William Rockefeller Sr.
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William Avery Rockefeller Sr. (1810 - 1906)

William Avery "Big Bill" Rockefeller Sr. aka Levingston
Born in Granger, Allegany, New York, United Statesmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married [date unknown] [location unknown]
Husband of — married 1856 in Norwich, Ontario, Canadamap
Descendants descendants
Died at age 95 in Freeport, Stephenson, Illinois, United Statesmap
Profile last modified | Created 29 Oct 2009
This page has been accessed 5,763 times.
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This person is an ancestor of Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. 41st US Vice President



William was born in 1810. He is the son of Godfrey Rockefeller and Lucy Avery.

  • William formed a family of his own:

1837: William Avery Rockefeller, Sr. married Eliza Davison on February 18 in Niles, Cayuga County, NY. [1]

  • William, having abandoned his family, became a bigamist:

Appeared in the 1850 Canada Census in Clarke, Durham, Canada West. The household included: William age 40, occupation yeoman [sic farmer]; Roena age 33; James age 13; Oliva age 10; Mary age 3.

Appeared in the 1860 U. S. Census in Cleveland, Cuyahoga, Ohio. The surname was transcribed as Rockafellow. The household included: Wm. age 50, occupation physician; Eliza age 46; Jno D. age 21; William age 19; Mary A. age 17; Franklin age 15; Julia Dogan age 21.

1865: Margaret Allen married William Levingston (a pseudonym of William A. Rockefeller, Sr. who was still married to his first wife, Eliza Davison) in 1856 in Norwich, Ontario, Canada. They had no children together. [1]

Appeared in the 1870 U. S. Census in Cleveland, Cuyahoga, Ohio. The surname was transcribeds as Rockfeller. The household included: Wm. age 61, occupation physician; Eliza age 57; Mary age 26; Frank age 25.

  • William also fathered two daughters (Clorinda and Cornelia Rockefeller) with another woman, Nancy Brown, to whom he was never married.

Appeared in the 1880 U. S. Census in Lancaster Township, Stephenson, Illinois. Surname was Livingston. The household included: William age 60, occupation physician; Margret L. age 46; Ottilie Selke age 20, occupation servant.

  • William Rockefeller spent some time in Park River, North Dakota under the Levingston alias.

He died on May 11, 1906, in Freeport, Illinois and was buried there in Oakland Cemetery. John D. Rockefeller never publicly acknowledged the truth about his father's life as a bigamist, and William's grave marker was paid for out of his second wife's estate. [1]

1906: William Levingston (William Avery Rockefeller Sr) is buried with his second wife Margaret L. Levingston in the Oak Knoll section of Oakland Cemetery in Freeport, Stephenson County, Illinois. [2]

Wikipedia: "William Avery "Bill" Rockefeller Sr. was an American con man who went by the alias of Dr. William Levingston. he worked as a lumberman and then a traveling salesman who identified himself as a "botanic physician" and sold elixirs. Two of his sons were Standard Oil co-founders John Davison & William Avery Jr."

He passed away in 1906.


  • "United States Census, 1840," database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHTN-121 : 2 March 2021), William Rockafeller, Richford, Tioga, New York, United States; citing p. 104, NARA microfilm publication , (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll ; FHL microfilm .

Canada Census 1851 - William Levingstone. Library and Archives Canada, Government of Canada 2026, Apr 21, https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/census/1851/Pages/item.aspx?itemid=830014

"United States Census, 1860", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MC21-ZNR : 18 February 2021), Wm Rockafellow, 1860.

"United States Census, 1870", database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M6KK-T5B : 29 May 2021), Wm Rockfeller, 1870.

"United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MXKK-X13 : 13 January 2022), William Livingston, Lancaster Township, Stephenson, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district ED 173, sheet , NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm .

  • Find a Grave, database and images (accessed 15 January 2021), memorial page for Dr William Avery “Dr. William Levingston” Rockefeller (13 Nov 1810–11 May 1906), Find A Grave: Memorial #5034173, citing Oakland Cemetery, Freeport, Stephenson County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Cecil Munsey (contributor 12999932) .


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 William Rockefeller Sr. on Wikipedia
  2. Grave Marker in the Oak Knoll section of Oakland Cemetery in Freeport, Stephenson County, Illinois.


Thank you to Kevin Mullen for creating Rockefeller-128 on 3 Nov 13. Click the Changes tab for the details on contributions by Kevin and others.

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It may be possible to confirm family relationships with William by comparing test results with other carriers of his Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA. However, there are no known yDNA or mtDNA test-takers in his direct paternal or maternal line. It is likely that these autosomal DNA test-takers will share some percentage of DNA with William:

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