Harold Doremus Tompkins

I never met either my maternal or my paternal grandfathers.  This week in #52Ancestors I attempt to get to know a man about whom I have only heard stories.

Harold Doremus Tompkins was born 17 February 1888 to Samuel D. (1838-1926) and Gettianna Vreeland (1841-1918) Tompkins.  He was the youngest child of seven, 5 of whom lived to adulthood.  As his oldest sister was born almost nineteen years before him, many of the stories I have heard are of the “darling little baby of the family” variety.  Certainly, this picture puts his position in perspective.  His siblings were literally adults by the time he was old enough to know what was what.

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Hasbrouck Institute In September 1893 the Hasbrouck Institute opened at the corner of Crescent and Harrison Avenues, now the site of Lincoln High School, with 305 students. The school first opened at 53-55 Mercer Street when it was founded in 1856. It then relocated to the Lyceum Classical School (1839-59) founded by William L. Dickinson at 109 Grand Street. Washington Hasbrouck (c. 1824-1895) established the private school with the goal to prepare young men in Jersey City for university and later public service. In 1880, the school became coed. The Jersey City Board of Education purchased the Hasbrouck Institute and grounds in 1912 and erected a new high school: Lincoln High School.

Harold was baptized at Lafayette Church in Jersey City, NJ and attended the local public school, and the Hasbrouck Institute for high school.  He took classes at Rutgers University, attending long enough to join Delta Phi fraternity like his older brother Vreeland.  He then went on to study mechanical engineering at Cornell University.  I am not sure how he had time as his senior yearbook also has him playing baseball, football, lacrosse, and being a member of the Mandolin Club.

After college he returned to Jersey City, where he was active in local activities, especially amateur sports.  He served with the New Jersey National Guard in the signal corps and I have seen one mention of his serving in the Mexican Expedition in 1916 but I have not verified that he actually went to Mexico to take part in the US response to Pancho Villa’s Mexican Revolution.

However, his service there does seem to have made it possible for him to get a commission as a lieutenant in Company C, 101th Signal Battalion, 29th Division.  As commonly occured during World War I, companies were reorganized constantly.  I found a mention of Harold in the History of the 29th Division which placed him in Company A, 104th Signal Corp, where he was in charge of the company that set up the communications net used to communicate the news each day.   He served in France and remained there after the war to take classes at the University of Bordeaux.

By 1920, he is back in Jersey City living with his father Samuel and working at Smooth-On.  He is 32 years old at this point and the family tells the story that his older sister told him that he needed to “grow up, get married and get out.”  As the baby of the family, I imagine this was received with due respect (ha, ha) but he managed to meet, get engaged to and marry Katharine Van Syckel Tennant, so he must have taken it to hear.  They were married 4 November 1922.

Tompkins_Tennant_wedding_Jersey_Journal_1922-11-06_8Harold and Katharine Tompkins had three children: Anne Van Syckel (1923-1994), Mary Vreeland (1925- ) and Louise (1928-).  By the 1930 Census, they are living at 132 Bentley Ave., close to family but on their own.  Shortly after 1940, the entire family moved to Summit, New Jersey to a large house at 160 Oakridge Avenue.  Many adventures occurred in this house, but I only knew about the house Granny moved into after he died, on Valley View Rd.

Harold D. Tompkins died on 27 November 1951 and is buried at Arlington Cemetery in Kearny, NJ.

Lillie Jones

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Lillie Jones

I like to find ancestors with my birth date. It doesn’t happen very often but this week in #52Ancestors I get to come pretty close with Lillie Jones Weest.  I also got to follow leads presented when the person I was searching for disappeared from one census family and appeared in another.

Lillie Jones was born on 6 August 1867 to Benjamin and Mary Elizabeth Carrell Jones in Pemberton, New Jersey. She was baptized in 1868 at Grace Episcopal Church in Pemberton.

In 1870, she is living with the Jones family in Pemberton but in 1880 she is living with someone who gives me a clue about her mother’s family!!!!

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She is listed with a Joseph and Anna P. “Scraggy” and she her relationship to them is niece.  I don’t know how I missed this the first time around but thank you #52Ancestors!  This time I followed the lead as the Jones family is not linked to the Scraggy family.  It turns out it is the Scroggy family.  And Joseph is a Civil War veteran married to Anna P. Carrel.  Could this be Mary Elizabeth’s sister?   Joseph Scroggy is also enumerated in the 1885 New Jersey census with Annie P. and Lillie Jones.

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I am not sure why Lillie is not living with her birth family but I can’t argue with the records.  She is also with them in 1895.  Thank goodness for state census records!  They really fill the gap caused by the absence of the 1890 Federal Census. And this one presents another clue to the Carrel family: Eliza Carrel (aged over 60) is living with the Scroggy family as well as Lillie!  Mary Carrell Jones’ mother’s name was Eliza.

Now a little sleuthing work because Lillie Jones disappears.  A few newspaper leads on other family members lead me to the discovery that she married a man named George B. Weest.  This name really confounds many database searches which seem to have been programmed to ignore double vowels: I got a lot of unrelated West returns.  Lillie Weest appears in the 1910 Census in Pemberton living with husband George B. and daughter Mary.  They are living with George’s mother and sister.  Mary is noted as born in New York but I view this with suspicion as the record also shows her father is born in New York when two lines up he is clearly born in New Jersey.

Weest_George_advertisement_The_Fair_Haven_Era_Thu__Jun_7__1900_I did find George in the 1900 Census, living alone in the town of Hampton, NY.  This is right across the Vermont border from Poultney where a newspaper search shows that George has acquired a business.  A little more sleuthing unearths the news that 1910 marked the return of the family to New Jersey from Vermont.  In focusing on that I found that Mary was born in 1901 in Vermont according to her death certificate (dated 1957 in Pennsylvania from a brain tumor).

The family settled in Pemberton where George opens a machine shop.  George died in 1937 about a month after their 37th wedding anniversary.  I have yet to find a marriage record but a newspaper story confirms this date.  Jones_Lillie_marriage_The_Fair_Haven_Era_Thu__Feb_8__1900_And the newspaper is one of the best sources of information on Lillie, other than the Census.  Mary was apparently active in the Burlington County community, attending her friends weddings and holding parties.  Lillie is often noted as attending as well.  In the 1940 Census their household consists of Lillie, Mary and a boarder named William Sullivan and in 1941 he married Mary.

Lillie Jones Weest died 2 January 1946 and is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery in Pemberton.

I was able to fill in many blanks as I worked on this entry for #52Ancestors but I still have questions, which is probably why this exercise is so important.  I will continue to search for Lillie but one of my New Jersey relatives probably has several clues that will help fill in the blanks and now with this blog, they know what I want to know:

  • why did Lillie go to live with her aunt and uncle?  Too many Jones mouths to feed? Or was Anna frail and in need of help?
  • did the marriage of George and Lillie occur in NY or Vermont?
  • is there a better death notice than the tiny one that appears in the Philadelphia Inquirer?
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George B. Weest, Lillie Jones Weest and their daughter Mary Weest