Reiff Family

1663 - 1834

The Reiff family name derives from the Middle High German word 'reif' which means '(barrel) hoop', ‘ribbon’ or ‘cord’ and is therefore a metonymic occupational name for a cooper or maker of ribbons, or from a house or tavern with the sign of a hoop. It may also have origins in the medieval personal name 'Riff', a short form of the German name Richfrit, a name composed of the elements 'ric' meaning ‘power(ful)’ and 'frid' meaning ‘peace’.

Our tree actually includes two Reiff families but since there is not much known about one of them, we will concentrate on the family that begins with Hans George Reiff who was of either Swiss or German origins. His birth is believed to be circa 1663. His father may have been Hans Heinrich Reiff of Switzerland but this is unconfirmed. Hans being a shortened version of Johannes, the Latin form of John, he is also known as John George Reiff but we will call him Hans.

Hans immigrated to the American colonies in the very early 18th century, sometime before 1717 (when a land purchase record references him as a bordering land holder), where he settled in Skippack, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania and worked as a blacksmith and farmer. He was a member of the Reformed Church (Protestant). He and his wife, Anna Maria, had six children:

  1. George (b. abt. 1694)
  2. Jacob (b. November 15, 1698 in Pennsylvania)
  3. Peter (b. abt. 1700)
  4. Conrad (b. abt. 1704)
  5. Anna Maria (b. abt. 1709)

Hans died in 1726 at an estimated age of about 63 years old. After his death, his wife Anna lives with their son, Jacob. She lived to be about 91 years old when she died in 1753.

Jacob Reiff settled in Skippack in Montgomery County and was known as Jacob Reiff the Elder, to distinguish him from his son. He married Mennonite Anna Landis (formerly thought to be Fisher) and they had only two children:

  1. George (b. April 7, 1740 in Lower Salford Township)
  2. Jacob the Younger (b. June 18, 1784)

Jacob the Elder was originally a member of the Reformed Church but probably became disillusioned with it and converted to Mennonite because he is buried in Lower Skippack Mennonite Cemetery. When the conversion occurred is unclear. We know his wife came from a Mennonite family but it was not completely unheard of for them to intermarry with Protestant or Quaker families in this area (probably because the population was so small). His son George was a Mennonite as well but his other son, Jacob the Younger, is believed to have stuck to his Protestant beliefs all his life, having participated in the founding of the Wentz Reformed Church. So whether the conversion occurred before or after his marriage and birth of his children is unknown.

Additionally, while Mennonites practice non-violence, Jacob and his two sons served as privates in the Revolutionary War under Captain Bernard Haines, 5th Battalion, 3rd Company of Skippack Township (Lower District). However, this was a reserve company and probably didn’t see active duty.

Jacob the Elder died on February 16, 1782 at the age of 83, while his wife Anna survived him until October 28, 1788.

In 1764, Jacob’s son George was married to Elizabeth Hendricks and they had six children in Lower Salford Township who were named:

  1. Abraham (b. 1766)
  2. George Jr. (b. December 3, 1768)
  3. Jacob (b. October 12, 1770)
  4. Daniel (b. May 28, 1773)
  5. Elizabeth (b. November 11, 1775)
  6. Joseph (b. July 3, 1779)

George Sr. died on January 24, 1808 when he was 67 years old. In his will, he left his wife Elizabeth all their furniture and household goods along with a hundred pounds in gold or silver money. He also instructed that twelve hundred pounds of his estate be held by the executors of his will, named as sons George and Jacob, in support of his wife, to be paid to her annually in sixty pound sums. The rest of his estate was divided equally among his six children and after Elizabeth’s death, any remainder of her twelve hundred pounds was also split equally among them or their heirs. George also gave his sons George and Jacob an extra fifty pounds each for their troubles as executors and he named his two “trusty” friends Michael Tigler and Henry Hunsicker as trustees of his will. Elizabeth died nine years later on the 25th of June, 1817 when she was 77 years of age. She and George are both buried in Lower Skippack Mennonite Cemetery.

Daniel Reiff spent his life in Montgomery County, marrying another Pennsylvania native, Mary Boyer (b. February 15, 1779) in 1798. Daniel died fairly young at only 42 on August 29, 1815 and was buried in Lower Skippack Mennonite Cemetery. Three years later on November 8, 1818, his wife Mary remarried a man named John Landis and had two more children by him. She died on September 1, 1847 at the age of 68 and is also buried in Lower Skippack Mennonite Cemetery. Daniel and Mary’s daughter, Mary Boyer Reiff, married Abraham Kratz Godshalk on February 23, 1834. You can continue to read their story in the Godshall Family Chapter.

© Robin Bauer 2010-2013