The origins of the Astor family history are obscure. A dubious line has been traced back as far as the thirteenth century, to a Franco-Spanish family (d’Astorg) in Castile, but reliable documentary evidence leads no further than seventeenth century Italy.
The Astor family tree begins at its earliest records in 1620. The counter-Reformation at the time provoked an exodus of Protestant families from the Alpine town of Chiavenna and one such family was that of Giovan Pietro Astor, who fled via the Splügenpass to arrive in Zürich with his wife and two children in 1620. There he changed his name to Hans Peter Astor. Hans Peter’s descendants were still living in Switzerland in 1664 when Johann Jakob (presumably his grandson) was born. Johann Jakob, with whom the continuous record of the Astor family history begins, then moved to Nussloch in Baden.
The only child of Johann Jakob for whom records survive is Felix. In 1713, Felix moved to Walldorf, some 30 kilometres South of Heidelberg, apparently because his wife Eva Dorothea (nee Freund) had inherited property there. He also bought a vineyard in nearby Wiesloch. Whatever wealth he amassed, however, must have been spread very thinly among his progeny for Felix fathered twenty children. Most of them would have dispersed, having to make their own way in the world.
One son, Johann Jakob, stayed in Walldorf and became the town butcher. This butcher’s eldest son George migrated to London, where he joined a paternal uncle in the business of manufacturing musical instruments; and eventually in 1777 set up his own firm, specialising in making flutes. In this capacity he employed his younger brother, John Jacob, who arrived from Walldorf in 1779.
The partnership prospered until 1783, when the young John Jacob emigrated again to join another older brother, Henry, this time in New York. There, within five years, he shifted from musical instruments to the fur trade. Three years later he began also to invest in New York real estate. The rest is history. John Jacob became America’s first self-made dollar millionaire (his estate upon his death was conservatively valued at $30m, with wilder estimates of up to $150m) and laid the foundations for what was to become one of the world’s great family fortunes.
The following genealogical account of the Astor family, traces the line of John Jacob’s descendents only in so far as it leads to our target: Richard Astor. No attempt is made to trace the collateral lineages. The target line is indicated in bold type.
Astor Family – Earliest Records
1. Giovan Pietro (Hans Peter), b. Chiovenna, m. NN, d. Zürich, fl. 1620 (he had two children).
1.1.1. Johann Jakob, b. Zurich 1664, m. Anna Margaretha nee N, d. Nussloch 2.4
Astor Family – Continuous Records
18.104.22.168. Felix, b. Nussloch 1698, m1. Eva Dorothea nee Freund, m2 NN, d. Walldorf 1765 (he had four children by his first wife and 16 by his second). (He moved to Walldorf in 1713.)
22.214.171.124.1 George Peter, b. 1740, d. London 1802.
126.96.36.199.2 Johann Jakob, b. Walldorf 1724, m1. Maria nee N, m2. Christina N, d. Walldorf 1816.
188.8.131.52.2.1. George Peter, b. Walldorf 1752, m. London 9.11.1779 Elizabeth nee Wright (b. 1761, d. 1842), d. London 1813.
184.108.40.206.2.2. John Henry, b. Walldorf 1754, m. Dorothea nee N, d. New York 1833.
220.127.116.11.2.3. Catherine, b. Walldorf 1757, m. George Ehninger, d. New York.
18.104.22.168.2.4. John Melchior, b. Walldorf 1759, m. Verona nee N, d. Neuwied 1829.
Astor Family – American Branch
22.214.171.124.2.5. John Jacob I, b. Walldorf 17.7.1763, m. New York 19.9.1785 Sarah nee Todd (d.o. N & Sarah Todd, b. 1762, d. 1834), d. New York 29.3.1848. (He moved to New York in 1784, and several members of the extended family followed him.)
126.96.36.199.2.6. Maria Magdalena, b. Walldorf 1768.
188.8.131.52.2.7. Anna Eve, b. Walldorf 1771, m1. Richard Corner, m2. Peter Cook, d. 1859.
184.108.40.206.2.8. Elizabeth, b. Walldorf circa 1773, m. John Wendell, d. New York.
220.127.116.11.2.9. Sebastian, b. Walldorf.
18.104.22.168.2.10. Maria Barbara, b. Walldorf.
22.214.171.124.2.5.1. Magdalen, b. New York 1788, m1. Adrian Bentzon (d. 1855), m2. New York 9.3.1820 John Bristed, d. New York 1832.
126.96.36.199.2.5.2 Sarah (she died young).
188.8.131.52.2.5.3. John Jacob II, b. New York 1791, d. there 1869.
184.108.40.206.2.5.4. William Backhouse, b. New York 19.9.1792, m. Red Hook NY 20.5.1818 Margaret Rebecca nee Armstrong (d.o. General John Armstrong, b. Albany NY 1800, d. 1872), d. New York 24.11.1875.
220.127.116.11.2.5.5. Dorothea, b. New York 1795, m. Washington 1812 Walter Langdon, d. New York 1853.
18.104.22.168.2.5.6. Henry, b. 12.1797, d. 23.11.1799.
22.214.171.124.2.5.7. Eliza, b. 1801, m. Paris 10.12.1825 Vincent Rumpff, d. 1838.
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52. Emily, b. 1819, m. New York 1.1838 Samuel Ward Jr. (s.o. Samuel Ward & Julia Rush nee Cutler, b. New York 7.1.1814), d. 1841.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11. John Jacob III, b. New York 10.6.1822, m. New York 12.1846 Charlotte Augusta nee Gibbes (d.o. Thomas Stanyarne Gibbes, b. New York 1825, d. 12.12.1887), d. 22.2.1890.
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124. Laura Eugenia, b. 1824, m. Franklin Hughes Delano (b. Dartmouth MA 27.7.1813), d. 1902.
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52. Mary Alida, b. 1826, m. John Carey Jr., d. England 1881.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11. William Backhouse Jr., b. 1829, m. Caroline Webster nee Schermerhorn (b. 22.9.1830, d. 30.10.1908), d. 1829. (Their son John Jacob IV established the Astoria hotel which merged in 1897 with the Waldorf [est. 1893 by William Waldorf; see 18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.1 below] to create the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.)
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52. Henry, b. New York 7.1830, m. Rhinebeck NY 4.5.1871 Malvina nee Dinehart (b. New York 4.1845), d. West Copake 1918.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11. Sarah, b. 1832 (she died young).
Astor Family – English Branch
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.1 William Waldorf 1st Viscount Astor, b. New York 31.3.1848, m. Philadelphia 6.6.1878 Mary Dahlgren nee Paul (d.o. James W. Paul, b. Philadelphia 1858, d. Cliveden 22.12.1894), d. Brighton 18.10.1919. (He moved to London in 1890; bought Cliveden manor in 1893 and Hever castle in 1903; ennobled 1916.)
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.1.1. Waldorf 2nd Viscount Astor, b. New York 19.5.1879, m. London 3.5.1905 Nancy Witcher (Shaw) nee Langhorne (d.o. Chiswell Dabney Langhorne, b. Denver VA 19.5.1879, d. 2.5.1964) [in 1919 she became the first woman to take a seat in the British parliament]), d. Cliveden 30.9.1952.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.1.2. Pauline, b. 1880, m. 1903 Lt.-Col. Herbert Henry Spender-Clay (b. 4.6.1875, d. 15.2.1937), d. 1970.
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.1.3. John Rudolph, b. & d. New York 1881.
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.1.4. John Jacob V, 1st Baron Astor of Hever, b. New York 20.5.1886, m. London 29.8.1916 Lady Violet Elliot Mercer-Nairne (b. 1889, d. 1965), d. Cannes, France 19.7.1971.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.1.5. Gwendolyn Enid, b. 10.1893, d. 1902.
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.1.1.1. William Waldorf, 3rd Viscount Astor, b. 13.8.1907, m1. Hon. Sarah nee Norton (b. 1902), m2. Philippa nee Hunloke, m3. Bronwyn nee Pugh, d. 1966.
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.1.1.2. Nancy, b. 1909, m. Lord Willoughby d’Eresby, Earl of Ancaster.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.1.1.3. Francis David Langhorne, C.H., b. 5.3.1912, m1. Melanie nee Hauser, m2. London 1952 Bridget nee Wreford (d.o. Cyril Frederick Wreford & Aphra nee Bush, b. 27.10.1927), d. London 2001.
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.1.1.4. Michael, b. 1916, m1. Barbara Colonsay McNeill, m2. Patricia Pandora Clifford Jones, m3. Judy Innes.
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.1.1.5. Sir John Jacob VII, b. 8.1918, m1. Ana Innez Caracano, m2. Susan nee Sheppard, m3. Marcia de Savary.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168. Frances, b. London 1.3.1947, m. Miles Frankel.
22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52. Alice Margaret Frances, b. London 7.9.1953, m1. Lawrence Woodward, m2. Mark Grindon Welch.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168. Richard David, b. London 28.4.1955, m. London 1989 Sarah Georgina Harriette nee Skinner (d.o. James Skinner & Joy Gregory, b. Bedford 15.10.1961).
22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52. Lucy Aphra Nancy, b. London 6.1.1958.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168. Nancy Bridget Elizabeth, b. London 7.10.1960, m. Johannesburg 1989 Sean Naidoo.
22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52. Thomas Robert Langhorne, b. London 25.4.1962, m. Susie nee Boyt.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168.1. Bonny Jane, b. London 6.7.1992.
22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.2. Alfred David James, b. London 27.4.1995.
Join us at the farm to taste the Solms-Astor wine range from Solms-Delta, named after the Astor family.