Weather Has Always Been A Topic Of Conversation

This past summer my mom gave me several more family history related items.  There is an undated letter addressed to my mom from her paternal Grandmother (Effie Bender Lawbaugh).  The half sheet of paper is hand written on both sides of the paper.  My best guess for dating the letter is the  late 1960’s to the early 1970’s.

There are several references to other family members is the letter.  The first is to Uncle Ben (Effie’s brother).  The second is a more vague reference to “your Uncle”.  I believe this is one of my mom’s maternal uncles who lived just east of a town that is mentioned.

The focus of the letter is the non stop rain/tornadoes in Kansas and the resulting flooding.  It may have made national news with the way my mom’s Grandmother is talking about it.  The towns that are mentioned are all in the middle of Kansas generally North and West of Wichita.

I apologize for the long transcription.  I think it is important to include exactly how the letter is written to get a feel for the whole thing. The spacing and line break also tell a story. Here is a transcription of the letter:

Dear Sheryl –

I know you all been reading

about the tornados we have been

having. there were 24 tornados in

the last 2 day –  cause cold air from

the North + hot air from the gulf –

there has been 5 to 10 ins. of rain in

all parts off the State all rivers are

flooding in every part of state

been raining for 48 hrs – or more

Little River was hit bad and

North I think you Uncle lives

just North of Little River. been

trying to get Uncle Ben but

phones all down, he lives just

2 blocks west of the Post Office –

don’t know if they are in trouble


or not  – Rice County was hit

the hardest of all – but they

had tornados in all parts of

state.  Not going to Eugenia

for a while, hope you and

friend could come out love

to have you.  Janice is home

not got a job.


the river behind your house

at Pratt – is all under water

not heard but probly.  got in

your house again.  I’ll always

call it your house

just a note to tell you about the

Kansas storm in last 2 days still

Raining =  all my love


A Finnish Death

My children have a branch of their paternal tree that originates in Finland.  We had the most amazing trip last summer to the area just south of Vasa, Finland to see where the husband’s ancestors lived.  I have found several photos relating to this branch of the family.

This photo appears to be a trip Wendla Batmaster took back to Finland in 1930 to visit family.  It also indicates I need to look for a passenger ship manifest to find Wendla coming back to the United States in that year.


Grandma “Great” lived to be over 100 then fell & broke her neck.  In Finland

Grandma Botmaster & Great Grandma Botmaster

Grandma Long & her sister Anna Ostergard. June or July 1930.

I am not sure who wrote on the back of this photo but I am inclined to believe it was Shirley (Gingg) Pope.  This reasoning is that she refers to Grandma Long (Wendla Batmaster).  Wendla Batmaster remarried after the death of her husband Charles Mattson.  Her second husband was John Long.  Even today, a few generations youger everyone calls her Grandma Long.  It is hard for me to see Agnes Mattson (Shirley’s mom) referring to her mom as Grandma Long.  Other photos Agnes owned say Mom in reference to Wendla.

I am not sure how accurate this description is.  Far right in the photo is Brita Maria Marander, Wendla’s mother.  She lived to 81 (died 1939). This dates her to 72 years old in this photo.  I do not know how old Brita’s mother, Maria Stina Alskog, lived.  If she was born approximately 1835, theoretically, the person at the left could be Maria Stina Alskog. In 1930 she would have been 95.  I am not convinced the person at the left looks 95 years old. Also the person is referred to as Great Grandma Batmaster.  This points to Jonas Batmaster’s (Brita’s husband) mother, Ulrika Johannesdotter. We do know that  only lived to 47.  Unfortunately, I do not have any other photos of the woman at the left.  I do not know who she is.  There is family resemblance but I am just not sure who she is.

Almost Wordless Wednesday – 18th Birthday Photo

I recently came into possession of many photos and documents for my husband’s ancestors.  I will be making an effort to post these on Wednesdays to share with family.

My husband has an ancestor we call Grandma Long.  She was born Vendla Båtmäster in 1881 in Sundom, Finland.  She immigrated to San Francisco with her brother, Isaac.  Our family traveled to Finland last summer.  We had the best time visiting the area where Vendla’s family lived and spending time with cousins.


The backside of the photo is written in the handwriting of Agnes Mattson.  It reads:


Vendla Long on her 18th birthday with two Aunts.  Elda Huggar and Gustava

One aunt is Charley Johnson mother.

Ma born 1881 June 23rd


I have confirmed that Vendla did have two aunts on her father’s side with these names.  This information was found in the Finnish Church Records.


An Important Checkbox

2017 was a year of highs and low for my family.  We created many incredible memories.  Traveling to Finland and meeting family is something none of us will ever forget.

2017 was also the year my husband and I lost our remaining grandparents.  Between August and December, my paternal grandmother and my husband’s paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother all passed away.

Both of us have commented how lucky we were to have grandparents who lived such long lives.  Our children who are 9 and 6 were able to grow and form relationships with their great-grandparents.  I only have a couple of memories of one great-grandparent from my childhood.

Today was the day I went to FamilySearch Family Tree and made an important change to my husband’s grandfather’s profile.  I unchecked the living box and added a death date for the last of a generation in our family.  I took a few minutes to digest this.  For our  branches of the family, an entire generation is no longer with us.  My family had a run of 9 years with 4 living generations. I am so thankful for each and everyone one of those years for adding to our story.

I am working on life sketches for each our grandparents who passed last year.  All three grandparents lived long lives so there is a lot of history to cover for each of them.  As I finish each sketch, I will publish it here on my blog.


A Small Piece Of History In My Parent’s Front Yard

Last summer I spent a few weeks with my kids at my parents home.  They live on Lake Occoquan in Northern Virginia.  We had lots of fun paddling stand-up paddle boards and taking rides on the boat.

The Lake Occoquan Reservoir was formed in the 1950’s when 2 dams were built on the Occoquan River just east of the town of Occoquan, Virginia.   The reservoir holds 10 billions gallons of water and supplies Fairfax County and half of Prince William county with drinking water.

The Occoquan River begins where Bull Run and Broad Run meet.

Google Map of Lake Occoquan

Bull Run is well-known because of the Civil War.  The First and Second Battles of Bull Run occurred further up the waterway from where my parents live.  The battles were also  referred to as the First and Second Battles of Manassas by the Confederate forces.

The area of land at the top of my parents driveway has a section of dirt road that runs across it with trees on either side.  I am going to be a little vague about the name of the road in order to protect my parent’s privacy.  The name of their street is the name of the river crossing (ford).

My father has spoken to his neighbors and found out this small section of road was what was left of the old road from the 1800’s.  It goes across my parents land and then is under the current paved road for a while.  The dirt road then reappears on the neighbor’s land heading down to the water.

A neighbor informed my dad this road was one of only a few safe places people could cross Bull Run in the 1800’s.  Some people in the neighborhood have found Civil War rifle bullets.  The story is there were skirmishes at the river crossing (ford) with the Union and Confederates firing across the river at each other.

This past summer we made a cool discovery while out paddling on the river.  My dad, kids, and I had paddled up the river a little bit into a more shallow area that is off the main river.  My kids have named this spot Pirate’s Cove.  We paddle over there to search for pirates and treasure.

The trees hang over the lake in this cove.  I sat down on my paddle board for a minute to help kid #2.  From this vantage point I could see under the branches. I realized I could see a cleared area.  I moved my board to a different position in the cove and realized this was the other side of the dirt road.  After wagons went across my parents land and Bull Run, they would have traveled back uphill at this point.

After returning from our paddle adventure, I began googling for any information regarding the fords on Bull Run.  I was excited to find a Civil War map that has been digitized and available on the Library of Congress website.

Library of Congress. Fords of Occoquan and Bull Run.

Sure enough, the crossing close to my parents house is on the map.  According to this map, the ford by my parents house was a secondary route and not as well-traveled as the main road fords.  This does not surprise me.  The next ford up river is still the location of a main road today.  In fact, as you drive across the current concrete bridge you can see remains of the old stone bridge that once was the road.

The most likely scenario is that the ford near my parent’s house was in a very shallow location.  This would have allowed wagons to cross without danger.

I also located a 1901 map of Prince William County at the Library of Congress.  The ford near my parents house was no longer on the map.

Next summer we will return for another long visit.  I hope to find time to explore the road up the east side of the river.  I also plan to visit more of the local historical societies to see if I can find more information about the neighborhood and fords.



Wait…. Are My Kids Russian?

Our trip to Finland this summer was incredible for so many reasons.  My favorite being connecting with extended family on my husband’s side. Another important part of the trip was learning more about Scandinavian history. Specifically, this year is the 100 year anniversary of Finland as a country.  The Republic of Finland, as we know it today, gained independence from Russia in December 1917.

History of Finland from Wikipedia

The area has a long history though.  After the middle ages, Finland became part of Sweden.  It remained this way until the early 1700’s when Sweden and Russia began to take turns controlling the area.  Russian forces occupied Finland twice in the first half of the 1700’s.  Sweden once again regained control of the area by 1743.  Also by this time the area was called Finland by both the Swedish and the Russians.

The Finnish war of 1808-1809 ended with Finland being taken over by Russia once again.  It was declared the Grand Duchy of Finland in 1918.  This was an autonomous part of Russia.  Finland was okay with this arrangement until Alexander III took the Russian throne in 1881.  He began a period of “Russification.”  My husband’s relatives explained this time as Russia remembering they owned Finland and began to exploit it.  Men were required to spend time in the Russian Army, the Finnish economy was overtaken by Russians, towns were renamed after Russians, etc.  The worst of it came in 1899 when Russia declared Russian Law as the law of the land.

The Russian Revolution occurred in 1917.  Finland took the opportunity to declare their independence and create the Republic of Finland.

So what does this history have to do with my children?  A lot.  My husband’s 2nd great grandparents, Charles Mattson and Wendla Batmaster, both immigrated to the San Francisco area from Ostrobothnia at the turn of the century. Both left Finland due to hard economic times under Russian rule. Both were born in the 1880’s and both identified as Finnish.

So are my kids Russian or Finnish?

When looking at history, technically they were Russian since Finland was part of Russia.  Deep history would indicate they were Swedish.  Sweden had control of the land area first.  So maybe my kids are Finnish Russian Swedes? Haha! Just kidding.

The answer is no. Your identity is not always rooted in the dates of history.  My kid’s immigrant ancestors came from families who had lived in Finland for hundreds of years.  We know Finland was referred to as Finland and the people as Finnish since the late 1600’s.  The families identified as Finnish even during Russian rule.  My kids are part Finnish.

New Social Research Methodology

I have returned from an incredible trip abroad.  Part of our trip was to Finland for my husband to attend a conference and the family to visit the homeland. The hubby, kids, and I met up with my in-laws for this portion of our trip.

After a few days relaxing in the Åland Islands between Sweden and Finland, we took the ferry into Turku, Finland. We drove north towards the area around Vasa, Finland.  To break up the drive, we spent the night in Kristinestad, Finland.    This is where I learned something new about research methodology.

Let me back up and give you some information important to this story.  My husband has 2nd great grandparents who immigrated from the area outside Vaasa, Finland.  Grandma Shirley (hubby’s grandmother) was the granddaughter of Wendla Båtmäster and Charles O. Mattson. Forty years ago Grandma Shirley and Grandpa John visited the family that still remained in Finland.

Grandma Shirley passed away in 2003.  She was the main contact from our branch of the family to the family from Finland.  Before our trip, Grandpa John was able to put together a list of names and addresses he still had.  We were unsuccessful with the phone numbers before our trip began.

While on the trip, we decided to focus on finding one person from the list who we knew was young enough to still be alive.  I will call her Anna Lena for privacy.  Anna Lena came and stayed with my in-laws during the 80’s when she was about 16 years old.  My husband was about 9 or 10 years old during this visit.

We had tried phone numbers and Facebook but our biggest problem seemed to be marriage.  We did not know what Anna Lena’s married name was.

Plan B, if we could not find Anna Lena, was to drive to the addresses we had and cross our fingers that the current occupants would have information about my husband’s ancestors.

Back to Kristinestad. Kristinestad is a town in the southern area of Ostrobothinia.  Ostrobothinia is the equivalent of a state in the United States. Vasa is a little more than an hours drive north of Kristinestad.

The owner of our hotel in Kristinestad checked us in. He was incredibly welcoming and nice (a theme we found with every person we met in Finland). We spoke for a few minutes about the area and how we, as Americans, came to visit.  My father-in-law (will be referred to as J) used the opportunity to say we were trying to visit family from Sundom and Malax (just south of Vasa).  He explained we had a list of names and addresses that was old and were having a hard time contacting family.

The hotel owner offered the phone book because it included towns south of Vasa.  J was unable to find Anna Lena in the book.  The hotel owner told us to wait a minute because he was going to try to look up something online.  He returned from his office with a slip of paper which had a phone number for a woman named Anna Lena.  Her last name was very close to the information we had.

J made the phone call.  The woman who answered the phone was not our Anna Lena.  But she knew of our Anna Lena! She promised to call Anna Lena’s mom for us.  A half hour later we had a text from the woman we called.  She informed us she had spoken with Anna Lena’s mom and had learned Anna Lena was married and living in Norway.

We were so excited to have found the information we were looking for but bummed we would not be able to visit Anna Lena. During dinner, my husband received a text from Anna Lena herself!  Quickly the conversation moved to a telephone call. Anna Lena was happy to speak with us.  Apparently she had tried to reconnect with our family too but did not remember enough information to find us in California.  She said most of the people on our list of family had passed in the last several years but she would make some phone calls to see if anyone else could see us.

With Anna Lena’s help, we spent the next day in Sundom and Solf visiting with J’s 3rd cousin and his family.  We also got to meet a couple of people in the prior generation who showed us where some of the “old” family lived.  It was an incredible moment when Henrik brought out a framed picture of his and J’s common ancestors, Jonas Båtmäster and Britia Maria Marander.  We have seen copies of the photo from Grandma Shirley’s trip but the original was amazing. The other highlight was watching my kids play with their 4th cousins even with a language barrier.  They had so much fun together.

So lesson learned.  Don’t be scared to be the person who asks questions! Although the hotel owner lived more than an hour south of Sundom, he got us started in the right direction.  If J had not spoken up, we would not have gotten to enjoy the best day of our vacation.

If you want to have solid research skills, they need to include talking to anyone who will listen.  You never know who has the missing piece.

Serendipity While Traveling

Last month my family had the opportunity to travel to Finland.  It was part work for my husband and part vacation travel.  Our adventure started when we met up with my husband’s parents, J and S, who had been on their own vacation. Our travel plans included arriving in a few days in the Åland Islands on our way to Finland.

J was very excited to be going to Finland.  His great-grandparents, Wendla Båtmäster and Charles Oscar Mattson, had immigrated to the United States from Finland.

Although Wendla and Charles came from towns only 13 kilometers apart from each other, all family oral histories say they met in San Francisco through the Star of Finland Relief Society.

Grandma Shirley, J’s mom, did an excellent job of documenting her family in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  I am so thankful to have digital copies of her research!  While she had information regarding family in Finland for Wendla, there is really no further information for Charles.  Part of this is due to the fact he died the young age of 33.  His obituary states he left behind (besides his immediate family) a brother, Matt Mattson, and a sister, Mrs. Lena Carlson.  Grandma Shirley had also found out Charles was from the town of Malax, Finland.

Basic searches for Charles did not have any positive results before our trip.  I have to admit, I was not very thorough with my research due to the crazy that was the end of the school year.

Back to our trip.  The Åland Islands were included in our trip because Grandpa John (J’s dad) had such fond memories from the trip he and Grandma Shirley had taken 40 years ago.  We arrived early in the morning after an overnight ferry from Stockholm.  The morning was spent enjoying Mariehamn, the capital of the Åland Islands. We then made our way to the summer cottage my husband had found for us to stay at.  It was gorgeous!

View from our porch

Every afternoon was spent enjoying the front porch.  The wifi made it one of the best offices my husband has ever used.  I spent some of the porch time on my tablet trying to find more information about Charles Mattson and his family.

Then it happens.  I get a hit for Lena Carlson at  And not just a little hit.  A big, bright shiny moment of search success.

It turns out Lena Carlson was just one of variations of names for Charles’ sister.  And I was lucky enough to have most of them listed on the Petition for Naturalization I found.

No wonder why I was having difficulty finding her!  I have found Lena under every possible variation of the above name  plus the additional variations using her husband’s last name, Victor. More proof the family was from Malax, Finland but again no names for Charles’ parents.

So what is the serendipitous moment? About half way down the Petition for Naturalization are questions about Lena’s husband Victor.  Guess where he was born?  Mariehamn, Åland Islands, Finland.  You will notice  Åland is spelled with an “O.”  This is not surprising at all since  Å with a ring above it is pronounced  as “oh”.

Seriously, how crazy that I had traveled a little more than 5,300 miles to find a document online that says Lena’s husband was born only 10 miles from where I sat on the porch with the most incredible view?!

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day!  A few years ago I wrote a post about my direct maternal line.  There are many mothers in my family tree and I would like to thank each one for making my being here possible! I want to revisit some of these incredible women today since I have verified a couple more generations. Including myself, I can illustrate 9 generations of women in my direct maternal lineage. 


Me, mother of 2 children.
Mom at her High School Graduation, mother of 2 children.
Roberta Mitchell 1931-2014, mother of 5 children.
Opal Strickler 1891-1970, mother of 5 children.
Effie Flock 1866-1939, mother of 4 children.
Amner Caroline Ramsey 1840-1933, mother of 12 children.

Jane Berry (1803-1870), mother of 10 children.

Margaret McSpadden (1780-1863), mother of 12 children.

Sarah Jane Whitesides (1754-1826), mother of at least 6 children.

I do not have photos of Jane, Margaret, or Sarah Jane.  While the earliest photo was taken in 1826 or 1827, camera photography was not common until the 1880’s.

Maybe, No, Maybe

I have identified a passport application for my husband’s great-great-grandfather, John Pope.  The passport identifies the date John Pope was naturalized in San Francisco, California.  I am currently on a quest to see if I can obtain a copy of the original naturalization paperwork or certificate.  You can read about my progress in my last post – Yes, No, Maybe…

Last week, I drove into San Francisco to continue my research at City Hall.  My first stop was actually across the street at the Superior Court of San Francisco. While I know the original was destroyed in the fire following the 1906 Earthquake, I also know that many people refiled their naturalization paperwork as “restored” records.  MAYBE.

A search done by the records clerk showed my John Pope did not file a restored naturalization.  While I was there, I went ahead and ordered copies of his probate packet and one for his son, John Rudolph Pope.  These are kept offsite and will be available for viewing next week.  The clerk in the records room were incredibly helpful and knowledgeable.

Next I walked across the street to City Hall.  My first stop was the Recorder/Assessor’s office.  While they do not hold naturalization paperwork, I have found in the past the clerk’s in this office are the most knowledgeable in the building about who holds what and where.  I also cross checked the book/page number with them for the clue I found from John’s grandma Shirley. Then note indicated a copy of the naturalization had been filed with the Registrar of Voters.  They did not have the said book/[age combination but pointed me downstairs to the Office of Elections.

The person in the office of elections was a more recent addition to the office.  He was kind enough to go ask others in the office to see if the book and page from the clue were kept in their office.  He returned to inform me that those records were old enough that they did not have them anymore.  NO.

I came home with a mixed bag of outcomes.  I am happy to get to see the probate files next week but I was totally bummed my initial MAYBE had not worked out.  I decided to keep at my exhaustive search for available records.  It was time to do some research into where else a copy of the naturalization paperwork or certificate would need to be filed to meet a requirement for something else.

This led me back to the Passport Application I found online.  The application states:

I was naturalized as a citizen of the United States before the Superior Court of the State of Calif at San Francisco on the 30th day of March, 1904, as shown by the accompanying Certificate of Naturalization; that I am the identical person described in the said Certificate….

The digital copy of the Passport Application is just that  – a copy.  It need to get my hands on the original.   I have made inquiries to the National Archives in Washington, DC where the passport applications are held.  They informed me there are passport applications that do have additional paperwork attached. The new plan is to add a research trip to NARA while visiting my parents in Virginia this summer.  So I am back to MAYBE.