The Updegraffs (Op den Graeff) have a fascinating history that can be traced back to 1585 in Krefeld, Germany.  There is a wealth of information available on this family, from the original establishment of the Mennonite Church, to their conversion to Quakerism, to settling in Philadelphia to avoid religious persecution. William Penn recruited the Quaker family to become one of the original 13 families to settle in Philadelphia, arriving on the ship Concord in 1683.

Children of the original Op den Graeff settlers changed their name to Updegraff, Updegrave, Updegrove, and other variants. You can assume anyone with the Updegraff surname is related as it originates from one individual family, although you may be 10-12 generations apart.

The most notable action of the Op den Graeffs after they settled in America was their strong public stance against slavery and the slave trade. In 1688 Abraham Op den Graeff signed a petition against slavery. According to the National Park Service,

The 1688 petition was the first American document of its kind that made a plea for equal human rights for everyone. It compelled a higher standard of reasoning about fairness and equality that continued to grow in Pennsylvania and the other colonies with the Declaration of Independence and the abolitionist and suffrage movements, eventually giving rise to Lincoln’s reference to human rights in the Gettysburg Address. 


Nearly 170 years later, the Quaker Updegraffs of Mount Pleasant, Ohio, were active abolitionists. David B. Updegraff’s home served as an Underground Railroad station and is still standing today.

“My” Updegraffs descend from Peter Updegraff, a Mennonite weaver born in Germantown, Pennsylvania around 1696. He moved to York, Pennsylvania at a young age and had five children with his wife Gertrude – Margaret, Catherine, Peter, Susanna, and Herman.

Herman Updegraff was born 6 Aug 1740 in York, Pennsylvania. Also a member of the Mennonite church, he married Barbara and had ten children – Jacob, Peter, Henry, Margaret, Samuel, Elizabeth, Harman, Joseph, Hannah, and Maria. Herman died on 16 May 1806 in Monaghan Township, York County, Pennsylvania. I have not found any record of Herman’s participation in the Revolutionary War; the Mennonites, among others, did not believe in taking up arms.

Harman A Updegraff was born on 6 February 1779 in York, Pennsylvania. I believe he became a Lutheran at some point in his early years; the late 1790’s is where my family’s connection with the Quaker and Mennonite churches end. Harman moved a little farther west to Somerset, Pennsylvania and married Rachel Howard. They had four kids: David Orton, Lucy A., Isabella, and Harman Alexander.

Related Posts:

Margaret Miller and Harman Updegraff

Margaret Davis-Updegraff

Robert Lee Updegraff in the Panama Canal Zone

Updegraff Family Photos

An Unusually Pretty and Popular Girl (Alma Updegraff-Taggart)

Surnames I’m Researching

4 Responses

  1. Les

    Hi, I am looking for descendants of the Germantown OpDenGraeff family for DNA testing. In particular looking for descendants of Isaac (1678-1745) Updegraff’s son,Jacob line.

    Would appreciate any information you may have.
    Thanks, Les

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