Rockefeller


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The placename of Rockenfield near Neuwied in the Rhineland in Germany is believed to be the source of the Rockefeller name.  Its roots are rocke meaning "rye" and field meaning "open country."  

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Genealogists have suggested that the Rockefeller line might have gone back to French Huguenots who had fled to Germany in the 16th century.  The first in the German line was Goddard Rockenfeller, born in the Rhineland in 1590.  His grandson Johan Peter Rockefeller set off for America in the early 1700's.  He settled in Arnwell township, New Jersey in 1723.

America.  It was a descendant John D. Rockefeller who established the family's name and fortune in the 19th century.  His beginnings were impropitious.  He was the second of six children whom his father "Doc" Rockefeller had abandoned in the 1850's to live with another woman.

Rockefeller started his business in Cleveland Ohio, where his family had moved in 1853.  In 1870, he founded the Standard Oil Company and aggressively ran it until he officially retired in 1897.  As kerosene and gasoline grew in importance, Rockefeller's wealth soared and he became the world's richest man.  He was an American oil magnate who revolutionized the petroleum industry and later defined the structure of modern philanthropy.  

His son John D. Rockefeller Jr was a noted philanthropist and the father of five famous Rockefeller brothers, John D, Nelson, Laurence, Winthrop and David.  John D. became a major philanthropist like his father; Laurance a venture capitalist and conservationist; Nelson and Winthrop state governors with Nelson going on to become Vice President under Gerald Ford; and David an internationally renowned banker.

These brothers were part of the third generation of the descendants of John D. Rockefeller.  The fourth generation has been even more varied in its activities, from Michael Rockefeller, the anthropologist who died at such a young age, to Abby Rockefeller, the left-wing environmentalist.  The fifth and sixth generations have followed.  The total number of blood relative descendants now number about 150. 

Family legacies have included the Rockefeller Foundation, Rockefeller Center in New York, and Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art in New York - both founded by  Rockefellers.
    

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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


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John D. Rockefeller
was the American oil magnate who revolutionized the burgeoning petroleum industry and, in so doing, became the world's richest man.
Nelson Rockefeller was the 44th Vice President of the United States, serving under Gerald Ford.
David Rockefeller was chairman and chief executive of Chase Manhattan Bank from 1969 to 1981.

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  • 500 in America (most numerous in New York)



PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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