Roosevelt Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Roosevelt Surname Meaning

Roosevelt is an American surname originally derived from a Dutch place name spelled variously as van Rosevelt or van Rosenvelt, meaning “from the rose field.”

The most famous bearers of this name come from the Roosevelt family, a merchant and political family descended from the 17th century immigrant to New York Claes Maartenszen van Rosenvelt.

Roosevelt Surname Resources on The Internet

Roosevelt Surname Ancestry

  • from Holland
  • to America (New York)

The van Rosevelts were prominent in the Tholen coastal region of SW Holland where they were vassal lords. However, no records exist to connect the 17th century emigrant Claes Maartenszen van Rosenvelt with these van Rosevelts.

America. In 1613 the first Dutch settlers arrived and founded a number of villages and a town called New Amsterdam in what was to become the state and city of New York. Some of the Dutch families who came to New York in the 1600’s, such as the Vanderbilts, Roosevelts, van Burens, Schuylers and van Dykes were later through their descendants to have important parts to play in American history.

Claes Maartenszen van Rosenvelt arrived in New Amsterdam (now New York) sometime in the late 1640’s. He took up land to farm in an area today of midtown Manhattan which includes the Empire State Building. Claes’ son Nicholas, a fur trader and shopkeeper, was the first to use the spelling Roosevelt. His children Johannes and Jacobus were the progenitors of the Oyster Bay and Hyde Park branches of the Roosevelt family that emerged in the 18th century.

Isaac Roosevelt, the son of Jacobus, became one of the first large-scale sugar refiners in colonial New York. His heirs invested their inheritance wisely, primarily in coal and railroads, and augmented their position through judicious marriages. They were generally content to live at their estate at Hyde Park on the Hudson river as country gentlemen. The family itself became progressively less Dutch over time. Isaac’s mother was German, he himself married a Swede, and his son and grandson both married English women.

Oyster Bay Roosevelts.  These Roosevelts, the descendants of Johannes, made their money later. It was Cornelius van Schaak Roosevelt, known as CVS, who was the founder of the family fortunes. He made a killing in Manhattan real estate, plunging into the market during the Panic of 1837 when property values had crashed. At his death in 1871 he was said to be one of the five richest men in New York.

Later Roosevelts were involved in banking and trust fund management. The firm of Roosevelt & Son, begun by CVS’s father as a glass importer, celebrated its 150th year anniversary on Wall Street in 1947. It was only Teddy Roosevelt, seizing his opportunity during the Spanish-American War of 1898, that deviated the family into politics.

Hyde Park Roosevelts.  Teddy Roosevelt was a hero to his distant cousin, Hyde Park’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR in fact married Eleanor Roosevelt from Teddy’s side of the family in 1905 and his political career closely followed that of Teddy’s, even to the extent of attaining the Presidency.

FDR and the Hyde Park Roosevelts are generally associated with the Democratic party, Teddy and the Oyster Bay Roosevelts with the Republican party. There was a bond between the two sides, although they did fall out after FDR captured the White House. Teddy’s widow came out of retirement then to announce that “the New Deal was incompatible with our American democracy and liberty.”

Many books have covered the Roosevelt family, the earliest probably being C.B. Whittelsey’s 1902 book The Roosevelt Genealogy.

Roosevelt Surname Miscellany

The Van Rosevelts.  The grants of land fiefdoms in the area of Tholen in SW Holland dated back to the early 15th century.  The vassal lords who received these grants had the responsibility of building dykes on the land and in return held local powers.

One of the first of these amt lords was Marijinus van Rosevelt, whose lordship dated back to 1697.  Johan Willem van Rosevelt was an amt lord from 1731 to 1790.  These van Rosevelts held a place of prominence in the Oud-Vessermeer House of Amt Lords which was constructed in 1767, even among the other amt lords.

Evidence suggests that the immigrant Claes van Rosevelt did come from the Tholen region of Holland. However, there is nothing to tie him to the amt lords van Rosevelts.   In fact there is no knowledge even of who his parents were.

FDR’s daughter reported that her father, in all his study of family genealogy, had never been able to find out what Claes had done for a livelihood before coming to America.  As a consequence, he said, he had come to the conclusion that his ancestor must have been a horse thief or some other kind of a thief and, therefore, a fugitive from justice.  This conclusion, however, may have been designed to tease his aristocratic mother.

Dutch New York Families.  A number of Dutch families who came to New York in the 1600’s achieved a later prominence in American history.  The table below lists these family names, their immigrant forebear and arrival date, and approximate numbers in America today.

Name Forebear and Arrival Date Numbers Today (000’s)
Vanderbilt Jan Aertszoon van der Bilt in
Roosevelt Claes Maartenszen van Rosenvelt in 1649   3.8
Van Dyke Jan Thomasse van Dyke in 1652   2.4
Schuyler Philip Pieterse Schuyler in 1650   1.4
Van Buren Cornelis Maessen van Buren in 1631   1.0

Other notable early Dutch families, but with few descendants of their name in America today, are Rensselaer, Stuyvesant, van Courtlandt, van Wyck, Beekman, Hasbrouck (a Huguenot family), and Bloemendael (which probably became Bloomingdale).

The Oyster Bay and Hyde Park Roosevelts

The Oyster Bay Roosevelts

  • Johannes Roosevelt (1688-1750) married Heyltje Sjoerls in 1708
  • – Jacobus (James) Roosevelt (1724-1777) married Annetje Bogert in 1746
  • – Jacobus (James) Roosevelt (1759-1840) married Maria van Schaak in 1793
  • – Cornelius van Schaak Roosevelt (1794-1871) married Margaret Barnhill in 1821
  • – Theodore Roosevelt (1831-1878) married Martha Bulloch in 1853
  • – Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt (1858-1919), President.

The Hyde Park Roosevelts

  • Jacobus Roosevelt (1691-1776) married Catharina Hardenbroek in 1712
  • – Isaac Roosevelt (1726-1794) married Cornelia Hoffman in 1752 
  • – Jacobus (James) Roosevelt (1760-1847) married Maria Walton in 1786
  • – Isaac Roosevelt (1790-1863) married Mary Aspinwall in 1827
  • – James Roosevelt (1828-1900) married (second wife) Sarah Delano in 1880
  • – Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1946), President.

The two Roosevelt presidents were the same number of generations removed from their common ancestor. Their fathers were contemporaries.  But Teddy was a child of his father’s youth and F.D.R. of his father’s fifty fifth year.

Isaac Roosevelt and His Sugar Business.  Isaac Roosevelt built the old sugar house in New York, the first erected before the  Revolution, and worked there before the war and for ten years after.  His store was originally on Wall Street and his home faced on Queen Street (now Pearl) in Franklin Square.  On the rear of his house and in the center of the block was the old sugar house.  He moved to St. George’s Square in 1772, advertising his move as follows:

“Isaac Roosevelt is removed from his house on Wall Street to the house of his late brother, Jacobus Roosevelt Jr deceased, near the Sugar house and opposite to Mr. William Walton’s, being on the northwest side of Queen Street, where his customers may be supplied as usual with double, middling, and single refined loaf sugars, clarified, muscovado and other molasses etc.”

Isaac Roosevelt was one of the most active patriots during the period of the Revolutionary War and served as state senator from 1786 to 1790.

Teddy Roosevelt and the Spanish American War.  T.R. got the position of Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897, a post from which he was able to observe with gusto the coming of war with Spain.

He had always wanted to lead his countrymen in battle and recruited his band of “Rough Riders.”  The nation had never before and would never again see the likes of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry.  Lt. Colonel Roosevelt found his troopers in the Ivy League, the Somerset and Knickerbocker clubs, the New York police force, the Texas Rangers.  There were polo players, Indians and Indian fighters, broncobusters and steeplechase riders.

“It was the society page, financial column, and Wild West Show all wrapped up in one,” wrote a reporter.

Teddy’s capture of San Juan Hill during the ensuing war was hardly more than a skirmish.  His cavalry had left its horses at home and scrambled up the slope on foot.  Later, when Edith saw the site of her husband heroics, she was amused to find that it was hardly as steep as he had led her to believe.

Still for T.R, it was “the time of my life.”  Less than three months later he was back at home, a national hero, and the Republican candidate for governor of New York.  As the Roosevelt campaign train steamed through the state a bugler would appear at each stop to play the cavalry charge.  The candidate then emerged, surrounded by his faithful Rough Riders:

“You have heard the trumpet that sounded to bring you here.  I have heard it tear the propic dawn when it summoned us to fight at Santiago.”

Poor Mr. Van Wyck, the Democratic candidate, never had a chance.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s Life.  Looking back over her life, Eleanor Roosevelt saw certain distinct patterns.  The pattern of her early married years had been largely determined by her mother-in-law; the pattern of her middle years by her children and husband; the pattern of her latter years was her own.

She seemed to pick up momentum as more and more she became a public person, throwing her phenomenal energy and moral earnestness into issues, problems, policy.  After her husband’s death she applied herself to the Democratic reform movement in New York.  And She continued her daily column, appearing in 75 newspapers, and her monthly magazine articles.  Then there were books to be written, lectures to deliver, people to see, mail to answer, charities to be supported.  So many things to do, so little time, as she spread her deep sympathies over mankind.

President Truman appointed her to the American delegation to the United Nations, which was a natural canvas for her broad-gauge humanitarianism.  Diplomats discovered that she was no figurehead; the Soviets that she was no pushover.  These were her shining years, just as the UN Declaration of Human Rights was her lasting monument.

A young girl once paid a visit to Sagamore Hill, and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, her aunt Edith, wrote:

“Poor little soul, she is very plain. Her mouth and teeth have no future, but the ugly duckling may turn out to swan.”

As if recalling this prediction, Adlai Stevenson rose to pay tribute to the memory of Eleanor Roosevelt at the 1964 Democratic Convention:

“She thought of herself as an ‘ugly duckling.’  But she walked in beauty in the ghettos of the world, bringing with her the reminder of her beloved St. Francis.  And wherever she walked, beauty was forever there.”

Roosevelt Names

  • Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States, from 1901 to 1909.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was the 32nd President of the United States, from 1932 to 1946.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady, was wife to Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • Kim Roosevelt was the CIA operative who directed the 1953 coup which overthrew President Mossadegh of Iran.

Roosevelt Numbers Today

  • 4,000 in America (most numerous in New York)

Roosevelt and Like Surnames

The surnames found here cover most of the US Presidential surnames since the first President, George Washington.  Click on the surname below if you wish to know more of that particular President and his name.

ClintonJacksonNixonVan Buren


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Written by Colin Shelley

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