Vanderbilt


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The German and Dutch word bulte meaning "mound" and describing someone who lived by a low hill was the basis of the placename of De Bilt that lay just northeast of Utrecht in Holland.

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Jan Aertszoon or Aertson was a Dutch farmer from the village of De Bilt near Utrecht who emigrated to the Dutch colony of New Netherland as an indentured servant in 1650.  Jan's village name was later added to the Dutch "Van der" (from the) to create "Van der Bilt." 

America.  The prominence of the Vanderbilt family in America began with Cornelius Vanderbilt, the fourth of nine children born in 1794 to a Staten Island family of modest means which ran a ferry service to Manhattan.  His father, the first to spell his name as van Derbilt, was born in 1764 and was reared in the home of an uncle where he worked for his room and board. 

Cornelius left school at eleven and started his business career with a steamboat, the Bellona, which operated in a ferry service between New Brunswick in Canada and New York.  He went on to build a shipping and railroad empire that, during the 19th century, made him one of the wealthiest men in the world. 

Although the Commodore himself always occupied a modest home, members of his family would use their wealth to build a resplendent family tomb at the Moravian cemetery on Staten Island and a number of magnificent mansions - on Fifth Avenue in New York, in Newport, and along the Hudson.  The family had grown immeasurably richer by the time of the death of Cornelius’s son William.

“William H. Vanderbilt died suddenly in December 1885, only eight years after his father.  The world was astounded to learn that he had more than doubled the family fortune in that short time, leaving him the richest man in the world.” 

Their descendants
were to dominate what came to be known as the Gilded Age, a period when Vanderbilt men were the merchant princes of American life through their prominence in the business world, in New York society, and as patrons of the arts throughout the world. 

Later Vanderbilts showed less interest in business and more in yachting, horse racing, and fast cars.  Much of the Vanderbilt wealth ended up being dissipated over the 20th century.  A distant cousin Arthur T. Vanderbilt published Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt in 1989.  Only Gloria Vanderbilt and her son Anderson Cooper have made names for themselves in the modern world.


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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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Cornelius Vanderbilt
, known as the Commodore, build a shipping and railroad empire that, during the 19th century, made him one of the wealthiest men in the world. 
Harold Vanderbilt was a successful sportsman, winning yachting America's Cup on no fewer than three occasions.
Amy Vanderbilt, indirectly related to the main Vanderbilt family, was an American authority on etiquette.  In 1952 she published her best-selling book Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette.

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  • 600 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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