Rockefeller Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Rockefeller  Meaning

The place-name of Rockenfield near Neuwied in the Rhineland in Germany is
believed to be the source of the Rockefeller name. Its roots are rocke meaning “rye” and field meaning “open country.”

Rockefeller Resources on

Rockefeller Ancestry

Genealogists have
suggested that the Rockefeller line might have gone back to French
who had fled to Germany in the 16th century. The first in the
German line
was Goddard Rockenfeller,
born in
the Rhineland in 1590. His
grandson Johan Peter Rockefeller set off for America in the early
1700’s. He settled in Arnwell township, New Jersey in 1723.

America. It was a
descendant John
D. Rockefeller
who established the family’s name and
fortune in the 19th century. His beginnings were
impropitious. He was the second of six children whom his father
“Doc” Rockefeller had abandoned in the 1850’s to live with another

Rockefeller started his business in Cleveland Ohio, where his family
had moved in 1853. In 1870, he founded the Standard Oil Company
and aggressively ran it until he officially retired in 1897. As
kerosene and gasoline grew in importance, Rockefeller’s wealth soared
and he became the world’s richest man. He was an American oil
who revolutionized the petroleum industry and later defined the
structure of modern philanthropy.

His son John D. Rockefeller Jr was a noted philanthropist and the
father of five famous Rockefeller brothers, John D, Nelson, Laurence,
Winthrop and David. John D. became a major philanthropist like
his father; Laurance a venture capitalist and conservationist; Nelson
and Winthrop state governors with Nelson going on to become Vice
President under Gerald Ford; and David an internationally renowned

brothers were part of the third generation of the descendants of John D.
The fourth generation
has been even more
varied in its activities, from Michael Rockefeller
the anthropologist who died at such a young age,
to Abby
Rockefeller, the left-wing environmentalist.
The fifth and sixth generations have followed.
The total number of blood relative
descendants now number about 150.

legacies have included the Rockefeller Foundation, Rockefeller Center
in New York, and Lincoln Center and the Museum
of Modern Art in New York – both founded by Rockefellers.


Rockefeller Miscellany

Rockenfeller and Roquefeuil.  The first
proven ancestor of the Rockefeller line was Goddard Rockenfeller.  He was born in 1590 in Neuwied in the
Rhineland and lived with his wife Magdalena in a small village named

Some have sought to link
these Rockenfellers with the French Roquefeuil family, a family which
took its
name from the chateau of Roquefeuil in the mountains of Creyssels in
France.  A coat of arms was granted to
Raymond de Roquefeuil in 1250.  These
Roquefeuils made large fortunes from their vineyards in this area of
France.  The family enjoyed their position
until the
middle of the 16th century when they were driven from France as a
result of the
religious wars of the time.  Some of them
sought refuge in Holland and Germany. 

John D. Rockefeller in His Own Words.  The story
of his first business experience was told in Random
Reminiscences of Men and Events
, the only book that John D.
ever published.

I was seven
or eight years old, I engaged in my first business enterprise with the
assistance of my mother.  I owned some
turkeys and she presented me with the curds from the milk to feed them.
I took care of the birds myself and sold
all in businesslike fashion.  My receipts
were all profits, as I had nothing to do with the expense account, and
receipts were kept as carefully as I knew how.”

the age of 86 he wrote the following
little ditty to sum up his life.

“I was
early taught to work as well as play.
life has been one long, happy holiday;
of work and full of play,
I dropped the
worry on the way.
And God was good to me
every day.”

there was foresight and cunning
in him as well.  In order to create the
monopoly that was the Standard Oil Trust, he showed himself to be a
operator.  He would undercut his
competition, engage in espionage and price wars, press for discounts on
shipments, buy out competing refiners, and make his own secret deals.  Ida Tarbell documented the dark side of these
activities in her 1904 expose, The
History of the Standard Oil Company.

John D. Rockefeller and His Descendants.

John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937), oil magnate

Edith Rockefeller McCormick (1872-1932), Chicago socialite

John D. Rockefeller Jr. (1874-1960), noted philanthropist

– John D. Rockefeller III (1906-1978), another noted
– Jay Rockefeller (born 1937), Governor and
Senator of West Virginia

– Nelson Rockefeller (1908-1979), New York Governor and US Vice
– Michael Rockefeller (1938-1961), young
anthropologist who disappeared in New Guinea

– Laurance Rockefeller (1910-2004), venture capitalist and

– Winthrop Rockefeller (1912-1973), Governor of Arkansas
– Win Paul Rockefeller (1948-2006), Lieutenant
Governor of Arkansas

– David Rockefeller (born 1915), Chairman and CEO of Chase
Manhattan Bank
– David Rockefeller Jr. (born 1941), noted
– Abby Rockefeller (born 1943), left-wing
– Eileen Rockefeller Growald (born 1952), also
a philanthropist

generation of the family included the brothers John D, Nelson,
Winthrop, and David.  The fourth
generation is generically known as “the Cousins”
(24 in all, with 21 still living), while the
younger family members are known as the “Fifth/Sixth”
generation.  Family get-togethers are held
at the Playhouse
at the Pocantico family estate in Westchester county in June
December of each year.

financial and personal affairs of the family – numbering the 150 blood
relatives of John D. Rockefeller – are run from the family office, Room
in Rockefeller Center in New York.  Room
5600 is also the base for the family historian, Peter J. Johnson, who
David Rockefeller with his Memoirs.

The Building of Rockefeller Center.  In the
late 1920’s the Metropolitan Opera became interested in the twelve
acres of
land between 48th and 51st Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues in
Manhattan for the construction of its new home, along with several
towers.  John D. Rockefeller Jr. was no
opera fan.  But the idea of erecting a
modern urban complex was very appealing to him.

purchasing a lease for the land, Rockefeller suddenly found himself
with the
entire burden of the project when the Metropolitan Opera withdrew after
stock market crash of October 1929.
Although the Rockefellers were also hit by Black Tuesday, losing
half of
their fortune, they managed to finance the costly development by
agreeing to be
personally responsible for the repayment of the loans.

Over the course of nine years, in the depth
of the Depression, the building of Rockefeller Center would provide
for 75,000 workers.  But the impact of
the undertaking was felt even more deeply on the city’s morale, boosted
Rockefeller’s confident move.

faith in progress was also evidenced by his choice of a modern
style, Art Deco.  The architects designed
a complex that consisted of 14 limestone buildings, including a
70-story tower
taken over by RCA.  The vertical thrust
of the ensemble was meant to symbolize humanity’s progress toward new
frontiers, a theme dear to Rockefeller who sought to advance that cause
his philanthropies.

proceeded at a steady pace.  Rockefeller,
like his father, would supervise all the details, a golden four-foot
ruler at
hand.  In
charge of finding new tenants for the center
was Rockefeller’s son Nelson, taking on a prominent role in the family
for the first time.  Nelson also dealt
with the well-known artists hired to grace the buildings and plazas
murals, decorative panels and sculptures, among them the controversial
painter Diego Rivera.

Center was the first development in the world to include offices,
stores, restaurants, broadcasting studios, and entertainment venues in
complex.  Radio City Music Hall, opened
in 1932, stunned the audiences of the time with its breathtaking
proscenium arch.  Another crowd-pleaser
was the skating rink, built in 1936.

Michael Rockefeller’s Disappearance. Michael Rockefeller
was the youngest son of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and his first wife
Mary.  A young anthropologist, he
disappeared in 1961 during an expedition in the Azmat region of SW New

Rockefeller and his Dutch
companion Rene Wassing were in a 40-foot dugout canoe about three miles
shore when it was swamped and overturned.
After drifting for some time, Rockefeller said to Wassing “I
I can make it” and swam for shore.  Wassing
was rescued the next day.  But Rockefeller
was never seen again, despite an intensive and lengthy search effort.  His body was never found.  He
was declared legally dead in 1964.

Rockefeller was
thought to have drowned or been attacked by a shark or a crocodile.  Paul Toohey’s book Rocky goes
suggests that he was killed by natives,
possibly because he became an inadvertent victim of a revenge attack
Dutch patrols in the area.

Many of the
Asmat artifacts that Rockefeller collected are part of the Michael C.
Rockefeller collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York


Rockefeller Names

  • John D. Rockefeller was the American oil magnate who
    revolutionized the burgeoning petroleum industry and, in so doing, became the world’s richest man.
  • Nelson Rockefeller was the 44th
    Vice President of the United States, serving under Gerald Ford.
  • David Rockefeller was chairman and chief executive of Chase Manhattan Bank from 1969 to 1981.

Select Rockefeller Numbers Today

  • 500 in America (most numerous in New York)


Select Rockefeller and Like Surnames.

From our selection, these are the surnames of those who have made their business mark in America – as pioneers, inventors, developers, or corporate leaders – over its long history from colonial to modern times.






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