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 Ancestry.com.  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?!

Almost Wordless Wednesday – Frank and Agnes Gingg

Frank Gingg and Anges Mattson are my husband’s paternal great-grandparents.  This photo hangs on the wall in Grandpa John’s house  The notation on the back reads “Frank and Agnes Sept 1925.”

Frank and Agnes were married on September 5, 1925 so this may be their wedding photo.  If you think Agnes looks young, it is because she is.  She lied on her marriage certificate stating that she was 18 when her real age was 16.  Frank was just one month shy of his 20th birthday at the time of their wedding.

 

Gingg Frank and Agnes 1925

The Ebb and Flow of Family Groups

The Mattson line of my husband’s family is a close group.  My husband’s great-grandmother Agnes Mattson was one of five children.  Agnes was joined by her brothers Edwin, Albert, and Carl.  The oldest brother, Leonard, died as a child.  Agnes’ mother, Wendla Botmaster Mattson Long, was the family matriarch.  When things did not work out, she stepped up to the plate and raised some of her grandchildren.  Agnes’ child, Shirley, grew up with some of her cousins as siblings.  I have seen many photos of the grandkids (Grandma Shirley and her cousins) all together in San Francisco.  This tight bond remained throughout their lives.

Earlier this month, we attended the memorial for Dorothy Mattson.  Dorothy was the wife of Albert Mattson.  Al is more commonly known in our family as Buz or Buzzie.  He is one of Grandma Shirley’s first cousins.  The service for Dorothy was beautiful and was followed by a reception.  The reception was really nice and it was great to see family that we have not seen in a while.

On our drive home, my husband and I had an interesting conversation about the distance generations create.  The younger generations of the family are not as close as the older ones had been.  The younger generations did not grow up in the same household as the older generations had done.  Grandma Long passed away in 1974.  Her grandchildren, who grew up together, really were the ones who got the entire family together on a regular basis after Grandma Long’s death.  Sadly, that generation is now slowly becoming smaller and smaller in numbers.  While the family still talks, it is just not the same as it used to be.

Families shift for many reasons.  I believe that from the research I have done, the biggest reasons for families changing is death and migration.  I have several families in my line that either kept moving west or had children leave the area to move west.  I also have a couple of families where there was obviously a patriarch or matriarch who led at least a couple of generations.

The most fascinating part of this process it that it happens over and over again.  Different generations start their own tight family groups.  It has left me wondering what the next tight-knit family group is going to be.  As I thought about it, I realized that we are already part of it.  My husband and I are a portion of a strong set of siblings and we have just started populating the next generation.

I am also a part of the close family group on my Mom’s side.  My Grandma is the head of the family.  She has five children, ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.  We all love getting together to hang out.  Most of the family get-togethers are missing my immediate family because we do not live in Southern California.  It is not uncommon for my mom’s brothers and sister hangout together at Grandma’s house.  This past Christmas was especially awesome because every single member of the family and their spouses/significant others were all present.

What is the most recent strong family group in your family?  Are you the newest matriarch/patriarch?

Those Places Thursday – 2 Wright Street, San Francisco, California

This is the house that my husband’s grandmother, Shirley Gingg, grew up in.  She was raised by her grandmother, Wendla Botmaster.  Wendla married twice, first to Charles Mattson, and then to John Long.  All of the stories I hear about her refer to her as Grandma Long.
2 Wright Street is located in the Bernal Heights neighborhood.  The picture above looks from Bernal Heights towards Potereo Hill.  It now lies very close to the intersection of Cesar Chavez (Army Street) and Hwy 101.  Here is a Google Maps satellite view of the area today.

Wedding Wednesday – The many husbands of Agnes Mattson

Agnes Mattson is my husband’s paternal great-grandmother (Shirley Gingg -> Agnes Mattson).

From the stories I have been told, Agnes Mattson is one of those people you wish you had the chance to know.  She was born May 1, 1909 in San Francisco, California to Charles Mattson and Wendla Botmaster.  She was the middle child of five, having two older brothers and two younger brothers.  The eldest son died an early death and Agnes never knew him.  She worked in the Talmage State Hospital for many years and also owned 1000 acres in Hopland at one time.

Agnes is a woman who never gave up on love and kept trying her had a marriage.  She has 7 documented marriages and a deathbed confession of an 8th marriage.  We have not located any information about the 8th marriage.

Here is a peek at Agnes’ many husbands:

1.  Charles Frank Gingg.  Agnes and Charles married September 5, 1925 in San Francisco.  Charles was 22 at the time of the marriage.  The marriage certificate indicates that Agnes was 19 but she lied.  She was only 16 when she married the first time.  They had one daughter, Shirley Marie Gingg.  Shirley would be Agnes’ only child.  Charles and Agnes were divorced October 10, 1934.  The reason for the divorce was Charles having been sent to San Quentin Prison for his involvement of a burglary/murder in Santa Rosa, California in 1933.

2.  William Earl Hines.  Agnes married Bill Hines June 15, 1936.  The wedding was witnessed by Edwin and Sylvia Mattson, Agnes’ brother and his wife.  They lived in Napa, California.  Bill died in 1945 of a heart attack.

3.  Andrew A. Hooks.  Agnes married a third time to Andy Hooks on November 3, 1950.  Andrew was in the Air Force and stationed at Travis AFB in Fairfield, California.  There is a family story that this marriage ended in a quickie divorce in Mexico.  I do not know if this is true or not.  But I have no other knowledge of how the marriage ended.

4.  Daniel M. Williams.  Dan and Agnes married March 3, 1953.  Their marriage was annulled in the first two weeks of February 1955.

5. Donald Edward Frazier.  As soon as her previous marriage was annulled, Agnes married Don Frazier on February 14, 1955 in Reno, Nevada.  They lived in Talmage, Mendocino, California.  Don was Agnes’ favorite husband and they are buried next to each other in Colma, California.  He died in May 1958 from lung cancer.

6.  Peter Klick.  Agnes went back to Reno for her next marriage to Pete Klick.  They were married may 18, 1963.  They lived in Hopland, Mendocino, California.  Pete died June 4, 1975 of cancer.

7.  Patrick O’Malley.  Pat O’Malley was Agnes’ last husband.  They were married in Reno, Nevada (do we see a pattern here?) on March 31, 1978.  My mother-in-law remembers being pregnant with my husband as she traveled to Reno to witness the marriage.  Agnes had met Pat in the mobile home park she was living in Cloverdale, California.  The story is that she broke many of the other single women’s hearts when she married Pat, one of the only single men in the neighborhood.  Pat outlived Agnes.  She passed away March 22, 1982 in Cloverdale.

Agnes did have a family bible that she kept written notes about births and deaths in her family.  She wrote information about Don Frazier’s family in the back pages of the bible.  On random pages, she wrote the first names of all of her other husbands in the bottom margins except for Frank Gingg and Dan Williams.  Her many marriages were “hidden” inside of the bible.

Unfortunately, we do not have any information about the name of the mystery 8th husband or the year she may have married him.  I am considering doing some searching in the Reno marriage registers to see if any of her married names show up.  The time frames which Agnes could have married an 8th time are limited as the time periods between marriages were generally only a couple of years apart.

Black Sheep Sunday – My Dad lived in San Quentin

About 30 years ago, my mother-in-law took a ferry ride from Marin to San Francisco with her young son, husband, and in-laws, John A and Shirley Pope.  Shirley, my husband’s grandmother, pointed to San Quentin as they passed by and casually remarked “My dad lived there.”

I heard this story for the first time about 3 years ago and was amazed.  It was one of those stories that people knew but don’t talk about much.  I have since researched the story and found out that it is very important to pick your friends wisely.  This is the story of Charles Frank Gingg and his time “living” in San Quentin.

Charles Franklin Gingg taken June 1920 Pacific Heights Grammar School.
Charles Gingg was born Charles Franklin Padgitt on October 5, 1905 to John A Padgitt and Carrie Belle Wells.  His mother divorced his father and remarried William Carl Gingg.  Charles took William’s last name after his mother remarried.  All family stories have Charles using his middle name.

Frank Gingg married Agnes Mattson  September 5, 1925.  On the marriage certificate, Frank is listed as 22 and Agnes as 19.  In reality, Agnes was only 16 at the time.  She had lied to get past the age restrictions for marriage.  They had one daughter, Shirley Marie Gingg on September 16, 1927.  The 1930 census shows the young family living in Santa Rosa, California.  At the beginning of 1933, Agnes left Frank and took their young daughter to live in Santa Rosa.  Frank was living in an apartment in Santa Rosa with Ralph Thatcher.  Apparently, they both worked together as printers in Santa Rosa.

On February  20, 1933, Frank met with Andrew Mareck in San Francisco to discuss driving to Santa Rosa to rob a speakeasy in the back of the Buon Gusto Hotel on Adams Street. Frank, along with Tony Cardinelli, F.B. ‘Slim’ Hoyt, Ralph Thatcher, George Jones and Andrew Mareck drove up to Santa Rosa in several cars on February 25 and 26 and met at the apartment of Ralph Thatcher.  During the early evening of February 27th, the ‘gang’ robbed the 101 Ranch.  Frank was not present for this robbery as he was driving up from San Francisco.  He met the men at Thatcher’s apartment after.

Later in the evening, Andrew Mareck and Frank Gingg went to the speakeasy adjoining the Buon Gusto Hotel for some drinks.  They returned to the apartment once again, where they collected their friends and in two cars drove back to Adams Street.  Frank Gingg and George Jones remained in the cars as the get-away drivers.  Mareck, Cardinelli, and Hoyt entered the speakeasy with guns and declared “stick ’em up.”  They stole approximately $17 dollars from the speakeasy patrons and another $100 dollar from the three slot machines in the room.
There was a nightwatchman, C.R. ‘Bill’ Carrick, who made regular rounds in the neighborhood.  One of the victims of the robbery warned that the nightwatchman would be coming soon.  Slim Hoyt went outside to keep watch and ran straight into Carrick in the alley.  He shot Carrick six times.  Somehow, while being shot, Carrick was able to hit Hoyt once in the arm with his own gun.
Meanwhile, George Jones, who was waiting as a get away driver, was spooked by the gunshots and ran back to Thatcher’s apartment.  By the time he arrived at the apartment, both cars with the rest of the ‘gang’ had already returned.  Thatcher and Mareck, an ‘illegal doctor’ (he was on trial for performing abortions the year prior), tended to Hoyt’s wounds.  Gingg, Cardinelli, and Jones all immediately returned to San Francisco.
The cars used in the robbery/murder were quickly identified to police who within hours found them parked outside of Thatcher’s apartment. Police took Thatcher and Mareck into custody.  Slim Hoyt had escaped and was on the run.  After Mareck was interviewed, the Santa Rosa police had the San Francisco police go to his home.  At the apartment in San Francisco, the police found Thatcher and Gingg.  All men were arrested.  Thatcher and Gingg were not immediately transferred to Santa Rosa because the Sheriff had received threats of mob violence.
In the days after the murder, the police ordered that all speakeasy’s in Santa Rosa be shut down.  Apparently, the was not a drink to be found the following evening.
Agnes Gingg and her mother-in-law, Carrie Belle Gingg, visited Frank in jail.  Agnes told the local paper “I have all the faith in the world in Frank and I’ll do everything in my power to help him.  Frank has never been in any trouble before.  I can’t believe that he would do anything like this.  He told me when I talked to him that he wasn’t there when the shooting occurred and I believe him.  But, I can’t understand how he ever became mixed up with that crowd in the first place.”  Apparently, Frank became friends with the ‘gang’ after Agnes left him.
I have not found out if and when Slim Hoyt was arrested.  I have scanned the papers a month after the robbery/murder and he still had not been captured.
All of the ‘gang’ members were convicted of robbery and first degree murder in May 1933.  All of the men were sentenced to life and 5 years to life CS (My best guess is that notation means concurrent sentences).  Frank was processed at the intake center at San Quentin on June 2, 1933.  Mareck and Jones both tried to appeal their convictions.  Both of the appeals were denied.
Charles Frank Gingg, Prisoner Number 54252
While in prison, Frank received divorce papers from Agnes.  I am still trying to find the date that Frank was released from prison.  It was not included in the San Quentin prison records I received from the State Archives.  When he got out, Frank moved to Alaska.  He  lived in Ketchikan where he worked at the local paper as a printer.  I have been told by my mother-in-law that Shirley only told her sons that their grandfather had been in prison when they started to act up as teenagers.  She wanted to make sure that they knew the consequences if they got in trouble with the law.

Charles Mattson & Wendla Botmaster (Johnson)

Charles Oscar Mattson married Wendla Botmaster (Johnson) on February 13, 1904 in Berkeley, California.  Wendla unofficially took the last name Johnson when she arrived in the United States from Finland.  They had 5 children, 4 boys and 1 girl, during their short marriage.  Unfortunately, Charles died only nine years after they married on May 13, 1913.

Charles and Wendla are John’s second great grandparents through his father’s maternal line (Shirley Gingg -> Agnes Mattson ->Charles Mattson.)