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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Ellsworth Lewis

My challenge this for this weeks’ #52Ancestors is Ellsworth Lewis, my great, great grandmother’s brother.  The Lewis family is for me, one of those family lines that comes to you rife with stories and suppositions but very little fact.  I have, in an earlier blog, written about Moses K. Wells who married Florence Lewis.  Florence was one of six children and her younger siblings all have great names that should make it so easy to find them in records.

I had a birth date for Ellsworth but nothing else.  According to the Census, he spent his entire life in Pemberton, Burlington County, New Jersey.  Sadly, I discovered that his story abruptly ends in 1890.  On 15 May 1890, he married Keziah Platt in the First Methodist Church at Mount Holly.  And by 14 August 1890, he is dead.  Someday on a trip to the New Jersey State Archives, I will look up his death certificate and find out what happened and where he is buried.  That is for another day.Lewis_Ellsworth_marriage_1890_crop

Interestingly enough, the part that really caught my attention was the difficulty most of my search engines and databases had with variant spellings of Ellsworth (Ellesworth, Elsworth).  It is important to remember that not all databases work the way Ancestry does.  If at first you don’t get any hits, try again.  Many locally produced systems operate on a “what you type is what you get” system which can be frustrating for those used to Ancestry’s algorithms.

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The prompt for this week’s #52ancestors was invite to dinner.  Hmmm, I think I would invite Ellsworth and his new bride Keziah and gently grill them on all the local gossip!

Happy Birthday, Ellsworth!

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Catherine Fisher Mount Perrine

Mount_Peter_Catherine_CemeteryMonumentOne of my most prolific lines in the Mount family.  This is an old, old, old New Jersey family, coming over from England before New Jersey was even a state.  They are also one of those families that had at least ten children per marriage and named each child after a beloved sister or brother, so the names circle around and around, and I have to chart out each person to figure just who they are and who their immediate kin are.  As part of my 2018 #52Ancestors challenge to do something on one person each week, I am inspired by Catherine’s birthday this week to look at her a bit more closely.

I have just the barest facts on Catherine.  She was born on 4 January 1859 to Thomas Hiram and Catherine Fisher Mount and was one of their twelve children.  She married Peter Voorhees Perrine on 2 January 1883 in Hightstown and they have two boys, Charles M. and Thomas A.  Sadly, Thomas A. comes into the world in 1891 and leaves it in 1892, a common occurrence in the nineteenth century, but it must have been devastating, nonetheless. She died suddenly on 8 January 1929 and is buried in the Cranbury Cemetery (also known as Brainerd Cemetery).

Census records can give a glimpse into the lives of our ancestors, but the five to ten year gaps between them are frustrating.  From the Census I can glean that Peter V. Perrine was a farmer, son of a farmer, trained his son to be a farmer.  Catherine was a farmer’s wife.  The 1910 Census tells me that she did indeed have two children, only one living by 1910.  But what about the in between times?  Here, I find newspaper archives to be more entertaining.  Small town, big city, rural community, whatever, newspapers are a treasure trove of the bits and pieces of our forebears lives.

It is from the Trenton Times that I discovered that Peter and Catherine were active members of the First Baptist Church in Hightstown.  In 1914, the church held a harvest celebration and Peter was on the decorating committee.  And in 1916, the Perrines lent their support to a lecture series through the Chautauqua on “Community Welfare.” A family birthday celebration in 1913 gives me a few more clues about siblings and relationships.  While it is odd to note what gets into the paper, if you look beyond obituaries and marriage notices, you can find all sorts of things.

This year’s challenge lead me to obituaries for both Peter and Catherine, giving me more information than I had previously had.  So Happy Birthday, Catherine!

The Mysterious George Cardiff

I found George Cardiff in the 1870 Census in Jersey City living at the same address as Thomas Tennant.  At first, I didn’t even notice him.  I wasn’t looking for him, I had actually just found Thomas after quite a search (he’s indexed as Tannant).  Thomas Tennant was married to a Hannah Cardiff, but I know very little about Hannah.  In searching for other Cardiff’s in Jersey City, I was curious about this George. There is a fifteen year age difference between Hannah and George, which could make them siblings, cousins or completely unrelated.

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George Cardiff (b. 1815, Ireland) appears in the 1870 Census with his wife Jane (b. 1814, Scotland) and two little girls, Emily Jane (b. 1844, New York) and Mary (b. 1847, New York).  The records of the Emigrant Savings Bank account that he opened in 1864 provide a treasure trove of information about George.  The Emigrant Savings Bank is the oldest savings bank in New York City, founded in 1850 by members of the Irish Emigrant Society.  Their records reside at the New York Public Library and have been digitized.  In these records George opens an account in February 1864 and his entry notes that he is living at 420 Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn where he is employed as a porter.  The record also states that his birth year is 1815 and that he was born in County Carlow, Ireland.  George arrived in 1841 on the St. Martin and is married to Jane Bain, with two daughters, Emily and Mary.  In 1882, the record is amended to allow access to Mary Cardiff, born 1847 daughter of George and Margaret Baker.

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Much of the information in the bank record can be corroborated in other records.  George Cardiff appears on the passenger list of the St. Martin, arriving in New York harbor on 23 June 1841.  An M. Baker also appears on that list and this may be George’s first wife, Margaret Baker.  George and Margaret join the First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn in 1843, with the still confusing notation on page 2 of that record that says dismissed 16 May 1855 to Presbyterian Church of Davenport Iowa.  This cannot be corroborated but the notation about Margaret’s death on 20 February 1949 can be.  George marries Jane Bain (b. 1814, Scotland) on 23 April 1850.  Margaret is alive for the baptism of Emily Jane at the 1st Presbyterian Church on 14 May 1847 but not for Mary’s baptism which appears to be delayed by Margaret’s illness.  Mary’s baptismal record notes her mother’s name as Margaret but her middle name is entered as Bain.

Although George Cardiff and family appear in both the 1850 and 1860 Census in Brooklyn, by 1866 they are living at 83 Railroad Avenue in the same house as the Tennants.  This could be due to George needing to find work.  Through city directories and census records his job changes from porter to clerk to porter to signalman.  Interestingly, both George and daughter Mary are in Jersey City when she is added to the Emigrant Savings Bank account although she is at 107 Sussex St and he is living at 66 Sussex.  Unfortunately, they are not living at these addresses in the 1880 Census and do not appear in any index.  George Cardiff appears to have retired by 1890, as he appears in the West New Brighton city directory living with his son in law Edward D. Clark and daughter Emily Jane.  A death notice gives his death date as 27 October 1895, and notes his burial at Moravian Cemetery in Richmond.

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While it is possible that George Cardiff and Hannah Cardiff Tennant are not related in any way, there are too many points of contact throughout their lives to rule out a connection.  What that connection is, remains to be seen.

Emily Jane marries Edward Dodge Clark on 26 September 1876, setting up housekeeping in Castleton, on Staten Island.  They have two sons, George Morton Clark (b. 1878) and Herbert Congdon Clark (1882-1937).  The Clark line continues through George M. with two sons, Raymond Dodge Clark (1906-1988) and Donald Elias Clark (1915-2009).  Perhaps the children of Raymond D. Clark and Grace Lillian Bertsch have evidence of their great-great-grandfather, George Cardiff.

One document or piece of evidence may be all that is needed to solve the mystery of George Cardiff.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Anna Mary “Annie” Wells

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Annie W. Jones with Barclay

Annie Wells was born on 2 December 1878 at Pemberton in Burlington County, New Jersey to Moses K. and Florence Wells.  She married Arthur Wells Jones (1875-1936) on 3 July 1900 at Pemberton.  The couple had one child, Barclay Gibbs Jones, born 30 May 1902.  Annie died in 1962 and is buried in the Odd Fellows cemetery in Burlington County.

In the 1880 census, Annie is listed with her parents in Pemberton.  In 1900, Annie was living in Camden, N.J. as a boarder in the Stacy Gibbs household.  She and her sister, Mattie Horner, are working as “sewing operators.” Arthur is also living in the household and is listed as a cousin to Stacy Gibbs.  By 1920, Annie and Arthur had settled into their home on north 40th St. in Camden.  After Arthur’s death, Annie moved back to Pemberton and appears in the 1940 Census at 20 Hough St., the home of Florence Wells.

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I don’t know much more about Annie.  Where was she employed as a sewing operator?

 

Moses K. Wells

I recently had a wonderful visit with a cousin on my dad’s side.  She shared some fun stories about her memories of my father and then asked some questions.  This blog is my attempt to put what I know about Moses K. Wells and his descendants into perspective.  Please comment if you have additional information, and help me find the sources that would illustrate his story.

Moses K. Wells was born on 4 June 1854, probably in Pemberton, New Jersey to Samuel and Abigail D. Wells.  He married Florence Virginia Lewis (b. 13 October 1859, d. 1947) on 8 January 1877 at Birmingham, in Burlington County.  According to the census, he was a tinsmith.  He died on 12 August 1925 in Pemberton and is buried at the Odd Fellows Cemetery.   The gravestone marks both his and Florence’s resting place.

Moses and Florence had four children: Anna Mary “Annie” Wells, Harvey S. Wells, Willard K. Wells and Mattie Wells.  I am descended from his daughter Annie.

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I don’t know a lot about Moses, partly because the records are no online.  What was his position in the community of Burlington County?  Did he own property?  Run a business? Where did he live and is the house still standing?  Are there pictures, if not?