Seminar season rolls in during the spring months. Many genealogists recently attended the giant RootsTech conference https://rootstech.org/ in Salt Lake City last month. Others will head for Richmond, Virginia for the 2014 National Genealogical Society Family History Conference http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/ in May.
I have never attended RootsTech, but I have been to a couple of NGS conferences. In 1998, Denver hosted the event, so of course I went. I even served as a room monitor for a few of the sessions. Ten years later, I drove to Kansas City, Missouri for the 2008 conference. Both times I came away with renewed enthusiasm and much helpful information.
Unfortunately, it costs quite a bit to attend these wonderful conferences—travel, hotel, meals, registration fee. An additional deterrent to February’s RootsTech is that it requires a treacherous drive over the mountains to Salt Lake City in the winter weather. So I usually stay home.
In recent years, the motive for staying put in Denver has grown because so many nationally-known speakers now visit our area. Thanks to the efforts of our local societies working with the Denver Public Library (DPL), I can receive my genealogical training for a fraction of the cost of attending a national conference.
This spring I plan to visit DPL to hear four great speakers:
- On March 8 the WISE (Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England) research group will host an Irish seminar featuring Fintan Mullan and Gillian Hunt from Northern Ireland;
- On March 29 the Palatines to America will host noted German researcher Roger P. Minert;
- On April 26 the Colorado Genealogical Society is bringing in Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist;
- On May 17 the Computer Interest Group will host Rick and Pam Sayre from Washington D. C. to speak about tech topics.
Thus I will get four full days of training for about $150, much less than it would cost me to attend a national conference. Call me the Practical Genealogist.
My second great-grandmother Elisabeth lived somewhere in Finland’s Viipuri parish in the 19th century. As I research her family I want to pinpoint her residence. Church records for her family reveal that they lived in the Myllynen/Myllyin house. They adopted this house name as their surname when they abandoned Finland’s patronymic naming system.
So where do I find this house? The Viipuri parish records for the family also name its location, the village of Tervajärvi, or Tar Lake. Where is that? It turns out that I will encounter trouble identifying this place:
- Of course I go first to Google maps. There I received many hits for Tervajärvi, Finland. After sifting through the list, I find that none of these seems to be near Viipuri (which is now known as Vyborg, Russia).
- How about a search for Tervajärvi, Russia? There I get one result, in Russian Karelia some distance northeast of Vyborg. This is a possibility, but I do not know whether this Tervajärvi lies within the old Viipuri parish boundary. It seems the Finns used the same place names for many locations.
- Wikipedia has a list of rural municipalities in the old Viipuri province, but Tervajärvi did not make the list.
- What to do next? I remembered that my husband/tech advisor has already done quite a bit of research locating my ancestral places as he plans our upcoming trip to Finland. He has sent me at least 15 small maps showing many of these in the Viipuri area. I pull up his maps, but I cannot see Tervajärvi on any of them.
- A gazetteer for Finland or Russia might help, but I cannot find one online or in any of the local libraries. It seems like I am out of options.
- Then I remember another place I could try. The Denver Public Library (DPL) has some very detailed maps prepared by the CIA in the 1990′s. I quick look in the online DPL catalog tells me that they do have CIA maps for Finland and Russia. Perhaps my Tervajärvi will appear on one of those. I plan to visit DPL next week to find out.
In the meantime, if anyone knows the precise location of the Myllyin house in the village Tervajärvi near Viipuri/Vyborg, please let me know. My question remains, “Where did Grandma live?”
One of my favorite things to do as a genealogist is to look at cemetery markers and death records. If I am lucky, I will find birth and death dates for the deceased here. Yet sometimes, especially in earlier records, I find the birth date omitted. The death record may give only the death date coupled with the age of the deceased.
I encountered this recently when I studied the church burial record for my Finnish ancestor Anders Abelsson Mattila. He had died on the 27th of April, 1882 at the age of 55 years, 5 months, and 23 days. The record did not provide a birth date for him.
In my early days of genealogy, I would have had to pursue a complicated formula to derive his birth date from the information on this record. No more. Now I can use a simple utility found on Search For Ancestors at http://www.searchforancestors.com/utility/birthday.html to calculate this date. The Tombstone Birthday Calculator on this site allows me to plug in the death date and age information, and then it calculates the birth date for me.
Using this tool, I learned that Anders was born 4 November 1826. This information exactly matches the date given on all his subsequent records. The quick answer I received from the online calculator gave me another rewarding experience analyzing a death record. You can bet I have this Calculator bookmarked as part of my genealogical tool kit.
My mother’s family came from Finland, and I plan to travel there later this year. I want to visit my ancestral area.
According to family lore, my immigrant great-grandfather was the son of Andrew Mattila, and he was from Viipuri, Finland. The family also had the names of several other Viipuri family members who had come to the United States. With this information, we identified my Andrew Mattila family in the Viipuri area at the end of the nineteenth century.
He was known in Finland, not as Andrew, but by either the Finnish or Swedish versions of his first name, Antti or Anders. We also learned that in his earlier years, he went by his patronymic name, Anders Abelson, meaning his father’s first name was Abel.
Anders/Antti/Andrew lived and worked in the Viipuri parish from the time of his marriage. Was he born there, too? We wanted to find his birth record to see whether we needed to visit any place besides Viipuri, now Vyborg, Russia. Luckily, many of these records can be found online at http://www.genealogia.fi/hiski.html.
An initial search for an “Anders son of Abel in Viipuri parish” turned up a single candidate. Anders Abelson, son of Abel Ivoinson, was born at the Huumola village near Viipuri on 23 November 1827.
Unfortunately, his birth date did not match all the other records we had for my Anders. The Communion Book records for my Anders’ family and his death registration all report he was born in 1826, not 1827.
Is he my ancestor? I suppose we could assume that being off by a year could be a reasonable mistake, but I was not satisfied with that explanation. I thought we needed to do a more exhaustive search. I wanted evidence that either corroborated or disputed the link between the Anders Abelson we found in Huumola and my family.
We broadened our online search to include all of Finland. Sure enough, we found another Anders Abelson in the Lapinjärvi Municipality some distance west of Viipuri. This boy was the son of Abel Andersson and Greta Caspersdotter, and they lived on the Mattila farm. He was born on 4 November 1826, the exact date reported in the Communion Books for my Anders Abelson Mattila. I believe this is my guy.
When we go to Finland, we can take a train ride from Helsinki through the Lapinjärvi area. My Finnish grandmother’s paternal roots are there.
I try to set aside my mornings to pursue my genealogy. If I do that regularly, genealogy becomes a half-time job for me. I should be able to do a lot of research and writing.
Unfortunately, that never seems to happen. Day after day, real life interferes, and I cannot stay on schedule. Take this week, for example:
- On Monday I was pressed into babysitter duty for my one-year-old granddaughter. Trust me, you cannot do genealogy and watch her at the same time. I did manage to clear out my e-mail during her 45-minute nap.
- On Tuesday I spent most of the day working on financial matters, my own and my father’s. I could have been at the Denver Public Library for a morning meeting of the Germanic Genealogical Society of Colorado, but the weather was terrible that day. I did not want to make the 45-minute drive. Besides, financial matters needed attention.
- On Wednesday, see Monday.
- On Thursday (today), I finally have the morning to myself. I will blog, update our webtree, and see what I can find on my Finnish great-great-grandfather Anders/Antti Abelson Mattila.
- On Friday, babysitting again, for a grandson this time. As a Terrible Two, he will need my full attention. I will be lucky to manage my e-mail with him around.
So this week, which is fairly typical, I have one morning to work on the genealogy-related things I want to do. I could always carve out more time by saying no to the babysitting requests, but I will not. I love every opportunity I can get to play with the little ones. Instead of spending all my mornings with my dead ancestors, I think it equally important to spend time with the living generations. The dead ones will just have to wait.
During this cold and flu season, my community now suffers from a new epidemic, Football Fever. The home team, the Denver Broncos, will try on Sunday to capture the coveted Super Bowl trophy. This event has become a new holiday in America. Many in my family plan to celebrate by hosting parties and wearing their Peyton Manning jerseys. Me, not so much.
Football was not a big deal in my early days. I do not recall anything near this football mania back then, so it never became a part of my psyche. Football was just something my Dad had played in his youth and later watched on TV. He liked football.
My father had been a receiver on the Loveland High School and the Colorado State College of Education teams. His long arms pulled in the ball many times for touchdowns.
After that, he became a life-long fan of the Green Bay Packers. My brother and I used to bet him a penny on their games. In the 50′s, we usually won our bets. Consequently, we were interested only in the final game score, not in watching the play on our grainy, black-and-white television.
My brother did not follow our Dad into the football world. He preferred individual sports like bicycling and cross-country skiing. Today, like me, he does not follow the sport. My Dad remained the sole football fan in my family. He did not pass the Love For Team Sports gene on to us.
But now I live in the Denver area, a sports-crazy place if ever there was one. Everyone seems to be a Bronco fan. I see orange clothing and decorations everywhere.
Will I participate in the frenzy? Well, I did join in the extended family’s annual Super Bowl pool, which I have actually won a couple of times over the years. I purchased some junk food to eat during the game. While it is on, I plan to catch up on my reading and watch the commercials and half-time show. For old time’s sake, I might bet a penny on the game outcome with my grandchildren. They definitely have Football Fever.
My mother’s grandparents emigrated from the Nordic countries in the early 20th century. I know a lot about their lives in America but not so much about their lives in the old country. They were young married couples when they arrived in the United States. Immigrants are said to have been pulled here because they wanted a better life. But what, exactly, did they leave behind? What pushed them away from their homeland?
Family members spoke of how my Norwegian ancestors, Ole Bentsen and Sofie Sivertsdatter, had left their home farms in Bø and Eidsfjord when they grew up to find work in Stokmarknes, a larger city in the Vesterålen District of Norway. What did they do there? Both were literate but had no higher education. They must have worked as laborers of some sort. Stokmarknes lies in the cod fishing area of Norway, so perhaps Ole worked on a boat, a trade he could have learned from his fisherman father.
What did Sofie do? Domestic help? Fish processing? I know she had some baking skills. After she settled on a Montana homestead, she made bread not only for her own family but also for a bachelor neighbor. I also know that just before moving to Stokmarknes, she had tended sheep on her uncle’s place. Maybe she put those skills to use on one of the farms surrounding Stokmarknes. Bervik perhaps, where she lived in the months after her marriage and where her daughter Riborg was born.
I know less about the background of my Finnish ancestors, Alexander Mattila and Ada Alina Lampinen. They said only that they were from Viipuri which was the second-largest city in Finland at the time. In looking at their records, I find that neither of them was born there. It appears that they, too, were born elsewhere, Alex in the rural parish southeast of Viipuri, and Ada in Juuka parish north of there. As young adults they, too, went to the closest city, Viipuri, probably to find work.
So what work did they do? Alex was listed as a laborer when he emigrated, but no particular line of work was specified. Later in life, he worked as a carpenter. I do not know whether he acquired that skill in Finland or in the United States.
As for Ada, I do not know what she may have done in Viipuri. Worked in a shop? Domestic help? My mom remembered her baking skills—homemade bread and cakes.
Both of these couples worked hard, but obviously they saw no opportunity in their home countries. They felt the push of wanting something better. The Norwegians wanted their own land, impossible to acquire as part of the laboring class in Norway. The Finns may have wanted to get away from their strife-torn country that suffered from hunger and disease. Under the harsh rule of the Russian czar, worker unrest was brewing, food was scarce, and public health did not seem to be a priority. Alex’s father and one sister had both died of tuberculosis.
So America beckoned. Ole and Sofie followed their dream to live in a country that gave away land to people willing to work had for it. Relatives in America urged Alex and Ada to come and settle in a healthy Finnish community in Minnesota where there was plenty of work, food, and political stability. Both couples saved their money and took steamships to a new land to build a new life. And they never talked much about the old one.
Since I began writing this blog several years ago, it has been a part of the larger norsky.net site that contains various family enterprises. In addition to our genealogy work, it contains links for my husband’s music arrangements and his media conversion business. A mixed bag, to say the least.
I have wanted to carve out our genealogy work and create a dedicated site for some time now. This month we finally did it.
The new site goes by the blog name, Genealogy Jottings, and you can find it at www.genealogyjottings.com. The blog appears on the home page, and hot links take you to our family trees. Of course you can still find Genealogy Jottings and the family trees if you visit the norsky.net site.
So, update your bookmarks if you wish to visit the blog directly. I would love for you to visit my new home.
As I do every year, I chose one family line for my research focus in 2014. This year my husband/tech advisor and I plan to take a trip to Finland, so guess what? I will target my research on my Finnish line. Two of my great-grandparents emigrated from Finland in 1905.
I worked on them once before, a couple of years ago. At that time, I pretty well fleshed out my great-grandfather Alexander Mattila’s birth family. He was from the area outside Viipuri, then Finland’s second-largest city. Today, the city lies in Russia and is known as Vyborg. We plan to take a canal cruise to see Vyborg while we are in Finland.
My great-grandmother, Alex’s wife, was Ada Alina Lampinen. I think she came from the Kuopio area of Finland. She presents a more difficult research subject than her husband Alex did. Their eldest daughter, my grandmother, knew a lot about her father’s family, and she passed that information along to me. Not so with her mother’s family. All she could say was that her mother was the only member of her family to emigrate, and she knew nothing of those who remained behind.
Obviously, then, my goal is to learn more about Ada’s family this year. Lampinens, I am on my way to find you. I do not want to be visiting the wrong places when I take my trip.
Every year about this time, the media puts out lists of celebrities who passed away during the year. Locally, my church holds a Service of Remembrance on the last Sunday of the year to remember those connected to our congregation who have died this year. We all seem interested in taking this opportunity to remember those we have lost before we turn the calendar page to another year.
My family said good-bye to just one soul in 2013, my great-uncle Otto Sigurd Bentsen. He lived a long life, and died in January at the age of ninety-four.
Otto saw many changes during his lifetime. He was born on his father’s homestead southeast of Redstone, Montana. He went from helping his dad farm with horses to watching his daughter and son-in-law run a highly technical farming operation on that same land. During his lifetime, his farm received an award from the State of Montana for keeping the farm in one family for 100 years. Otto was very proud that the farm had only two owners during that time, his father and himself. They kept the farm going through two world wars and the Depression.
Otto worked hard to live the life his parents hoped for their children when they emigrated from Norway in the early 20th century. He went to high school, served in World War II, married, and raised a family on his own land. He was a respected member of his church and community.
Otto was the last member of his generation in our family. With his passing, a new generation takes its place as the family elders. Otto set a good example for all of us to follow.