The Breakers Postcard

In the past few weeks, I decided I wanted to start a postcard collection. Lo and behold, the first antique store I visited, I found a postcard of the Breakers! I’m so delighted to have this in my collection now. I know the postcard is not necessarily unique, but given my interest in the Vanderbilts, it is very apropos as one of my first.

The Breakers was the home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II and wife Alice Claypoole Gwynne Vanderbilt. It was built between 1893-1895 and is in Newport, Rhode Island. I’ve never visited, but it is on my to-do list. Learn more at

Rest in Peace Gloria

Since I started this site back in 2008, Gloria Vanderbilt has been the top search result that leads people here.  Since I research the genealogy and history of the Vanderbilt family, I have certainly learned much about Gloria and her family during the years.  Gloria passed away today at 95 years old.  Born February 20, 1924, to Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt and Gloria Morgan, her great-grandfather, William Henry Vanderbilt, was the oldest son of the Commodore.

The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 
02 Mar 1924, Sun • Page 88. Courtesy of


Gloria Vanderbilt as photographed by Gordon Parks for Life Magazine – July 1954. Source: Life Image Collection.

You can view her family tree on my Vanderbilt Surname Project site.  Rest in peace Gloria. May you live forever with your ancestors.


Got Etiquette?

Yesterday, the hubby picked up a book for me – The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Ettiquite. He got it because he knows of my interest in Vanderbilt genealogy.  Well, as I’d not worked on Amy’s specific lineage, I just HAD to work on it today!  Her Wikipedia entry states that she “claimed descent from Jan Aertsen van der Bilt”, who is the Commodore’s ancestor; I searched to see if I could document it.


Jean Rand has a great book on descendants of Jan Aetrsen Vanderbilt that is my go to resource for a lot of Vanderbilt genealogy. Using her book, and other resources, I have a tentative lineage done. Amy’s great-grandfather, Oliver Vanderbilt, is indicated as possibly being the son of Oliver Vanderbilt and Sarah King. If this is the case, then Amy is indeed a descendant of Jan Aertsen van der Bilt, and also a cousin of the Commodore; his 1st cousin 3 times removed to be exact.


Doing this work also prompted me to go ahead and register the Vanderbilt Surname with the Guild of One Name Studies. Last year, I registered the Koonce Surname as I’ve been researching many people with my last name for years, and have been meaning to register Vanderbilt. I also decided to keep my  Vanderbilt research tree online using RootsFinder and have enabled the option where my work will be archived in FamilySearch “Genealogies” collection for perpetuity – this will be a great way to keep it around for awhile. 😀


I’m looking forward to continuing the research and seeing what else I may learn about her Vanderbilt ancestry.

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New on My Bookshelf

While on vacation last week, I found a used copy of T.J. Stiles’ book – The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt.

YAY! Mr. Stiles came to Vanderbilt back in 2010 when the book came out and I am looking forward to reading it!  If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear from you.


Vanderbilts, Hamilton, and Wesleyan University

This has turned out to be quite an interesting weekend – and one with unexpected connections to Wesleyan University.

Thursday, I was contacted by someone who was interested in knowing how Arthur T. Vanderbilt II, author of the book “Fortune’s Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt,” was related to the Commodore.  It seems in his book, Arthur only states that he is a “cousin.”  She is leading a book club and wanted to gather additional information for the group.


So, off to the research I go! And stayed, to work on documenting Arthur’s connection to the Commodore.  It appears Arthur is likely the 3rd cousin 5 times removed from the Commodore as per the chart below.  There is at least one spot in the tree that is a little shaky, but this is the current working version. For example. noted Vanderbilt genealogist, Jean Rand, notes in her book that Jeremyas Van Der Bilt was “probably” the son of Aris Janse Van Der Bilt based on several pieces of information she describes – however, she also notes there are two other “possible” candidates for whom his father may be.  Hmmm…  In any case, let’s go with this for now as it is her strongest lead.  🙂


In addition to documenting the family on my own personal website, I also documented them on FamilySearch Family Tree (free registration required to view).

The connection to Wesleyan University comes in because the book’s author, Arthur T. Vanderbilt II, his father – William R. Vanderbilt, and his grandfather – Arthur T. Vanderbilt – are all graduates of the school. When I started my search Friday, a 2014 article from Wesleyan Magazine had many pieces of information I used to begin to work up the tree.

And, what was my other connection to the school? Well, on the same day – Thursday, I also discovered the genius that is the Broadway play Hamilton. I love musicals and when I heard the music for this one, I immediately loved it all!


I learned about the musical after seeing a video of Lin-Manual Miranda, the show’s writer, freestyling with President Obama.  I looked Miranda up, found out about Hamilton, listened to the soundtrack, and fell in love! It was only tonight as I revisited the Wesleyan Magazine website that I learned Miranda is also a graduate.  There is an article about Miranda featured on the front page right now. Looks like I had a Wesleyan weekend. 🙂



Cyrus West Field Connection?

Oooh – it’s been awhile, but tonight I’m on the hunt again! I was contacted by a descendant of Cyrus West Field and I’m trying to document his connection to the Vanderbilt family.  Cyrus’ Wikipedia page states that Frederick Vanderbilt Field is his descendant, but I’ve not yet found documentation to support it. Hmm… I must keep searching!

Meanwhile, I found this 1879 picture in the Library of Congress online collections – William Henry Vanderbilt depicted as the modern colossus of the railroads. In one of his legs, Cyrus West Field is depicted, and in the other, Jay Gould.  Cyrus was president of the New York Elevated Railroad Company and Jay was with several railroads in the Midwest and West. 


Vanderbilt Forest

The pisag [sic] forest has cost VANDERBILT something like $250,000, or about $2.50 an acre.  He has brought it in great or small tracts as rapidly as possible, and now his rangers are the only denizens.  There are five of them, all picked men of the mountains, of fine physique, good riders and dead shots.  They must keep open the roads and trails, see that the boundary fence, 300 miles in length, is all right; keep out poachers, look after the game and the trout and always be on the alert for timber stealers.  There are 265 miles of trail in this forest, the trails leading alongside each trout stream.  There are 70 miles of road passable for wagon. There are miles of shooting paths, the latter 15 feet in width and cut out right and left from the roads.  When deer are driven they must cross these paths, and by means of the latter alone can the hunter see them in time to get a shot.

Though Mr. VANDERBILT is not a sportsman, but a student, yet all things are kept ready for him.  His pleasure is the pleasure of others.  On his last visit he only caught one trout, nor did he fire a gun.  His wife was with him. She is a good horsewoman and rode a pony up and down the steepest trails.  Under protection native trout are rapidly restocking the streams without artificial propagation.

At Biltmore Mr. VANDERBILT has an arboretum, one of the largest in the world, and the pioneer in the United States.  This was formerly under the direction of Gifford PINCHOT, who is at present head forester of the United States; it is now under the direction of Dr. SCHENCK as forester.  In this arboretum more than 300,000 trees and shrubs have been planted.  Pisgah forest is the complement of the arboretum, and in these wild woods Dr. SCHENCK has a lodge where he spends much of each summer with his class.  In the latter are often youths of wealth and high social position who wish to study forestry – a study which the United States needs, since so many millionaires are daily devoting themselves to the task of forest destruction and so few to conservation.

Source: Roanoke Beacon, 31 August 1900.  Available online at

Commodore’s 81st Birthday

Today, March 27,  is the birthday of the Commodore.  I found several articles about his birthday celebrations and decided to share this one from his 82nd birthday, his last.


On Friday, Commodore Vanderbilt was feeling extremely well, but, yesterday morning, there was a slight change for the worse.  Toward evening he was feeling much better, and enjoyed a long nap.  Yesterday was the 82nd birthday of Mr. Vanderbilt.  A few intimate friends of the family called and several floral tributes were presented to him, with hopes that he might soon be once more seen driving in the Central Park — [N.Y. World].

Source:  Cincinatti Daily Times, May 30, 1876. 

Death Anniversary of Anne Harriman Vanderbilt

On April 20, 1940,  Mrs. Anne Harriman Vanderbilt, wife of William Kissam Vanderbilt, passed away in New York.  Vanderbilt was her third husband – she’d previously been married to Samuel Sands and Lewis Rutherford Jr.

Anne and William were married April 29, 1903.  I found a photo of her in a New York newspaper, The Evening World.


I also one day, while doing some research in a Tennessee newspaper, just  happened upon her obituary.

Tennessean newspaper – April 21, 1940.