Astor Family

The Ancestry of Richard David Astor

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.

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