Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tuesday's Tip/Searching on Find A Grave

     I've found Find a Grave can be a little frustrating when I'm searching for someone whose last name could be spelled in various ways, or if the person in question has married and I'm not sure of the correct spelling of her married name.  They can be a little persnickety about spelling, and you can't search by the deceased's first name alone, which with well over one million burials isn't really feasible anyway.  There is a back door however, if you have an idea where the burial may have taken place.

     Select "Search for a cemetery" on the home page. Now you can select a specific state and county.  At this point, a list of cemeteries will appear which you can whittle down further by village or town.  Once you have selected a cemetery, you will be able to search by first name alone.  Granted this works best in smaller cemeteries or if the first name is an unusual one like say, Wentworth, but if you've been unable to find the burial the traditional way it may be worth a try.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wednesday's Website/Civil War Prison Database

     Now that I've proven my ancestor Mary Augusta Vincent married George W. Matteson, I'm naturally curious about their courtship.  George enlisted in 1861, five years before the couple married in July of 1865.  Did they know each other when he enlisted, did they meet while he was home on a furlough?  Their homes were one hundred miles apart in 1865, how did they meet?  George mustered out of the army in early March of 1865, only four months before the marriage, it seems to me they must have been acquainted, perhaps even engaged, for at least part of his service.

     I'm not too hopeful I'll find the answers I seek, but nonetheless I've been reading histories of the 76th regiment and pouring over letters from men in George's Company F.  One bit of information that turned up was that George was captured at the Battle of the Wilderness, 5 May 1864 and held prisoner for seven months.  Some of the regimental histories mentioned their soldiers being sent to the notorious pow camp at Andersonville Georgia; was that where George was taken after his capture?  If he spent seven months in that prison he was lucky to have survived, many died within much shorter time spans.  A young soldier named Price who was taken prisoner the same time as George lasted only three months in it's confines.

     Surfing around trying to find some lists of prisoners I stumbled upon this site: http://www.civilwarprisoners.com/index.php
containing searchable databases of Andersonville and Cahaba prisons along with the prisoners aboard the Sultana, a ship which exploded as it was carrying prisoners from those two places to freedom.  I selected Andersonville's database and typed George's name into the search fields, immediately this popped up--

     He had been taken to that terrible place!  There's no telling what shape he was in when he was released, but it couldn't have been good.  By the time of his capture the prisoner exchange program had been halted leaving growing numbers of Union prisoners trapped in Confederate prisons which had insufficient resources to care for or feed them.  This leaves me wondering even more, was Mary Augusta engaged to George in 1864?  Did she know of his capture and where he was?  Maybe someday I'll find out.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Finding Mary Matteson

George Washington Matteson

     Work here has continued apace in my attempt to find more proof of the identity of the wife of George W. Matteson.  An earlier post  outlined all the circumstantial evidence I've amassed on that topic, which points to my ancestor Mary Augusta Vincent being the bride. I'm pleased to say I've now found the evidence that settles the matter. 

     To review, my ancestor Mary Vincent, was  born to my third great-grandparents Thomas and Matilda Taylor Vincent in 1838 and was last seen living with her sister Louisa Vincent Hurd in Cohocton, Steuben County, NY in 1865.  After 1865 she either died, was married, or she joined the underground.  Several family trees posted on Ancestry showed two different Mary A. Vincent's, (along with two different sets of parents) as the wife of George Matteson,  I managed to rule both those young women out by determining who they really had married.  The funny thing was, there weren't that many women named Mary Vincent or Mary A. Vincent born in New York around 1838.  Further evidence that the woman who married George was indeed my relative was the name she chose for her first daughter.  It was Frances, probably in honor of Mary's recently deceased sister Frances Amelia Vincent Coons.

     A few days ago I took a trip to the Rochester, NY library to view a book I'd found in their online catalog containing marriages extracted from Steuben County newspapers, including the time period of the wedding.  Surely this book would provide some answers, I was running out of options.  The results were very disappointing--no results.  Last night while looking through my notes I remembered a tree on Ancestry that listed no parents for Mary Vincent, (or was it the wrong parents?) , either way it had her marriage taking place in Steuben County, the source being "US Pension Office".  If the marriage had indeed occurred in Steuben County that would be fabulous; I was reasonably certain my Mary Vincent born in1838 was the only Mary Vincent circa 1838 living in Steuben County in 1865.

     The owner of said tree had never responded to my polite inquiry as to the exact wording of the source, which meant I had to somehow get a look at George's Civil War Pension file-- documents which I've been led to believe are not yet digitized--another dead end.  Just for the heck of it I typed all the following into the Google search box--"Civil War"  "George W. Matteson"  "New York", and hit enter.   The first two hits were for Ancestry searches which for some reason had the location as California, not New York.  The third hit was my own blog, then Find A Grave, next a WorldCat link for the wrong George Matteson; the sixth hit was different, this one's heading was, "Archive Grid-Sager brothers Civil War Letters", with "George Matteson 76th" in small type underneath.  That was at least the right George who I knew had served in the 76th so I clicked it, maybe George was mentioned in the letters?  I next did a "find on page" search for Matteson and there, highlighted in the sidebar, was another link titled, "George W. Matteson 76th New York Infantry", from the Allen County Library...so I clicked that too.

     Up came a page with details that read, "1 online resource-- twenty four unnumbered pages-- Military Service, Affidavit, Pension record, etc. etc..."  What?  Could it be?  I hardly dared believe my good fortune, but there it was, George's pension file!   I started through the pages hoping against hope that the tree at Ancestry had been right about the marriage information being contained in this document.  There was mention of the name Mary A. Matteson, a cause of death for George, pension amounts... I kept going and finally, there on the next to last page I found it, "married Mary A. Vincent July 2nd 1865 at Bloods Corners, Steuben County, New York!"  Another search revealed that Bloods, today called Atlanta, was a small hamlet in the Town of Cohocton. The marriage place was not just Steuben County, it was the exact township where my Mary was residing in 1865. This clinches the deal for me, I have the right name, right age, and right wedding place.  

     I'm still amazed I found this, there are only a few hundred pension files on the site, out of tens of thousands that exist.  What were the odds the one I needed would be there?  And yet it was, sometimes if you're persistent you just get lucky.