Samuel Tompkins

LittleCompton_1831_webI have to admit, after the DeWolfe media frenzy about that family’s discovery that they made their money in the slave trade, I was alarmed when I found that multiple generations of the Tompkins family had lived in Rhode Island during the height of the Atlantic slave trade.  Even if they were not involved in shipping, all the ancillary trades that go into supporting the shipping industry are tied to that profit source as well.  So for this week of #52ancestors I picked an ancestor whose life would have touched on this dark period in American history.
Samuel Tompkins, son of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Waters Tompkins, was born 24 May 1681 in Little Compton, Rhode Island.  He was a middle child in a family of ten.  He married late for that time, he was almost 31 years old when he married Sarah Coe (1690-1741) in 24 January 1712.
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Samuel and Sarah produced twelve children over the next eighteen years.
  • Joseph Tompkins, b. 26 Oct 1712
  • John, b. 14 Sep 1714
  • Elizabeth, b. 8 Dec 1715
  • Christopher, b. 8 Dec 1715
  • Abigail, b. 28 Jan 1717
  • Nathaniel, b. 19 Nov 1719, d. 20 Jan 1724
  • Gideon, b. 19 Nov 1720, d. Mar 1774
  • Micah, b. 20 Jan 1722, d. May 1771
  • Benjamin, b. 26 Jan 1723
  • Augustine, b. 19 Mar 1725, d. 16 Feb 1747
  • Prescilla, b. 6 June 1726, d. 18 Aug 1739
  • William, b. 17 Oct. 1730, d. Nov 1768
Little_Compton_todayLittle Compton and the neighboring town of Tiverton were first established as part of Massachusetts in the middle of the 17th century.  In 1673, the town was plotted and twenty-nine settlers made claims, most of them Puritans.  Later in 1747, the state of Rhode Island formed and the towns became part of that.  A Colonial Census was done at that time and Samuel is listed in Little Compton, New Port County.
I have had a great deal of trouble finding records of Samuel but one of the most useful has been the will and estate papers for his father, Nathaniel Tompkins.  Nathaniel appears to have been a farmer  rather than a mariner, which I have to admit relieves me in many ways as many of the mariners in this part of Rhode Island were involved in the transatlantic slave trade.
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Nathaniel’s will is sent through probate in 1724 and names Samuel as the executor.  There is a very helpful inventory of the personal property held at the time of his death which includes one mare, five cows, one yoke of oxen and fifteen sheep.  There is also mention of one and a quarter acres of land.  This makes me wonder if land has already been given over to Samuel or one of his siblings, as that is too little land to feed all those animals.
I have also read through many years of the Town Records for Little Compton, which are a fascinating glimpse into the daily lives of a Puritan community in the 18th century.  I have found print sources that state Samuel Tompkins died in 1760 but the Town Records did not confirm this.  They did, however, document the response of the community to a small pox break out that year and I wonder if that is what caused Samuel’s death in May.
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But the real answer lies in Samuel Tompkins’ will.  Or does it?  I have reviewed all of the pages in the Town Records covering the Council minutes, the will, and the inventory done in June of 1760.  None of these records mention slaves or indentured servants.  However, my ancestor is his son Benjamin Tompkins, who receives very little in this will (compared to his siblings) and I don’t know if that means that he was given money or property before Samuel’s death and therefore gets little of the estate.  It is possible that Benjamin was given a slave or indentured servants were transferred to him before 1760.  I am not off the hook yet, I need to look hard at the next generation.
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Vincent Van Nest

Van_Nest_Vincent_burial_1911This week of #52Ancestors lead me to Vincent Van Nest, whose birthday is 25 April 1837 and who joins the family tree by marrying Margaret Ann Mount, older sister to my direct ancestor Mary Jane Mount (1844-1917).  The Van Nest surname can hide in records as Van Nest, VanNest and Vannest, making it a bit tricky to find them.  Also I discovered this family marrying Mounts in many generations.  But the really interesting discovery happened when I tried to document Vincent’s parents.

Vincent Van Nest, born 25 April 1837, was one of two sons of Abraham (1799-1871) and Harriet Chamberlin Dye (1799-1872) Van Nest.  Vincent married Margaret Ann Mount (1840-1900) on 17 January 1861 at East Windsor and the couple had four children: Harriet, Hiram, Catherine, and Susan.  Margaret preceded her husband in death on 12 February 1900, and Vincent died 12 November 1911.  Vincent’s obituary remarks that he was “one of the best know and most respected me of this section” and he certainly had to take on quite a bit of responsibility at a young age.

Once I opened my searches to include all the possible variations on Van Nest, I was able to discover a bit more about Vincent’s family. His father was Abraham Van Nest, born 27 November 1799, in Hightstown, New Jersey (part of Middlesex County at this point).  He married Harriet Dye (born 3 December 1799, nee Chamberlin), who was the widow of Vincent Dye.  I find this naming pattern intriguing, as I don’t know many men who would willingly name their son after their wife’s dead spouse.

Abraham and Harriet Van Nest have two sons: Vincent D. Van Nest and Abram Bergen Van Nest.  I am not sure what happens to Abram Van Nest.  He appears in the 1863 Civil War draft records but by the 1870 Census his wife and son are living with Abraham and Harriet.  And the wills of both these people are fascinating.

Abraham Van Nest prepares a will in 1868 in which he divides his estate between his “beloved wife” Harriet and his daughter in law, Sarah E. Van Nest and her son Richard.  Everything is to go to his son Vincent upon the deaths of these two women.  The language about Abram is odd, mostly directing Sarah E. to receive income only if she remains married, otherwise the money reverts to Richard W. and is controlled by Vincent Van Nest, son and executor.  The will is probated on 15 February 1871.

Harriet Van Nest dies shortly after her husband on 1 November 1872.  Her will disposes of various bequests and then leaves the bulk of her estate divided between her son Vincent Vannest and her daughter in law Sarah E. Vannest “now or late the wife of my son Abram B. Vannest.”  She does not mention her grandson Richard W. Vannest at all, so possibly he has died.

This would be a case where the public record leaves me with little understanding of the family dynamics and there must have been some.  But Vincent should be remembered on his birthday and so I wish you a Happy Birthday, Vincent D. Van Nest!

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Cornelius D. Vreeland

Where there’s a will there’s a way, right?  Well, this week’s #52Ancestors really was a slog through wills, the absence of wills, probate, estate records, land sales, etc.  But first, let’s start with the gentleman who inspired this blog: Cornelius Delos Vreeland.

Vreeland_CorneliusD_1882_cropCornelius D. Vreeland was born in Paterson, New Jersey on 4 March 1813.  At this time, Paterson was in Essex County but it eventually became Passaic County.  Young Cornelius was duly baptized at the First Reformed Church in Totowa, a small community just outside of Paterson.  On 29 September 1836 he married Rachel Beach and they settled on a farm in Wayne township. They six children: Josiah Pierson (1841-1895), Maria Mottear (1842-1844), Elizabeth Derrom (1846-1924), Adelia (1850-1893), Cornelius (1852-1854) and Jonathan Beach (1855-1911).

Cornelius D. dies at the Vreeland Homestead in Wayne on 6 July 1890, and is buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery in Caldwell.  This is all quite straightforward.  However, apparently Cornelius did not leave a will and this is where the search gets interesting.  By 1870, the homestead is valued at $20,000 and the personal property at $7,000.  Tax records will tell us more but all of this leads me to wonder, why no will?  Josiah and Adelia are still in the area, Elizabeth has married and is out in California setting up a vegetable farm and Beach, as he was called, is in Charlotte, North Carolina due to his wife’s poor health.

Vreeland_Cornelius_AppointmentAdmin_1892_cropInterestingly, Beach is left to file the articles of administration, which speak to the need for the estate to be inventoried.  Although Passaic County has an online index, the case files themselves have not been put online, so a request for a paper copy has been made.

 

 

Happy Birthday, Cornelius Delos Vreeland!  You helped me delve into some records I propably would have avoided, left to my own devices. And thank you, @amyjohnsoncrow for challenging me to dig a little deeper.

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