Although the Dutch natives and their ancestors have spread all across the world--they were early and industrious traders who sailed all over--leaving a record of people (descendants) was apparently of little or no concern compared to recording the details of shipping goods (and, alas, sometimes people). Many Dutch descendants hailed from the part of Holland that is called "Etten"--now "Etten-Leur" after the merger of these two cities. Many variants of the name exist, including the name listed in this index, "Vanatta". The original version, which U.S. Immigration officers created variants of, was probably whatever the immigrant in front of them seemed to be saying. The logical beginning of this name for thousands of immigrants who hailed from the same area, but who were not all related by blood, is "van Etten", that is, "from Etten". "van" is simply a preposition in Dutch; it means "from". One can compare Leonardo da Vinci: an illegitimate child who had no surname therefore (by Italian law), so that he was called "Leonardo from ('da') Vinci" (a city, his home). So, here in the U.S. there are many variations of the name "van Etten", but the variants with some version of "atta" in them seem to be the commonest--perhaps because the Dutch pronunciation of the letter "e" sounds to the British-American ear more like an "a". People sharing the same variant of Vanatta therefore, are not necessarily related. Many simply have ancestors from the area of Etten in what is now the southern part of the Netherlands. But because the name (of any variant) is relatively unusual in most parts of the U.S. people often assume all (of us) are related somehow. As it happens, we typically don't know either, beyond relatively a few generations back, who is or who may be a blood relation. Van Atta (this writer's variant) descendants tend to look forward, not backward. This Vanatta history and genealogy page contains the contributed history of theVanatta surname made up of user contributed content from descendants and theirconnections interested in the Vanatta families. In the United States, the lastname Vanatta, and its variants, is a place name that typically was assigned bycustoms officials to Dutch immigrants to the U.S. that emigrated from the samepart of what is now the southern part of the Netherlands ("Holland")and shared very common surnames, such as "Jensen", which means"son of John" (compare "Johnson").
The Summary and Vanatta History sections, above, describe the origin of the "name"--originally simply a prepositional phrase that U.S. immigration officials long ago assigned to Dutch immigrants sharing very common names. First come, first choice, it was, because immigrants who arrived before ancestors with the same surname, Jensen--for example--kept their name, while later arrivers named Jensen were given new names as described above. This practice of renaming Dutch immigrants began the explosion of variants of the prepositional phrase that simply described where those immigrants came from. They came "van Etten"--"from Etten".
Nationality & Ethnicity
The history of Holland (properly "The Netherlands") is storied, given its short existence under its current proper name and boundaries. Indeed, the southern part of the Netherlands from which most if not all Van Attas/Vanattas/van Ettens, etc., hail was not always joined to the northern part. Etten and its environs are in/close to the Flemish country and so very near another country whose modern form also merged cultures, Belgium. The Dutch in their most powerful days not only were wealthy (especially from the shipping trade, either directly or indirectly), but also powerful (they supplied one of the kings of England, William, of the William and Mary era). Today, the Netherlands is best known for gouda cheese, wooden shoes, wind mills and tulips (which originated in Turkey and inspired a famous bidding war that shook the Dutch economy.) So much more can be said of the Dutch, a remarkable people. But the name Vanatta, etc., marks a split from that country, so that Van Attas, etc.,often know only a little more about the Netherlands, Holland, etc., than do tourists. Dutch, from the southern part of the Netherlands, in and around a city called Etten in the past, now Etten-Leur.
These are the earliest records we have of the Vanatta family.