The Mystery of the Missing Mattson Brother – Part I

It all started a few years ago when I received the Civil War pension file for John Conway Mattson (my 3rd great grandfather).  In the file, I discovered a letter from his second wife Rebecca Oberland Mattson documenting her husband’s service and the history of their family.  She mentions that there were four Mattson brothers who served in the Civil War. Four? Hum, I knew about John, David Baker and Jesse, but who was the fourth brother?  (for more information on John’s pension records – see previous blog)

John Conway Mattson's Pension File - Letter from Rebecca Mattson

John Conway Mattson’s Pension File – Letter from Rebecca Mattson

Bridging the 1850 Census Gap

The 1850 and 1860 censuses had indicated the brothers David and Jesse were living the house of their parents Joel and Mary Mattson.  John Conway is not in the 1850 census with his parents because he is living in another town and working as a puddler. In 1860 there are also two younger children (Franklin – 7 years and Jones P. – 4 years), who I had always thought were more likely to be grandchildren, since the Joel and Mary are 61 years old. I didn’t know who Franklin and Jones’s father might be; could he be the 4th brother?

1860 Census - Joel Mattson Family

1860 Census – Joel Mattson Family

Bridging the gap to the 1830 and 1840 census records was the starting place, but in many ways added more confusion.  You know the story – the adult’s and children’s age ranges were inconsistent from one census to the other, children were in one and disappear in the next (possible deaths), one older “young man” that would be too old to be a child of Mary and Joel Mattson were among other issues.  I could account for John Conway and that left two other male children that could be candidates.  But who were they?

1840 Census - Joel Mattson Family

1840 Census – Joel Mattson Family

Chester Civil War Records

When I was at the Salt Lake City Family History Library, I found the Index of Civil War Soldiers & Sailors from Chester County, PA by Douglas R. Harper.  I looked for anyone with the last name of Mattson (Matson) and came up with these options:

Anthony Matson, U.S. Marines

David B Matson, Co. G. 82nd PA (Brother)

Jesse C. Matson, Co. H. 130th PA (Brother)

John C. Matson, 2nd PA (Brother)

George Matson, F 9 PA, A 97 PA

James P. Matson, Co. F. 49th PA

Fold 3

I looked up Anthony, George and James P. in Fold 3, but the results were inconclusive.   No records for George in the Pennsylvania regiments, James P. appeared to have served as an engineer in a Pennsylvania and New Jersey regiments.  And finally Anthony was the greatest mystery of all, with a minor’s pension record for Anthony W. Mattson alias P. William Thompson.  I wasn’t confident about any of them to order the pension records at $75+ per pension.

Anthony W. Mattson, Pension Record Index Card

Anthony W. Mattson, Pension Record Index Card

Pay Dirt – The Chester County Archives

In planning for my 2 week genealogy trip to Pennsylvania this last July, I looked up the records that would be available at the Chester County Archives.  They have an extensive online index and they had the first real clue to the Mattson grandchildren’s origins. They showed up in the docket of Orphan court records with Anthony W. Mattson identified as their father.

index to Orphan Court Records - Chester County PA - Mattson Children

index to Orphan Court Records – Chester County PA – Mattson Children

Ah…Anthony W. my old friend….so you just might actually belong to the family!   But there was no way to be sure until I could get the records in July  (More in Part II to be published in October)

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17 Responses to The Mystery of the Missing Mattson Brother – Part I

  1. Kathleen Peppers says:

    Love it!

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Val Sanford says:

    Reblogged this on Suitcase Full of Memories and commented:
    Great scoop using pension records, orphan court records, census records, and good old fashion on the ground research.

  3. Danni A. says:

    What a great list of resources used! I’ve never used court records before and I’m always interested in others’ experiences using records I haven’t used before.

    • Rachelle says:

      I haven’t used court records very often either, but the Mattson’s left quite a few (including debts and some time in jail)…so it’s been a gold mine. It is sad that troubles that certainly caused a turmoil for the familiy could be such a boon for a genealogist!

  4. Laura M says:

    Nicely laid out and well explained. Cant wait to read the rest of the story!

  5. Pingback: It’s Here! Anthony Mattson’s (Alias William Thompson) Widows and Dependents Pension File | Ascending the Stairs

  6. Hope Mattson says:

    anyone here with more info please contact my wife Hope Mattson

    • Rachelle says:

      What type of information is your wife interested in? How is she related to the Mattson’s? I have a lot of research…I love this family!

  7. Erik Mattson says:

    Dear Rachelle,
    I’ve just stumbled onto your blog and I’m stunned! My name is Erik Mattson; 4th great-grandson of John Conway Mattson. Now, back to reading!
    Erik Mattson

  8. Erik Mattson says:

    I descend from John C. and Rebecca’s son David John Mattson. He appears as “John” on census records after 1860, where he’s entered for the first time as “David” age 10. On the 1880 census he appears as “John Mattson” age 31 (did they round up?!), occupation “Police”, residence Clinton, St., Baltimore, Md.
    I have a folder of picture scans I’d like to send (email) you, including a scan of a portrait of him in his Baltimore county police uniform, a scan of his badge, and some screen-caps from of the mentioned censuses.

    • Erik Mattson says:

      To clarify that second sentence, he appears on a census record for the first time in 1860 as “David” age 10.

      • Rachelle says:

        Yes, definitely send me an e-mail so we can discuss further and compare notes. I think we might have two different John C. Mattson’s married to Rebecca’s! My John Conway Mattson was born in Chester, PA and lived in Buffalo, NY after the Civil War. Let’s chat…

  9. Erik Mattson says:

    Once I’ve figured out whether or not I’m barking *down* the wrong tree (which seems to be the case), I’ll will certainly get back in touch. You seem to have conclusively established who John Conway Mattson was, and he apparently didn’t have a son by Rebecca Oberlander named David. I’m now even more glad that I found your blog. Thanks, Rachelle.
    The Mystery!

    • Rachelle says:

      I too have ended up in the wrong tree before….it’s easy to do. Good luck in your research and keep me posted on what you find!

  10. Susan Dunhour says:

    Rachelle, I am a descendent of John Conway (1756-1835) through his son Joseph (1796-1880) and Joseph’s son David B(Baker, perhaps?) (1830-1898), Mary Conway Mattson’s brother. David’s daughter, Nitrocliss/Nettie (1855-1942) married my Great Grandfather, Charles Augustus Dunhour. I have submitted John as a new patriot for my DAR application. I would love to share information on this ‘rough and ready’ family. Yes, a few brushes with the law on this branch too! my email is

    • Rachelle says:

      Susan, I am thrilled you are submitting John as a patriot! It has been on my list of things to do for a supplement, but it keeps getting put on the back burner. Love to collaborate on the family too. My e-mail is Very curious what you have been able to find out about John Conway!

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