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).

117BentleyAve
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.

Daniel Vreeland

This week in #52ancestors I am simply trying to fill in a few blanks.  I know I don’t have the full story, but I may never have the full story on this family.  I have branches of my family tree that frustrate me, some challenge me, some just irritate me.   The Vreelands exhaust me.  There are so many of them and they all have the same first and last names and no one cares about the women, beyond whom they marry and whether there are male children.  Okay, I know, cry me a river already.

The Vreelands arrive in the area now known as Jersey City, Hoboken and Bayonne in the 17th century.  They bring their talent for farming and their strong business sense and their shear fecundity.  Each direct ancestor in my line has at least ten children, although the rate of infant mortality is astonishing.  I think this is one of the reasons that the same names are used over and over.

My great, great, grandfather Nicholas Vreeland (1789-1873) had nine such brothers and sisters.  It is the next youngest, Daniel Vreeland, that I write about today.

Daniel Vreeland was born on 27 February 1791 in Jersey City to Michael (1758-1825) and Geertje Sickles (d. 1815) Vreeland.  Of course, it wasn’t Jersey City then, but Bergen, which was part of Bergen County.  On 23 January 1813, Daniel married Cornelia Newkirk.  They had seven children, all of whom were born in Bergen: Jane (1813-1895), Michael D. Vreeland (1817-1893), Aaron N. (1819-1901), Gertrude Sickles (1822-1909), Cornelius V. R. (1825-1894), Nicholas D. (1828-?) and Daniel S. (1831-?).

1850AgNJCensus
1850 Agricultural Census analysis

I have found the family in each Census since 1830, simple farmers in a large farming community.  Unfortunately, because I have been unable to look at an agricultural census for New Jersey that lists individual farms, I have had to rely on statistical data like the 1850 and 1860 analyses of agricultural produce.

 

1860AgNJCensus
1860 Agricultural Census Analysis

This, and the value of the family farm in 1860, $25,000 in real estate, lead me to believe that the farm was productive.  If it was part of the Vreeland celery farms collective, I do not know, but these seem to have been well respected.

 

Daniel Vreeland died on 22 August 1867 and the funeral was held at the home of his grandson, William H. Speer, who was the son-in-law of Daniel’s oldest daughter Jane.   Daniel left a will, which was quite helpful in spelling out his children’s marital status and favor in his sight.  His wife Cornelia was to receive a money through a trust administered by their oldest son Michael.  The first five children receive equal shares outright.  Daniel S. Vreeland is to receive one share in trust to be distributed “from time to time.” One share was to be held in trust for the “use and benefit of the children of Nicholas D. Vreeland the net income thereof to be paid to them from time to time according to the discretion of my said executors.”

Vreeland_Daniel_ProbateWill_1867_1
Daniel Vreeland Will 1867

Nicholas D. and Daniel S. Vreeland have been hard to track through public records, but both seem to have had trouble maintaining themselves and their families.  This may be the reason they are excluded from a direct legacy in the will.  Nicholas appears to have fought in the Civil War in the 22nd Regiment, NJ Volunteers.  He is hard to track in the Census but when he is listed his occupation is carpenter and he is enumerated within another family household.  He appears in newspaper entries as running a public house which has a contentious relationship with law enforcement.  He  may appear in city directories as a garden farm laborer.  He and his wife Catherine are mentioned occasionally due to very public marital problems.  Daniel is also enumerated with family with an occupation of wheelwright but he also appears in newspapers on drunk and disorderly reports.  He also may appear in city directories as a gardener.  It is something to follow up on but I have seen enough Civil War veteran stories to think that these two might be suffering from what we now think of as PTSD.  At the very least, they do not seem to have come home and settled back happily on the farm.

Cornelia followed her husband in death on 30 March 1870, and again, the funeral is from the home of William H. Speer.  Both Cornelia and Daniel are buried in the Old Bergen churchyard in Jersey City.  It is possible that Nicholas and Daniel are buried nearby but more information is needed to make that certain.  Always more to do!

 

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.

BentleyAve_132_JerseyCity_ca1925_resize
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!

Happy-Birthday-Write-On-Ballon-Graphic

My Tennant conundrum

When I first started putting my family tree together, my mother’s side had all sorts of information gathered by my uncle and various other Tompkins, Van Syckel and Mount family members.  But one line really tested my genealogical mettle: the Tennants.  The direct line back was clear, as this simple family chart shows.

Tennant_decent

However, when I turned the tree around and tried to work out the siblings and other details, I constantly ran into people I had never heard of, and connections I couldn’t quite make.  This line is one that I come back to every six months or so to plug in a random search in Google or Ancestry just to see if anything new has come up.  I don’t have all the pieces yet and I am not sure I ever will.  The family story is that we are Scots-Irish through this line.  Thomas Tennant clearly identifies on every census as born in Ireland, and I think I have found a connection to County Carlow.  However, the family lived in Jersey City, New Jersey, and I can find no links to the very Irish Catholic community there.  In fact, I find that Thomas, and his son George, seem to have distanced themselves from the “Irish element” as much as possible.

Jersey City history fascinates me.  From its Dutch settlement in the 17th century, on into the 21st century, the city plays an important role as a conduit through which immigrants first settled, then passed through on their way west.  Street names highlight the early Dutch families, Revolutionary heroes and railroad history so central to Jersey City’s place in the 19th century transportation explosion.  Although the Tennants appear on the scene at the mid-century point, their story is one of settlement and achievement.

JerseyCity_1848

I am going to focus on Thomas and Hannah in this essay, with later essays going into greater detail about their children.  That way if people have bits to add, they can do so closest to the person or family.

Thomas Tennant was born in 1824 in Ireland.  His naturalization records date his arrival in the US as April 1847 and sometime between then and 1852 he marries Hannah Cardiff (I have yet to find a marriage record but their first child is born in 1853, so…).  I find Thomas and Hannah in the Census from 1860 to 1895 (US and NJ census, that is) with Thomas listed as a carpenter first and then a foreman with the railroad from 1870 on.  I cannot find either Thomas or Hannah in the 1850 Census, even though I have paged through the Jersey City part of Hudson County one name at a time. Thomas’ city directory entries start in the 1860’s and corroborate the census occupations.  He is listed as a member of Hercules Engine No. 3, a fire company formed in 1844, along with several neighbors and I also find him listed as a Mason in the Enterprise Lodge No. 48, of which his son George G. Tennant was also a member.  His story is the quintessential “start with nothing and by shear determination build a life”.

I know less about Hannah Tennant ne Cardiff.  She appears in records primarily as Thomas’s wife or as the mother of children.  Hannah’s New Jersey death certificate gives some interesting details about her:  born in Ireland, resided in New Jersey for 45 years by 1896 and parents John and Martha Cardiff.  And speaking of children, here was my greatest surprise: Thomas and Hannah appear to have had ten children!  Sadly only three survive to adulthood, but the birth and death records have lead me to other records and further insights into the lives of Hannah and Thomas.  Initially, I found many of the children listed in Ancestry’s Births and Christenings of New Jersey, but had no idea what records were providing that information.  Later, I found that many of their children were baptized and buried through various Episcopal churches in Jersey City.

Tennant_Thomas

According to church records, Thomas and Hannah are buried with their infant children in Bayview-New York Bay Cemetery.  I visited the cemetery and found the monument in the section “O.”  There is one monument for the entire family, with Thomas and Hannah listed on the front, the children on the left side and what appear to be Thomas’ parents listed on the right.  The cemetery office has a burial record for Thomas’s mother Eliza (Elizabeth), but no burial for Robert.  It may be that he is not buried in the United States.

Bayview_Tennant_Monument_front_2017-12-27_crop

Thomas and Hannah lived at addresses on Newark Ave, Railroad Ave, and finally 4th St., all of which have drastically changed over the years but I have found images of Railroad Ave contemporary to their lives.

81RailroadAvenue_20Dec1909

I would also like to know whether Hannah came to this country alone or as part of a family group.  Did she come already attached to (married to) Thomas?  Did they come from the same area in Ireland?  I don’t know much about her, but Hannah calls to me.  What a struggle of a life she must have lived, so many babies, so many deaths, and yet her son George grew up to be a lawyer and judge and is counted as a force in the development of public education in Jersey City.  Others must have other parts of this story and I hope that by writing this, I have created a place where people can add what they know.