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American Ancestors/NEHGS Digitizes Photographs and Documents from the Theodore Roosevelt Association

December 1, 2022—Boston, Massachusetts—A new collection of photographs and documents offering a deeper look into the lives of the extended family of Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), the 26th president of the United States, has been added to the archives at American Ancestors | New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), thanks to a generous donation by 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Letters, previously unpublished family photographs, a handwritten multi-page genealogy, period family ephemera, and scrapbooks of hundreds of items are included in papers documenting the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.

A description of the collection can be found here. A guide to the collection’s contents is available here. Direct digital access to the documents and photographs in the collection is available to researchers through American Ancestors Digital Library & Archives.

“This collection, which the TRA has been assembling since the 1920s, helps tell an important story about one of America’s most influential families,” said Ryan Woods, Executive Vice President and COO of American Ancestors. “We are delighted to be able make these materials freely available to family historians and 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 partner and share this material with researchers and scholars through American Ancestors | NEHGS. Their enthusiasm for the material, much of which has been unknown previously, and their archival expertise will ensure the collection 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 still unknowns within the stories of other Roosevelt family members. The new papers from the TRA 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 comprises 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 below.