Brokaw Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Brokaw Surname Meaning

Brokaw is the Americanized surname for the descendants of Bourgon Broucard, the Huguenot who came to Dutch New York in 1675. Broucard himself was French-speaking and probably of French origin. But the Broucard name may have derived from a Flemish word broekaert of uncertain meaning.

Brokaw Surname Resources on The Internet

Brokaw Surname Ancestry

  • from Huguenot France (Broucard)
  • to America

Bourgon Broucard, the Huguenot immigrant, had connections with the French-speaking city of Mouscron in present-day Belgium and with Mannheim along the Rhine in Germany, both towns close to the French border. He and his wife Catherine Lefevre departed Amsterdam with other Huguenots for Dutch New York in 1675.

AmericaBroucard was pronounced Brokaw in America but it was probably not until the early/mid 1700’s that it began to be spelt that way.

The family lived at first in Brooklyn. In 1684 they moved to Long Island and in 1702 Bourgon acquired land in Somerset county, New Jersey where there had been a Dutch settlement. Indeed Brokaws tended to have Dutch wives during the 18th century. Somerset county was to be the family home for the next hundred years or so.

New Jersey.  From Bourgon’s son John came Isaac Brokaw who apprenticed as a clockmaker and then established his own practice in Elizabethtown in the 1770’s. His son Aaron continued the business after Isaac’s death in 1826. Isaac’s younger brother Bergon fought in the Revolutionary War and remained afterwards in Somerset county.

Descendants here included the newscaster Tom Brokaw and, through Mary Brokaw who married Jacob Bogart, the actor Humphrey Bogart.

From Bourgon’s son Abraham came his son Isaac, born in 1719, who lived long enough to see through the Revolutionary War. At the age of 78, it was said, he travelled with his son David to upstate New York to look for land and was killed when he fell off his wagon. The names of the children of Isaac Brokaw and his wife Maritje were recorded in a large Dutch Bible, dated 1725, which has been preserved. 

One of Isaac’s sons was Caleb Brokaw, a farmer and mason who lived at Weston in New Jersey. Another line in New Jersey from Isaac led to Isaac Vail Brokaw. This Isaac moved to New York and organized a clothing firm with his brother William called Brokaw Brothers. Business was so good that by 1890 Isaac was said to have become one of the wealthiest men in the city. His sons Irving and George were notable sportsmen in New York society.

Ohio.  The largest number of Brokaws in America in 1840 had been in New Jersey. But by 1880 the largest number were in Ohio and the same is true today.Among the early Brokaws were:

  • George Brokaw, a pioneer who came in 1802 and made his home in Athens township, Harrison county. He lived to be 86. His grandson Thomas Ray Brokaw was a watchmaker and jeweler in Philadelphia who returned to the old homestead to farm in 1912.  
  • and John A. Brokaw who first came to Ohio with his parents in 1822. He returned in 1831 after his father Abram had died and made his home in Liberty township, Knox county. He died there in 1893 at the grand age of 88.

The following commentary appeared in 1881: 

“John Brokaw followed farming and shoemaking, by which he gained a competence for his old age. Mr. and Mrs. Brokaw started poor in life. When they arrived in Knox county, he had a horse and wagon, with a few household effects and three dollars twelve and one-half cents in cash. They had thirteen children, all of whom did well, thus showing that they were carefully and judicially trained.

South Dakota. Tom Brokaw the newscaster is ten generations removed from Bourgon Broucard. His great grandfather Richard P. Brockaw, having served in the Union army, came out west in 1881 and founded the town of Bristol, South Dakota. The Brokaw House, built in 1883, was the first structure in the town.

Brokaw Surname Miscellany

Bourgon Broucard.  The Register of Ancestors of the Huguenot Society of New Jersey  tated that the family of Broucard came from La Rochelle in France and that Broucard was at one time an honored and most noted name there. However, there seems to be little evidence to back this claim.

Simon Brocard was a young Huguenot silk-weaver working in London in 1616.  But there is no record of where he came from.

Broucard or variants of the name can be traced in the records at Mannheim along the Rhine in Germany from the early 1600’s.  And Bourgon Broucard married his first wife Marie du May at  the Walloon church there in 1663.

Bourgon was described at the marriage as “a native of Moucron in the Low Countries,” although there are few records of the Broucard name in Moucron.  Moucron is the Walloon spelling for the modern French-speaking Belgian city of Mouscron. Historically the old commune of Mouscron was part of Flanders.

Marie died in Mannheim in 1666.  No death records existed at that time in Mannheim.  But it may be conjectured that the plague which decimated much of Mannheim also claimed her and their young daughter.  At the end of 1666 Bourgon remarried in Mannheim to the young French woman Catherine Lefevre.  Three children were born to them before their departure to New York in 1675.

Caleb Brokaw in New Jersey.  Caleb, the son of Isaac Brokaw, was born in Somerset county, New Jersey in 1746.  He married Jane Van Nostrand Brokaw, his second cousin, in 1768 and later fought in the Revolutionary War.

He was a farmer and mason and lived in Weston, New Jersey.  He died in 1814 and was buried in the old family cemetery in Hillsboro township, Somerset county. His great great grandson Caleb Brokaw visited the site in 1915 and copied the following from his tombstone:

“In memory of Caleb Brokaw who died on May 8, 1814 in the 68th year of his life.

  • This spot contains the ashes of the just
  • Who sought no  honors, betrayed no trust,
  • This truth he proved in every path he trod,
  • An honest man, – the noblest work of God.”

George Brokaw of Harrison County, Ohio.  George, the son of Abraham and Judith Brokaw, was born at the family home in Somerset county, New Jersey in 1755. He enlisted in the Continental army and fought under George Washington in the Battle of Long Island in 1777.  After the War he married and moved to Pennsylvania where he and his wife Jane raised twelve children.

But George was in the search for new land.  In 1802 he headed west to the frontier and Harrison county, Ohio.  It was said that he spent the first year living in a tent before he constructed the first frame house of the county and his family could join him.  George later helped build the Crab Apple Presbyterian church in what became Athens township.

George Brokaw was a weaver by trade.  He lived to the ripe old age of eighty six and died in Athens in 1842.

Isaac V. Brokaw’s Ancestry 

  • Bourgon Broucard from Mannheim (1645-1720) m. Catherine Le Fevre
  • Abraham  Brokaw from Long Island (1684-1747) m. Marietje Davids
  • Isaac Brokaw from New Jersey (1719-1799) m. Marietje Van Nostrand
  • Isaac C. Brokaw from New Jersey (1759-1838) m. Maria Van Nortwick
  • Simeon Brokaw from New Jersey (1792-1854) m. Prudence Vail
  • Isaac Vail Brokaw from New Jersey (1735-1913) m. Elvira Gould.

Isaac V. Brokaw’s New York Mansion on Fifth Avenue.  In 1887 Isaac Vail Brokaw commissioned the architects Rose & Stone to design a grand French chateau on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 79th Street, across from Central Park.  Three years after construction began, the great home was completed.

Brokaw and his wife, the former Elvira Gould, lived in the mansion with their daughter Elvira and three sons.  To help the family get along they employed a houseman and helper, a butler, two footmen, two cooks, a chambermaid and parlor-maid.

Here on June 10, 1896 “the most fashionable wedding of the season” took place when their daughter Elvira married Carl Aage Vilhelm Frederick von Fischer-Hansen “from an ancient and noble Danish family.” Unfortunately, his ancient and noble lineage could not keep him from a prison term on Blackwell’s Island some years later for complicity in bribing a witness.

Isaac Brokaw died in 1907, leaving an estate of nearly $12.5 million. When his wife died, their son George begrudgingly lived on in the house he intensely disliked – because of its size and cost of maintenance through two marriages (the first to Clare Boothe who would later become Clare Boothe Luce).  His life in the mansion was in fact forced on him by his brother and the courts.  Finally in 1935, George Brokaw would die of a heart attack. His wife Frances would marry the actor Henry Fonda and have two children, Jane and Peter.

After George’s death the house laid empty until 1946 when it was taken over as office space by the Institute of Radio Engineers.  In 1965, to much outcry, the building was demolished.

Tom Brokaw’s Ancestry

  • Bourgon Broucard from Mannheim (1645-1720) m. Catherine Le Fevre
  • – John Brokaw from Brooklyn (1680-1740) m. Sarah Teunis Van Middlesward
  • — John Brokaw Jr. from New Jersey (1709-1804) m. Maritje Van Cleef
  • — Bergon Isaac Brokaw from New Jersey (1756-1813) m. Jane Suydam
  • —- Joseph Brokaw from New Jersey (1782-1855) m. Hannah Post
  • —– Joseph Brokaw Jr. from New York (1816-1861) m. Sarah Patterson
  • —— Richard Patterson Brokaw from New York (1843-1909) m. Anna M. Hyde
  • ——- William Loren Brokaw from Michigan (1869-1943) m. Elizabeth Meurer
  • ——– Anthony Brokaw from South Dakota (1912-1982) m. Jean Conley
  • ——— Tom Brokaw from South Dakota (born 1940) m. Meredith Lynn Auld.

Brokaw Names

  • Bourgon Broucard the Huguenot immigrant was the progenitor of the Brokaws in America. 
  • Isaac Vail Brokaw was a pioneer New York clothing merchant who in 1890 was said to have been one of the wealthiest men in the city.
  • Tom Brokaw was the anchor and managing editor at NBC Nightly News from 1982 to 2004.

Brokaw Numbers Today

  • 1,200 in America (most numerous in Ohio)

Brokaw and Like Surnames

These are Huguenot names, names sometimes anglicized brought by Protestant refugees from France in the 17th century to England and America. Here are some of the Huguenot originating surnames that you can check out here.



Click here for return to front page

Written by Colin Shelley

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *