and files to send you. I will need an email address to send them to. I recommend that you do not give your email address publicly in your reply. Try asking the owner of this web site (Augustinas Žemaitis) to forward your email address to me. If that doesn’t work, we’ll figure out another way. Please respond if you wish to follow up on my post. … Note: Names in quotes are shown as they appear on the records.

  11. I am looking for the family of Antanas Vinikaitis (Anthony Viniks) who worked in the mines around 1900. I have been told that families from Suvalkija, Lithuania settled in your area. He left PA to NJ around 1907, but from what my Dad told me he kept close ties to people there. Antanas died sometime in 1930s Thank you for any help.

    • Been hunting for my friend. Her Dad was adopted around 1910? They think name was Vincevich but these spellings are tough. 3 brothers apparently immigrated from Lithuania. Her a Dad ended up in boys home in One brother had 3children Anna, Anthony and the youngest,her dad. 1st wife who came from Lithuania by ship With the 3 children. That 1st wife died in second wave of Spanish flu. Her Dad’s 2nd wife was Martha Jonvsionis had children of her own and we suspect this is the reason her a Dad wound up in orphanage. They were coal mine workers living in Allegheny,pa blocks from the steel mill.
      Believe it was just 3blocks from the mill. Sister Mary later marries Stanley Lucas.

  12. Th family history of Matthew and Agatha Karalunas islets. Both were born in LT, he emigrating first and she (nee Janavicius ?Janavitz), later to be married in Luzerne County PA. This happened around 1907. He worked in the Wyoming Valley coal mines. It is rumored that they both came from a place in LT which translates to “Holy Lake”, or “Spirit Lake”, which was said have been destroyed by The Reds. I am wondering if anyone could add to this for me…thank you!

    • “Holy Lake” is likely Šventežeris, with “šventas” meaning “holy” and “ežeras” meaning “lake”. The largest Šventežeris is in Lazdijai district municipality, however, from what you say, it could have been some smaller similarly-named village that was destroyed by the Soviets (as the aforementioned Šventežeris still exists today).

  13. I am trying to find my Grandfather, Juozapas (Juozas) Petkus who came to work in the Coal Mines in PA from Lithuania. He was from MAZEIKIAI, LITHUANIA. He was married to Emilija (Emilia) in Lithuania, but never contacted his wife or children once he came to the US. He arrived in NY possibly around 1912-1923. Not certain on the dates. We are trying to find out if he Married and had another family in America? Did he work in the Coal Mines or did he die shortly after arrival? What agency keeps marriage licenses archives or death records? Does the Archdiocese keep the records? Do you have names of all the local Lithuanian Cemeteries in the area and phone numbers? I would like to try to contact them myself to see if they have a record too. Thank you so much for any help you can provide. We are planning to travel to the East Coast in a few weeks and PA is on the list of places we are visiting. We would love to see the church or cemetery and coal mine he worked at while he was alive.

    • Here is the map of the Pennsylvania Lithuanian sites, including all the churches, existing and former, as well as all the cemeteries: . Please zoom on the Coal Region, which is a large cluster of sites on the northeast of the state.

      It should be noted there are/were some 50 churches and some 30 Lithuanian cemeteries in the region alone, making a search quite difficult if you don’t know anything more about where exactly he went to (although all the towns, cemeteries, churches are rather similar, so you may just go to Shenandoah area and likely feel what he felt, for instance).

      You may perhaps begin a search by searching his name and various corrupted variations at various online tools that offer such search e.g. in the US census records. Then you may at least learn the exact city/town he was in and from that it would be rather easy to know the church he went to / cemetery he was buried at (if he did not “move on” elsewhere).

    • my grandfather was from Lithuania he is buried in Hunlock creek, pa. St. Mary’s Nativity church cemetery which is on top of a coal mine. his brother is buried at St. Casimir cemetery.. different last name Stanly Zubrickus.. I’m just getting started tracing my roots back to Lithuania.

  14. My grandmother (now 83) grew up in Wikes-Barre, all of her uncles and father were coal miners. She did not speak English until she was 7 or 8 and was the second generation of Lithuanians who emigrated. The last names are Barzdaitis, Miskel, Zupka. I have a pretty good tree on ancestry if anyone is looking to collaborate! I would love to learn more about how Lithuanian immigrants lived their lives during this time in this region.

    • Hi, my grandmother was Anna Barzdaitis. She married my grandfather, Mathias Alikonis in the Wilkes Barre area in 1914. Please contact me.

    • My grandfather Zigmond Balayszis & his wife Della Balayszis were from Lee High Valley , Wilkes-Barre! Ziggy was a coal miner. Died in 1976. I remember the floods as a youngster , but most of all , I remember our heritage …. Zalinkas were relatives, only knew them as Della’s neighbors…. I grew up in the 60’s

  15. My family settled in Mahanoy City, Pa about 1900. Their names was Ramakus and Gedminis. Hoping to connect with someone that might know where these families came from in Lithuania.

  16. of course like your website however you need to test the spelling on quite a few of your posts.
    Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find
    it very troublesome to inform the truth nevertheless I will
    surely come again again.

  17. I’m looking for information on John Wariekas (born about 1880). He may have been a violinist (I have a photo of him with a violin. He married Eva Zemaitis and had daughters Agnes and Alice by 1915. He is believed to have died by 1919. Any help is appreciated.

  18. Hello,
    I am looking for extended family..
    Tomas Antanas Lakickas (Tony Lakisky)
    Joseph Lakisky
    Garth Lakisky, Joseph Lakisky

  19. I am looking for any information for my grandparents who lived in Mahanoy City, Pa and were listed in the 1910 US Census under the name Stanislaw Brazaitis who was married to Marianna Slivinski?Sliwinski? My grandfathers name could also be Brozajtys. They lived at 433 West Pine St. My grandfather was a coal miner and was born around 1870+. My Grandmother Marianna was born around 1882+. Any information would be appreciated. There must be some relatives left somewhere in that area.

  20. I live in Chicago IL and trying to find my grandfather Jonas Karsokas grave,who came in 1951 to New York,ship Gen Ral C H Muir,on passenger list adress 342 W Manahoy or Mahanoy Ave Girardville PA.We know he worked there somwhere in coal mines,we know he was injured and nothing else.

  21. Hello, I am looking for my relatives in USA. About 1895-1910 two brothers Stanislovas (Stanley) and *the name is unknown* ABROMAVIČIAI came to Pennsylvania to work in coal mines. All we know is just that our great grandfather Stanislovas came back to Lithuania and his brother stayed in America. They kept in touch but during the war the letters were lost in fire and all the information was lost. If you know anything with familiar surname, please write me! Thank you!

  22. I’m looking for information on William and Napoleon and Antonia Simpson. I believe they lived in Wilkes Barre and changed their names. They appear to have come from Lithuania in 1880s or so.

  23. I enjoyed reading your article. My Dad is David Giraitis, he grew up in Minersville.
    Unfortunately he was an only child and raised by his Aunt.

  24. I am looking to find out about my grandmother Domicella Bieliauchiute….my father was Lithuanian with the name Vasilauskas….but I do not know much about my grandmother who died when I was young….any help in finding out about her?

  25. I’m searching for my Lithuanian family name. My Great Great grandfather changed his name to Frank E Smith. His wife was Mary Buble (Mary Smith.) Their son was Anthony Smith. They lived in Frackville and Girardsville. We know the name was changed, but we don’t know when or why. Any idea how we could find the original name?

    • It is difficult if they did simply tell the new name everywhere in the USA and they went by the old name all the time beforehand – it would be difficult now to connect those two lives from the archive data. Often the name would be changed into a similar one, so it is possible their original name was Šmitas or something like it. Then again, with a popular name such as Smith, it may be possible they just adopted a popular English surname in place of any Lithuanian name.

      Should you know their places of origin and dates of immigration it may be possible to do more, although it will likely still remain based on a certain probability.

  26. Dear Lithuanians from Pennsylvania, I am searching for a recent contact on this site who looked for a photo of the Lyraičiai dance group who danced in the 1939 World’s Fair in NYC. Her name is Birutė Babarskaite. I found a photo of her and the dance group sent to me a few years ago.
    She is 95 and still tells stories of her experience. I think the name my recent contact (2020) was Rima and she was from Chicago…. I would like to send Rima the photo to prove at the story I told her was true to us and why this was so. My mother and Birute were cousins. My mother’s solidly Lithuanian family were from western Pennyslvania.

    Sincerely with Kind regards,
    Barbara Tedrow
    233 Ivy Glen Circle
    Avondale Estates, GA 30002
    Atlanta, GA

  27. My father’s family surname was Armanavicius before it was changed to Arman. Anyone know about that? I believe he was born in Newark, NJ but mostly lived in Manhattan.

  28. A great uncle, adam ryscavage, was president of district 1 umw(scranton) at time of 1909 strike. His petition for citizenship indicates he came from the village of damyock in the province of savalka(russia/poland). Could anyone confirm the location of this village as the spelling is the best i can decipher from the original document. Thanks.

  29. William Kurgan?

  30. Good afternoon,

    I’m looking for Jakstis name in the region. Do you hear about that name. These ar my grandmother’s sisters family….

  31. I had family related to me who changed there name from Prizgint(Prizgintas in Lithuanian) to Prizmonte. They lived in Allegheny County. Still looking for my great grandfathers other two brothers. My Great Grandfather stayed in New York, his brother who changed his name to Prizmonte went to Pennsylvania.

  32. Even though I am several generations removed, I still carry the Americanized version of my family name as do my children. My family are Pennsylvania settlers. [Shenandoah then down to Philadelphia,Pa.late 1800] My family Lithuanian name{s} are Daunoras, Mikalina{Rus}, and Milasauskas. Finding any info on my family has been very tough. Documents here in the States or overseas has been non existent. Lol

    • Darryl,

      I have a Milasauskas in my tree from PA and Massachusetts. Please send an email so we can see if we have a match! Thank you,


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