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:
Eugene 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.
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!