Smissen, van der, family

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Van der Smissen, a Mennonite family which has played a significant role in the church and community life. The origin of the family has been traced to Brabant, Belgium, where it was also called Bogaard; during the 15th century it was a patrician family of Brussels. Gysbert I van der Smissen escaped from Belgium around 1576 during the days of the Inquisition and lived in Goch, on the Lower Rhine. When he joined the Mennonites is not known. After 1583 he resided in Haarlem, Holland. His son Jan was a Mennonite minister in Haarlem. Another son, Daniel, settled in Friedrichstadt, Holstein, which became a Mennonite refuge. His son Gysbert II (born 8 April 1620) settled in Glückstadt in 1644 and founded a bakery and a whaling company. In 1677 he moved to Altona and established a bakery. His oldest son, Daniel (born 1646), continued his father's enterprise. The ninth child of Gysbert II was Hinrich I (24 January 1662-1737), who followed his father to Altona in 1677. He was a successful businessman and occupied a significant position in the growing city. He has been given the name "city builder" because he laid the foundation for Altona's prosperity. He was also an active supporter of the Altona Mennonite Church. His two sons, Hinrich II (born 1704) and Gysbert III (born 1717), continued the father's business. During this second generation the business reached its peak. During the third generation Hinrich III (born 1742), son of Hinrich II, and Jacob Gysbert van der Smissen (born 1746) were the outstanding representatives of the family. Jacob had strong pietistic leanings. Toward the end of his life the firm collapsed.

Münte states that there was a certain degeneration noticeable in the fourth generation partly because of intermarriage in the family. Johann W. Mannhardt, who married Anna van der Smissen (daughter of Hinrich III), and some of his descendants are significant representatives of the family. A detailed study of the ups and downs of the van der Smissen family and their enterprises is found in Münte's book Das Altonaer Handlungshaus van der Smissen 1682-1824 (Altona, 1932). Seldom have Mennonites had such influence in the affairs, growth, and prosperity of a city as was the case in Altona.

Some of the van der Smissens, for example, Jacob Gysbert, turned from their interest in business to religious work and had strong pietistic leanings. Jacob II van der Smissen, the son of Jacob Gysbert, was a businessman and later a minister in several churches. He served as the first salaried minister of the Danzig congregation. His son was Carl Justus van der Smissen, a minister in Glückstadt and one of the first of the Mennonites of Germany to receive a full theological training. He migrated to America in 1868 and was a teacher of Wadsworth Seminary. His son Carl H. A. van der Smissen made an outstanding contribution to the Mennonites of America as an editor and minister. (See Germany.)


Among the writings on the family may be listed an original genealogy entitled:

1743 Stam Boom ende Geslagt Register der Van der Smissen in de Linie van Daniel Van der Smissen Voort Stammende of den Stamhouder Gysbert van der Smissen. Mennonite Library and Archives (North Newton, Kansas).

In addition to the book by Münte, see:

Dollinger, R. Geschichte der Mennoniten in Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg und Lübeck. Neumünster, 1930.

Maxwell, Russelle Lane. "De Voss Genealogy." (accessed 2 September 2008).

Oesau, W. Hamburg Grönlandfahrt auf Walfischfang und Robbenschlag vom 17.-19. Jahrhundert. Hamburg, 1955.

Rauert, Matthieas H. and Annelie Kümpers-Grave. Van der Smissen: Eine mennonitische Familie vor dem Hintergrund der Geschichte Altonas und Schleswig-Hostein. Hamburg: Nord Magazin Verlagsges., 1992.

Mennonite Library and Archives (North Newton, Kansas) has Jacob Gysbert van der Smissen's original Journal and correspondence, as well as other early material brought to America by the van der Smissen family, all of it in the "Van der Smissen Collection."

Author(s) Cornelius Krahn
Richard D. Thiessen
Date Published October 2014

Cite This Article

MLA style

Krahn, Cornelius and Richard D. Thiessen. "Smissen, van der, family." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. October 2014. Web. 28 Jul 2021.,_van_der,_family&oldid=125964.

APA style

Krahn, Cornelius and Richard D. Thiessen. (October 2014). Smissen, van der, family. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 28 July 2021, from,_van_der,_family&oldid=125964.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4. p. 549. All rights reserved.

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