Op den Graeff (surname)

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Op den Graeff
Origin: Germany or Netherlands
Meaning: Up away from the embankments or earthworks
Variant(s): op Den Graff
op den Graff
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Family tradition suggests that the name means "of the Count" and stems from the illegitimate birth of Herman op den Graeff (1585-1642) (later bishop of the Krefeld Mennonites), said to be fathered by Johann Wilhelm von Jülich-Kleve-Berg (1562-1609). Most or all of the references on follow that line. (The papers supporting that view by one Glenn Wayne Miller had become unavailable at the cited web address by January 2013.)

Two of the descendants of Herman disagree, as noted at the web pages listed below. The late William Addams Reitwiesner (1954-2010), a respected part-time genealogist, links to and quotes with approval the detailed analysis by Neil Uptegrove, who analyses the "Count" story and the likelihood that the family were Jews from Spain or Portugal.

Uptegrove deals with the "Count" theory with two points that he considers fairly conclusive. Part of the rebuttal criticises the mistranslation: "op" does not primarily mean "of" (or "von" or "van"), and "Graeff" is a plural meaning "graves, embankments, or earthworks", having nothing to do with "Graf". He then includes a statement that the surname was in use long before Herman was born: "It is quite certain that a protestant activist named Abraham op den Graeff fled from the commune at Zwammerdam in 1561 to avoid capture by the Spanish, showing that this family name was in use well before the supposed father of Herman was born (1562)."

Uptegrove starts his discussion of the locational origin of the family by quoting from what was stated to be said by one Col. Henry W. Shoemaker: "As far as our family tradition is concerned, and it has often appeared in print, the Op den Graeffs and Van Bebbers were Spanish or Portuguese Jews established in Holland since the days of the Spanish occupation." Uptegrove covers four to five centuries of European history to show that that would be unlikely in view of the persecution of non-believers by the very powerful Catholic Church, which was extremely strong in Spain, which ruled Holland until the Reformation was well under way in 1581. Jews under Spanish rule anywhere in Western Europe would probably survive only by keeping a very low profile, preferably professing to have converted, and certainly not becoming Protestant activists.

Individuals with that surname but no separate pageEdit

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

  • Neil Uptegrove's view - and we quote his "meaning" of the name above
  • [ WARGS support of Neil's view]

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