Arthur Wells Jones

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Arthur Wells Jones

Arthur Wells Jones is the subject of this week’s #52ancestors essay and one who benefited from the recent online publication of the Camden Courier-Post.  With all sorts of news to work through I was able to find an obituary; unfortunately the obituary was filled with information which conflicted with what I had documented.

Arthur W. Jones was born on 10 Dec 1875 at Pemberton, New Jersey to Benjamin and Mary Elizabeth Carroll Jones.  He married Anna Mary “Annie” Wells on 3 July 1900.  She was the daughter of Moses K. and Florence Lewis Wells.  They lived at this time in Pemberton, but I am not sure when they moved to Camden. Arthur and Annie had one child, Barclay Gibbs Jones, born on 30 May 1901.

MikeMulliganandsteamshovelAlthough the obituary made it sound like a recent move, evidence in the 1910-1930 censuses show that the Jones family was in Camden as early as 1910. At that time he was a steam car engineer, possibly for the Pennsylvania/NJ Railroad.  Their home is listed as 136 Dudley St., Camden.  By 1915, the family has moved to 309 N. 40th St., and in this census Arthur is listed as a “portable engineer,” a job title which intrigued me.  According to the International Steam Engineer of 1914, this is “one who operates a boiler or machine which directly furnishes or transmits power for any machine, appliance or apparatus used on or in connection with building operations, excavations or construction work, but does not include an operator of a drill.”  A union newsletter gave a much more understandable description: “The steam or power shovel was first invented by William T. Otis in 1839, but it did not see extensive use until after the American Civil War, when it was developed as a railway workhorse. The men who operated the shovels were known as portable engineers, to distinguish them from the stationary engineers.”  Pretty cool to think of Arthur Jones as playing the role of Mike Mulligan in my favorite children’s book Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel.

In 1920, Arthur appears to have been employed as an engineer in a shipyard and it is not clear whether this is still railroad work or not.  By 1930, Arthur was retired from the steam shovel business and listed his employment as “salesman, tea and coffee.”  Family stories line up with this as operating a milk delivery route with a side line in groceries.

Arthur died at Cooper Hospital on 26 February 1936 and is buried at the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Pemberton, NJ.

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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.