Herman Op den Graeff: 1585 – 1642

November 26, 1585 – December 27, 1642

The Op den Graeff family – a name that in historical records can be seen as being spelled Opdegraf, Updegrave, Updegrove – is an old Dutch Mennonite family from Cleve and Crefeld.

Herman Op den Graeff was born on November 26, 1585 in Aldekerk, Kleve, Nordhein-Westfalen, Germany. In 1609, at the age of 24, he moved to Krefeld, Germany. In 1632, he was one of two delegates of the Crefeld Mennonite Church to sign the Dordrecht Confession and he also served as Bishop in the Crefeld congregation.

The Dordrecht Confession of Faith is a statement of religious beliefs adopted by Dutch Mennonite leaders at a meeting in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, on April 21, 1632. Its 18 articles emphasize belief in salvation through Jesus Christ, baptism, nonviolence, shunning those who leave the church, feet washing, and avoidance of taking oaths. — Wikipedia

Besides serving as preacher in the Crefeld congregation, Herman was a linen weaver as well as a merchant in cloth and linen. It is noted that he was an extremely wealthy one at that, which can be told by the quality of the stained glass windows that were in his house and the number of children that he had.

The entire family turned Quaker around 1679/80.

Herman Op den Graeff is the mystery man in this line of the family. Actually, three of our lines culminate with him through Sarah Dunbar. But it’s where the line goes back and beyond him that is a bit of a mystery.

Herman’s parentage is not recorded. Unfortunately. But there are many theories as to what his parentage was.

Theory One

He’s a man of mystery with no recorded ancestry. End of story.

Theory Two

Some say the Herman Op den Graeff was the illegitimate son of Johann Wilhelm von Jülich-Kleve-Berg and Anna Van Aldekerk or Altenkirchen.

Johann Wilhelm was the Bishop of Cleves from 1574 – 1585. He was married twice, the first time to Jakobea of Baden and the second time to Antonia of Lorraine. He did not have children with either of his first wives.

Anna Van Aldekerk was a nun who it is alleged that Johann Wilhelm entered into a morganatic marriage – one in which Anna, and any children of the marriage, would not share the husband/father’s rank and would have no claims to his inheritance.

Johann Wilhelm came from the long line of the Dukes de la Marck /von der Marck and for all intents and purposes, all documentation says that he was the last of his line.

Theory Three

People who want to make this connection from Herman Op den Graeff to the de la Marck line cite the stained glass windows in Herman Op den Graeff’s house as a clue, or even proof, of his lineage.


This 16th century stained glass window is in the Kaiser-Wilhelm Museum in Berlin. It shows the Lohengrin Swan from the coat of arms of the House of Cleves.


It is recorded that he had 18 children with Anna. At least half of them died as infants or children.

One of three linear paths that lead us to Herman Op den Graeff:
Herman Op Den Graeff (1585 – 1642) is my 11th great grandfather
Isaac Hermans Op Den Graeff (1616 – 1679) Son of Herman
Abraham Isaacs Op Den Graeff (1649 – 1731) Son of Isaac Hermans
Gertien Op Den Graeff (1681 – 1725) Daughter of Abraham Isaacs
Anna Adams/Addams (1714 – 1794) Daughter of Gertien
Jacob Adam Umstead (1745 – 1817) Son of Anna
Joel Tyson Umstead (1783 – 1870) Son of Jacob Adam
Reverand Richard Hunsberger Umstead (1821 – 1895) Son of Joel Tyson Umstead
Sarah Ann Umpstead (1846 – ) Daughter of Reverand Richard Hunsberger
Sarah A. Dunbar (1873 – 1940) Daughter of Sarah Ann
Alberta Claire Oesterling (1893 – 1976) Daughter of Sarah A.

11 thoughts on “Herman Op den Graeff: 1585 – 1642

  1. I too am a descendant in direct patrilineal line, and the last. I would be interested in any info you may want to share. Thanks!

    • We must be related. My 19 year old son is the youngest in the Updegraff bloodline. His 11th great grandfather was Abraham Op Den Graeff and his uncles were Herman and Dirk, three of the original 13 families to arrive October 6 1683 on the Concord.

  2. I’ve often wondered if I would ever connect with a/some direct Updegraffs! I see the name here and there out in the modern world, and I also see many variations of this name. Yes, any information you have would be welcome, and any information I’ve found (which, if you’ve been searching on the web, you’ve probably already found everything that I have) is yours for the asking.

    I’d be interested to know of any personality traits that may have come down through this line. The original Op den Graffs seemed to be a bit rebellious (given the times) and I wonder if that carried through the line?

  3. About the Graeff Union:
    This is the union and website of the worldwide descendants of the austrian noble Wolfgang von Graben (1465-1521), a descendant from the meinhardinian dukes and counts, firmed under the name (De) Graeff, Gräf(f), Grove, Op Den Graeff, Updegraf(f), Updegrove and Updegraph, their related family Orsini-Rosenberg and their association with following goals:

    I Enhance the knowledge about the family to all
    II To assist genealogic researches getting in touch with the Graeff families worldwide
    III Facilitate better contact between members of the family association worldwide

    Kind regards
    Matthias Laurenz Gräff
    chairman worldwide Graeff Union

    • I am a descendant of Lydia Uptagrafft, who was a daughter of Elias Uptagrafft and Jane Lowe. She was born in 1833, in Pennsylvania. I believe she is descended from Isaac Op den Graeff (1649-1731). I am curious about the several comments I’ve seen online about the Op den Graeffs being a cousin to, or relatives of William Penn, from whom they seem to have bought 2000 acres of land. Do you know anything of this connection? Thank you for your time. Be well and happy.

  4. Let’s see … maybe I should do a post about this …

    But in the interim the basic information is: William Penn is my “2nd Cousin 11 x removed”.

    His great aunt (my 11th great grandmother), Greitgen ‘Margaretha’ Pletges, was married to Herman Op Den Graeff (1585 – 1642), the one with the eighteen children.

    In my current family, second cousins are as good as cousins.

  5. Dear Kimberly,

    it is said that my family descendant from Pieter Graeff (born 1485), alleged brother of your ancresor Abraham op den Graeff (1485/90-1563), alleged sons of Wolfgang von Graben.
    My ancrestors emigrated from the Netherlands to ancient Saxony in Germany, and later to the austria Empire.

    Ive seen a comment about the connection with the illustrious Penn family. There is a short lineage.

    * Driessen Pletjes (1550-1645) ≈ Alet Goebels
    ** Alet Pletjes (1583-?) ≈ (Sir ?) John Jasper
    *** Margaret Jasper (c 1624-1682), 1st ≈ Nicasius Van der Schure; 2nd ≈ admiral Sir William Penn (1621-1670)
    gouverneur William Penn (1644-1718)
    *** Ann Jasper (born c 1628) ≈ William Crispin (1627–1681)
    ** Greitgen Pletjes (1588-1643) ≈ mennonite bishop Herman op den Graeff (1585-1642)
    *** Abraham Hermans op den Graeff (~1610–1656) ≈ Eva von der Leyen
    **** Isaac Hermans op den Graeff (1616–1679) ≈ Grietjen Peters (died 1679)
    ***** Abraham op den Graeff (1649–1731) — Updegraff family
    ***** Adolphus op den Graeff (1653–1680) — Updegrove family

    Kind regards
    Matthias Laurenz Gräff

  6. My family was one of the founding families of Germantown, PA – Thones/Dennis Hecken Conrad/Kunders/Conard from Neuwerk, Honschaft Damm, Muchen-Gladbach,Rhhineland, Germany. He was married to Elin/Helene Entgen Streypers Theissen/Tyson-Doors. Their son, Johann Kunders married Alice/Ealsje Theissen/Tyson Lukens. The Lukens family ancestry is from the Herman op den Graeff-Greitjen Pletjes line – daughter Adelheid/Alice/Elase Alletgen who married Wilhelm Nieoth Jansen Ter Meer Lucken & whose son was Jans Luckens – my 6th great-grandfather. . https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/53648364/person/120003728336/facts

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