James Haviland Tompkins

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ca. 1893 The Tompkins clan (from back left: Grace, Louise, Haviland, unknown lady, Vreeland, and Harold)

This week my #52Ancestors post focuses on James Haviland Tompkins, the fifth child of Samuel Dusenbury and Gettianna Vreeland Tompkins.  Haviland (apparently his preferred name) was born on 15 July 1877 in Jersey City.

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Clipping from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle 15 June 1900

He graduated from New York Law School in 1900 and opened a commercial law practice in Jersey City.  An interesting side note about New York Law School: it was established in 1891 by a group of Columbia College School of Law faculty, students, and alumni who were at odds with Columbia’s trustees’ desire to interfere with the faculty teaching practices.

In addition to his law practice, Haviland is also listed as the Secretary of the Smooth-On corporation.  He and his brothers all seem to have been involved in the family business in one way or another.

Haviland married Eleonore Heike around 1908.  An engagement announcement is as close as I can get to an exact marriage date as shortly after the engagement is announced, the scandal that rocked the Heike family also breaks.  Charles R. Heike was the secretary of the American Sugar Refining Company was tried and convicted in 1910 of conspiracy to defraud the government in a case of fraudulent weighing.  The sentence was waived when the judge determined that Heike was in such poor health that he would die in prison, and instead he died at home.  His family was terribly affected by it as Eleonore (whose death may have been directly caused by something else) died in 1912 shortly after the birth of her daughter Eleonor Marie Tompkins in 1910.  Heike’s sister later committed suicide and her brother left the country and was later committed to a mental institution.

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367 Woodland Ave. South Orange, NJ

Haviland and Eleonor appear to have moved back to the Tompkins home on Communipaw Ave.  Seven years later, Haviland married Elizabeth Carol Baldwin (1891-1950) of Jersey City on 27 December 1919.  Early on in their marriage they lived at 117 Bentley Ave, which was loaded with Tompkins relations.  Eventually, they made their home in South Orange, New Jersey, where they raised Eleonor and their two children Carol Tompkins (1920-2016) and  James Haviland Tompkins (1922-1995).

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Elizabeth Baldwin Tompkins painting surrounded by Katherine Tompkins, Louise Tompkins, Tom (James Haviland Jr.) Tompkins, Mary Tompkins, Carol Tompkins, Anne Tompkins and Harold D. Tompkins standing holding his box camera.

Sadly, Haviland died suddenly while vacationing in Southern Pines, North Carolina on 4 March 1942.  He is buried at Arlington Cemetery in Kearny, New Jersey.

 

 

Gettianna Vreeland Tompkins

Gettie_Anna_Tompkins_wife_of_Sam_rabbiittt40This week in #52Ancestors Gettianna Vreeland Tompkins is the subject, but her essay would be very brief without a mention of the family surrounding her.  Gettianna, or Gitty Ann as she was sometimes called, was the youngest child and only daughter of Nicholas (1789-1873) and Elizabeth Van Ripen (1803-1889) Vreeland.

Nicholas Vreeland was married twice: first to Annatje Winner (1794-1832), with whom he had one child, a son named Nicholas who lived a year (1816-1817) and then to Elizabet Van Ripen (1803-1889), with whom he had three children.  Of Annatje Winner Vreeland very little detail is known beyond her marriage date of 15 March 1814 and her life dates.

Nicholas and Elizabeth Vreeland had three children: Nicholas Vreeland (1836-1837), John Van Ripen Vreeland (1837-1912) and Gettianna Vreeland (1841-1918).  John V R, as he was known, was educated at Rutgers and appears to have made a living as a florist/gardener.  He moved his family out to Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1887 and is listed in Jersey City directories as a florist and in Cheyenne as a gardener.  He died at the home of his daughter in Los Angeles, CA in 1912 and is buried in Angelus Rosedale Cemetery as is his wife Anna Maria who died in 1915.

Gettianna Vreeland was born 14 March 1841, most likely in Bergen, Hudson County, New Jersey.  She married Samuel Dusenbury Tompkins at her parent’s home on 2 January 1868.  The couple lived with Nicholas and Elizabeth for the next few years, as they are together in the 1870 Census. As Samuel became more established in business, they moved to the house on Communipaw Avenue.  They had seven children:

  • Grace Elizabeth Tompkins (1869-1964)
  • Vreeland Tompkins (1870-1956)
  • Abraham Van Wagnen Tompkins (1870-1870)
  • Samuel Edward Tompkins (1875-1876)
  • James Haviland Tompkins (1877-1942)
  • Emma Louise Tompkins (1881-1971)
  • Harold Doremus Tompkins (1888-1951)

The Tompkins family was socially very active in Jersey City.  The Jersey Journal rarely went more than a month or two without a mention of a social gathering that included one or more of them.  I also know that Samuel and Gettianna traveled within the United States and than Gettianna accompanied her daughters Grace and Louise to the British Isles.

Vreeland and Tompkins_membersLafayetteChurch_cropSamuel and Gettianna attended Lafayette Church around the 1884-5 period.  This church apparently started off as a Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in 1863 but may have merged with other churches towards the end of the century.

Tompkins_Vreeland_GoldenJubilee_Jersey_Journal_1918-01-09_2Gettianna and Samuel Tompkins celebrated their golden wedding anniversary about a month before she died on 9 February 1918 of pneumonia.  The article in the paper states that this happened in the same house they were married in but this bears further research as even as Jersey City consumed the village of Bergen, the addresses do not match city directories and census records.  It should also be noted that her youngest child, my grandfather Harold Doremus Tompkins was absent from the festivities due to his involvement in World War I.  His military training prior to shipping overseas took him to Camp McClellan, where his great grandson Barclay G. Jones IV also completed some of his extensive military training in 2017-18, about one hundred years later.

Gettianna and Samuel were initially buried in the Old Bergen burying ground but were moved to Arlington Cemetery when the old grounds were demolished.

 

 

 

 

Mary Sleght Brown

2007_03_Mary_Sleght_lock-of-Hair_Magazine-1Mary Sleght Brown is a recent discovery and an excellent reminder to return to people every few years for whom you have had no success.  For some time I knew that Abraham V.W. Tompkins had married a Caroline Brown, but I could find no firm information about where she came from.  Then one day I returned to Abraham, thinking surely by now, someone has put up some record on this family.  I searched Ancestry.com and beautiful digital images of the Brown family bible and the John Sleght family record appeared.  There were also two primers, one of which contained a lock of Mary’s hair.  What a legacy!  And there was Caroline, daughter of John Dusenbury (1788-1875) and Mary Sleght (1785-1856) Brown.
Brown_JohnDusenbury_FamilyBible_Marriages_cropAccording to the bible, Mary Sleght was born on 4 June 1785 and married John D. Brown in 1812.  Oddly, the bible gives detailed dates for all but this event.  The couple then had six children: John S. (1813-1893), Caroline (1818-1878), Martha Jane (1819-1911), Eliza (1821-1875), and a set of twins Ann and Rachel born in 1825.
This information gave me enough ammunition, so to speak, to go looking for church and burial records.  I found death and burial information in the church records of the Pleasant Valley Freedom Plains Presbyterian Church.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnfortunately the church records do not start until 1827, so still no marriage date.  The bible record and the church record agreed on the date for Mary’s death on 19 September 1856. And I was then able to find an image of the grave marker.
These two family bible records have probably been out there for some time but I did not have the clues necessary to connect all the dots.  It really pays to loop back to ancestors that are not completely fleshed out.  New information and digital documents are being added to archives daily.  This #52Ancestors challenge has been really helpful in reminding me of this!

Samuel Tompkins

LittleCompton_1831_webI have to admit, after the DeWolfe media frenzy about that family’s discovery that they made their money in the slave trade, I was alarmed when I found that multiple generations of the Tompkins family had lived in Rhode Island during the height of the Atlantic slave trade.  Even if they were not involved in shipping, all the ancillary trades that go into supporting the shipping industry are tied to that profit source as well.  So for this week of #52ancestors I picked an ancestor whose life would have touched on this dark period in American history.
Samuel Tompkins, son of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Waters Tompkins, was born 24 May 1681 in Little Compton, Rhode Island.  He was a middle child in a family of ten.  He married late for that time, he was almost 31 years old when he married Sarah Coe (1690-1741) in 24 January 1712.
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Samuel and Sarah produced twelve children over the next eighteen years.
  • Joseph Tompkins, b. 26 Oct 1712
  • John, b. 14 Sep 1714
  • Elizabeth, b. 8 Dec 1715
  • Christopher, b. 8 Dec 1715
  • Abigail, b. 28 Jan 1717
  • Nathaniel, b. 19 Nov 1719, d. 20 Jan 1724
  • Gideon, b. 19 Nov 1720, d. Mar 1774
  • Micah, b. 20 Jan 1722, d. May 1771
  • Benjamin, b. 26 Jan 1723
  • Augustine, b. 19 Mar 1725, d. 16 Feb 1747
  • Prescilla, b. 6 June 1726, d. 18 Aug 1739
  • William, b. 17 Oct. 1730, d. Nov 1768
Little_Compton_todayLittle Compton and the neighboring town of Tiverton were first established as part of Massachusetts in the middle of the 17th century.  In 1673, the town was plotted and twenty-nine settlers made claims, most of them Puritans.  Later in 1747, the state of Rhode Island formed and the towns became part of that.  A Colonial Census was done at that time and Samuel is listed in Little Compton, New Port County.
I have had a great deal of trouble finding records of Samuel but one of the most useful has been the will and estate papers for his father, Nathaniel Tompkins.  Nathaniel appears to have been a farmer  rather than a mariner, which I have to admit relieves me in many ways as many of the mariners in this part of Rhode Island were involved in the transatlantic slave trade.
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Nathaniel’s will is sent through probate in 1724 and names Samuel as the executor.  There is a very helpful inventory of the personal property held at the time of his death which includes one mare, five cows, one yoke of oxen and fifteen sheep.  There is also mention of one and a quarter acres of land.  This makes me wonder if land has already been given over to Samuel or one of his siblings, as that is too little land to feed all those animals.
I have also read through many years of the Town Records for Little Compton, which are a fascinating glimpse into the daily lives of a Puritan community in the 18th century.  I have found print sources that state Samuel Tompkins died in 1760 but the Town Records did not confirm this.  They did, however, document the response of the community to a small pox break out that year and I wonder if that is what caused Samuel’s death in May.
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But the real answer lies in Samuel Tompkins’ will.  Or does it?  I have reviewed all of the pages in the Town Records covering the Council minutes, the will, and the inventory done in June of 1760.  None of these records mention slaves or indentured servants.  However, my ancestor is his son Benjamin Tompkins, who receives very little in this will (compared to his siblings) and I don’t know if that means that he was given money or property before Samuel’s death and therefore gets little of the estate.  It is possible that Benjamin was given a slave or indentured servants were transferred to him before 1760.  I am not off the hook yet, I need to look hard at the next generation.
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Grace Elizabeth Tompkins

AVTAlbum5.GraceETompkinsThis week of #52ancestors brings us to Grace Elizabeth Tompkins, eldest daughter of my great grandfather Samuel Dusenbury Tompkins (1839-1926).  I had the wrong birth date in for her but this entry gave me a chance to interview Louise Tompkins about her memories and so I am posting it on 4/10 as opposed to 10/4!

Grace Elizabeth Tompkins was born on 4 October 1869, in Jersey City, New Jersey.  Her parents, Samuel D. and Gettianna Vreeland Tompkins had married the previous year and were settled in residence with her parents, Nicholas and Elizabeth Vreeland.  Educated in Jersey City schools, Grace went on to Vassar College, graduating in 1892.  She returned home to the big family house on Communipaw Ave. where she is listed in the 1900 Census with no occupation, but the society pages of the Jersey Journal mention numerous fancy parties and entertainments both hosted and attended.  She was involved in Vassar alumna events as well as a group called the Odd Volumes which appears to have been a kind of book club.  Louise Tompkins shared her memory of the Odd Volumes: “everyone was a member, Florence (Voorhees), Aunt Lou (Louise Tompkins Voorhees), my mother and grandmother (Ann Van Syckel Tennant and Katharine Tennant Tompkins).  They reviewed books and that sort of thing.”

Diary_GlasgowI know Grace took one extended trip with her mother and sister Louise because she left a diary among her possessions and it has come down to me.  I do not know what year the trip is but it is some time before 1918 as it mentions her mother and Gettianna dies in February 1918.  I think it may be 1907 as the diary starts with a family send off and she mentions that she is sailing on the S. S. Carpathia.  Anyone familiar with the story of the Titanic knows this ship was probably busy in April of 1912 and Grace starts the diary on April 27th.  The diary gives descriptions of ship life, ports of call and also mentions land travel, especially in the British Isles.  I note especially that Grace attended services at Glasgow Cathedral on August 26th, the same cathedral visited by Louise Tompkins and myself over 100 years later on a never-to-be-forgotten visit to the Scottish Highlands.

USSCaroniaAfter her mother’s death in 1918, Grace traveled with her father as well as acting as hostess at various social events at the house on Communipaw Ave. Although I know that Grace traveled abroad extensively before this, one trip caught my attention because it was mentioned in the newspapers.  In 1927, Grace traveled abroad to Europe with an interesting intersection of female relatives: Louise Tompkins Voorhees, Florence Voorhees, Eleanor Tompkins (her niece) and Miss Ethel Hodsdon (a cousin from the Tennant side of the family).

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117 Bentley Ave.

After her father’s death Grace moved from the Communipaw Ave house to a smaller home at 117 Bentley Ave.  I don’t know why she is missing from the 1930 Census but 117 is skipped.  She was in town, as I have stalked her through the newspapers and she is either attending or hosting events in April, 1930 from 117 Bentley Ave. Again, talking to Louise Tompkins gave me a little insight: “Auntie Grace lived up the street from us in a house that was divided.  She had a maid and a chauffeur.  The chauffeur’s name was David, he was a Scotsman and very nice to us children.  We used to roller skate in the driveway because we didn’t have one at our house.” Louise Tompkins also remembered that Grace owned Cocker Spaniels and that she was a very astute investor, like her brothers.

Grace Tompkins eventually moved to 2600 Boulevard (called the Duncan then) to the same building as her sister and niece, Florence Voorhees.  Louise and Grace both had corner apartments on different floors with identical floor plans and sweeping views of the Meadowlands. I remember visiting Florence much later on and thinking she had a lovely view.  Grace died on 26 June 1964 and is buried at Arlington Cemetery in Kearny.  When my brother and I were children, my mother Anne Tompkins Jones and her sister Louise would take us to the cemetery each spring to clean up the landscape around the family plots.  It is a beautiful old cemetery with lovely monuments.  It is also a short drive from the Short Hills Mall but that is another story for another day.

Katharine Van Syckel Tennant Tompkins

This week for the #52Ancestors challenge I am writing about someone I knew: my Granny.  I only knew her for a short while but her daughters (Anne, Mary and Louise) kept her alive in my mind with their stories.  I have some of my own memories as well, although they have the haze of childhood about them.

0013_Tompkins_Katharine_1_resizeKatharine (with an A, thank you) VanSyckel Tennant was the first child born to Anne Vansyckel and George Grant Tennant.  She was born 15 February 1899 in Jersey City where her father and mother lead a fairly high profile life.  George Tennant was a lawyer, judge and member of the school board.  Their social life is tracked in the Jersey Journal quite regularly.

One of the first news articles about Katharine appeared shortly after her birth but was not a birth announcement.  “Miss Tennant’s Musicale” was her first according to the article in the Jersey Journal on 31 May 1899, and although it is remarked that she did attend, the evening was a pleasant one with violin, cello, piano and singing.

Lincoln_High_school_postcard_Large_JCFPLKatharine was soon joined by a brother George Grant Jr. (1900-1982) and a sister Jean Cardiff Tennant (1905-1990).  She and her siblings attended Lincoln High School, which their father was instrumental in establishing. Katharine went on to attend Vassar College, graduating with the class of 1920.  After college she met and married Harold Doremus Tompkins (1888-1951).  Their engagement and wedding were closely tracked by the Jersey Journal, and there seems to be disappointment in the tone of the articles reporting on the parties and ceremony attended only by family and close friends. They stopped in Bermuda on their wedding trip but I’m not sure where else they traveled to, as they were gone three weeks.

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132 Bentley Ave.

Harold and Katharine brought three little girls into the world: my mother Anne Van Syckel Tompkins (1923-1994), Mary Vreeland Tompkins (1925-) and Louise Tompkins (1928-).  They lived at 132 Bentley Avenue in Jersey City.  There were family vacations in Dorset, Vermont, and Central Valley, New York and work with various organizations to fill her time.  In 1940 the family moved from Jersey City to Summit, New Jersey to a big house on Oak Ridge Avenue.  Here Katharine joined the Central Presbyterian Church, the Summit College Club AAUW, the Fortnightly Club, the Vassar College Club and the YWCA.

After Harold’s death in 1951, Katharine moved into smaller quarters at 35 Valley View Ave.  This is the house I remember.  There was a large front yard with several big trees and after drawing a picture on a big white sheet of paper, we would go out to the front yard to collect fallen twigs with which we made a picture frame.  We also ironed pretty fall leaves between pieces of wax paper and other crafty activities.  I think my brother was off playing with some neighborhood boys and these were my consolation prizes.  I also remember tasting Fluffernutter spread here for the first time but my mother insisted that Granny would never have fed me such garbage, so I guess we’ll just have to disagree on that.

Katherine Tompkins died at home on 1 February 1972.  Her heart had never been strong and one night it just gave out.  The funeral on the 5th was at Central Presbyterian and she is buried next to her husband in Arlington Cemetery, Kearny.  I don’t remember the funeral but I do remember the trip to the cemetery which I thought very disturbing.  For over a decade after, every spring vacation was spent in Princeton with Louise Tompkins and we would trek up to the cemetery on the way to spring shopping at the Short Hills Mall.  The ivy growing on their grave was tenacious and we would trim and thin it (by we I mean my brother and I would watch my mother and aunt do this) and haul the cuttings to the trash.  It is my understanding that the ivy has been removed in the name of landscaping, and I can’t say I’m sorry.

Happy Birthday, Katharine Van Syckel Tennant Tompkins!

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Eugene Tompkins

Well, it took three weeks but I finally got Research Scope Creep.  You know what I mean.  That moment when you completely ignore the #52Ancestors project criteria (find one new thing on one person on your family tree) and gleefully go down the rabbit hole, gathering bits and pieces as you go.  Three hours later, you are banging your head against the desk and crying “I know I found three new census records, his marriage record and four city directory entries, but I WANT his obituary!”

It wasn’t pretty folks, but I pulled back, hunkered down and entered what I had into RootsMagic and called “time.”  So here goes:

Tompkins_Eugene_portrait2Eugene Tompkins was born in 1855 to Abraham Van Wangenin and Caroline Brown Tompkins.  Abraham and Caroline lived in Dutchess County, New York, on a farm outside of Hyde Park.  This family is another source of genealogical frustration for me as the Tompkins are rife in Dutchess County and the surrounding area and each generation named their children after their favorite siblings, creating confusing swirls of Michaels, Rachels, James, Anns, Gilberts and Johns.  To make it even more frustrating, Abraham dies at a relatively early age in 1869, and his children are dispersed throughout the Tompkins clan.  So I found Eugene easily enough in the 1860 and 1870 Census but I had let the search drop several years ago in the face of easier quarry.

My initial task for the #52Ancestors challenge was to find Eugene Tompkins in the 1880 Census.  I re-searched on Dutchess County with no luck.  I then broadened the search to include surrounding counties.  After weeding out all the wrong Eugenes, I was left with the question “did the census taker really get his information that wrong, or is he just not in New York?”  I went back to the sibling list and followed his oldest brother, my great, great grandfather Samuel Dusenbury Tompkins, to New Jersey.  At the time of the 1880 Census, Samuel is living in Jersey City, NJ with his wife and three children and his youngest brother James Tompkins.  But no Eugene.  So I followed one of Amy Johnson Crow’s “5 Online Search Strategies…” and searched on Eugene Tompkins, born NY in 1855, living anywhere and BINGO.  Top of the list is a guy living in Colorado.  Who knew?

Well, it turns out that several of Abraham’s sons went west to Colorado, but that is a story for another day and another blog.  This story is going to wrap up what I now know about Eugene.  Which is not everything I want to know but THAT IS NOT THE EXERCISE.

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I found Eugene living in Denver in the 1900 Census with his wife Arizona.  They have two children, Mabel and Percy both of whom are born in Colorado.  And potentially, they appear to be living with Arizona’s parents.  Mabel E. Tompkins was born in August of 1883, so I looked for a marriage in 1882 and found an entry in an index for 1882.  Eugene is employed as a shipping clerk, which was probably a good job to have on the frontier, as Denver still was in 1900.

By 1910, the family has added some new strings for me to follow up on:  Eugene is the  manager of a wholesale fruit company, Arizona and Percy are at home, Mabel has married and buried a husband named Warhurst and Arizona’s mother has moved in with them.  Ancestry coerced me into clicking on one of their leaves and I found a potential death date through a Find A Grave entry and most interesting of all, a city directory listing for Eugene and Mary A. Tompkins as President and vice president of a brokerage firm “Tompkins Brokerage Co.”

The Denver Public Library has an awesome newspaper obituary index up on their page and through this I was able to glean obituary information on Eugene.  He died at home on 26 October 1927 and is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery.  Interestingly, Mabel is listed as Mabel E. Stewart, so perhaps another husband?

So many links and possibilities.  But time has been called.  I did not find Eugene in the 1880 Census.  I have some really good leads on where to go next and maybe next year I will do #52Ancestorfollowups but this year I am stopping now.  Happy Birthday, Eugene Tompkins!

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