Select Astor Surname Genealogy

The name Astor is of Franco-German origin, from the Occitan astor meaning “goshawk.” It was used as a nickname characterizing a hawklike man and was said to have arrived in SW Germany through Waldensian refugees.

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Select Astor Ancestry

The first record of an Astor was in 1620 when Giovan Pietro Astor arrived in Zürich with his family and changed his name to Hans Peter Astor. Johann Jakob Astor moved his family to Nussloch in Baden in the 1660’s.

. John Jacob Astor and his brother George, known as “George & John Astor,” were flute makers who came to England around 1778 from Waldorf in Baden, Germany. In 1783 John Jacob Astor left England for Baltimore in Maryland and was active first as a dealer in woodwind instruments and then in New York where he made his mark as a merchant in furs, in trade to China, and finally in Manhattan real estate. He died in 1848 an extremely wealthy man, said to be the richest in America at that time, and was the forebear of the New York Astor family.

An elder brother, Henry Astor, had previously emigrated to America. He was a horse racing enthusiast and purchased a thoroughbred named Messenger which had been brought from England to America. The horse became the founding sire of all standardbred horses in America today. Henry Astor, however, died without children.

During the 19th century, John Jacob Astor and his descendants were one of the wealthiest families in the United States. For years, the Astor family were known as the “landlords of New York.” Their New York City namesakes are the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, Astor Row, Astor Court, Astor Place, and Astor Avenue in the Bronx where the Astors used to stable their horses.

The Astors were also, through Mrs. Caroline Astor (the wife of John Jacob’s grandson), the arbiters of New York society in the latter part of the 19th century. Their time is described in Justin Kaplan’s 2006 book When the Astors Owned New York: Blue Bloods and Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age. A large number of these Astors have been buried in Trinity Church cemetery in downtown Manhattan.

In the 20th century, the number of Astors in America began to decline and the male line came to an end. Brooke Astor died in 2007 at the age of 105. For nearly four decades she had ruled over New York society. With a name and fortune inherited from her third husband, Vincent Astor, she had played the role of grande dame to the hilt, lavishing her money on charities and dispensing advice on correct social behavior.

. There were Astors in England as well. After a family rift William Waldorf Astor moved to England in 1891, became a British subject, and purchased the Cliveden estate in Buckinghamshire. By marrying into two British noble families, his British descendants held two hereditary peerages, a viscountcy and a barony.

During the 1930’s the Astors and their Cliveden set were seen by some as appeasers to Hitler. These Astors also became English newspaper publishers. One line owned The Times from 1922 to 1966; another published the Observer from 1937 to 1964.

Select Astor Miscellany

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

Select Astor Names

John Jacob Astor was the forebear of the Astor family in America. He started the family in its ownership of New York real
Caroline Astor, or Mrs. Astor as she was generally known, was the arbiter of New York society in the late 19th century.
William Waldorf Astor was the Astor who came to England in 1891 and married into English nobility.

Select Astors Today

  • 200 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 300 in America (most numerous in New York)



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