Have you used Find A Grave? If not, you are really missing an opportunity! With their new partnership with Ancestry.com, the hints for ancestors through Find of Grave have increased exponentially. If you go to the Find a Grave website directly, often just a simple search for an ancestor will result in a picture of their gravestone. If you can’t find a picture of your ancestor’s grave, you can request that a local volunteer photograph and post the photo for you. You can create memorials with all the photos you have taken over the years of your family’s gravestones and make it available to relatives searching for the same ancestor. If you have the time, you can volunteer yourself in your local area to help other genealogists find graves. All for free!
Sometimes when you are looking for a gravestone photo, not only is there a picture of a gravestone, but there is also picture of the relative you have been looking for. And sometimes something like a miracle happens and you make a connection to distant relative who has pictures of your direct ancestors you have never seen. And that is what happened to me a few weeks ago!
It started pretty innocently when I got on Ancestry and was looking at William Charles Mattson (1889-1970). I wasn’t really working on this generation of Mattson’s and can’t even tell you why I was looking at him. I had researched this branch fairly deeply about 2 years ago, but hadn’t done much since then. I had long suspected that the “William Mattson “ living in California in the 1920’s was the half-brother of my ancestor Susan Dorthea Mattson Cork and the son of my 2nd GG Mary Dorthea Knorr Mattson, but I didn’t have conclusive proof. The age matched, he was born in New York, but I didn’t have concrete linkages to this Mattson and the rest of the family that was spread out over the US.
So, while on Ancestry, there was a new hint to Find A Grave for this William Mattson and I followed it. Not only was there a picture of his gravestone, but also there was a sweet photo of him in his WWI uniform and one of him with his wife Anna.
I wrote to Sally K. Green, the owner of the memorial who I thought must be a relative and through a series of e-mails and data checks, we confirmed that this William Mattson was the correct one! At some point William’s mother Mary Dorthea went to live with her son and his wife. And Sally had picture of her! What is somewhat remarkable is that William was a relative only by marriage to her, yet she is the one who has the pictures and because she had always loved her Uncle Bill she kindly posted his photo’s on Find a Grave.
So here is my 2nd Great Grandmother Mary Dorthea Knorr Mattson. This is the first time I have ever seen a picture of her and it makes me so pleased to see her face finally. I think her last years spent with her son and his wife in California were probably some of the happiest for her. (But her story and William’s are for another day.)
Doesn’t it make you want to pay something forward? Don’t we all have pictures of distant family members who are not our direct ancestors? Maybe someone is waiting for them to be posted by us?