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The Roosevelt family – ‘fields of roses’ depicting in the Netherlands

Updated on September 24, 2010
Location of Oud Vossemeer - Netherlands
Location of Oud Vossemeer - Netherlands

A celebration in the Netherlands

Yes, we're all celebrating in the Netherlands !! The Dutch village of ‘Oud Vossemeer’ celebrates its 600 year anniversary !! I know… you have no idea what I’m talking about… but maybe if I were to tell you that the Roosevelt family's ancestors came from Oud-Vossemeer, you’d be interested to read on and you can find out why we're so very proud of this Dutch-American connection !

It was actually not too long ago, that residents of the Dutch village ‘Oud Vossemeer’ were unaware of the fact that two of the most beloved American Presidents, Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945), had their roots in this small village on the isle of ‘Tholen’.

Eleonor Roosevelt during her visit to Oud Vossemeer (in the back on the stairs, middle)
Eleonor Roosevelt during her visit to Oud Vossemeer (in the back on the stairs, middle)

Dutch Ancestors

Great, great, great and so on grandfather Claes Maartenszoon van Rosenvelt emigrated from Oud Vossemeer to the New World in 1649. In 1652 he bought a farm on the place that is now known as Midtown Manhattan, NY. His son Nicholas was the first to use the spelling Roosevelt instead of Rosenvelt. Nicholas sons Johannes and Jacobus had political ambitions and by the late 19th century, the Hyde Park Roosevelts were generally associated with the Democratic Party while the Oyster Bay Roosevelts were associated with the Republican Party. Although campaigning against each other quite often, both family branches remained friendly.

Family gift to Oud Vossemeer

It was only after a visit in 1950 by Eleonor Roosevelt, Franklin’s widow, that the Oud Vossemeer residents became aware of the ‘village influence’ on world history. The Roosevelt Monument, unveiled in 1992 by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s granddaughter Mrs. Silberstein-Roosevelt, represents the Four Freedoms and was a gift of the American Roosevelt family to the residents of Oud Vossemeer to remind them of the relationship between the village and the family.

Four Freedoms Award
Four Freedoms Award

Four Freedoms Awards

American tourists and descendants of the Roosevelt family frequently visit this special place in the Netherlands, especially during the presentation of the Four Freedom Awards. This prestigious and world-famous event, originated in New York in 1950, honors in odd years American citizens or institutions who have dedicated their life and work to preserving the Four Freedoms. The awards are presented by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in New York. In even years the awards ceremony is held by the Roosevelt Foundation in the Dutch village of Middelburg, not too far from Oud Vossemeer and honors non-Americans or institutions.

Four Freedoms Award 2009


Honorees over the last few years are for example the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Simon Wiesenthal, John F. Kennedy, Desmond Tutu, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, the New York Times, CNN, Amnesty International, Doctors without Borders and many more. In 2009, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton received in New York the Four Freedoms Award 2009.

In this year’s ceremony, held in the New Church in Middelburg on May 29, 2010, the international Four Freedoms Award 2010 was granted to the European Court of Human Rights. Other awards were granted to the Russian magazine Novaya Gazeta (award freedom of speech), UN inspector on freedom of religion Dr. Asma Jahangir from Pakistan (award freedom of worship), the Canadian environmental activist Maurice Strong (award freedom from want) and the Australian human rights activist Gareth Evans (award freedom from fear).


US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a gifted speaker, articulated the Four Freedoms on January 6, 1941. In this ‘Four Freedoms speech’, actually the 1941 State of the Union address, he proposed four fundamental freedoms that people "everywhere in the world" ought to enjoy:

Freedom of speech and expression

Freedom of religion

Freedom from want

Freedom from fear

With this speech did Roosevelt not only alert Congress and the US to the necessity of war in a time when Europe lay under Nazi regime, he also appealed to America’s most profound beliefs about freedom. These four freedoms form part of the substantive law of the European Union.

All text copyright Arietha Geurts


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