American Ancestors / New England Historic Genealogical Society Is the Recipient of a Collection of Roosevelt Family Papers

The following announcement was written by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, also known as American Ancestors:

February 10, 2020—Boston, Massachusetts—Deeper glimpses into the fascinating lives of the extended family of Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), the 26th president of the United States, have been added to the collection of American Ancestors | NEHGS through a generous donation of Roosevelt family papers from the Theodore Roosevelt Association (TRA). The TRA, chartered by Congress in 1920, is a historical and public service organization dedicated to perpetuating the memory and ideals of Theodore Roosevelt.

Photograph, William Emlen Roosevelt (1825-1898), Mss 1288, R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, New England Historic Genealogical Society

Letters, previously unpublished family photographs, a handwritten multi-page genealogy, period family ephemera, and scrapbooks of hundreds of items are included in papers documenting the lives of members of the eclectic Dutch New York family whose members have included merchants, bankers, politicians, soldiers, explorers, and socialites. Many in the family became prominent in New York City business and political circles where “to be a Roosevelt was to be something distinctive.” The world followed the family’s exploits closely for decades as two Roosevelts, Theodore, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945), rose to national prominence with their election to the presidency, and another, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), became the nation’s longest-serving first lady, and a prominent diplomat.

Ryan Woods, EVP and COO of American Ancestors, announced the donation of the collection from the Theodore Roosevelt Association of Oyster Bay, New York. “We are delighted to be the recipient of these materials collected by the TRA since the 1920s ” said Woods. “We will make them readily accessible to the members of American Ancestors and other family historians, recognizing the immense value this collection will have to scholars around the globe.”

Lieutenant Colonel Gregory A. Wynn, USMC (Ret.), a trustee and a vice president of the TRA, facilitated the gift to American Ancestors | NEHGS. Wynn stated, “The TRA is thrilled to be able to partner and share this material with researchers and scholars through American Ancestors | NEHGS. The capacity and enthusiasm they can bring to this archive, much of which has been unknown previously, will ensure it is accessible and preserved for generations to come.”

While thorough studies of the Roosevelt genealogy and countless biographies of the 26th president have been published, there are unknowns within the stories of other Roosevelt family members. The new papers from the TRA will offer a more complete understanding of this important American family.

Last Will and Testament of Robert Barnwell Roosevelt (1829–1906), an uncle of President Theodore Roosevelt, and a member of the United States Congress

Among the many items within the collection given to American Ancestors are:

  • the Last Will and Testament of Robert Barnwell Roosevelt (1829–1906), an uncle of President Theodore Roosevelt, and a member of the United States Congress;
  • a handwritten genealogy on 11 sheets of large-format paper—its author unknown—with the last entry in 1866 recording the birth of Robert Barnwell Roosevelt’s son, Robert;
  • several previously unpublished portraits of William Emlen Roosevelt (1857–1930), banker and telegraph executive and first cousin of Teddy, dating to 1896; several portraits of the Kean family, into which William Emlen Roosevelt married; and a portrait of James Alfred Roosevelt (1825–1898), uncle of President Theodore Roosevelt and father of William Emlen Roosevelt.

The papers donated by the TRA join the collection of Roosevelt memorabilia located at American Ancestors, which includes a letter written in 1916 at Sagamore Hill in President Theodore Roosevelt’s own hand. In it he proudly explains to a friend, “I am a good example of the melting pot—and I am straight United States.”

The new Roosevelt family materials will comprise part of the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections at American Ancestors | NEHGS. The entirety of the collection is available for research through the American Ancestors Research Center located in Boston’s Back Bay.

Images of some of the items included in this gift to American Ancestors from the TRA may be viewed at https://americanancestors.org/about/press-and-media/press-releases/roosevelt.

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