Researching in South Africa


As an amateur genealogist initially I found it difficult to know how to research in South Africa but with a great deal of help from others and persistence I have learned a lot and consequently had enormous success in finding my family.

Because of this and to assist fellow researchers I have compiled this web page.

The pages are compiled from various sources and compiled in good faith for the benefit of all and the profit of none.


Historic Time line

  The following is a link to a South African timeline  covering dates for when railway lines were opened, founding of various churches, cemeteries, etc.

Forming of the Republic of South Africa

  The Cape Province (or Cape) is, in terms of European settlement, the oldest. It was the Dutch colony of the Cape of Good Hope from 1652 to 1795. From then until 1910 it was the British Colony of the Cape of Good Hope. In 1910 it became the Cape Province in the Union of South Africa with Cape Town as the legislative capital. 

  Natal was first a Boer Republic in 1838 but became a British colony in 1843 until 1910 when it formed another province in the Union.  

  The Orange Free State (Free State, or OFS) was, for a few years from 1848, under British sovereignty as the Orange River Colony. In 1854 it became a Boer Republic. The OFS capital Bloemfontein, was now the Union's judicial capital. 

  The Transvaal, established by the early Voortrekkers,   was a Boer Republic in 1852 and later called the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR). In 1910 its capital Pretoria became the Union's administrative capital.  

Each province has its own depot of state archives, libraries and museums and historical societies. The Cape, being the oldest, has records dating back to the mid 17th century.

In 1910  four provinces were combined to form the Union of  South Africa which in 1961  became the Republic of South Africa  (RSA) 



European settlers came  from many countries and for many reasons.

The Dutch from the Netherlands or Batavia arrived in the Cape in 1652 to start a revictualling half way house for their fleets sailing between Europe and the Far East.

The Huguenots from France (and some from Piedmont) and later the Jews from the Baltic States came to escape religious persecution.

From 1795 there was a steady stream of settlers from the British Isles....

 The Scots came as missionaries and often as ministers for the Dutch Reformed Church.

English settler schemes in the Cape (1820) and Natal (1850) offered a better life for victims of England's economic ills.

The Irish came as individuals or family groups and in government assisted schemes - some 14,000 between 1823 and 1900. (McCracken, p13)

German names are frequent amongst the early 17 and 18 century Cape genealogies. (Hoge) Two German schemes saw settlements in Natal in 1840  and after 1856 some 2,400 German Legionaires of the Crimea War were settled with their families in the Eastern Cape Colony.

There were Scandinavians and Portuguese and  Russians and Italians, Greeks and Poles. Some came  in planned settler schemes some in families.  

They came for the diamonds, for the gold, for the adventure, for the hunting, for exploration and for scientific discovery. They came as soldiers, missionaries and administrators.


After 1795 regular soldiers from long established British regiments became an almost permanent and colourful feature of Cape society.  The Cape Archives has lists of regiments  and so does the Public Record Office at Kew.  (WO126/91 and Medal Rolls).  

There are records  for the Eastern Frontier wars (or Kaffir Wars as they are called in contemporary documents), The Basuto Wars, the Zulu wars, the two Anglo-Boer Wars (1881 and 1899-1902). For information on Boer Commandos of the 2nd Anglo-Boer War  - also called the South African War, or in Afrikaans records, Die Tweede Vryheids Oorlog (the 2nd Freedom War) - the War Museum of the Boer Republics in Bloemfontein  has extensive coverage.  The same museum has lists of the Pro-Boer brigades such as the  Irish Brigade, the Scandinavian, German, Hollander, French, Italian, American and Russian corps.


Numbers of books and records of missionary work in South Africa have been gathered from the letters and annual reports made by the missionaries to their headquarters. Amongst the many missionary societies  were the London Missionary Society, the Moravian Missionary Society amd the Rhenish Missionary Society. They  established schools to educate and Christianise the native people. Missionaries travelled far afield and preceded explorers and settlers in remote areas.  The Missionary Museum at Kingwilliamstown will be a starting point for researchers interested in missionary settlers.

  Now - To answer some of your questions straight away - 

If you are a newcomer to South African genealogy, you may have a lot of questions. Here are some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

Where's the best place to begin?

If you're asking this on the Internet, presumably you have access to a web browser, an excellent place to begin  with South African genealogy is right here:

Where can I find South African census records?

The short answer is: You can't. South African census returns are routinely destroyed after statistical information has been abstracted, so South African genealogists don't use them.

What do South African genealogists use then?

One of the best places to begin is the records of deceased estates. (see more information below) These usually have a Death Notice, which should (but sometimes doesn't) give you the names of the parents, spouse and children of the deceased, or if the deceased was unmarried, the names of brothers and sisters. They have the wills, if any except in the Cape, where wills and estate accounts have been filed separately from death notices in the older estates), and the estate accounts. The older ones are in the archives and have computer indexes, and you can search the indexes on the web here: (see more information below) but be sure to read the introduction and explanatory text before searching.

Where can I find South African shipping lists?

First, they are not a good place to start looking. They are incomplete, and all over the place. If you want to know if some relative went to South Africa and died here, look in the deceased estates, not the shipping lists. In most cases, shipping lists are a last resort, or a means of providing "filler" information to round out the family history. Secondly, if you do want to try shipping lists, you need to know where your ancestor came from, and roughly when. If the answer is Germany 1859, the shipping lists have been published (Werner Schmidt-Pretoria, Deutsche Auswanderung nach Sued-Afrika im 19 Jahrhundert). Some other shipping lists have also been published, but they are fragmentary.

If you are looking for ancestors who emigrated to Southern Africa in the period 1890-1925, one possible source is _South Africa_ magazine. This was published in London. The Johannesburg Public Library and the National Library in Tshwane have incomplete runs.

You could try other libraries too. They published lists of passengers embarking at British ports for South Africa, and embarking at South African ports for the UK (and sometimes other places). South Africa magazine is a useful source, if you can find it, as it also has birth, marriage and death announcements, and other personal news, usually of the richer members of society.

Where can I find wills or probate records?

With the deceased estates. See:

I did a search on the archives: what do the funny things like DEPOT and VOLUME mean? See the warning above: Be sure to read the introduction and explanatory text before searching. If you didn't, go here now: 

(Dafanie's note: the above  web site is the source of more information than I can add to this page so please be sure to go here and check it out. Particularly this page

How do I get a birth certificate?

With great difficulty. First, to apply for one, you need to know the information you probably want to get from the certificate. That's Catch 22. Catches 1-21 are almost as bad. Birth certificates are expensive. They take a long time to get. The indexes are not open to the public so you can't ask someone else to look them up.

How do I get a marriage certificate?

Marriage certificates are of little use to genealogists in South Africa. They do not give the names and occupations of parents. They are as difficult to get as birth certificates. Your best chance of seeing one is if the couple got divorced, and you find a copy in the divorce records. SOME divorce records are in the archives, and you can find them here:

The archival references to divorces will sometimes speak of "illiquid cases" or "opposed applications", and sometimes there will be both. They can be quite useful. Sometimes you can really get the dirt on your ancestors from these things - private detectives' reports on how many times they committed adultery, where and with whom, for example. Also, names and ages of minor children and who got the custody.

Where can I find church records?

With difficulty. There are well over 8000? separate religious denominations in South Africa, and many people change denominations 3 or more times during their lives. People move to a new town, and join a new denomination or religion, or become agnostics or atheists. The records of these denominations are all over the place too. Some of the older and larger denominations have centralised their records, but most have not. They are kept in local churches and can be damaged or destroyed by damp, acid paper or ink, insects, mice, fire or flood, or simply being tossed out in an over-zealous clean-up. Some of the smaller denominations keep very poor records. Forged marriage certificates are common, especially in rural areas. If you know what denomination your ancestors were, and where they were living, when children were born or they were married, you can ask some specific questions on the SA Genealogy list like "Where are the Wesleyan Methodist Registers for Colesberg in the period 1860-1880?" But general requests for look ups in church without mentioning a particular denomination, time and place are unlikely to get a useful response.

This FAQ file is prepared by and maintained by:

Steve Hayes




Is there is a birth index for anyone born in South Africa. 

Yes there is It is in the custody and control of the Department of Home Affairs. 

but it depends what years you are looking for. In the Cape Archives they house inventories called HAWC and HAEC Home Affairs Western Cape and Home Affairs Eastern Cape. These are the original registers of births, marriages and deaths. Birth registers here are up until 1976

The are sorted into wards so you would have to know what ward the person's birth had been registered in. The birth registers start at about 1895 and marriages in 1860. Remember that the Archives does not allow birth records of less than a hundred years to be consulted but yet if you order them from the Department of Home Affairs (where they go to the Archives to get them) you will then get a copy - very strange set up indeed.

Now here is a great deal of assorted information  that I hope will help you -

■ Compulsory civil registration began at different dates for the various parts of South Africa, as follows:
Cape - Births and Deaths: 1895, Marriages: 1840  In the Cape, provision was made for voluntary registering of births from 1880.
Natal - Births: 1868, Marriages: 1845, Deaths: 1888
Transvaal - Births and Deaths: 1901, Marriages: 1870
Orange Free State - Births and Deaths: 1903, Marriages: 1848

These Registers are held by the Registrar General in the Department of Home Affairs. It is often difficult and takes a long time to get a certificate because YOU must supply all the details yourself - names, dates, event, place etc. If your information is not quite correct the certificate often cannot be traced.

■ As previously stated in the FAQ from Steve Hayes -

The main source used by SA genealogists is deceased estate files. These are the most easily accessible and have the most comprehensive  information.  

Whenever someone dies, the nearest relative or connection of the deceased is supposed to submit a Death Notice (not the same as a Death Certificate) to the Master of the Supreme Court who has jurisdiction where the person resides.  

The death notice should give  the names of parents, spouses and children of the deceased, and if no  children, the names of brothers and sisters, and should also say whether the deceased left a will, movable or immovable property, and property over a certain value.  

If the Death Notice is filled up properly, it can be very informative, but if the informant was a boarding house keeper and the deceased was a transient with no property, it may not tell one much. Sometimes people who have no property to speak of do not get death notices filled in, and no one notices. If the person had a bank account however, even  with only a few cents in it, there has to be authorisation from the Master to close it. If the deceased owed money, again, there has to be authorisation from the  Master for creditors to collect.  

So the records are not complete. Someone who died without a bank account, owing nothing, and owning nothing that needs registration, might not be recorded. The family would divvy up the  property amicably (old clothes, perhaps a goat or two, a few bits of furniture or whatever) and the Master would be none the wiser. 

Don't give up tho because one of my families Death Estate listings said he had 'a few pieces of furniture' so your family may still be listed.

On the other hand, intestate estates where people owned immovable  property, a messy divorce, a complicated will or other such things can lead to a lot more information than is contained in the death notice, including sworn affidavits about who was related to whom. If there isn't anything in the deceased estates, then, depending on the period, one looks at the records of births, marriages and deaths.  

However you can't look at them directly: you have to apply to the Department of Home Affairs, and very often they want you to give them  precisely the missing bit of information you are looking for in order  to find the record you want. Like they want to know the place and  date of birth. Actually, only birth records are much help - marriage and death certificates don't record parents names etc. There are church records, but with many many different denominations, you need to be something of a fundi in church history to know where to look. When I found the marriage I was looking for at the correct church,  I was disappointed to find that it named only bride and groom and two witnesses.  

Some church record archives are held at Wits University 

email Carol Archibald,    Carol is the Anglican Archivist.  

The Cory Library at Rhodes University  hold the Methodist Archives. I don't know how complete their records, but their email is as far as I know  or tel 046 6038438 and ask for Mrs Poole.

The Presbyterian website is

■ Voters rolls can help, and the 1989 tricameral one is available on microfiche in some institutions. And earlier white one was available as well, about 1978, I think. It can help to group families at the same address, and establish dates of birth, but the relationships are guesses.  Others before that are patchy. One sometimes find them in Government Gazettes and similar publications. The Natal Government gazette has some lists of voters before 1910. But most South African genealogists use these as supplementary information. The main source remains the Deceased Estate records. 

Death Notices, (DNs) until recently, (about the 1950s), are generally lodged in the state archives depots, and when applying for them you can ask also for the will, estate papers and liquidation account which will give you an immense amount of information. Some DNs and estate papers may still be lodged with the Offices of the Master of the Supreme Court, but you will be informed.  DNs used to be  photocopied but many have become increasingly fragile and withdrawn from public use. They may now only be hand copied. Archive staff may do this for you if only the DN is required, but they don't have time for bulk work and will advise you to get a researcher, supplying names of those familiar with the work.  - more about the death notices follows

Here for example is one of my family's death notice listings -  

MOOC 6/9/2451 ref 1071: 

Lydia Bennett, nee Ball,

born in Yorkshire,

parents: William and Maria Ball,

residing at Southampton Villa, Ashleigh Road, Green Point, Cape Town,

died at the above address on 24 April 1923, aged 81 years,

married at St Georges Cathederal, Cape Town to John Bennett,


Hannah Maria Bennett - spinster,  

John David Bennett,

Harriet Bennett - deceased,

Alice Bennett - deceased,

Annie Nita Musgrave,

Mary Anne Hazelwood,

Emily Hardy,

Robert Bennett. 

Incidentally Robert BENNETT was my grandfather and he said he was born in  Burnley Lancs in the UK and would only give his mother and fathers names nothing else. The family did know he had a sister that had lived in SA but only her christian name 'Nita'. I searched the UK endlessly for 4 years.  Then after trying to find a researcher in SA to try and find 'Nita' as a last ditch  effort,  I had a major breakthru,  and the above was the first result a few weeks later.  To find that my grandfather was one of 8 children blew me away and from this first, my family grows in South Africa.   


■ STAIRS:  Once you start to explore in SA you will hear of the STAIRS file  -   this is an explanation        

Basically a  STAIRS file is extractions from the Index to the data contained within the National Archives in South Africa. Among this data  may be found  Death Notices, Wills, probates, adoptions, land grants, photos etc. A treasure chest for the genealogist. You can request a surname search from the archives in Pretoria, but they are currently short of staff and a request might take months before it is processed. Alternatively, you can visit the archives in person ??? and do the search yourself, or you may obtain the services of a professional genealogist that will do the search and also retrieve the relevant documents for you at a fee. STAIRS is an acronym coined by the developers of the STAIRS mainframe database system -IBM, and stands for: STorage and Information Retrieval System. 

A group of genealogists recently formed SAGenTech, and the first project they tackled was to collect all the STAIRS data that is in the possession of people from around the world. This data will be made available online for searching purposes. A demonstration of this project can be viewed at:   

This is an extract from the above URL

'If your names of interest do not appear in the Index, please contact

Ms Hendi Slump
Assistant Director: Information Systems
National Archives of SA
Private Bag X236
0001 South Africa

Tel: 012 - 323 5300
Fax: 012 - 323 5287


Ms Slump will forward full instructions on how to proceed.

How can you help?

Although the Archives themselves have a searchable database, the format of this database does not allow access from the Internet. The Archives have therefore granted permission that the files collected by members of the public may be used in a searchable format, provided the service remains free.

You can become part of the worldwide attempt to make the NAAIRS reference files accessible by forwarding copies of your own Cvtsplf files to Ron Smit for inclusion in the database. Please remember to include the surname.


■ Now the NAAIRS site has also been previously mentioned but let's elaborate 


The first point I wish to make is - NAAIRS files are transcripts made from the records - there are millions of records not yet transcribed so if you do not find information on the NAAIRS site it does not mean there is no record.


Just what are the South African  NAAIRS files?

NAAIRS is an acronym for "National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System", a reference database held by the South  African National Archives in Pretoria on which references to documents held in various repositories are stored. These files were previously known as STAIRS files. As a rule the names of people mentioned in the body of the document are included  in the reference.

This is an extract from the above URL

Lists of references can be obtained for any name or search criterion from the South African National Archives at a nominal fee. 

Having found the required entry on the NAAIRS site which will only give you the reference detail, you will then need to find someone to obtain the transcription for you, assuming of course that you live outside the area. If you live outside of South Africa you will need a researcher or similar to uplift the info for you - I have several listed on this page -   or you  can apply for the death certificate through your nearest South African High Commission or Embassy ( But I suspect this could be a very long process)


 Once you start looking at the NAAIRS site these abreviations may be useful

Acronyms and names used to identify archival repositories (depots) and contact details.



Cape Town Archives Repository
Postal address: Private Bag X9025, CAPE TOWN 8000
Street address: 72 Roeland Street, CAPE TOWN
Tel: (021) 462 4050. Fax: (021) 465 2960.


Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository
Postal Address: Private Bag X9012, PIETERMARITZBURG 3200
Street address: 231 Pietermaritz Street, PIETERMARITZBURG
Tel: (033) 342 4712. Fax: (033) 394 4353


National Film, Video and Sound Archives
Postal address: Private Bag X236, PRETORIA 0001
Street address: 698 Church Street East, Arcadia, PRETORIA.
Tel: (012) 343 9767. Fax: (012) 344 5143.


National Archives Repository (Public Records of Central Government since 1910)
Postal address: Private Bag X236, PRETORIA 0001
Street address: 24 Hamilton Street, Arcadia, PRETORIA.
Tel: (012) 323 5300. Fax: (012) 323 5287.


Free State Archives Repository
Postal address: Private Bag X20504, BLOEMFONTEIN 9300
Street address: 29 Badenhost Street, BLOEMFONTEIN
Tel: (051) 522 6762. Fax: (051) 522 6765


Durban Archives Repository
Postal address: Private Bag X22, GREYVILLE 4023
Street address: Nashua House, 14 De Mazenod Street, GREYVILLE
Tel: (031) 309 5682. Fax: (031) 309 5685


National Archives Repository (Records of the former Transvaal Province and its predecessors as well as of magistrates and local authorities)
Postal address: Private Bag X236, PRETORIA 0001.
Street address: 24 Hamilton Street, Arcadia, PRETORIA.
Tel: (012) 323 5300. Fax: (012) 323 5287


Port Elizabeth Archives Repository
Postal address: Private Bag X3932, PORT ELIZABETH 6056
Street address: 1 De Villiers Street, PORT ELIZABETH
Tel: (041) 54 6451. Fax: (041) 54 6451


Volume series 6/?/???? = Death Notices

Volume series 7/?/???? = Wills/Testaments

Volume series 13/?/???? - Liquidation and Distribution Accounts

And in KwaZulu/Natal

MSCE = Master of the Supreme (now High) Court Estates

And in Pretoria:

MHG = Meester van die Hooggeregshof (= Master of the High Court)

Note: It is my suggestion that you follow up any mention of a name anywhere in the above who knows what may show up??



■ Are you looking for someone who served in the Anglo/Boer War? 

 The Anglo Boer War 

One of the most significant events in the history of South Africa was the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902.
Although the protagonists were Britain and the two Boer Republics, the population of South Africa as a whole became embroiled in the war either directly or indirectly.

The War Museum in Bloemfontein does not only give the visitor insight into the Boer War through it`s unique art collection, dioramas and exhibits but also brings the visitor closer to understanding the background against which the war took place. The course and development of the war unfolds in front of the visitor as you progress through the museum. You are also afforded a glimpse into the life in the concentration and also prisoner-of-war camps.

A visit to the War Museum is an absolute necessity for anyone who wants to understand the history of South Africa.

Please be aware that feelings still run very high in some circumstances and be respectful when you ask your questions.

The anglo Boer war Museum website is most important for you to read and I think the place to start is - 'Causes'

Further contact details 

E-Mail Address:

Street Address: Postal Address:
Anglo Boer War Museum
Monument Road
South Africa, 9301
Anglo Boer War Museum
PO Box 34061
South Africa, 9325
Phone Number: Fax Number:
+27 51 447 3447   or   +27 51 447 0079 (INT) +27 51 447 1322 (INT)
051 447 3447   or   051 447 0079 (SA) 051 447 1322 (SA)

The following was written by  Anne Lehmkuhl.   Web site:  Note Anne is a professional researcher her email address is

How to trace an ancestor who served in the Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902  First, find out whether the person fought on the British side in an Imperial or Colonial regiment? If so, apply for a service record from the Public Records Office in Kew, England. An Imperial regiment is one that was established in Britain and sent out to South Africa. A Colonial regiment is one, which was raised locally in South Africa or in Canada, Australia, New Zealand or Rhodesia and fought on the British side.Your ancestor may have been a member of a Town Guard. If the town was in the Cape Province, the South African National Archives in Cape Town may be of help. They have a defence category containing an inventory of Cape colonial defence. The starting point for researching the military career of anyone is establishing the unit with which he served. The following medal rolls may be of assistance: D.R. Forsyth's The Defenders of Kimberley Medal Roll, and The Queen's South Africa Medal 1899-1902 with clasp.S.M. Kaplan's The medal roll of the Queen's South Africa Medal with bar - Relief of Mafeking, and The medal roll of the Queen's South Africa Medal with Wepener Bar. If your ancestor was wounded or killed while fighting for the British, his name should be listed under his regiment, in one of the following rolls of honour:

South Africa Field Force Casualty List 1899 - 1902. The South African War Casualty Roll: The 'Natal Field Force' 20 Oct 1899 - 26 Oct 1900. The following books may also be helpful: P.L. Murray's Official records of the Australian contingents to the War in South Africa. Sheila Gray's The South African War 1899-1902: Service records of British and Colonial women. The Last Post Roll of officers who fell in South Africa, 1899 - 1902. If your ancestor fought for the Boer forces, there is unfortunately no existing comprehensive list of participants. However, if he applied for the Dekoratie voor Trouwe Dienst, which was issued 18 years after the end of hostilities, his name, rank and commando will appear on Die Medeljerol: Dekoratie voor Trouwe Dienst Anglo-Boeroorlog, die Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek en Oranje Vrijstaat Oorlogsmedalje Lint voor verwonding opgedaan gedurende die Anglo-Boereoorlog. If he was a Boer prisoner-of-war, try the two volumes of Boer Forces POW Roll: Boer War 1899-1902.


■ This is another  most interesting article from Anne Lehmkuhl

South Africa's people: the British

A brief look at their history

The first British occupation of the Cape began on 16 September 1795 and ended in March 1803. The second British occupation started in January 1806 and South Africa remained a British colony until 31 May 1910 when it became the Union of South Africa. British immigrants started arriving in 1795.

Many of the early British went to South Africa for work purposes, after which they returned to Britain or continued on to their next posting in another colony. They included civil servants, missionaries, soldiers and traders. With the second occupation, the number of people who remained in the Cape Colony started increasing. Tracing early settlers is no easy task, as ship passenger lists were not always complete and one has to research many resources looking for a mention. 

The early settlers were usually individual immigrants as immigration schemes only came much later. Not all the British left in 1803, some stayed including the following families: Duckitt, Murray, Tennant, Caldwell, Rex, Anderson, Callander and Reade. Many Britons who saw service in India with the British East India Company, retired to the Cape Colony and were known as the "British Indians", "Cape India families" or "Hindoos". There were quite a few who settled in Stellenbosch, including William Caldwell who ran 2 inns there from 1803 to 1812. Benjamin Moodie, 9th laird of Melsetter in Orkney, brought out 200 Scottish artisans in the first planned British immigration scheme in 1817. The first party arrived with Moodie at the Cape on 04 June 1817 aboard the Brilliant:

On 23 August 1817, another party of 50 arrived aboard the Garland:. The next party of 90 arrived on 24 September 1817 on board the Clyde:. Moodie had contracted the settlers to work for him for the first 18 months upon arrival, or else to pay him their passages and they would be free to work for themselves or anyone else. Most of the settlers soon found out that they could get better jobs on their own.

1820 Settlers

The next immigration scheme was the 1820 Settlers, which brought out approx. 4500 settlers. They arrived on board 21 ships, the first being the Chapman:, arrived in Algoa Bay on 09 April 1820. Among the settlers were artisans, tradesmen, ministers of religion, merchants, teachers, bookbinders, blacksmiths, discharged sailors and soldiers, professional men and farmers. They were settled in British Kaffraria, where their first homes were the tents given to them by the government. They pitched their tents once they had chosen their piece of land. Their first task was to build a more permanent abode for their families, after which they started to till the lands. The government wanted them as farmers, but many settlers did not have farming experience. Soon the drift towards towns started and this is where these settlers started making their mark on South African society. They started a free press, schools, churches, and businesses. Those who had stayed on the farms eventually began to prosper.

Dr George Thom was the first of several Scotsmen to leave the London Missionary Society for the Dutch Reformed Church at the Cape. He left London in early 1822 with Rev. Andrew Murray and 6 teachers. They arrived at the Cape on 02 July 1822 on board the Arethusa:. Joseph Byrne organized some 4500 British settlers in 1849 to settle in Natal, known as the Byrne Settlers. Groups of Cornish miners came to work on the copper mines in Namaqualand from 1850. On 05 September 1850, the Zenobia: arrived in Table Bay with approx. 230 new settlers who were mostly artisans. Between 1857-1862, approx. 5800 immigrants arrived under the Cape of Good Hope Immigration Board, which had an agent based in London. This scheme offered free passage to suitable applicants. In 1860, discharged British soldiers were offered land to come and settle at the Cape and many took up this offer. A lot of British settlers worked on building the railways after 1872. The discovery of diamonds and gold also brought more British to South Africa. The Cape government started an immigration scheme in 1873 by which settled residents could sponsor new settlers by undertaking to give them employment.

Irish immigrants also made their home in South Africa. The first Irish were soldiers sent out during the first and second British occupations. There were 3 Irish Cape Governors: George, 1st Earl Macartney; Du Pre Alexander, Earl of Caledon and Sir John Francis Cradock. Henry Nourse, a shipowner at the Cape, brought out a small party of Irish settlers in 1818. In 1823, John Ingram brought out 146 Irish from Cork. Single Irish women were sent to the Cape on a few occasions. Twenty arrived in November 1849 and 46 arrived in March 1851. The majority arrived in November 1857 aboard theLady Kennaway:. A large contingent of Irish troops fought in the Anglo-Boer War and a few of them stayed in South Africa after the war. Others returned home but later came out to settle in South Africa with their families.

Between 1902 and 1905, there were approx. 5000 Irish immigrants. The British contributed in many ways, founding the first university, building roads, developing the harbours, developing the first banks, creating the postal, telegraph and railway services. However, it has only been in the last few years that more genealogical research has been done on families originating from the UK. Although it is becoming easier to trace their roots in South Africa, one does meet brick walls quite often, especially when trying to trace back to the UK.


British residents at the Cape 17951819, Peter Philip, 1981 

They were South Africans, John Bond, 1958

In search of South Africa, H.V. Morton, 1948

Note: This article was written by Anne Lehmkuhl for Generations - a South African Genealogy newsletter, ISSN 1480-8854. It appeared in Issue 12. 

© Copyright 1998 A.M. Lehmkuhl

All rights reserved. Material may not be copied or transmitted in any way, without consent of the publisher.

Web site:

■ Immigration

A big subject???

But personally 

From Aided immigration from Britain to South Africa 1857 - 1867 - by Esme Bulls - and of great interest to me - I found that my great grandfather and his brother immigrated to South Africa in 1862 aboard the 'John Vanner'

'John a farm labourer, and his brother Joseph occupation unknown, aged 21 and 18 respectively went to South Africa on the 'John Vanner'.  John was headed for the Hon. Henry Barrington in Knysna, presumably to work for him.'

This is the report for that voyage -

John Vanner:

Departed Southampton 4 Jan 1862, arrived Table Bay 10 Mar 1862.

"The ship was clean, comfortable and well ventilated. Cases of scarlet fever
and measles were treated. Two men were admitted to hospital on arrival.
Fifty children attended school with most satisfactory results.

"The surgeon reported that the immigrants were generally of a low class with
dirty habits. He suggested that in future matrons should be given a copy of
the duties required of them before they undertook service and all immigrants
should arrive with clean linen and no liquor on their persons or in their
boxes. He deplored the filthy state in which some of them had arrived at the

"Later the IBC reported that a large number of these immigrants were found
to be unsuited to the requirements of the colony and pointed out to the
Immigration Agent in England that permit cases required utmost care in

 ■ Here is a little information about the Indian community 

The South African Indian community generally determines their genealogical pathways in terms of various waves of immigration :

1] Indentured Indians who came to work on the sugar plantations from 1860 onwards;

2] Free Indians, those who remained after their contracts expired, and used their return fare to purchase some agricultural land, and

3] Passenger Indians [or Arab traders in the old Transvaal] who at their own travelling costs as traders and merchants migrated in order to provide services to the emerging local Indian communities, and seeking opportunities as a result of the Mineral Revolution in Kimberley and Transvaal from 1880's;

4] second wave of Passenger Indians who came as bookkeepers, priest, teachers and other professionals at the request of the original wave of Passenger Indians who moved to Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Kimberley, Pretoria, Jo'burg, etc outside Natal !.

Traditionally, their 'Places of Embarkation' were viewed as their 'places of origin' i.e. the various rural villages in the hinterland of India.

1] departed from the port of Madras in the Madras Presidency administered by the British East Indian Company [Thus they call themselves the Madrassies]

2] departed from the port of Calculta in the Calcutta Presidency administered by the British East India Company. [Thus they are called the Calcutties in South Africa];

3] departed from Bombay in the Bombay Presidency, but migrated from various villages in the Gujarat province. [Thus they are called the Passenger Indians or 'Arab Indians' in former Transvaal and the Cape Province].

■ Researching 

You may want to use a researcher  to do the work in South Africa – two researchers I am familiar with are 

Paul Cheifitz   

Grant Nurden

Here are a few more that I have not used personally 

Val Hayes  PO Box 7648, Pretoria, 0001 RSA 

Steve Hayes  PO Box 7648, Pretoria, 0001 RSA 

Don McArthur Box 513, Parklands, 2121, RSA 

and Anne Lehmkuhl of course at

Note: Anne Lehmkuhl has a great web site at -

Then there is  Rosemary Dixon-Smith  who specialises in Natal research.  

You can visit this URL  an awesome site to help you with research In South Africa – lots of great links and an explanation of the NAAIRS site.   

And this one is great too with a beginners guide.

and this one is amazing I thoroughly recommend it                                       

For Jewish research in South Africa 

For information about the Genealogical Society of South Africa the web address is   

Remember that Schools, Universities,  Railways, Journalists, the military, mines, banks and other institutions all have their own archival information.

■ For South African Newspapers on line Mail and Guardian (countrywide daily online/weekly in print)  The Star (Johannesburg daily)  Sunday Times (countrywide weekly)  Business Day (countrywide daily)  The Sowetan (Johannesburg daily)  Independent newspapers.

Includes: Cape Times, Cape Argus, Pretoria News, Natal Mercury, The ? Post, Sunday Tribune and the weekend versions of these papers.

City Press, Beeld, Die Burger, Die Volksblad and Rapport at:  

I found that the ‘Cape Argus’  has all it’s newspaper archives at the South African Library on microfiche. You would probably have to send them a formal research request. They are a bit short-staffed and their research could take some time.  Their e-mail is

■ If you feel up to doing the research yourself then here is a list of Archive etc addresses  


National Archives of South Africa, Head Office

The National Archivist

Postal address: Private Bag X236, PRETORIA 0001

Street address: 24 Hamilton Street, Arcadia, PRETORIA

Tel: (012) 323 5300. Fax: (012) 323 5287


Bureau of Heraldry

The State Herald

Postal address: Private Bag X236, PRETORIA 0001

Street address: 24 Hamilton Street, Arcadia, PRETORIA

Tel: (012) 323 5300. Fax: (012) 323 5287


Cape Town Archives Repository

The Head

Postal address: Private Bag X9025, CAPE TOWN 8000

Street address: 72 Roeland Street, CAPE TOWN

Tel: (021) 462 4050. Fax: (021) 45 2960


Free State Archives Repository

The Head

Postal address: Private Bag X20504, BLOEMFONTEIN 9300

Street address: 29 Badenhorst Street, BLOEMFONTEIN

Tel: (051) 522 6762. Fax: (051) 522 6765


National Archives Repository

The Head

Postal address: Private Bag X236, PRETORIA 0001

Street address: 24 Hamilton Street, Arcadia, PRETORIA

Tel: (012) 323 5300. Fax: (012) 323 5287


National Film, Video and Sound Archives

The Head

Postal address: Private Bag X236, PRETORIA 0001|

Street address: 698 Church Street East, Arcadia, PRETORIA

Tel: (012) 343 9767. Fax: (012) 344 5143



Eastern Cape Provincial Archives

Eastern Cape Provincial Archives, Head Office
The Provincial Archivist
Postal address: Private Bag X7486, KING WILLIAM'S TOWN 5600
Street address: 5 Eales Street, KING WILLIAM'S TOWN

Tel: (043) 643 3043. Fax: (043) 643 3375

Port Elizabeth Archives Repository
The Head
Postal address: Private Bag X3932, PORT ELIZABETH 6056
Street address: 1 De Villiers Street, PORT ELIZABETH

Tel: (041) 484 6451. Fax: (041) 484 6451

Umtata Archives Repository
The Head
Postal address: Private Bag X5095, UMTATA 5100
Street address: c/o Owen Street and Alexander Road, UMTATA

KwaZulu-Natal Archives

KwaZulu-Natal Archives, Head Office
The Acting Provincial Archivist
Postal address: Private Bag X75, ULUNDI 3838
Street address: Block 4, Unit A, ULUNDI

Tel: (035) 879 8500. Fax: (035) 879 8518

Durban Archives Repository
The Head
Postal address: Private Bag X22, GREYVILLE 4023
Street address: Nashua House, 14 De Mazenod Street, GREYVILLE

Tel: (031) 309 5682. Fax: (031) 309 5685

Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository
The Head
Postal address: Private Bag X9012, PIETERMARITZBURG 3200
Street address: 231 Pietermaritz Street, PIETERMARITZBURG

Tel: (033) 342 4712. Fax: (033) 394 4353

Ulundi Archives Repository
The Head
Postal address: Private Bag X75, ULUNDI 3838
Street address: Block 4, Unit A, ULUNDI

Tel: (035) 879 8500. Fax: (035) 879 8518

Northern Cape Archival Services
The Head
Postal address: Private Bag X5004, KIMBERLEY 8300
Street address: 6th Floor Dutoitspan Building, Dutoitspan Road, KIMBERLEY 8301

Tel: (053) 831 1761. Fax: (053) 833 4353

Northern Province Archives Service
The Head
Postal address: Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, Archives Service, Private Bag X9668, GIYANI 0826
Street address: Department of Education, Government Buildings, Main Road, GIYANI 0826

Tel: (015) 812 1911 or 082680220



NATIONAL ARCHIVE email addresses  Registration  Secretary of Directorate National Archivist Mariaan Anderson   Verne Harris  Hendi Slump  Clive Kirkwood  Mandy Gilder  Ethel Kriger  Letitia Calitz Reading Room  Louisa Venter Madelaine Meyer  Marcel van Rossum  Ramila Naidoo Records Management  National Archives Repository 






■ Shipping

If you are interested in shipping lists this is a useful URL

Anita Caithness is a shipping researcher that I can recommend

■ There is a South African list at SOUTH-AFRICA-L@rootsweb

To join the list with subscribe in the message section.   

■ And of course don’t forget the South African Genealogy Society

■More useful addresses -

Alan Paton Centre and Archives, University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg
The Librarian
Alan Paton Centre and Archives
Private Bag X014

Tel:  (033) 260 5926
Fax: (033) 260 5599
Email: /

Albany Museum (1820)
The Director
Albany Museum
Somerset Street

Tel: (046) 622 2312
Fax: (046) 622 2398

Barlow Rand
The Group Archivist
Barlow Rand Limited
PO Box 782248

Tel: (011) 801 9111/2185
Fax: (011) 444 8206/3643

Brenthurst Library, Johannesburg
The Librarian
Brenthurst Library
PO Box 87184

Tel:  (011) 646 6024-6
Fax: (011) 486 1651

Cory Library for Historical Research
The Cory Librarian
Cory Library for Historical Research
Rhodes University Library
PO Box 184

Cory Secretary/General Enquiries: (046) 603 8438
Genealogical Researcher (Sally Poole) (046) 603 8364
Cory Librarian (Sandy Rowoldt): (046) 603 8373
Fax: (046) 603 8493

CP Nel-museum
The Curator
CP Nel Museum
PO Box 453

The Curator
Drostdy Museum
18 Swellengrebel Street

Tel: (0291) 4 1138
Fax: (0291) 4 2675

Howick Museum
The Curator
Howick Museum
PO Box 5

Tel: (0332) 30 6124
Fax: (0332) 30 4183

Hugenote-Gedenkmuseum, Franschhoek
The Curator
Huguenot Memorial Museum
P.O. Box 37

INEG or INCH Bloemfontein
The Director
Institute for Contemporary History
PO Box 2320

Tel: (051) 401 2418
Fax: (051) 401 2418

Johannesburg Public Library
The Director
Library and Museum Services
Harold Strange Library of African Studies
Johannesburg Public Library
Market Square

Tel: (011) 836 3787 x216
Fax: (011) 836 6607

JS Gericke-biblioteek, US
The University Librarian
JS Gericke Library
University of Stellenbosch
Private Bag 5036

Tel: (021) 808 4398/4881
Fax: (021) 808 4336

Kimberley Public Library or Kimberley Africana Library
The Africana  Librarian
Kimberley Public Library
PO Box 627

Klerksdorpse Museum
The Curator
Klerksdorp Museum
PO Box 99

Tel: (018) 462 3546
Fax: (018) 464 1780

McGregor Museum, Kimberley
The Historian
McGregor Museum
PO Box 316

Tel: (053) 842 0099
Fax (053) 842 1433

The Curator
Private Bag X20543

Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk van Afrika
The Director
Nederduitsch Hervormde Church of Africa Archives Depot
PO Box 2368

Tel: (012) 322 8885
Tel: (012) 322 7909

NELM Grahamstown
The Director
National English Literary Museum
Private Bag 1019

Tel: (046) 622 7042
Fax: (046) 622 2582

Oorlogsmuseum van die Boererepublieke
The Director
War Museum of the Boer Republics
PO Box 704

The Librarian
Rand Afriaans University Library Services
Rare Book Collection
P.O. Box 524

Tel: (011) 489 2630 or 489 2717
Fax: (011) 726 7723
Email: or or

SA Library, Cape Town
The Director
National Library
PO Box 496

Tel: (021) 24 6320
Fax: (021) 24 4848

South African National Gallery
The Librarian
SA National Gallery
PO Box 2420

Tel: (021) 45 1628
Fax: (021) 461 0045

South African National Museum of Military History
The Director
South African National Museum of Military History
PO Box 52090

Tel: (011) 646 5513
Fax: (011) 646 5256

The Star Archives, Johannesburg
The Archivist
The Star (Barnett Collection)
PO Box 1014

The University Librarian
Unisa Library
PO Box 392

Tel: (012) 429 2560
Fax: (012) 429 2925

Universiteit van Pretoria
The University Librarian
Merensky Library
University of Pretoria

UCT Libraries
The University Librarian
University of Cape Town Libraries
Private Bag

Tel: (021) 650 3123
Fax: (021) 686 1505

Wits University Library
The Curator of Manuscripts
The Library
University of the Witwatersrand
Private Bag X1

Tel: (011) 716 2444
Fax: (011) 339 4137

The Professional Official
Worcester Museum
PO Box 557

Tel: (023) 342 2225
Fax: (023) 347 4134



I hope this information is of  use to you in your search for your family and roots.

Dafanie Goldsmith  

"Research in South Africa' was voted 'Site of the day'   by  Family Tree Magazine


How do I say thank you to the people who have prepared the information that has been the source of much of this page and have helped me so much in my research  - there are so many of you and to mention some is to leave others out. But thank you Pat - Jill - Anne - Heather -  Steve - Conrad -  Maureen - Paul - the wonderful team on the South African list and to the rest of you - I know that I probably drove some of you batty with my constant question asking in the beginning and I appreciate your tolerance - Thank you for the part you played in helping me to find my family.



Note: 22nd March 2008 As this page was created in 2005 some links or addresses  may be out of date for this I apologize



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