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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks nos. 25 & 26—Antti Abelsson Mattila (1826-1882) and Elisabeth Myllynen (1836-a. 1908)

Born on 4 November 1826, Antti Mattila lived during the years when Finland retained a strong legacy of the Swedish language in both spoken use and record-keeping. Hence, in the records we sometimes find him called by his Finnish name, Antti, and sometimes by his Swedish name, Anders. The English version of this name is Andrew.

He must have been named for his grandfather because his father’s name was Abel Andersson (c. 1798-1852). The Andersson patronymic means son of Anders. Abel was Anders’ son, so Antti (Anders) was Anders’ grandson. Antti’s mother was Greta Caspersdotter (c. 1798-?). Families at the time had no surnames, and women kept their own names after marriage. During Antti’s life, however, the idea of surnames began to catch on, and his father increasingly became known as Abel Andersson Mattila.

The family lived in the south of Finland, in the Uusimaa province where Helsinki is the capital.

Antti was baptized in the Lapinjärvi parish northeast of Helsinki when he was three days old, on 7 November 1826. He had an older sister Eva (b. 1824) and at least three younger siblings: Abel (b.1829), Anna (b. 1832), and Johannes (b. 1842).

At the time of his birth, Antti’s family lived on the Kimoböle farm. The family remained in the Lapinjärvi parish, and Antti’s father died there in 1852 from a heart attack at age fifty-four. Until modern times, heart disease has been a leading cause of early death in Finland.

Although he was the oldest son, Antti left the family home. At some point he made his way east to the area of Viipuri, Finland’s second-largest city at the time. Perhaps he was lured there by the prospect of work on the Saimaa Canal being built between Lake Saimaa and Viipuri in the 1850’s.

On the Saimaa Canal boat:

Eventually, he met a young woman, Elisabeth Myllynen, whom he married on 16 August 1863 in the Viipuri rural parish. She was the daughter of Simon Mattson Myllynen (1810-1857) and Sofia Henriksdotter Ampuja (c. 1812-?). Elisabeth, or Liisa, was a native of the area having been born on the Tervajärvi farm on 25 April 1836 and baptized in the rural parish on 8 May 1836.

Elisabeth was part of a large family of approximately seven boys and three girls. Elisabeth was several years older than her sisters Helena (b. 1841) and Regina (b.1844). The number of brothers in the family is unclear from the existing records, but they seem to include the following:

  • Matthias (b. 1834)
  • Henric (b. 1838) probably died young
  • Henric (b. 1841)
  • Philip (b. 1847) probably died young
  • Adam (b. 1849) probably died young
  • Filip (b. 1851)
  • Adam (b. 1851)

The second Filip and Adam, although born the same year, were not twins. The family seemed to re-use well-liked names if a child died. This was common practice.

Antti and Elisabeth did not settle near her family on the Tervajärvi farm. Instead they went southwest of Viipuri and settled in a coastal village. Not far from the city, they may have been able to see the ancient castle built there by the Swedes in the 1200’s.

Husband/Tech Advisor with Viipuri castle in the background:

Antii worked as a steward, and they began their family. They had eight daughters and a son:

  1. Karolina, born 10 September 1863 at Horttana and baptized 20 September 1863. She was confirmed in 1878 in the Viipuri rural parish, but nothing more is known of her. She may have been one of the sisters purported to have married a Russian soldier.
  2. Eva Emilia, born 7 November 1864 at Hortanna and baptized 13 November 1864. She, too, was confirmed in the Viipuri rural parish in 1879 and may also have married a Russian soldier.
  3. Helena, born 20 May 1868 at Korpela Autio and baptized 28 May 1868 in the rural parish. She died from tuberculosis in 1884 at age 15 in Hortanna.
  4. Anna, born 23 May 1866 at Hortanna and baptized 1 June 1866 in the rural parish. Shortly after her father’s death, Anna moved out of the Viipuri area at the age of 17 and relocated to the coastal city of Kotka. A couple of years later she married Charles Anderson. They emigrated to the United States and first settled in Eveleth, Minnesota. When Anna and Charles had no children of their own, they adopted Charles and Helen Mais in the early 1900’s. Charles Anderson died between 1910 and 1920, but Anna lived another 30 years. She migrated to Hibbing, Minnesota where she was a member of the Finnish Temperance Society. She must have taken this seriously because her great-niece Joyce Bentsen Reed recalled that Mrs. Anderson strongly disapproved of liquor. She even left her niece Aida Mattila’s wedding reception in a fit of pique when she learned that her brother Alex was serving alcohol. Anna died in Hibbing on 28 April 1947 at the age of 80.
  5. Sofia, born 7 April 1870 at Korpela Autio and baptized in the rural parish on 1 May 1870. There she married Kalle Ville Ripatti on 15 November 1896. They had three children, Rosa Wilhelmina, Olga Alina, and Juhana Aleksander between 1896 and 1898. A few months after Juhana’s birth, Sofia’s 23-year-old husband Kalle drowned at Kolikkoinmaki (an eastern suburb of Viipuri) on 12 October 1899. Sofia’s life as a young widow after this tragic event is unknown. Her daughter Rosa eventually emigrated to America about 1913, and she too settled in the Hibbing area. She married Waino Porras and they had one son, Arthur, in 1919. Rosa died of pneumonia in 1941 at the age of 44 in Hibbing. According to family lore, she had been found nearly frozen in a snow bank before her death.
  6. Ida Marie, born 15 July 1872 at Korpela Autio and baptized in the rural parish on 29 July 1872. She married Juhana Mattsson there on 9 November 1890. For the next ten years they lived near Viipuri and had five children. After that, Juhana disappears from the record and Ida relocated to Kotka. In 1908, her brother-in-law Charles Anderson returned to Finland to accompany her and her surviving children to the United States. They traveled under the Mattson surname on the S.S. Republic and landed in Boston. Her travel documents describe her as 5’3″ tall with blond hair and blue eyes. Upon their arrival, Ida purportedly married a man named Sam Parks, and they settled on Minnesota’s Iron Range in Biwabik in about 1909. Together, she and he had one child, and her other children assumed the Parks surname. Sam Parks disappears from the record after the birth of their daughter. Ida’s life was cut short by stomach cancer a few years later in 1917. She died in Biwabik at the age of forty-five. Her children included:
    • Elsa (1892-b. 1978) born in Finland; married Edward Glass and remained in Minnesota,
    • Alice (about 1893-b. 1978) born in Finland; married William Goldsworthy and settled in Wayne County, Michigan,
    • Aleksander—born in Finland, and died at two months of age in 1894,
    • Yrgo (George) (about 1896-b. 1978) born in Finland,
    • Martha (1900-2000) born in Finland; married (1) Joseph Hendrickson, (2) Ray Hyzer and lived in Berkeley, California,
    • Bertha Ethel (1910-1986) married Eliot Haberlitz; settled in Santa Barbara, CA.
  7. Olga, born 20 January 1874 at Horttana and baptized in the rural parish on 1 February 1874. Olga continued to live in the Viipuri area until she was twenty-seven years old. In 1901 she moved to Kotka. Her older sister Anna Anderson returned to Finland that same year to accompany her to the United States. Three years later in 1904, Olga married Oskar Silberg in Duluth, Minnesota. They settled in Superior, Wisconsin and had one son named Alex (1906-1989). Oskar died of gangrene incurred from a shipyard accident in 1935. Olga lived almost 35 years in widowhood until she died of pneumonia at the age of ninety-five in 1969.
  8. Auna Elisabeth, born 23 January 1876 at Alasommes and baptized in the rural parish on 5 June 1876. Auna lived a short life of just two years, dying of croup on 22 June 1878.
  9. Alexander, the only son, born about the ninth of May, probably 1878. The records conflict as to the exact date, but his baptism was recorded in the Viipuri rural parish on the 12th of May, 1878.

After the births of eight daughters, we can only imagine how Antti Mattila and Elisabeth Myllynen felt upon the safe arrival of their only son Alex. Unfortunately, Antti did not have long to live to enjoy his little boy. He died at age 55 when Alex was just four years old.

According to family lore, Antti drowned at sea. The church records, however, do not confirm this story. They state that he died of tuberculosis on 27 April 1882. He was buried in the Viipuri rural parish a few days later, on 2 May 1882. He was not the only one in the family with this terrible disease; his daughter Helena would die from it a couple of years later.

So why the story of a drowning? Perhaps American family members confused this death with the drowning of Sofia’s husband Kalle Ripatti. Both traumatic events occurred long ago in faraway Finland, and it would be easy to mix up the details.

After Antti’s death, Elisabeth cared for her younger children and made her living laying out the dead. Alex often accompanied her.

She probably lived a long life. Twentieth century Finnish records are closed, so we cannot locate a death date for her. We do know she was living at least as late as 1908 when she would have been seventy-two. That year her daughter Ida listed her as next-of-kin when she sailed for America.

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