This week in #52Ancestors brings me to my namesake, Louise Tompkins. Emma Louise Tompkins was the youngest daughter of Samuel D. and Gettianna Vreeland Tompkins. She was born 11 October 1881 in Jersey City, New Jersey. She lived with her parents at 533 Communipaw Ave. and there are many newspaper articles describing her participation in family trips and Jersey City social events. She may also have been something of a singer, as there is a Louise Tompkins who is listed as soloist for various church and social gatherings. She appears to have preferred Louise to Emma when she had the choice but occasionally there will be a record that refers to her as Emma. All the family stories I heard growing up referred to her as “Aunt Lou.”
One such record is her marriage to John J. Voorhees on 23 November 1918. John J. or Jack as he was called, took over his father’s company, the Voorhees Rubber Company. He was born on 9 April 1876 and had been educated in Jersey City at the Lafayette College. He married first Florence Eliot Voorhees (no relation) who was the daughter of Abraham and Martha Voorhees of New Brunswick, New Jersey. They had one daughter, Florence Eliot Voorhees (1908-2000). Florence died tragically in a carriage accident on 16 July 1910. The family was traveling in a horse drawn carriage when a train rattled through on the tracks below the street. The horse bolted and dragged the carriage over the embankment. Florence was killed and her husband and daughter were both injured.
Louise and Florence lived together after the death of Jack on 23 December 1948. At some point they moved out of the house on Duncan Ave. and moved across the street to the apartment building on the opposite corner. Louise Voorhees died 13 February 1971 and is buried at Arlington Cemetery.
This week in #52Ancestors I took the opportunity to put several people into context, as George Grant Tennant is one of the few Tennant children who lived to adulthood.
George Grant Tennant was the son of Thomas and Hannah Cardiff Tennant, born 1 Feb 1869 in Jersey City. He was baptized at St. Mark’s Chapel, Jersey City. George was educated in the public schools, namely Public School No. 1 and later the High School, from which he graduated in 1888. He graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1891 and was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1892 as an attorney and as a counselor in 1895. He went into practice with John W. Queen.
George Tennant married Zora McBurney (1863 or 1869-1895) on 1 June 1893. She died shortly after the birth of their son Donald McBurney Tennant (5 June 1895-22 January 1896). Both mother and child are buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
George married again on 12 April 1898 in Jersey City to Anne Van Syckel daughter of Chester and Mary Jane Mount Van Syckel. Anne Van Syckel was born 23 Aug 1870 in Flemington, New Jersey and baptized in 1883 at Flemington Baptist Church. She attended Vassar College and graduated in 1893. We have wonderful photographs of her playing a part in a Greek play, which I have now learned was Antigone.
George Tennant was a member of the New Jersey House of Assembly from 1900 to 1902. His candidate bio in the Jersey Journal in 1899 stated that he was one of the most popular young Democrats in the Ninth Ward. At that time he attended the First Presbyterian Church, where he taught Sunday School. A year later, when he ran again, the paper was a little less supportive, as an article appearing in the Jersey Journal of 1 November 1900 spent two columns shredding Tennant and everything he had stated in print that year. He served as the president of the Jersey City Board of Education from 1908 to 1913.
Tennant was a friend of Jersey City Mayor H. Otto Wittpenn and assisted in the nomination of Woodrow Wilson for President in 1912. In 1913, George Tennant was appointed a Common Pleas judge by Governor James F. Fielder, serving from 1913 to 1918. Towards the end of his lift he became a member of the Old Bergen Reformed Church and was active in the Everyman’s Bible Class there. He was also a 32nd degree Mason and a member of the Scottish Rite.
Anne Tennant was active in the Jersey City College Club and was a member of the Odd Volumes Club, a sort of social book club to which many of the Tompkins women also belonged. George and Anne vacationed in Dorset, Vermont.
Anne died at home (613 Bergen Ave.) on 9 March 1938 and is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. George died at Lea Haven, a nursing home in Madison, NJ while recovering from an appendectomy on 3 February 1948 and is also buried in Green-Wood.
Once again I select a name for my #52ancestors essay so unusual that I should have no trouble picking up the thread of his life story. And once again, I re-learn the lesson about common words in names and geographic location. This time I picked Francis Mumford Gibbs.
Francis was born on 17 September 1898, most likely in Burlington County, NJ but also possibly Monmouth as that is where the family is living in 1895, to Barclay White (1868-1957) and Elizabeth Watts Jones (1873-1900) Gibbs. He was the youngest of three children but the only one to see his thirtieth birthday. His sister Mattie J. Gibbs was born in 1892 but died in 1919 and his brother Elton Russell was born in 1894 but died in 1917. Their mother, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jones Gibbs died in 1900.
The family moved to Philadelphia, where Barclay worked as a machinist and there Barclay married Jennie S. Greenwood on 12 November 1902. Ten years later the family is living in York, PA where Barclay Gibbs was employed by Gulf Gas and Oil as a manager. It is in York that the family lost both Mattie and Elton, Mattie to tuberculosis and Elton to a heart defect. Francis married York native Margaret Elmira Herman sometime around 1925. Francis also seems to have moved around a lot as each of their four children are born in different places:
William Bruce Gibbs (1926-1954) b. Philadelphia
Francis Mumford Gibbs Jr. (1930-2012) b. Michigan
Barclay White Gibbs 2nd (1933-2010) b. Camden, NJ
John H. Gibbs (1936- ) Trenton?, NJ
Francis eventually settled in Trenton, NJ where he worked for a company called Thermoid, which made rubber brake pads. The children all appear to have come of age in Hamilton township.
Francis died suddenly from a heart attack on 25 April 1959. He is buried in Ewing Cemetery and shares a headstone with William Bruce, who tragically died in an automobile accident in 1954.
The most complicated part of investigating this story was the family name: the Gibbs family is an old and fertile family in New Jersey and many of the branches named their children after other branches. The name Barclay, for instance, pops up all over the place, most likely because it too is a place name. Most concentrated in Burlington and Camden counties, which made parsing out this line more difficult than I expected. Also, I came to realize that Francis Mumford Gibbs may have gotten his name from his mother’s sister Susan Gibbs Jones, who married Francis Mumford, whom I know absolutely nothing about. But that is for another essay.
This week in #52ancestors I celebrate the man who left New York for New Jersey and made it possible for me to spend every spring break of my childhood shopping at the Short Hills Mall. And the theme for Week 36 is “Work” which I am going to interpret as “creating the family business.” I still have wooden Smooth On crates in my house which are so useful for so many storage needs.
This is yet another story with a lot of questions, but here is what I have:
Samuel Dusenbury Tompkins was born 12 Dec 1838 in Hyde Park, NY. He was the oldest child of Abraham Van Wagenen (1816-1869) and Caroline Brown (1818-1878) Tompkins. They went on to have eight more children, which probably helped with the work on the small farm Abraham owned in Dutchess County. For several years I have been searching for corroboration of the marriage date of Abraham and Caroline. The family bible notes that the marriage occurred on 22 Feb 1839. This makes the date of birth of the first child in 1838 a bit sticky. Thank goodness for the New York State Historic Newspapers project! I found a marriage notice in the Poughkeepsie Eagle for 9 March 1838 which names all the right people and gives the marriage date as 21 Feb 1838.
Samuel’s obituary mentions that he came to Jersey City when he married Gettianna Vreeland, daughter of Nicholas and Elizabeth Van Riper Vreeland. They were married 2 January 1868 in Bergen, NJ at her parents’ residence by Rev. B. C. Taylor. The couple had seven children, five of whom lived to adulthood.
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)
In fact, the couple lived with Nicholas Vreeland and family in Bergen for the first few years of their marriage. They are enumerated there in the 1870 Census and Samuel appears in Jersey City directories as early as 1872 with the occupation “storage.” This aligns with a newspaper article which describes the complete loss of a New York city warehouse in 1872, resulting in the loss of stored cotton, grain and tobacco. By 1876, Samuel is listed as a real estate broker, although the residence is still listed as Communipaw n Vreeland. In the 1880 Census, Samuel and family have been joined by brother James L Tompkins, down from Dutchess County, NY.
In 1895, Samuel founded the Smooth-On Manufacturing Company to manufacture a chemical iron compound by that name. I have always been told that Samuel was the businessman and backed the company with his own money and experience, while his son Vreeland was the chemist and the creator of Smooth-On. Evidence, however, indicates that he was involved in inventing and designing as early as 1885, as he was the one who filed for a patent for the design for a radiator in 1885 with John Matlock. And in 1905, his patent for a boiler patch states that he is the inventor. He is also listed in 1895 as the treasurer of the A. A. Griffins Iron Co. in Jersey City. Diverse holdings makes for good business.
Samuel Tompkins was active in the Bergen Reformed Church and was listed as deacon from 1912 to 1914. He was also a member of the Free and Accepted Masons Zeredatha Lodge No. 131. His grown children were active in Jersey City social events and he, as well as his daughters, entertained regularly according to the Jersey Journal.
Samuel D. Tompkins died at home on 1 January 1926. His funeral was held at his home, 533 Communipaw Ave. He was buried in the family plot of the burying ground opposite the Old Bergen Church. Later, due to the cemetery being demolished, the burials of Samuel and his wife Gettieanna were removed to Arlington Cemetery, in Kearny, NJ.
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.
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.
Harold 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.
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!!!!
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.
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.
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. 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?
This week in #52Ancestors I am continuing to build out what I know about the five Tompkins siblings who were the children of Samuel Dusenbury and Gettianna Vreeland Tompkins. Of the five who survived to adulthood, Vreeland Tompkins was the oldest, born 8 December 1870 in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Vreeland was educated at Public School No. 12 and the Hasbrouck Institute, in Jersey City. He graduated from Rutgers University in 1893 and was a member of Delta Phi fraternity. After graduation he was employed as a chemist at Standard Oil Co., Bergen Port Works. In 1895, he founded the Smooth-On Manufacturing Company, with his father serving as President and himself as lead chemist. Vreeland invented the product Smooth-On was an iron cement compound. I have a childhood memory of bookcases in our house and Louise Tompkins’ house which were made from the shipping containers from Smooth-On. After Samuel D. Tompkins’ death in 1926, Vreeland assumed the presidency until 1953 and then in retirement served as chairman of the board.
On 18 May 1904, Vreeland Tompkins married Laura Towar of Jersey City. They had three daughters: Margaret Vreeland (1906-1984), Grace Elizabeth (1909-2010) and Gertrude Vreeland (1912-1944). In 1907, the family moved into 115 Bentley Ave from the Towar homestead at corner of Bentley and West Side ave.
In 1916, Vreeland compiled a history of the Rutgers College Class of 1893 and from this we glean some interesting details of his life. He was active in social services in Jersey City, serving the Home of Homeless, Whittier Home Settlement and the Organized Aid Society. He also served as the Shade Tree commissioner for Jersey City and as Mosquito Commissioner for Hudson County.
I was fascinated to discover that Vreeland Tompkins’ obituary described him as a life-long Episcopalian, first at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Jersey City, then at Calvary Church in Summit and finally at St. Paul’s in Chatham, New Jersey. As one, myself, this gives me an extra connection to this interesting man.
Vreeland Tompkins died January 30, 1956, at the Hollywood Hotel in Southern Pines, North Carolina. According to his obituary, he was living at 74 Oak Ridge Ave in Summit and had been since 1926. At the time of death, he was listed as the chairman of the board at Smooth-On Manufacturing Co. and as a director of the Joseph Dixon Crucible Co. He was also a life trustee at Rutgers University, having been a founding member of the College of Pharmacy.