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Guide to the Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbilt collection 1974.168

Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn 11201

Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Rachel M. Oleaga

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on January 15, 2021
eng using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Revised by Amy Lau, Archivist, to remediate oppressive language from subject terms, abstract, biographical and scope and contents note.  , December 2020

Scope and Contents

The Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbilt collection contains the legal, financial and business records of members of the Vanderbilt family in Flatbush, Kings County, New York from 1737 to 1818. These materials provide insight into some of the political and economic forces surrounding Flatbush and Brooklyn in the periods before and after the American Revolutionary war.

This collection contains wills, deeds, indentures and enslaved people bills of sale relating to the property matters of the Vanderbilt family. Multiple indentures for property involve Jeremias Vanderbilt (b. 1695), specifically one between himself and his brother Jacob Vanderbilt (b. 1692).

Business documents display the leasing of property in the City of New York, including two indentures of lease from John Vanderbilt (b. 1752); one to John Wilmont and David Berdan, and the other to John Schench. A contract for the hire and negotiated pay of John Vanderbilt (b. 1794) for work in a store on Water Street, in the City of New York is also contained.

Local political procedure and happenings can be seen in the court records included in the collection, specifically in a document created by Justice of the Peace John Vanderbilt (b. 1752), concerning a trial between Nehemiah Denton and Hulet Mott; it states the right of the constable to summon six jurors based on his judgment for the case. Official documents which allow for the license of an individual to keep an inn or tavern at their home in Kings County are also present. These licenses also mention the voidance of the document if any method of gambling is found on the property at any time.

This collection also contains a document stating the decision of the arbitrators regarding the boundary dispute between Flatbush and Brooklyn in 1741; arbitrators include Samuel Hubbard, William Courvenhove, and Johannes Nevins.

Documents concerning the death of Jeromes Ryerson and the guardianship of his children, Kelly and George, in 1796 are also found in the collection, specifically the release of estate matters and responsibility of George Ryerson upon his maturity to legal age from John Vanderbilt (b. 1752), Fernandus Suydam, and Martin Ryerson. Also included is a detailed assessment of Jeromes' property with assigned value to each item, including: enslaved people, furniture, household items, and animals.

References to enslaved African Americans appear in this collection, particularly seen in the legal documentation concerning sales and inheritance through wills. The collection contains three bills of sale, two of which involve the purchase of enslaved people by members of the Vanderbilts, and one seemingly unrelated enslaved persons bill of sale from Michael Vreeland to Sejtie Hegeman. Mention of enslaved people is also seen in the list of property in the will of Jeromes Ryerson.

The names John Lefferts, Peter Lefferts, Corneilus Van Der Veer, Jeremiah Lott appear in business documents in the collection as witnesses and members of various local appointments.


The Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbilt collection was found to be roughly organized into individual folders chronologically at the beginning of processing in 2010, with some folders labeled. There was no indication that the material was in its original order. The materials were then arranged, and a folder level description was imposed by the processing archivist.

Users of the collection should be aware that the documents created by, and surrounding a specific individual will be found in folders with the individuals name, separated further by subject matter.

Oversize materials were removed from their original folders and placed in an oversize folder. Notes appear in each folder where oversize materials were found and they are also noted on the container list. The oversize material can be found in one oversize folder, separated by notations.

There appears to be little consistency in how to correctly form the name Vanderbilt in both the collection and surrounding scholarship on the family, with some document signatures appearing Vanderbilt, and others Van Der Bilt, or V.D. Bilt. For the purposes of this collection, the spelling Vanderbilt is used to describe all of the Vanderbilt family members represented in materials; Vanderbilt, Van Der Bilt, van der Bilt, Van der Bilt, and V.D. Bilt.