Van Buren Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Van Buren Surname Meaning

Van Buren is a Dutch-origin surname meaning “of Buren,” Buren being a small city in the Dutch province of Gelderland. The name has a certain prominence in Holland because Anna van Egmond en Buren was the first wife of William of Orange, the founder of the Dutch royal family. The Dutch royals have been known to use the name van Buren in situations that require anonymity.

The van Buren name has a greater prominence in America because Martin van Buren was the 8th President of the United States. There are also van Vuurens in South Africa.

Van Buren Surname Resources on The Internet

Van Buren and Van Vuuren Surname Ancestry

  • from Holland
  • to America (New York) and South Africa

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.

From the town of Buren in Holland came Cornelis Maessen in 1631. His family farmed in the Hudson valley at Rensselaerwick and, from the 1690’s, at Kinderhook. As the 1790 New York state census showed, they were still farming there a hundred years later. Martin van Buren, a protege of Andrew Jackson who was to become President in 1836, was born in Kinderhook and later retired there.

As the Kinderhook Sentinel reported in May 1841: “After the lapse of a long series of years spent in the service of his country, President van Buren has returned to the home of his youth, probably to spend the evening of his days among those who have long appreciated the splendor of his genius and admired his virtues.”

There are few direct descendants of Martin van Buren as none of his grandchildren ever married. One line comes from Martin’s second cousin, Barent van Buren. And the comic strip illustrator Raeburn van Buren may be a distant relative. The overall family history has been recorded in Harriet C. Peckham’s 1913 book History of Cornelis Maessen van Buren.

Also from Buren in Holland came Gerrit Cornellissen in 1660. His son Martin is thought to have adopted the van Buren name and settled in Kingston, New York.

Dr. Johannes van Beuren, who arrived around 1700, was one of the leading physicians of New York in his time. His two sons Beekman and Henry followed him in his profession, Beekman in New York and Henry in Brooklyn. They mixed with other notable Dutch families of colonial New York. Beekman’s son Michael became a merchant in New York, as did the next two of this line. Beekman’s grandson William became a surgeon.

Some van Burens did move in later years. Cornelius van Buren left the Hudson valley in the early 1800’s and, following the course of the Mohawk valley, made his home in Glen, Montgomery county. Peter and Isabella van Buren departed Otsego county, New York for Wisconsin in 1844, settling in Vernon township. And Charles van Buren, also from Otsego county, moved to Michigan in 1882. He settled in the Clearweater township in Kalkaska county.

South Africa. The name in South Africa came to be spelt van Vuuren. Gerrit Jansen van Vuuren was born in Gelderland and came to the Cape colony in 1687. He has a large number of descendants today scattered around South Africa. His original farm of Bellenchamp in Drakenstein is now part of the Bellingham wine estate.

Van Buren Surname Miscellany

Cornelis Maessen van Buren.  Cornelis Maessen either originated in the town of Buren in Gelderland or was a native of that place.  He did not at that time bear the van Buren name.  It was not the custom at the time he came to America for Dutchmen to have a family name, except in very rare cases.

Cornelis arrived on the Dutch ship Rensselaerwyck with his wife Catalyntje in the summer of 1631 and they settled to farm at Ransselaerwick in what is now Albany county, New York.  Both Cornelis and his wife died in 1648.

Their grandson Martin assumed the van Buren surname.  The Dutch of New Amsterdam, after the succession of the English in 1664, had begun to adopt family surnames, generally taking the name of the place in Holland from which they or their parents had emigrated.

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 Maartenszam van Rosenvelt
in 1649
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

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).  

Van Burens in the 1790 New York State Census.  The table below shows where and how many van Burens and their slaves were recorded in the 1790 New York state census.

County Town # persons # slaves
Albany Easton     25      4
Albany Hoosick      7      2
Albany Rensselaerwick    124     43
Columbia Hudson     11
Columbia Kinderhook     60     27
Columbia Livingston      7
Dutchess Rhineback      4
Montgomery Caughnawaga     13      9
Montgomery Mohawk      5
New York Manhattan     32
New York Brooklyn (King’s)     15      3
Ulster Kingston     14      3
Total    317     91

Rensselaerwick and Kinterhook are where the descendants of Cornelis Maessen van Buren were to be found; Manhattan and Brooklyn the descendants of Dr. Johannes van Beuren.

Kinderhook.  Kinderhook, the upstate New York home of America’s 8th President, is steeped in history. Washington Irving wrote the classic story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow while staying at Lindenwald, the home of Martin Van Buren.  The Van Alen house, built in 1737, is just north of Lindenwald.  The house is now a museum, along with the original Ichabod Crane schoolhouse of Irving’s tale adjoining it.

Martin Van Buren is OK.  According to John Ciardi’s A Browser’s Dictionary, the expression “OK” first surfaced in the 1820’s and gained popularity during Martin van Buren’s bid for re-election for President in 1840.  Van Buren, a native of Kinderhook NY, was popularly known as Old Kinderhook or O.K.  During the election campaign the cry of “OK,” indicating enthusiastic approval of Old Kinderhook, soon began to resound at rallies and the letters OK became common on placards and in political cartoons.

Foreign coverage of the campaign, which included reproductions of the cartoons, soon spread OK through Europe and Latin America as a formula of approval.  When Van Buren was crushingly defeated by William Henry Harrison, the Democrats let it be known that O.K. stood for “Orful Kalamity” and “Orrible Katastrophe.”

Van Buren Physicians and Surgeons in New York.  Dr. Johannes Beuren had attended the lectures of Herman Boerhaave in Leyden and immigrated from Beuren, near Amsterdam, to New York in 1700.  Soon after his arrival he was appointed physician to the almshouse, a position to which his son, Beekman Van Buren, who died in 1812, succeeded him.

Beekman’s grandson, William Holme van Buren, was a surgeon and teaching professor at New York’s new Bellevue hospital when it opened in 1847.

William was famed for his skill in amputations and other operations of general surgery, but he particularly distinguished himself in the field of diseases of the urogenital system on which he published several valuable contributions.  His areas of specialty were the rectum, bladder and kidney.  His lectures on syphilis were among the most popular and best attended in New York.

He published an American edition of Charles Morel’s book on histology and of Claude Bernard’s and Charles Huette’s operative surgery. The latter was official guide to the military physicians during the Civil War.  Every surgeon in the federal army received one copy.

Van Buren Names

  • Martin van Buren, the son of an upstate New York innkeeper, was the eighth President of the United States.
  • Raeburn van Buren was a noted magazine and comic strip illustrator of the early 20th century.
  • Abigail van Buren was the pen name of the Dear Abby newspaper advice columnist Pauline Phillips.

Van Buren Numbers Today

  • 1,000 in America (most numerous in New York)

Van Buren and Like Surnames

These are Dutch-originated names, Dutch surnames that found their way in the 17th century to New York and to South Africa.  Here are some of the Dutch surnames that you can check out.

BeekmanHendricksKnickerbockerVan Buren

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Written by Colin Shelley

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