The Grobbel Family - Our German Roots

Johannes Grobbel, of Schmallenberg, Germany has researched the Grobbel family genealogy in Germany and is the source for this information about the German-born Grobbel family members. Michael Harder, a co-worker of mine who is originally from Witten, Germany, assisted me with some of the translations of Johannes' information.

The Grobbel Origins - Intertwined with Church and Hof

The Dom in Cologne that took 600 years to complete.
The Dom in Cologne

In the year 1248, work began in the ancient German city of Cologne (Köln) on a magnificent Gothic cathedral (called the Dom) that would take over 600 years to complete. Two years later, construction began on a much more modest church in a village called Wormbach, which was located 60 miles to the east of Cologne in the area of Westphalia known as the Sauerland. In the early ninth century, the Bishops of Cologne had established a missionary outpost in Wormbach and as Christianity took hold over the years, the simpler structures were replaced by larger ones in 850 and again in 1000. Now in 1250, a much more substantial church would be built, one which would continue to serve the inhabitants of the village and surrounding countryside for at least the next 750 years.

According to Johannes Grobbel, a manuscript titled "Geschichte der Wormbacher Kirchengemeinde" (The History of Wormbach Parish) indicates that in 1398, an individual identified as "der schwarze Gobelen von Obringhusen" (the black Gobelen from Obringhausen) belonged to the Wormbach Parish.

Obringhausen was a tiny settlement consisting of six farms, located about three-quarters of a mile east of Wormbach. The fact that he was the proprietor of one of the six farms (Hofs) in Obringhausen has been confirmed by examination of old assessment records that had been prepared by the Benedictine Monastery in nearby Grafschaft, since the Church held title to most of the land in this area. The reference to "der schwarze" could mean that he had a dark facial complexion and/or black hair.

The Church of Saints Peter & Paul in Wormbach
The Church of Saints Peter & Paul in Wormbach

The Wormbach Parish records during the period of 1398 through 1670 describe this family and their descendants by various surnames such as Gobelen, Groteboel, Groite Boill, Grotebeul and Grobbelen. Beginning in 1670, the family surname became consistently recorded in official documents as "Grobbel."

The village of Obringhausen as seen from the southwest.
The roof of the Grobbel Hof is visible off in the distance
beyond and slightly above the village (upper left center
of photo).

The origins of the Grobbel surname come from two Low German (Plattdeutsch) words, Groite and Boill (which roughly translates as "major bump"), which were used to identify the family based on the description of their farm's location on the hillside overlooking the village. Of the six farms in Obringhausen, the Grobbel farm was the one that was farthest up the side of the slope overlooking the village.

Over the centuries, the "Ursprünghof Grobbel" (literally, "origin farm Grobbel", which refers to the Grobbel family ancestral farm in Obringhausen, also called the Grobbel Hof) was usually inherited by the eldest surviving male of each successive generation, in accordance with the laws of primogeniture that were followed during those times.


“In peoples where estate law is founded on the right of primogeniture, territorial domains pass most often from generation to generation without being divided. The result is that family spirit is in a way materialized in the land. The family represents the land, the land represents the family; it perpetuates its name, its origin, its glory, its power, its virtues. It is an imperishable witness to the past and a precious pledge of existence to come.” - Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Volume 1, Chapter III).

Historically in Westphalia, the connection between a family and their land was so tight that the practice of the time was to "call" people by the name of the Hof they lived on (that is, the name of their Hof was commonly used for their surname). Sometimes a daughter would inherit a Hof because there was no surviving male child. Also, in some areas, the primogeniture laws would allow the Hof to go to the eldest child, regardless of their gender.

The practice of using “called” surnames caused complications when a male would acquire a Hof through marriage. He and his offspring would now be "called" by the name of the Hof, which was likely to be the same name as his wife's maiden name or one of her ancestors. For example, if Maria Müller inherited the Müller Hof and she married Johann Schmidt, his “called” surname would become Müller and his complete name would be written as "Johann Schmidt, gt. Müller”. In everyday conversation he would be spoken of as "Johann Müller". Johan and Maria’s children would also be “called” Müller, and their surname would be written "Schmidt, gt. Müller" (gt. is the abbreviation for the German word "genannt", meaning "called").

This happened when the Grobbel Hof was inherited by a daughter, Elisabeth Grobbel, who married Jakob Böddecker in 1670. He became "Jakob Böddecker, gt. Grobbel", and was called "Jakob Grobbel".

Of the six farms in Obringhausen, five had their houses clustered together and they would walk to their land on the outskirts, which is typical for most European agricultural villages. However, the Grobbel Hof was different in that the house was surrounded by their land and it was separated from the other five houses by a distance of about 1,600 feet (perhaps this could be why they were given a surname based on the location of their Hof). In 1729, a new house was built to replace an older structure, and in 1824, Johannes and Maria Walburga (Eickhoff) Grobbel enlarged it with an addition on the west side of the existing structure, making it one of the largest and nicest homes in the area.

In modern times, even with the more liberal inheritance laws, the Grobbel Hof was kept in the family. After World War II, the farm operations were focused on cattle breeding, but by the 1980's, this was no longer profitable, so the land and buildings were sold at auction. Fortunately, the house and outbuildings, along with a small portion of the land, was purchased by Johannes Grobbel's first cousin and her husband, who have meticulously restored the structure to its former glory. Many more old and recent photos of the Grobbel Hof can be found


Our Grobbel Family Ancestors - The First Twelve Known Generations

The "History of Wormbach Parish" has an entry that states: "Groteboel (Grobbel) heißt 1398 'der schwarze Gobelen von Obringhusen' " (Groteboel (Grobbel) 1398 called 'the black Gobelen from Obringhusen'). Based on this, in the table below, we will assign the surname Groteboel to "der schwarze" as well as to his son and grandson, about whom there are no known records (the dates with "Abt" are estimates; other surname spellings, plus all of the dates in parentheses are as noted from entries in the "History of Wormbach Parish"). Subscript numbers indicate the Generation Number, with "1" being assigned to "der schwarze". Since all of the Grobbel emigrants to the U.S.A. were descendants of Johann Heinrich GROBBEL12 , all ancestors and descendants are listed with respect to him. Many of the names shown in these listings come from the original church records and include their full given names. Where known, the name that the person actually went by is shown in italics.

A Table Listing the Paternal Ancestors of Johann Heinrich GROBBEL12 (1702-1762)

Generation Name Birth Marriage (+) Death

1 der schwarze Gobelen von Obringhausen (GROTEBOEL) (1398) b: Abt 1370 m: Abt 1400 d: Unk
2 unk1 (GROTEBOEL) b: Abt 1400 m: Abt 1430 d: Unk
3 unk2 (GROTEBOEL) b: Abt 1430 m: Abt 1460 d: Unk
the elder (1518,19) b: Abt 1460 m: Abt 1490 d: Unk
the younger (1536) b: Abt 1490 m: Abt 1520 d: Unk
6 Ebert GROTEBOELE (1563) b: Abt 1520 m: Abt 1550 d: Unk
7 Matthias GROBBELEN (1602, 1613) b: Abt 1560 m: Abt 1590 d: Unk
8 Becker GROBBELEN (1649) b: Abt 1590 m: Abt 1615 d: After 1649
9 Georgen GROTEBOEL (1670, 1684) b: Abt 1615 m: Abt 1640 d: 03 Mar 1683/84*
10 Elisabeth GROBBEL b: Abt 1640 m: 11 Aug 1670 d: Unk
+ Jacobus Böddecker , gt. GROBBEL b: Abt 1640 d: Unk
11 Heinrich GROBBEL b: 15 May 1671 m: Abt 1700 d: Abt 1700
12 Johann Heinrich GROBBEL b: 24 May 1702 m: 19 Oct 1733 d: 17 Sep 1762

*Double Dates = Julian (old)/Gregorian (new) calendars


Later Generations - Johann Heinrich GROBBEL12 and his Descendants

It was at the Grobbel Hof in Obringhausen, Westphalia, Germany, that Johann Heinrich GROBBEL12 was born on 24 MAY 1702. Heinrich eventually inherited the Grobbel Hof. In Wormbach, on 19 OCT 1733, he married Anna Brigitta SELLMANN. Brigitte was born in nearby Kirchrarbach on 25 JUN 1715. They both died in Obringhausen, Henrich on 17 SEP 1762 and Brigitte on 17 DEC 1785. Eight of their children were:

Joannes Matthias GROBBEL13 (b. 17 OCT 1734 in Obringhausen, d. Unk)
- Joannes
13 (b. 3 NOV 1737 and d. 13 DEC 1827, both in Obringhausen)
- Anton Hermann Lorenz GROBBEL13 (b. 26 MAR 1742 in Obringhausen and d. 19 NOV 1804 in Lenne, Westphalia).
Johannes Rotgerus GROBBEL13 (b. abt. 1745 in Obringhausen and d. 10 FEB 1826)
Johannes Theodor GROBBEL13 (b. 1 JUL 1747 in Obringhausen and d. 22 DEC 1815 in Schmallenberg, Westphalia)
Joannes Nicholaus GROBBEL13 (b. 10 DEC 1749 in Obringhausen and d. Unk)
Antonius GROBBEL13 (b. abt. 1753 in Obringhausen and d. 11 FEB 1823)
Jacob Theodor GROBBEL13 (b. 6 APR 1757 in Obringhausen and d. Unk)

Both Ludwig and Lorenz would have descendants who emigrated to the United States.


Ludwig GROBBEL13 and his descendants

Ludwig GROBBEL13 married Anna Elisabeth SCHÜTTE (b. 3 MAY 1742 and d. 3 NOV 1831 in Obringhausen, Westphalia) on 27 AUG 1777 in Wormbach. Ludwig inherited the Grobbel Hof upon his father's death. Ludwig and Elisabeth had two sons that we know about:

Johannes Everhard Martin GROBBEL14 (b. 11 OCT 1778 and d. 23 MAY 1851, both in Obringhausen, Westphalia)
Johannes Röttger GROBBEL14 (b. 8 MAR 1781 in Obringhausen, Westphalia and d. 4 APR 1838 in Cobbenrode, Westphalia).

Ludwig's son, Everhard GROBBEL14 married Maria Walburga EICKHOFF (b. 16 SEP 1792 in Wormbach and d. 12 SEP 1869 in Obringhausen, Westphalia) on 22 NOV 1808 in Wormbach, Westphalia. Everhard inherited the Grobbel Hof. Everhard and Walburga had at least one child:

Franz Joseph GROBBEL15 (b. 29 AUG 1814 and d. 22 JUN 1874, both in Obringhausen, Westphalia).

Everhard's son, Joseph GROBBEL15 , married Maria Walburga Henrichs (b. 2 MAY 1819 in Felbecke, Westphalia and d. 13 NOV 1894 in Obringhausen, Westphalia) on 9 OCT 1845 in Wormbach, Westphalia. Joseph inherited the Grobbel-Hof. Joseph and Walburga had fourteen children, four of whom are listed below and two of whom (Emil and Joseph) would emigrate to the U.S.A. in 1879.

Franz Anton GROBBEL16 (b.7 JUL 1844 and d. 1 NOV 1893, both in Obringhausen, Westphalia) who married Lisette Josepha SCHÜTTE on 22 SEP 1874 in Wormbach, Westphalia. As the firstborn male child, Franz inherited the Grobbel-Hof.
Wilhelm Emil GROBBEL 16 (b.8 SEP 1852 in Obringhausen, Westphalia and d. 18 FEB 1939 in Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan, U.S.A.) Emil was their seventh child.
Maria Josepha Bertha GROBBEL16 (b. 7 FEB 1854 in Obringhausen, Westphalia and d. 14 SEP 1950 in Wormbach, Westphalia) Bertha was their eighth child.
Franz Joseph GROBBEL 16 (b. 18 JAN 1856 in Obringhausen, Westphalia and d. 1923 in Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan, U.S.A.) Joseph was their ninth child.

More information about Emil, Joseph and their descendants can be found here.

Ludwig's other son, Röttger GROBBEL14 married Maria Catharina EICKHOFF, genannt Spot (b. 1793 in Kückelheim, Westphalia, d. unknown) on 28 NOV 1815 in Cobbenrode, Westphalia. Catharina Spott had inherited the Meister Hof farm in Cobbenrode from her maternal grandmother. Röttger moved there when he married Catharina, becoming noted as a "Bürger und Ackermann" (citizen and farmer). He and Catharina had seven children, three of whom (Anton, John and Daniel) would emigrate to the U.S.A. around 1849, plus another (Josephina) who would emigrate to follow her daughter and son-in-law (possibly along with her husband and sometime after 1872).

Joannes Francis Joseph GROBBEL15 (b. 19 NOV 1817 and d. 1 NOV 1867, both in Cobbenrode, Westphalia) who married Anna Maria Elisabeth HEBBECKER (b. 15 MAR 1826 in Hebbecke, Westphalia and d. 11 JAN 1905 in Cobbenrode, Westphalia) on 19 JUL 1849 in Cobbenrode, Westphalia.
Franz Anton GROBBEL 15 (b. 4 NOV 1819 in Cobbenrode, Westphalia and d. 24 MAR 1900 in Warren Twp., Macomb Co., Michigan, U.S.A.)
Johannes Caspar Anton GROBBEL15 (b. 22 AUG 1822 and d. 25 DEC 1886, both in Cobbenrode, Westphalia) who remained single and lived in the Meister-Hof with his brother Francis, which he eventually inherited.
Joannes (John) GROBBEL 15 (b. 21 OCT 1825 in Cobbenrode, Westphalia and d. 31 JAN 1870 in Hamtramck, Wayne Co., Michigan, U.S.A.)
Josephina GROBBEL 15 (b. 6 JUN 1828 in Cobbenrode, Westphalia and d. Unk in the U.S.A., probably in Grand Rapids, Michigan. On 19 Nov 1850, she married Franz Heinrich SCHULTE, gt. Neuhäuser. Josephina's oldest child married and then emigrated with her new husband to Grand Rapids, Michigan about 1872. Josephina apparently followed her daughter to Grand Rapids sometime after 1872.
Maria Anna GROBBEL15 (b. 1 FEB 1831 and d. 11 FEB 1832, both in Cobbenrode, Westphalia)
Daniel GROBBEL 15 (b. 3 DEC 1836 in Cobbenrode, Westphalia and d. Unk , probably in Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan, U.S.A.)

More information about Franz Anton, John, Daniel and their descendants can be found here.


Lorenz GROBBEL13 and his descendants

Lorenz GROBBEL13 married Anna Maria NIEDERSTEN (b. 10 NOV 1748 and d. 20 JUN 1817 in Lenne) on 16 JUN 1766 in Lenne, Westphalia. Their home in Lenne is still in use today as a private residence. Lorenz and Anna Maria had at least two sons:

Joannes Caspar GROBBEL14 (b. 3 APR 1769 and d. sometime before 1849, both in Lenne, Westphalia).
14 (b. 31 Oct 1773 in Lenne, Westphalia and d. 29 March 1807 in Milchenbach, Westphalia).

Lorenz's older son, Caspar GROBBEL14 married Maria Elisabeth SCHLEIME (b. 9 MAR 1770 and d. 19 FEB 1849, both in Lenne, Westphalia) on 2 DEC 1793 in Lenne, Westphalia. Elizabeth inherited her family's house in Lenne. Elisabeth's family farmhouse (Schleimen-Hof), which was their son's birthplace, still stands in Lenne. Caspar and Elisabeth had eleven children and descendants of two of their sons would later emigrate to the U.S.A.:

Caspar Anton GROBBEL15 (b. 28 July 1806 in Lenne, Westphalia and d. unk).
Joann Jacob Anton GROBBEL
15 (b. 24 Feb 1813 in Lenne, Westphalia and d. unk).

Caspar's older son, Caspar GROBBEL15 , married Maria Therese STRATMANN, who was born 28 Oct 1824 in Hachen, Westphalia. They had one known child:

Anton Caspar GROBBEL16 (b. 2 Dec 1845 in Lenne, Westphalia and d. unk in Lenne).

Anton Caspar GROBBEL16 , married Maria Josefine Therese SCHMIDT, who was born 2 Jan 1855 in Huxel, Westphalia. They had three children, one of whom would become a Roman Catholic Priest and who was sent in 1904 to serve the faithful in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.A.:

Anton Caspar GROBBEL 17 (b. about 1880 in Lenne, Westphalia and d. 9 Feb 1953 in Nebraska, U.S.A.). Vatican records indicate that his health failed and he returned to Germany where he spent many years at a sanitarium.

Caspar's younger son, Anton GROBBEL15 , married Anna Maria Elisabeth STILPER, who was born sometime between 1820 and 1830 in Hundesossen, Westphalia, which is near Lenne. Anton and Elisabeth were married on 14 Nov 1847 in Lenne, Westphalia and they had four children, one of whom emigrated to the U.S.A. around 1884:

Anton GROBBEL 16 (b. 2 JUN 1851 in Lenne, Westphalia and d. 9 OCT 1926 in Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan, U.S.A.). More information about him and his descendants can be found here.

Lorenz's younger son, Anton GROBBEL14 married Anna Catharina STORCK (b. 13 Feb 1785, d. 17 Oct 1808, both in Milchenbach, Westphalia) on 16 April 1800 in Attendorn, Westphalia. They had three children:

Ludwig Vinzens Laurenz GROBBEL15 (b. 8 Aug 1801, d. 30 Dec 1826, both in Milchenbach, Westphalia)
Johann Jakob Franz GROBBEL
15 (b. 15 Feb 1804, d. 23 Oct 1860, both in Milchenbach, Westphalia)
Maria Catharina GROBBEL
15 (b. 21 Nov 1806, d. 31 Oct 1838, both in Milchenbach, Westphalia)

Anton's younger son, Johann Jakob Franz GROBBEL15 married Maria Josefine RAMEIL (b. 5 Feb 1809 in Saalhausen, Westphalia, d. 20 March 1873 in Milchenbach, Westphalia) on 26 Jan 1832 in Lenne, Westphalia. They had nine children together, including:

Johann Caspar GROBBEL16 (b. 8 Sept 1833, d. 9 Jan 1888, both in Milchenbach, Westphalia)
Franz Anton GROBBEL
16 (b. 18 April 1836 in Milchenbach, Westphalia and died in the U.S.A.) Franz Anton emigrated to the U.S.A. sometime before he married Maria HUBER (b. unknown date in Mendingen, Württemberg, Germany, d. unk in the U.S.A.) on 05 Aug 1869 at St. Joseph Parish, Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan. Franz Anton and Maria had at least three children: Anton GROBBEL17 (b. 04 Jul 1870 in Detroit), Anna GROBBEL17 (b. 12 Apr 1872 in Detroit) and John Conrad GROBBEL17 (b. 13 Jun 1874 in Detroit).

Johann Caspar GROBBEL16 married Elisabeth TRÖSTER (b. 26 Sept 1840, d. 15 Dec 1895, both in Milchenbach, Westphalia) on 27 Aug 1867 in Lenne, Westphalia. They had five children, including

Peter Anton GROBBEL 17 (b. 12 June 1873 in Milchenbach, Westphalia and d. 16 April 1965 in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.A.). Peter was ordained a Roman Catholic Priest on 23 July 1905 in Freiburg, Switzerland and was immediately sent to eastern Nebraska where he served a number of parishes in different capacities for almost 60 years. Additional information about the life of Father Grobbel can be found here.

View a family tree showing the relationship of the Grobbel emigrants to the U.S.A. (opens in a new window)

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Read more information about The Grobbel Emigrants to the U.S.A. and their descendants.

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