In the 1600s in Europe, Protestants were troubled by religious persecution and, consequently, thousands of them fled their homes, moving their families northward to Holland, thence to England and, for many, ultimately to the new land in America. Among those central Europeans seeking a better life was the Oberholtzer family of Switzerland.

The Oberholtzer family originated in the Swiss village of Oberholtz, south of Zurich, before the 15th century. However, in 1661, one family left Switzerland for the Palatinate in Germany. Later, the Oberholtzers, along with other Mennonite Swiss and other protestant (or non-Catholic) groups from central Europe left for Holland and England. From their camps in England, refugees left for the new world in 1710. Landing in Philadelphia, they subsequently moved westward, settling on land in what is today known as Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

The flow of refugees from Europe to Pennsylvania increased steadily over the following years. As land in Lancaster County became fully taken up, other counties were opened, and new settlements sprang up in several nearby counties. The refugee families thrived in their new homes and ultimately their descendants moved south and west to claim land in less populated areas of the New World. Today, those descendants may be found all over the United States. Meanwhile, the Martin Oberholtzer Family in Terre Hill, Lancaster County formed an Oberholtzer Family Association. Later, as the primary organizers, they changed the surname spelling to Overholser.