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Port Richmond Congregants: The Vanderbilts

From Indentured Servitude to the World's Greatest Fortune in Six Generations
1st Generation - Jan Aertsen Vanderbilt 1627-1705

Jan Aertsen came to New Amsterdam in 1640 at age 13.  Too poor to pay his passage, with just the clothes on his back, he was indentured, 12 October, to Peter Wholfertsen Van Couvenhoven for three years. 


His last name, Aertsen, indicates that his father's name was Aert.  He came from De Bilt, 3 miles east of Utrecht, Holland.  Economic hardship like Jan's came from a combination of the 1637 tulip crash, bubonic plague, and The 30 Years War 1619-1648.


At age 16, in 1643, after participating in Indian fighting in the area, he completed his contract, and became free.  In 1650 he married Annaken Hendricks, from Bergen, Norway.  In 1661 he owned a farm in Flatbush - now enclosed within Prospect Park.  Their kitchen would have resembled the image to your right.

Wykoff House Museum East Flatbush, Brooklyn.  Built 1650s

2nd Generation - Aris Janse Vanderbilt 1653-1715

Aris was Jan's firstborn son.  In 1677 Aris married Hilletje Vanderbeek.  After Jan moved to Bergen NJ, Aris and his brother, Jacob, took over his Brooklyn farm.  Eventually Aris bought 60 acres of forested swampy land on Staten Island, but never moved there.  He died after 1711.

Vanderbilt was a solid dutch name and common around New York Bay

Generations lived out their lives on Staten Island as farmers or tavern keepers.

The earliest Vanderbilt

baptism was entered on

21 October 1713 for

Rem Van De Bilt's


Anna with

a Jacob Vande Bilt

as witness

A Jacob Vanderbilt earmark from 1725 was renewed by his grandson, also Jacob,  in 1772

Adam Mott, Clerk

Paul Micheau, Clerk

3rd Generation Jacobus 1692- 1759   Our Congregants

Jacob Van Derbilt, Aris' fifth child, and his wife Neiltje (Elenor) Denyse were the first of the Commodore's branch of the name on Staten Island in 1715.  In 1721 they moved to a large tract of land at New Dorp, which Jacob had purchased from his father, Aris, on May 19, 1715 and added to in 1719.


They worshipped at our Reformed Church at services held in the Voorlezer's House, which was located near today's Historic Richmond Town.  They left the Dutch Reformed Church to become Moravians when our congregation moved north in 1680, to our present site in what is now Port Richmond. 

From our Voorlezer's book. 

Baptism of 4th Generation 


and a sister


At one time Jacob was one of the three elders in the New Dorp Church and a liberal contributor to that institution and to a group which was instrumental in bringing other Moravians from Europe to America.


Jacob, who died in 1760, and his wife, who died ten years later, had nine children, all listed as born in Port Richmond.  At the elder Jacob's death Neeltje and the large family were left an estate of some 230 acres, a good barn and a well-built house, plus equipment, animals and slaves necessary for farming; but Neeltje had the estate auctioned off and gave each child an equal share of the proceeds.

Jacob signed a will on 10 May 1759 witnessed by a group which included our congregants, Mary and Daniel Corsen.

4th Generation Jacob Aertse Vanderbilt 1723 -1768 

Second child of Jacob and Neiltje.  Born on Staten Island.  Jacob married Mary Sprague.

They had eight children.

5th generation Cornelius, the Commodore's father,  Born May 27, 1764 - Died 1832

Eighth and youngest child of Jacob and Mary Sprague.  Buried in the Moravian cemetery

Jan's fourth grandson, Cornelius, was raised in the home of an uncle where he worked for his room and board.  He was still a young man at the end of the American Revolution.  The war destroyed Staten  Island's legal records which meant his inheritance had vanished.  He had no land of his own, little to support himself, and was most likely illiterate. He nevertheless became a successful farmer and sailor who owned his own land and operated his own boat, a periauger which transported goods to Manhattan. 

Cornelius moved to Port Richmond in 1780 at age 16.
In 1787 he married Phebe Hand.
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