I discovered that Anderson Cooper
and I share a common ancestor Jan Aertsen Vanderbilt. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. briefly mentions that he came to America with just the clothes on his back. I wanted to know more.
Thankfully, because the Vanderbilt name is so famous, I didn't have a hard time finding out about Jans. Most of this information comes from Commodore: The Life Of Cornelius Vanderbilt.
His last name was actually Aertsen which indicates most likely that his father's name was Aert. He most likely came from a small village called Bilt near Utrecht in the Netherlands. This would explain how he got the last name Vanderbilt.
He came to New Amsterdam (now New York City) as an indentured servant. This meant he was too poor to pay for the passage himself. Why was he so poor? It could have been for a few reasons.
Remember the Dotcom bust in 2001?
Well, Holland experienced one too. Only instead of internet companies, they lost their shirts to the tulip. The price of one bulb was worth ten years of income.
When the bubble burst in 1637 tulips were only worth a hundredth of it's price and the country went into an economic depression that lasted for years.
To make matters worse, the bubonic plague was intermittently a problem in Holland beginning in 1599. This horrible disease could devastate a family very quickly.
As if economic depression and disease wasn't enough, Holland was also in a war. The Thirty Year War was from 1619-1648 and was considered one of the most destructive conflicts in European history.
Any or all of these could have been why Jans at 13 years old agreed to be an indentured servant. When he turned 16, he was free and could begin to earn a living for himself. He lived in New Amsterdam, a piece of land the Dutch bought for $24. You know it as Manhattan, where $24 will get you get you 3 toilet-water hot dogs.
He purchased a farm in Flatbush in what is now Brooklyn.
After Jans moved to Bergen, New Jersey his sons Aris and Jacob took over farming there.
Aris and Jacob worked hard and bought real estate when they could afford it. Eventually, Aris bought 60 acres of forested swampy land now known as Staten Island.
Aris had many children including my 8th great grandmother and Jacob. Jacob became Cornelius Vanderbilt's great grandfather.
Why does Grand Central Terminal have a statue of Cornelius Vanderbilt?
Because when he died, he was worth over 100 billion dollars in today's money. That's richer than this guy.
The closest I have come to the Vanderbilt fortune is when I wore these in the 7th grade.
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