The history of the Op Den Graeff - Updegraff family descendants starts back in the mid 1500's with Herman Op Den Graef. He was a Mennonite preacher in the town of Krefeld (also spelled Crefeld until 1929), in the present day state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Most of his family's history has been documented by many researchers, the most famous being Clyde Updegraff Shank, of which he produced eleven volumes of work and June Shaull Lutz's genealogy entitled "History of the Op Den Graef / Updegraff Family" self-published in 1988.
My interest in the Updegraff family comes from the Blooming Grove Settlement where my ancestor Jacob Frederick Miller first married circa 1825 Susanna Updegraff (daughter of Samuel Updegraff and Sarah Shaeffer). Susanna and Jacob had two children, Sarah Ann Miller and an unknown second child that died at birth or was still born. Susanna also died giving birth to this second child. Jacob Miller then married Barbara Cordelia Wolf daughter of Abraham Wolf and Christina Lang. Abraham and Christina Wolf were some of the first settlers of Blooming Grove in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. Making Susanna Updegraff my 4th great-grandmother, the linage is: Susannah Updegraff, Sarah Ann Miller, Margaretha Anna Rhote, Pierce Albert Stabler, Frederick Ulmer Stabler, Nancy Elizabeth Stabler and Kevin Leonard Sholder.
I have been working on the Updegraff Family for as long as I have been working on Blooming Grove, so I have quite a bit of information about the Updegraff family and their descendants.
Herman Op den Graeff was born on 26 November 1585 in Aldekerk, in the present day district of Kleve, state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany near the border to the Netherlands and died on 27 December 1642 at Krefeld. Many believe that this Herman could have been a son of either Abraham Graeff or John William, Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg (28 May 1562 - 25 March 1609), neither of these connections has ever been proven. What we do know about Herman is that his life and his descendants are well documented.
Herman was a linen weaver and merchant, possibly born of Mennonite parents from Aldekirk about 12 miles from Krefeld, becoming a burger of Kempen in 1605, where he met his future wife, Greitgen Pletjes (or Greitje Pletjes). They were married in Krefeld on 8 August 1605. Greitgen Pletjes was born on 26 November 1588 possibly in Kempen, in the present day district of Viersen, state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. She was the daughter of Driessen Pletjes born about 1550 and died on 22 May 1608 and Alet Göbels who died on 7 January 1640.
About 1608 Herman and his wife moved to Krefeld. Among the oldest Mennonites of Krefeld, the Op den Graeff family is one of the best known, since Herman Op den Graeff was the first leader of the Mennonite community who is known by name from that time period. Herman was also one of two delegates from the Krefeld Mennonite Church to sign the Dordrecht Confession of Faith on 21 April 1632. In 1637, he was named as the "der hiesigen Mennoniten Herr Bischof" [the local Mennonite Bishop] of Krefeld. Also in 1637, contributions were requested for the oppressed Reformed Church in Sweebrucke, Herman contributed from his own means in the name of the small Krefeld congregation 25 Reich Thanker, while the Reformed Congregation in Krefeld contributed only 22.
Two glass paintings have been preserved from the Krefeld house of Herman Op den Graeff, which had been in the Kaiser-Wilhelm Museum from 1894. The "Crefelder Zeitung" (a newspaper of that time) dated August 20, 1894, No. 421, describes these paintings, particularly the texts that were on the glass paintings at that time. Another reference about the glass paintings with a description of the Coat of Arms was found in the estate of W. Niepoth (Op den Graeff folder) in the archives of the city of Krefeld, who noted in a letter dated November 17, 1935 from Richard Wolfferts to Dr. Risler: "Saw the Coat of Arms glass pane in the old museum: 'Herman Op den Graeff und Grietgen syn housfrau' or the like. Coat of Arms - In the sign a silver swan in blue. Helmet decoration (I think): Swan growing." At a third point, Nieper mentions the two glass paintings, which were in the local historical museum of the Linn Castle at the time his book was published in 1940. They were apparently transferred to the Linn Castle when it was furnished from the Kaiser-Wilhelm museum. It was Nieper, who finally published the texts on the glass paintings. Following is the reproduction of both texts according to the line structure of the copy that was received:
I Gott fruchtigh from God is fruitful, devout und gutt von seden, and good to all sides, Luistigh frundtlich talked cheerfully und war von reden, and kind. Ist christlich und I am Christian and gefalt den herren, appeal to the Lord. Bringt gunst und setzet I bring affection, menneger zu grosser and one grants great ehren. honor to me. Herman op Herman op Den Graff Den Graff und Greitgen and Greitgen sein hosfrow his wife. A 1630 Anno 1630 II Wer wyl uns scheyden von der Who will take from us God's liebe gottes, Truebsal oder angst oder love, sorrow or fear or verfolgung oder Ferligkeyt oder schwerdt? persecution or execution or sword? Wie geschrieben steht um Deinen As written in your will, willen werden wir getoedtet den we are being destroyed all day gantzen tag. Wir siendt geachtet fur long. We are looked upon as Schlachtschaaffe. Aber in dem allen sheep to be slaughtered. But we ueberwinden wir weit um des overcome all for the one will who willen, der uns geliebet hatt. has loved us. Roem. 8 c 35 v Romans Chapter 8, Verse 35
In Krefeld the family belong to the Mennonite circle, which turned Quaker in part circa 1679-1680. Towards the end of the 17th century three grandsons and a granddaughter (Herman, Dirck, Abraham and Margaret) Op Den Graeff's descendants migrated to the United States. They were among the thirteen families, often referred to as "Original 13" the founders of Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who arrived on the ship Concord on 6 October 1683. The Op den Graeff family members jointly purchased 2,000 acres of land from William Penn. Abraham Op Den Graeff, a cousin of William Penn, also signed along with three others the first organized religious petition against slavery in the colonies, the 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery. Former Pennsylvania Governor Samuel Whitaker Pennypacker was the fourth great-grandson of Abraham Op den Graeff.
The Op Den Graef surname and its many variations such as: Op den Graeff, Opdegraf(f), Ubdegrove, Updegraf(f), Updegraph, Updegrave, Updegrove, Uptagraff(t), Uptegraff, Uptegraph, Uptegrave, Upthegrove are all probably descended from this Herman and Greitjen. Some of their descendants continued in or returned to the Mennonite faith and are found in the Montgomery County, Pennsylvania congregations of Skippack and Boyertown. The physical and mental characteristics of these persons seem to be persistent. They seem to be tall and spare in physique and have strongly marked features. Some say that the family is French-German, but the name sounds more like Dutch. A hand Bible that was printed in Amsterdam in 1633 was located in Newberrytown, York County, Pennsylvania by Clyde Updegraff Shank, who did a large body of research on his ancestry and placed the Bible in the York County, Pennsylvania Historical Society on 21 August 1957. The Bible was at one time in the possession of Peter Updegraff son of Isaac.