Road Trips, Cork Family Discoveries and Improving Your Genealogy Skills

I love the high that comes from picking all the low hanging fruit of genealogy. You know what I mean – sitting at your desk using all the online resources that allow you to do the quick leapfrogging linking one family to another through the census records that come every 10 years like clockwork. The censuses that have everyone accounted for, grandparents living in the house, children clearly identified and no ambiguity if you have the right one all tied up with a nice bow. You quickly find other digital resources such as birth and death records, military service, city directories and newspapers to fill in the gaps. But then the inevitable happens, you run up against the abyss – the family or portions of the family disappear, you can’t make the jump to the previous generation, some behavior of a member of the family is inexplicable and/or questions just keep coming up that you can’t answer sitting at your desk.

So what to do, what to do? You get out your handy dandy toolbox of research techniques and methods that you have acquired through formal and informal education. You create timelines, look at maps, look again at the old records for critical clues you may have missed and determine what records are still out there that don’t exist online. And then you take a road trip!

And that is just what I have done for the last 2 months – road tripping around the United States to see family, friends and, of course, do genealogical research in the towns where my family lived. One of those places was Mazomanie, Wisconsin where my 2nd Great Grandfather William Cork and his family lived from 1870-1916. This trip illuminated critical historical facts about the family that would not have been achieved without the visit. Here are the highlights:

1)      I connected with Virgil, the historian at the Mazomanie Historical Society. He met with me in his home (the society was closed for the season) where he had copies of all the records in his own library. The list of items he found for me is too long for me to put in a blog, but they included obituaries, and illuminating references to the family in the local paper that are not indexed, and are only partially available online. The obituaries made connections to their extended family that had immigrated with them and gave the names of their parents in England.

Cork_William School Board Picture high res0001

William Cork 1833-1916

2)      The Mazomanie Historical Society also had a picture and biography of William Cork from the local high school publication where he served 14 years as the clerk of the Board of Education. Virgil was incredibly kind and helpful, and he will continue to be a resource if I have additional questions. You usually can’t make those kinds of connections via phone or e-mail.

3)      At the Wisconsin Historical Society, I was able to go to visit the Archives. There I was able to hold and copy William’s original will and probate records. Within these documents I could see his character and his relationships to his children.

4)      The Archives also had the records for the Wisconsin Institute for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb at Delavan, where William’s son Hugh attended from 1869-1876. I reviewed all the boxes and found Hugh’s admission and attendance records.

Hugh Cork Admission Records to Delavan

Admission Records for Hugh Cork to Delavan

5)      At the Wisconsin State Vital Records Office and the Wisconsin Historical Society Library, I was able to get birth, marriage and death certificates for many of William’s family members.

Downtown Mazomanie, Wisconsin

Downtown Mazomanie, Wisconsin

6)      And finally I was able to walk through the town of Mazamonie and see where he lived, worked, attended church, took the train and was buried. There is no research online that can compare to seeing where your ancestors lived.

So what made my trip so successful was utilizing the skills I have honed over the years by taking classes from experienced genealogists. As genealogists, we are always looking for ways to improve our abilities, become more efficient at our craft and enhance our research with additional sources. Attending conferences and classes given by the experts in our field is an essential way to do that. We are fortunate to have national, and regional, professionals teaching at Washington State Genealogy Conference on the subject of “Improved Genealogy Through Better Methods and Techniques” on August 15-16. I encourage you to take advantage of this and attend. No telling what you will learn and the discoveries that await for you online or on a trip!

Posted in Cork Family, Genealogy General | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Who was Elizabeth (?) “Lizzie” Arro Perez Vargas?

Elizabeth Arro Perez Vargas Gravestone at San Joaquin Catholic Cemetery (Stockton, CA) Dormitory O, Area 1, Station 11, Grave 14.

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Arro Perez Vargas Gravestone at San Joaquin Catholic Cemetery (Stockton, CA) Dormitory O, Area 1, Station 11, Grave 14.

I have just returned from a road trip to California and Arizona to see my family.  Part of journey’s focus was to find out more about my father’s mother’s family who lived in the Santa Cruz area.  Having not grown up with this side of my family, I have a lot of holes in my knowledge.  There is also the complication they might have been early migrants of Mexican/Spanish descent in the 1880’s and didn’t leave a lot of records around.

My great-grandmother “Lizzie” has been illusive and perplexing. I have glimpses of her in census and death records and just a few family stories to serve as breadcrumbs. Her name and her birthplace change quite a bit.  I am not completely convinced she was born in California, as I have not been able to confirm her parents’ identities.   The family stories speak of a rabid conviction that they were “American” and not from Mexico. Perhaps they were early Mexican settlers from the early 1800’s prior to statehood, or maybe there was deliberate obfuscation of the facts to fit into society?

Here is a summary of what is stated in the documents I found so far:

1900 Census – “Elsie O.” is married to Joseph Perez (a farmer).  They have been married for 20 years (1880), had 11 children and 8 of them are living.  All the children (ages from 16 to 1) are living with them at their home in Soquel Township, Santa Cruz Co., California.  “Elsie” was born in 1859 in California and her parents were all born in California.

1910 Census – “Lizzie P.” is now married to Frank Vargas and they are living in Tres Pinos, San Benito Co., California.  They have been married for 4 years and have a 2-year-old daughter Delphia.  “Lizzie” claims only to have had 10 children with 9 living.  Now before you think I have found the wrong woman…she is living with 2 of her children with the last name of Perez that were in the 1900 census (as well as another who was born after the 1900 census).  Her age has changed too, so that her birth year would be 1863.  Her parents are from “Mexican Spanish”.

1911 – Death certificate of Alice Perez, daughter of Lizzie and Joseph Perez.  Alice was 18 years old and died of chronic interstitial nephritis. Joseph filled out the certificate and lists his place of birth as Santa Cruz and the maiden name of Alice’s mother as “Lucy Arrow” born in San Luis Obispo, California.

1920 – “Lizzie” is still married to Frank Vargas and living with her daughter Delphia.  They are living in Mayfield Township, Santa Clara Co., California.  And she has gotten younger again, born in 1865.  Her father was born in Mexico and her mother in California.

1924 – Lizzie died in Stockton, San Joaquin Co., California. The informer on “Lizzie’s” death certificate is her oldest daughter Vivian Perez Hansen.  It is remarkably lacking in details regarding “Lizzie’s” parents – simply unknown.  It does state her birthdate as being December 2, 1862.

Names she was known by and/or maiden name:

Source Unknown Informer Joseph Perez Informer Misc. Informer
1900 Census Elsie O.  Perez
1910 Census Lizzie P. Vargas
1911 Alice Perez’s Death Certificate Lucy Arrow
1920 Census Lizzie Vargas
1930 Census Lizzie Vargas
1975 Frances Perez’s Death Certificate Elisa Oro

When and Where was Elizabeth “Lizzie” born?

Source Unknown Informer Joseph Perez Informer Vivian Informer Frances (Daughter) Informer Misc Informer
1900 Census 1859 – California
1910 Census 1863 -California California
1911 Alice Perez’s Death Certificate San Luis Obispo, California
1920 Census 1865 -California Spain At Sea OC (Off the coast of Calif?)
1924 Death Certificate 2 Dec 1862 – California
1930 Census California California
1975 Frances Perez’s Death Certificate California

Where were Elizabeth “Lizzie’s” parents born?

Source Unknown Informer Vivian (Daughter) Informer
1900 Census California
1910 Census “Mexican Spanish”
1920 Census Father – MexicoMother – California
1924 Death Certificate Unknown

Next steps

1)   Order Ernest Perez’s death certificate (Lizzie’s son died in 1911)

2)   Order Frank Vargas’s death certificate

3)   Continue to look for records for Lizzie’s children e.g. marriage and death records that might list the origin of their mother.

4)   Look for Catholic records in the Santa Cruz area for birth, marriage and death records of all the family members.

5)  Locate and order divorce papers for Lizzie and Joseph if they exist.

6)  Locate and order marriage certificate for Frank Vargas and Lizzie.

Well…if Elizabeth was difficult, her husband Joseph Perez/Perrez is just had hard.  I will write more on him next week.

Posted in Women Ancestors | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Books, GoodReads and a Challenge for 2014

I read.  I read a lot.  And I read a lot about books, authors and what other people are thinking about new books.

Some of my books....

Some of my books….

Reading opens your mind and exposes you to new ideas, the history of the world and the lives of fascinating passionate people.  It often gives you appreciation of others experiences, inspires you to change your mind about an issue, be more authentic and improve how you interact in the world.  Sometimes it is just a great story that takes us away with a good plot and rich characters.  Reading books about history give us context to how our ancestors lived, their culture and the events that shaped their choices for migration, work and religion. We all have our favorite genres and mine seem to focus on contemporary fiction, historical fiction, mysteries, fantasy, history, science, biographies/memoirs, genealogy (of course) and even an occasional “self help” book.

I receive many of the ideas of what books I would like to read from e-mail updates from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, The Poisoned Pen (mystery bookstore in Scottsdale), Stop You Are Killing Me (a mystery lovers website) and various blogs e.g.  Boston 1775 and Journal of the American Revolution (Essential American Revolution Library).   But the best resource I have for finding a good book is goodreads

It is one of my favorite apps/websites and if I could get all my friends, family and associates to sign up it would be a perfect present for me (just in case you were looking for one.)

Why is it so good?  Here are just a few of the best reasons:

1)   I can keep track of all my books – the ones I have read and the ones I want to read. I finally don’t have to keep a paper list of the books I want to read or buy every book I want because I am afraid I will forget the title.

GoodReads - To Read List

GoodReads – To Read List

2)   Create Bookshelves – I can even put them on multiple bookshelves by as many categories I want to create. I can find all the books I read that were mysteries set in New England, histories of WWII, books set in Pasadena or the sad shelf of “unfinished book purgatory”.

3)   I get to see what my friends are reading when they update their status.  GoodReads will send me an e-mail summary when my friends add books. I don’t really look at Facebook regularly, but I really care what my friends are reading! If I am interested in reading it, I can mark it “to read” too. This exposes me to books I may not have known about and piques my interest as to why they loved it and gave it such good rating.

4)   If I am in the bookstore and I see a book I want to add to my “to read” list, I can scan the bar code.

5)   Connection to authors  – Get notified if one of your book’s authors is publishing a new book.  Occasionally, if I rate a book with 4 to 5 stars and give a good review after reading it, the author actually notices and “likes” my review.  Pretty cool!

6)   Recommendations – It keeps track of the type of books I like and will give me recommendations of other books that I might enjoy based on style, themes etc.

7)   Challenge yourself – You can take the 2014 Challenge by setting the number of books you would plan to read this year.  It will track your progress and let you know what % you are complete and how many you need to go to reach your goal.  Last year my goal was 50 and I completed 53.  This year I stretched and increased the goal to 80 because I will be on a few road trips and I thought I might get more audio books completed.

2014 Reading ChallengeSo, check goodreads out and sign up!  Challenge yourself to read more books than you read last year.  And finally please “friend” me (Rachelle Joy), so I can see what you are reading!

Posted in Books | 3 Comments

William Charles Mattson and a Find a Grave Success Story

Have you used Find A Grave?  If not, you are really missing an opportunity! With their new partnership with, 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.

Mattson_William C Gravestone

Mattson_William C Gravestone

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.

William C. Mattson in WWI  uniform taken in 1938

William C. Mattson in WWI uniform taken in 1938
Picture from Sally K. Green

William and Anne Mattson Picture from Sally K. Green

William and Anne Mattson
Picture from Sally K. Green

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.)

Mary Dorthea Knorr Mattson and her son William Mattson Pictures from Sally K. Green

Mary Dorthea Knorr Mattson and her son William Mattson
Pictures from Sally K. Green

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?

Posted in Genealogy General | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Revolutionary Fun and Interesting Sites to Follow

Well, this is a small break from the “Mattson Family Mini-Series” that has been on the Ascending the Stairs blog channel for the last few months.

I encourage you to check out two websites that highlight the history of the American Revolution:

1) Boston 1775 – This blog had me giggling  on Wednesday reading the announcement for a new comic series called  “Action Presidents”.  J.L. Ball often writes about little known events and characters in the Revolutionary period, book reviews and events in Massachusetts that focus on the American Revolution. I am always learning something new.

2) Journal of the American Revolution – Okay, I know I am a Revolutionary War nerd…but really can’t you get excited about articles with titles like “Top Ten Marriages Gone Bad”, “Defiant Brides”, “A Colonial New Orleans Meal” and “Austin Dabney: Georgia’s Revolutionary African American Hero”?

Check them out!

Posted in American Revolution, Revolutionary War | 1 Comment

Jesse C. Mattson 1838-1864

Jesse Mattson’s Effects: One great coat, one canteen, one rubber blanket, one pencil, one blouse, one pair of boots, one pair of stockings, one pair of trousers, one shirt, one haversack, one pocket book, $3.40 and one gold ring. This is all that Jesse Mattson had on the day of his death on July, 1st 1864, according to the records from De Camp General Hospital on Davids’ Island, New York.

Jesse Mattson's Effects from De Camp General Hospital, Davids' Island, New York

Jesse Mattson’s Effects from De Camp General Hospital, Davids’ Island, New York

Jesse C Mattson's CMSR  Muster and Descriptive Roll of a Detachment of the U.S. Vols. Forwarded

Jesse C Mattson’s CMSR

He had joined the 13th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Calvary for a 2nd stint in the Union Army just a few months before on March 14th.  He must have known what he was getting himself into when he joined.  He had been in the 130th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers Company H for 9 months and was discharged May 21, 1863. The newspapers were full of both Federal and Confederate losses almost daily. Gettysburg had occurred just 9 months before and was fought in the Mattson’s home state of Pennsylvania, a mere 118 miles from their home in Valley Forge. Though it is impossible to know why he re-enlisted, most likely he made the choice due to his family’s poor circumstances. His widowed mother needed the regular income to take care of his niece and two nephews. He would receive a bounty of $60 immediately, an advance of $13 for a month’s pay and he was still due $400 for the remainder of the bounty.

According to the Regimental history, the Calvary spent April on reconnaissance, but by the beginning of May, they were in hot pursuit of Lee’s army north of Richmond, Virginia.  This is the beginning of the Battle of Cold Harbor and it lasted from May 4 to June 3rd.  General Grant was intent on beating General Lee in his own backyard. In skirmish after skirmish, the armies fought and repositioned themselves further south to get the best strategic locations. Both armies suffered significant casualties, but both were fighting for the win. Lee protecting the Confederate capital and Grant trying to bring the war closer to an end.

Bridge across Pamunkey River, Va. at White House Landing by Mathew Brady

Bridge across Pamunkey River, Va. at White House Landing by Mathew Brady

According to Jesse’s mother’s widow’s pension record, his commanding officer Captain A.H. Glassmire stated that “Jesse C. Mattson received a gun shot would in his right leg on the twenty-eight day of May AD 1864 while he, the said Jesse C. Mattson was engaged in the battle fought at House (Haw’s) Shop near the Pamunkey River in Virginia.” The National Park Service has the histories of the Civil War battles (a great resource) and I was able to find a very detailed description of  Cold Harbor’s  Calvary Battle at Haw’s Shop.  The Pennsylvania Calvary were here fighting along side General’s Sheridan, Davies, Gregg, Merritt and Custer (yes that one).  It appears that the Union won that day, but the battle wasn’t over for a few more days and it was hardly as decisive as Grant had wished.

Jesse Mattson's Grave at Valley Forge Baptist Church, Valley Forge, PA

Jesse Mattson’s Grave at Valley Forge Baptist Church, Valley Forge, PA

We see in the Jesse’s Compiled Military Service Records that he died of “exhaustion following Hospital gangrene and hemorrhage from popliteal artery.”  (The artery is above the knee that supplies blood to the knee and muscles in the thigh and calf) He was just 26 years old.  He had never married or had children.  He was surely mourned by his family and they buried him in the church yard of Valley Forge Baptist Church, just down the road from their family home.  Jesse’s brother John (my 3rd great grandfather) named his son Jesse Wayne when he was born in 1870 in memory of both of his brothers Jesse and Anthony Wayne killed in the Civil War.  Jesse’s sacrifice was remembered and honored.

Posted in Civil War Pensions | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Anthony, David and Jesse Mattson’s “Criminal” Past

The Mattson Family was poor and they certainly weren’t famous.  But I love them…they left the most interesting records I have been able to find for any of the branches of my family.  I have told you about the Orphan Records, but there are other records like the Board of Relief, Insolvent Debtor’s Petitions and the Poor School Children Records.  I also found Quarter Sessions and Prison Dockets that list the indictments, charges and witnesses of criminal cases.  And who should I find there but Anthony, David and Jesse Mattson.

The archivist in Chester County told me that Phoenixville, Pennsylvania was a rough PhoenixvilleIronWorkstown. The newspapers are full of nightly drunken brawls and iron mill workers on strike.  So, I shouldn’t be surprised that the Mattson brothers had not one, but two criminal convictions in the records.  Unfortunately, you can’t tell much about their motives from the court accounts and the microfilmed newspapers only go back to the 1870’s.

But this is what they say –

On the 15th day in June of 1851, David, Jesse and Anthony Mattson with their friends, David Gordon and Jonathan Moore (together with “divers”* ) were charged with “force and arms, to wit, with sticks, stones and clubs, as rioters, routers and disturbers of the peace of the said Commonwealth, riotously, routously, tumultuously and unlawfully did assemble and meet together at the public house of Barnard Hoy.”   They are accused of “terrifying his family and did maliciously break and tear down his fence and broke his sign.”

It looks like the charges are dropped for Anthony Mattson and Jonathan Moore. David Gordon must have been the main instigator, because he is required to pay a $15 fine and David Mattson is only required to pay $1 (He is just 16 years old at the time).  There is no mention of Jesse Mattson who was 14 or 15 years old, so I assume that he was released without having to pay a fine.

Eight years later on June 18th,1859,  David and Jesse Mattson have a run in with the law again.  They are with their buddies Edward McCrakin, Benjamin Fudge, Hiram Fudge who “together with divers* other evil disposed persons to the number of ten or more” assaulted William McGowan and William Conway.  There are no explanations as to why this happened. There are a number of other witnesses to the crime and it makes me wonder why these two men were attacked. David was fined $30 and Jesse $10.  Since they were in their early 20’s and didn’t get off so easy this time.

The Civil War started two years later and the Mattson brothers served, including David and Jesse, the brawlers.   David served from 1861-1865 and was a 2nd Lt. by the time was discharged from the army.  And of course Jesse Mattson, the youngest son paid the ultimate price by loosing his life in a lesser known battle in Virginia in 1864.  They didn’t do too bad for mischievous miscreants.

It is a reminder to look at the whole life of a person and don’t judge by one or two events, but it does make you wonder what they were doing out those nights carousing with their friends.  Were they just drunk or was there something more personal about the beatings? I wish I knew.

* Divers is a collective term used to group a number of unspecified people, objects, or acts. (per on line dictionary)

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Mystery of the Missing Mattson Brother – Part II

First let me say the Chester County Archives are full of incredible records and the archivist and all the staff were extremely helpful.  I spent a day and a half there and felt that I was able to cull the best they had to offer because of how active they were in my research goals. I even got a great recommendation for dinner in West Chester from one of the staff.

So, of course one of the first things I asked to look at was the Orphan records – 22 pages of pure gold!

Mattson Orphan Files pg. 1

Mattson Orphan Files pg. 1

And here is what they said on May 11, 1865:

“ To the Honorable Judges of the Orphans Court of Chester County. The petition of Franklin P. Mattson, Salinda A Mattson and Jones P Mattson, minor children of Anthony W. Mattson deceased late of the Township of Schuylkill County of Chester by their grandmother Mary B. Mattson respectfully represents. That the petitioners are under the age of fourteen years and have no person legally authorized to take charge of their person and estate; they therefore pray the Court to appoint some suitable person their guardian for that purpose.”

And then in a later document filed by David B. Mattson on August 14, 1867:

Mattson Orphan Files pg. 8

Mattson Orphan Files pg. 8

To the Honorable the Judges of the Orphans Court of Chester County. The petition of Salinda A. Mattson and Jonas (Jones) P Mattson * by their uncle David Mattson respectfully represents; The the petitioners are minor children of Anthony W. Mattson alias William Thompson late of the Township of Schuylkill in the said County of Chester, deceased, under the age of fourteen years are residents within said county and have no guardian to take care of their persons and estates.  John Rapp, the former guardian having died April 20th 1867. They therefore pray the Court to appoint a guardian for the purpose aforesaid-  And they will be.  Salinda A. Mattson and Jonas P Mattson by their uncle D.B. Mattson

Eureka – The fourth brother is Anthony W. Mattson alias William Thompson.  And another mystery….why did he use an alias?  Next steps are to order the pension file! (Maybe the government will be open when I am in D.C. next spring?)

The new Mattson Family Tree – It still holes to fill in, but we are getting closer to answers with every research trip!

Joel Mattson and Mary Conway Family Tree

Joel Mattson and Mary Conway Family Tree

* There is another petition for Franklin P. also asking for a guardian, but I believe he was separated from the other two siblings because he was 14.  There appears to be specific laws governing orphans ages and the appointment of guardians.

Posted in Civil War Pensions | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Gambler and The Postmistress

Forget about famous people…give me an ancestral murder and scandal any day! Read Valerie’s post about her DAR Postmistress great aunt and her gambling power broker (potential murdering) husband!

Suitcase Full of Memories

As I learn more about my Sanford family, one of the mysteries for me is how my great-aunt, Medora Sanford, a Daughter of the American Revolution, a devote Methodist revivalist, and a Postmistress, came to marry a rogue gambler and hotelier with connections to corrupt political machines; a man who later become a person-of-interest in a gruesome murder.(1)

Medora grew up in a well-to-do family with her parents and siblings in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.  Her father Elam Sanford was Deputy Collector of the Port of Perth Amboy under President Millard Fillmore.  Toward the end of his life, he held the position of Postmaster of Perth Amboy until his death in 1881(2). When Elam Sanford, died, Medora took over his duties and became the Postmistress of the Perth Amboy, N.J. Post Office.  She earned $1800 for the year 1883.(3)  Medora married late in life to Louis Todd, gambler…

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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)

Posted in Civil War Pensions, Mattson Family | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments