His forebears had been among the Scottish and Dutch settlers of New York.
Herman Melville was born on August 1, 1819, in New York City, New York, United States; the third of eight children of Allan and Maria Gansevoort Melville.
His father an "importer of French Goods and Commission Merchant" from New England, who traveled abroad, was a member of a substantial if colorful Boston family. The author's paternal grandfather, Major Thomas Melville, was honored as a participant in the Boston Tea Party. His mother came from an old, socially prominent New York Dutch family of the Hudson Valley. His maternal grandfather was General Peter Gansevoort, a hero of the Siege of Fort Schuyler; in his gold-laced uniform, the general sat for a portrait painted by Gilbert Stuart, which is described in Melville's 1852 novel, Pierre. His father died when Herman was just twelve and the family was left with no money or resources. His mother had expected some inherited wealth from her family but she did not receive it.