The Clan of Tomkyns, A Lost, Now Found, Treasure
by James R. Tompkins
I sometimes wonder what Robert Angus Tompkins would think. Familiar to many Tompkins genealogists as the author of The Tomkins-Tompkins Genealogy, Robert published that popular book in 1942. Copies can be found in local libraries, the LDS Family History Center, and in the catalogue of at least one publisher of family genealogies. However, what many people don't know is that Robert spent nearly 18 more years adding to his knowledge of the Tompkins clan.
The Clan of Tomkyns was the result. It is arguably the most exhaustive collection of Tompkins-related genealogy in existence. Bound in fourteen volumes, The Clan covers family history and ancestry from the seventh century up into the twentieth. Robert, with much help from his wife, sought to compile his life's work again, beginning in 1957. Unfortunately, he died in 1961, leaving The Clan of Tomkyns largely unfinished and unpublished.
The work exists in its original manuscript form in the collections of the Los Angeles Public Library. It is typewritten on lightweight vellum paper with pages pasted together from other sheets. Its 14 volumes consist of a total of approximately 2,400 pages, listing Tompkins names, vital dates, and descendants from the 7th Century into the 20th. There are stories of kings and conquerors, saints and witches, as well as an exhaustive listing of Tompkins names and their relationships to each other, all indexed.
The first volume not only goes back to the 7th Century, but even refers to another source which traces the tree "back to Adam". The volume also contains background sources, some personal introduction, then a listing of the direct lineage from Charles Martel, King of France, born about 690. It continues to those who began using the Tompkins name and branches off from there, on down to the American descendants of Giles, Micah, Ralph, John, etc. It covers both the northern and southern branches of the family. There is no hard cutoff of the first volume; it contains the lines of some born late in the 19th century and even some born as late as 1955, yet other lines go barely past 1800. Most are somewhere in the middle. Those lines continue, of course, in the remaining volumes.
The listing of all those Tompkins names covers the first 3½ volumes. The way the binding was done is a little confusing, however. The index to this listing of names is in Volume 10. The author refers actually to three indexes, the first two of which are in Volume 10. Index A is for our name, first names. Index B is by other surnames. These two indexes refer only to the first 3 1/2 volumes (689 pages total). The third index is for The Descendants Of Girls, and is bound together in Volume 3 of that collection.
The rest of Volume 4 is filled with two of the sources he refers to in Volume 1, including a copy of The Book Of Adam by Harold Bowen. This booklet purports to trace the familial line all the way back to biblical creation. Volume 5 begins what is entitled Tomkyns-Tompkins Ancestry, and contains a detailed narrative of stories about the early history of the family and important people, The Tomkins of Ireland, Cornwall Early Tomkyns, Our Arms and Crest, etc.
Volume 6 is entitled The Clan of Tomkyns Supplement. It contains notes, letters, sources, a section called Where to Search Further, English records, Where Records Disagree, and Virginia sections on Lost Records, Ancient Ancestry and Tomkies. Volume 7 continues with stories of Tompkins in the American Revolution, the Civil War and other early wars, extensive biographies including one of Micah, and a diary.
Volume 8 continues with more diaries, letters, Civil War in the South stories, Virginia records and other wills, and a Watson family manuscript, indexed for Tompkins references. Volume 9 adds more various notes and histories, etc., with additions and corrections, and an index for Volumes 5-9 which covers Early Lines, Various Subjects, Our Surname, Descendants of Girls (additional) and Allied Families.
In addition to the ten volumes of Tompkins descendants, there is also a set of four volumes entitled The Clan Of Tomkyns; Descendants Of Girls. These volumes are a collection of the primary descendants of many of the Tompkins daughters listed in the original ten volumes, using the same numbering system. It consists of three volumes, again original manuscripts, with an index at the end of the third. The fourth volume is a supplement with index dated 15 Dec 1957. The first three were apparently done one year earlier. There are 400 pages in the first three volumes and another 150 or so in the fourth.
The search for my own genealogy led me to locate The Clan in the closed stacks of the Los Angeles Public Library. Correspondence with other researchers and a search of the online catalogue told me I would find it there, and through the gracious assistance of library staff, I was able to make a copy of Volume 1. [Note: My father has since made copies of Vols. 2-4, as well as Vols. 1-4 of the Descendants of Girls]. The tedious work of obtaining the best available copy of the bound volume meant backing each vellum sheet with white paper and individually copying each page. When I was done, I found others who were eager to have a look at it too. The author's own words in Volume 1 were an encouragement to make it available.
Now that his collection is gradually being copied, distributed and discussed, more and more people familiar with his early work have the opportunity to update their research. I like to think that Robert would be happy to know the work he did in later life is finally finding an audience. In pondering his huge collection of notes and stories, Robert wrote shortly before his illness, If we [are] still kicking around, we hope to make a new manuscript, as there are so many new facts discovered that this one is just a collection of fragments. He was clearly excited about his work, adding we always said you can move a mountain with a tea spoon if you shovel long enough. So, our motto is 'Keep shoveling.' Even today, those who follow his footsteps bring their own teaspoons, and follow the path he carved.
We are glad to share the product of our long years of research with future researchers, because a large part of what we have found has been given us by those who, themselves spent much time and incurred much expense in gathering it. They gave us what data they could without any reward except the gratitude of this compiler and to be sure, of many others in the generations to follow us along the long, long trail. --Robert Angus Tompkins
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