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. 🙂



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.

Tax Dodgers

How befitting a post on April 15th,  Tax Day here in the US.   I recently found this excerpt in the Google News Archive collection of St. Petersburg Times newspapers in a column titled “The Tax Dodgers.” .   The individuals mentioned are probably brothers Frederick William & George Washington Vanderbilt – grandsons of the Commodore.

St. Petersburg Times (FL). 27 Jul 1901. Accessed via Google News Archive.

Vanderbilt Commencement 2010

On May 14, 2010, yours truly had the distinct honor of graduating from Vanderbilt University with my Masters in Public Health.  I won’t go into the specific details of the ceremony, but if you’re interested, you can read the details on my personal/family blog here.

The ceremony was beautiful and the Chancellor even mentioned the Commodore’s gift to establish the university, noting that the $1 million dollar contribution in 1873 would be worth $3 billion dollars today.   This would be the beginning of the Vanderbilt family’s philanthropic activities as we have come to know them today.

My commencement took place on one of the campus lawns:

Today, while doing research at the Tennessee State Library & Archives, I took photographs of some of the old Vanderbilt yearbooks.  In contrast to my ceremony, here is a picture of commencement from 1909.  Looks like the students marched on the lawn and the ceremonies were held inside.  I wonder if it rained that day?

Vanderbilt 1909 commencement

Now that I’ve graduated, here’s hoping for more Vanderbilt Genealogy posts!

Leasing Vanderbilt Land

The November 5, 1903 issue of the Kinston Free Press newspaper of Kinston, NC reported the following:

“E.B. Moore, manager of Kenilworth Inn, has returned from the north and said today that he was confident of effecting the lease of the famous Vanderbilt hunting preserve, which embraces about 150,000 acres.  It is said that the sum contemplated in the lease of this preserve is nearly $200,000.”

Kenilworth Inn, opened in 1890, has had quite an interesting history.  There is a Wikipedia article about the hotel and all the different events that have happened there, including a fire in 1909, and the various functions it has had. It is currently an apartment complex and their website is here

kenilworth[image from]

A New York Times article from a few months after this news item gives a detailed account on George Vanderbilt’s possible lease of his property to be used as a hunting preserve.  E.B. Moore is Edgar B. Moore and he was forming a hunting club and apparently Vanderbilt’s land was just ripe for hunting.  The article reports that no hunting had occurred there in the 8-10 years which G.W. owned Biltmore.  The article can be found here. 

I must add this to my to-do list next time I visit Asheville. 

Vanderbilt Cup Races

I was just taking a look at how people have come to find this blog, and one of the sites I saw on the list was the Vanderbilt Cup Races website. It seems they have added a link to the bibliography page I have in progress here on my blog. Very cool!

As I am still learning about the large Vanderbilt family, I decided to read more the website. It is very well done – I particularly like the color scheme. The site is dedicated to the six Vanderbilt Cup Races that were held on Long Island from 1904 – 1910. The races were started by William Kissam Vanderbilt Jr., a great-grandson of the Commodore’s via his eldest son, William Henry Vanderbilt. The owner of the Vanderbilt Cup Races website has a book coming out soon about the races that is being published by Acadia Press. I may have to pick this one up when it comes out. Should be an interesting read.

I see from looking at my page for WKV Jr. that I don’t have a picture of him, so I need to add one. I’ll probably just grab the public domain one from his Wikipedia page.

Now, since my focus in on genealogy, one of the first things I realized was that I have a different birth date for WKV than what appears on his Wikipedia entry and on the Vanderbilt races website. They have that he was born in 1878. From my sources, I see I have one that says 1880 and another that says 1878. Those two sources are:

  • the book Famous Families of New York by Margherita Hamm. This book was published in 1902 and if you have an Ancestry subscription, is available full-text there.
  • the other source I have is a book from 1908 by Duyckinck and Cornell called The Duyckinck and Allied Families Being a Record of the Descendants of Evert Duyckink Who Settled in New Amsterdam, Now New York, in 1638. This one is available full-text in Google Books. This is the one that says 1878.

To examine which may be true – 1878 or 1880, I went to the census records. In 1880, WKV Jr.’s family is living in Oakdale, Suffolk County, New York, District 321 – the 530th family enumerated. The family is as follows:

  • Vanderbilt, W.K. – age 31, occupation – railroad king
  • Alva – wife, age 27, born in AL, father born in VA, mother born in TN
  • Consuelo – daughter, age 3
  • WK Jr. – son, age 1

Well, guess that solves that! Looks like WKV Jr. was indeed on this earth before 1880, thus probably born in 1878 as the Wikipedia date suggests. Time to go update my records – as I had no census data attached to them before now, no wonder I have a wrong estimated date.

Back to the original subject of the post — the website. In reading through it, I also learned of the Vanderbilt museum there in Suffolk County. This is definitely going on my list of places to visit!

Who is the Vanderbilt ancestor?

Over the past week as I have been learning more about the Vanderbilts, it seems to be oft-stated that the ancestor of Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt is one Jan Aoertson Van Der Bilt who arrived in this country from Holland in 1650. I would love to get ahold of some great primary evidence that confirms this, because I have already seen at least one contradiction to this theory. In his 1886 book about the Vanderbilt family, W.A. Croffut states that the Commodore’s great-grandfather was Aris Van Der Bilt and that Aris may have been a brother to Jan. The relationship is not stated. So far, I have not yet found any earlier accounts of the ancestry than this book. Now, in the 1887 History of Richmond County (Staten Island) book by Brayles, the claim to Jan is already made. Hmmm.. what is the true ancestry??

Primary Sources

One thing I am going to aim to do is gather information from as many primary sources as I can. I expect that doing so for a family as vast as the Vanderbilts will help me grow in my genealogy skills. That said, of course as I begin, secondary sources will be of great interest to me as well.

While searching Google Books I came across a book titled “The Vanderbilts & The Story of Their Fortune” published in 1886 by William Augustus Croffut. This book came out only 9 years after the Commodore died. It was scanned by Google in 2005 from the collection of the University of Michigan, and of course being so old, is now in public domain.

The first chapter of the book provides a nice background of the Van Der Bilt’s first appearance in the United States from Holland and a sketch of the Commodore’s family tree. He was one of nine children born of Cornelius Vander Bilt, who in turn was one of six children born to Jacob Vander Bilt Jr., who in turn was one of 11 children born to Jacob Van Der Bilt Sr. I’ll have fun entering the family into my database.

The picture is filled with nice graphics, the first of which is this sketch of the Commodore’s mother, Phebe Hand Vander Bilt.

Phebe Hand Vander Bilt


Welcome! This blog will be devoted and dedicated to all things genealogical & historical regarding the Vanderbilt family – descendants and relatives and ancestors of Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt. I decided to start this blog as my interest in the Vanderbilt family has increased over the past several years. Besides, I have worked at Vanderbilt University Medical Center for the past seven years – even more the reason for my interest. I love the Biltmore Estate, have been twice and look forward to the chance when I may get to visit again.

As I have searched online for information about the Vanderbilt family, I thought it would be great if I could locate one site where I could really explore the genealogy and trees of the family that was fully sourced.  Not really finding one, I am creating one myself. It is my hope that it becomes a source for others. Here goes the librarian in me again — Enjoy!