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The Villians Wore Hats

Danzer, a renegade Xhosa, who settled with a party of his followers on the banks of the Great River, in the territory of Jager Afrikaner. There was talk of their uniting their bands, but Jager lured a number of Danzer's followers into a trap and beat them to death. [Source: Africana Museum, Johannesburg] The Afrikaners, like the Basters under Cornelis Kok and his nephew Barend Barends, were Dutch-speaking and arrived at the Cape with the advantage over the others of having lived part of their lives in a technologically more advanced colonial society. The advantage could be summed up in three words: horses, wagons, guns. But they used their advantage differently. The Afrikaners, being outlaws, had little alternative except to use it for spreading terror and enriching themselves by cattle rustling and plunder. The Basters only wanted a place in the sun, where they could graze their stock and hunt. The Basters were very like the white frontier farmers in manners, [...]

The Amazing Greens

It’s hard to believe that just less than three years ago, I knew virtually nothing of my roots, except of course the occasional family hearsay. I was a high-school graduate with little more on my mind than a desire to enter the workforce, gain independence and travel the world. I’ll be honest, though – for the longest time, I was positively fascinated by said hearsay. Having received a mini-family tree as a child (compiled by my mother’s first cousin), I learned the full names of my great-grandparents and their parents for the very first time; I found myself staring at this document often. The spike of my interest in genealogy also happened to coincide with a dramatic increase in the popularity of home DNA testing. And so, whilst vacationing in the United States during mid-2015, I jumped at the chance and ordered myself an AncestryDNA test. For the most part, the results weren’t very surprising (a strong German/French/Dutch presence, with a hint [...]

Pickhandle Mary

Mary Fitzgerald nee Sinnott also known as "Pickhandle Mary" was born in Wexford, Ireland on the 4th August 1885 and died in Johannesburg on the 26th September 1960, labour leader, politician, suffragette, master printer, and writer, was the eldest of the four children of Thomas Sinnott and his wife Margaret Dunn, both of Irish farming families. Mary’s father emigrated to America, from where he came to Cape Town, representing the Singer Sewing Machine Company. His family followed in about 1902. Mary married John Brick Fitzgerald, a tramwayman, and had two sons and two daughters. Mary was one of the first female shorthand typists in South Africa and worked for the British Army at the Castle in Cape Town, and later, with her husband, moved to Johannesburg where her parents died. As circumstances soon necessitated her working again she became a typist for the Mine Workers' Union. There was an obvious lack of co-ordination in the Union whose members were working under appalling [...]

Philip Allen from County Cork

Philip Allen Philip Allen was born in County Cork, Ireland before 1830 and died in Pietermaritzburg on 1st July 1865, colonial treasurer of Natal, was the youngest son of William and Mary Allen. Although an Irish insolvent, arrested for debt in Bangor, Carnarvonshire, and imprisoned in Caernarvon Castle, Wales, he received in 1852, as patronage from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the post of Colonial Treasurer of Natal. He settled at Pietermaritzburg in November that year, his wife and four children following in October 1854. The Treasury Chest robbery which took place in 1854 resulted in grave problems for Philip Allen, so much so that he was suspected of being involved in the theft because he had among other things failed to have the Treasury audited. He was, nevertheless, appointed to investigate the robbery, but this matter could not be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. When Natal became a separate colony under the Natal Charter of 1856 and [...]

Samuel Patton Adams

Samuel Patton ADAMS an accountant was born on 4th June 1871 in Tully, Eglinton, Londonderry, Ireland to Robert ADAMS and Sarah MC CONNELL. He was educated at National School in Eglinton. He came to South Africa 1900 and married M. A. Armstrong of Bloemfontein on 7th June 1905. Samuel was the Vice President of the Orange River Colony Football Association and President of the Orange River Colony Referees’ Association. He refereed in both the Beckett’s Shield and the Corinthian matches in 1906 and the Corinthian Test match in Bloemfontein in 1907. He was highly commented on by T.S. Rowlandson, the Corinthian Captain and A. B. Godbold the President of the South Africa Football Association. He played left back for Eglington in Ireland before coming to South Africa. Samuel was also a starter many athletics events in Bloemfontein since 1904 and umpired cricket matches in Season. He was a member of the Ramblers Club in Bloemfontein. Samuel died at sea at Port Shepstone, [...]

William Porter Attorney General

William Porter was born at Artikelly, near Limavady, co. Londonderry, Northern  Ireland on  15 th  September 1805 and was  attorney-general of the Cape of Good Hope, was the second son of the Rev. William Porter and his first wife, Mary Scott, daughter of Charles Scott, of Strauchroy, near Omagh, county Tyrone. His father had been ordained as a Presbyterian minister at Limavady in 1799; he was clerk of the general synod of Ulster from 1816 to 1830, but in that year he was elected the first moderator of the Unitarian Remonstrant synod and held the clerkship of that body from 1831 until his death in 1843. He was first educated at a school in Limavady run by a man named Stevenson and then at the Artillery Lane school in Londonderry conducted by the Rev. William Moore and the Rev. George Hay. In 1819 he was apprenticed to John Classon, an iron merchant and farm implement manufacturer in Dublin, the brother of his [...]

Alfred Philip Bender

Alfred Philip Bender was born in Dublin on 16th April 1863. He was a Jewish clergyman and professor of Hebrew, was the eldest son of Dr Philipp Bender, chief minister of the Dublin Hebrew congregation, and his wife, Augusta. The first Jewish minister to study at one of the older English universities, he graduated with a B.A. in 1891 at St John's college, Cambridge, in the first class of the Semitic languages tripos, and with an M.A. in 1894, with first-class honours. Philip was inducted as minister of the Cape Town Hebrew congregation on 13th September 1895, and immediately established himself as an outstanding spiritual leader, orator and social worker. Under his leadership the synagogue reflected, through its special services, the major South African and world events. On 13 September 1905 Alfred was consecrated at the present Great synagogue, the foundation-stone of which had been laid the year before by the governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Walter F. Hely-Hutchinson. Bender paid [...]

Marthinus Johannes Greyling

Marthinus Johannes Greyling,  'n Gebore Vrystater, district Thaba 'Nchu. Hy was 'n egte Nasionale burger van sy Vaderland. He was gekies as veldkornet in die oorlog van 1899 en het ook gedien as kommandant. Het ook deelgeneem met die Jameson inval, as vrywilliger an die Vrystaat, en was as krygsgevangene gestuur na Ceylon. Was 'n flinke voorsitter gewees van die Nasionale Tak Germiston. Die ou Sanna in die hand van Wyle M. J.Greyling in die bygaande portret was reeds in die gebruik in die groot Kaffer oorlog van ons Voortrekkers. Dwarsdeur sy lewe was hy 'n dappere held gewees en op geestelike gebied was hy bekend as 'n getrou kerkganger. Hy het jare lank geding as ouderling en op geestilke en maatskaplike gebied was hy altyd 'n goeie voorbeeld  vir sy land en volk gewees. Die portret  en lewensbeskywing van wyle M. J. Greyling is ingestuur deur sy jongeste seun Johannes Greyling van 36 Oostehuizen Straat, Germiston, 'n ardbeider op die Suid-Afrikaanse [...]

Williamson Godfrey

Williamson Godfrey Williamson Godfrey was born on 14 August 1875 in Mauritius and was the son of Subhan Godfrey of Durban. He was educated at Boys Model School in Durban and Bishops College in Calcutta. He also attended Edinburgh University and graduated in 1903 where he met his wife Catherine Swan of Edinburgh. He was the first qualified Indian doctor to practice in Johannesburg On his return to South Africa he worked in Johannesburg and was an early associate of Mahatma Gandhi, and with him rendered medical relief during the plague outbreak in Johannesburg in 1904. He was a keen sportsman and captained cricket, hockey and football teams during his college years in Calcutta. He donated a trophy for South African Non-European Soccer competitions. His wife Catherine was born on 06 December 1879 and took prominent part in social and welfare activities among the Indians of Johannesburg. The family lived at 21 Minto Street, Edinburgh, Scotland and 248 Jeppe Street, [...]

Dirk Ligter Clanwillam

Dirk Ligter a renowned stock theif  of a singularly engaging temperament and with characteristics all his own, who became a legendary figure in Afrikaans literature. He is believed to have been born in the vicinity of Clanwilliam (or somewhat farther north) some time in the 1885, and to have been of Mozambique native and Bushman extraction. It is presumed that he died of TB in Somerset Hospital not far from the Breakwater prison where he spent some time. Most of what is known about him, based on accounts of farmers in the districts of Clanwilliam and Ceres, is to be found in a fictionalised form in Boplaas (1938) by Boerneef (I. W. van der Merwe). The historical accuracy of the details narrated in these anecdotes cannot be assumed, but in broad outline they are undoubtedly founded on fact. Basically Dirk Ligter was a good-natured, hard-working farm-hand; but he was of a restless disposition and could not resist the lure of the wide open [...]

Christiaan Frederick Louis Liepoldt

Louis Leipoldt was born in Worcester,on the 28 December 1880 and died in Cape Town on 12 April 1947. Physician, poet and author, Louis was the fourth child of Christiaan Friedrich Leipoldt (Died: 11 November 1911), a Rhenish missionary and N.G. Kerk minister, and his wife Anna Meta Christiana Esselen (Died: 24 December 1903), the daughter of the Rev. Louis F. Esselen, a Rhenish missionary of Worcester, in whose home in Adderley Street Leipoldt was born and where he lived with his parents until he was four years old. His maternal grandfather gave Leipoldt his first lessons in reading and writing, guided his general education and exerted great influence on him during his formative years. His paternal grandfather, J. G. Lepoldt, was a Rhenish missionary at Ebenhaezer on the Olifants River and at Wuppertal. Leipoldt's father was also a missionary, first in Sumatra and from 1879 at Worcester. In 1883, however, he became an N.G. Kerk minister and settled in 1884 at Clanwilliam in the N.G. parsonage in Park Street.

Henry Benjamin Shawe

Mr. Henry Benjamin Shawe was born in Clanwilliam in 1864, receiving his education at the Clanwilliam Public School. He was the assistant Under Colonial Secretary for the Cape, and Lieut.-Colonel of the P.W.O.R., Cape Peninsula Rifles. He was the son of the gallant Captain Shaw, who was a firm old Colonist, and one of the 1820 Settles killed in action while fighting in the Gaika-Galeka war of 1877 – 1878, and was also a Member of the House of Assembly for Clanwilliam for many years.

Gareth Cliff has a Cliff Hanger of a Tree

Gareth Cliff, grandson of Rev William Kidwell Cliff a founder of the Pietermaritzburg Cathedral, has with great interest and enthusiasm has discovered a sophisticated blend of prolific South African families which is a fine example of the rich and diverse cultural and social backgrounds that make up many families in our country. Gustav Preller considered being the father of Afrikaans language and literature, Naval Admiral Sir. H. Heathcote, Commandant General Hendrik Schoeman President of the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek (1860-1862), Voortrekker Leader Piet Retief as well as Alfred Benjamin Kidwell the son of one of the original 1820 settlers are just some of the biological blood lines of Gareth.

Baron Von Buchenroder a man of violence

Baron Friedrich von Buchenroder was a German nobleman, and great great grandfather of Louis Leipoldt, whose family belonged to the nobility of Hesse-Darmstadt, and has been extinct for about forty years. He had served in the Dutch army, and came to the Cape in 1803 as ex-major, with the intention to establish new settlements for the development of the colony, a scheme which was supported by a group of Dutch businessmen under the leadership of Gysbert Carel van Hoogendorp.

A Century of Who’s Who – The Early Years

In 1907 the first South African Who's Who was published by The South African Who's Who Publishing Company in Durban. This amazing publishing company belonged to Ken Donaldson who was also the editor as well as the proprietor. By 1909 the 3rd issue of Who's Who was proving to be an amazing publication yet also differed somewhat from other books of a similar nature whereby who's featured mainly aristocracy.

Govindasamy Krishnan

Govindasamy Krishnan was born in Escourt, Natal in 1901 and educated at Pretoria and S.M.H. High School, Shiyali, Tanjore. He left school in response to Mahatma Ghandi's call of non-Co-operation movement and did propaganda work and engaged in business. He was also a teacher at the Tamil school in Pretoria. Amongst many other things he was also the Scout Master of the Pretoria Indian Boys Scouts and awarded the Tamil Vedic Young Men's Association gold medal for invaluable service.

Ruda Landman

Ruda Landman's birthplace in the dry and dusty town of Keimoes, in the Northern Cape, is a far cry from where her family's humble beginnings started in the lush and fertile valleys of Europe. From the Persecution of her family in France in the 1600's, her ancestry consists of a kaleidoscope of French refugees as well as Dutch and German Immigrants. When the French Huguenots arrived at the Cape in 1688 as a closely linked group, in contrast to the Germans, they all lived together in Drakenstein, although they never constituted a completely united bloc; a number of Dutch farms were interspersed among them. Until May 1702 they had their own French minister, Pierre Simond, and until February 1723 a French reader and schoolmaster, Paul Roux. The Huguenots clung to their language for fifteen to twenty years; in 1703 only slightly more than one fifth of the adult French colonists were sufficiently conversant with Dutch to understand a sermon in Dutch properly, [...]

Laurence Hynes Halloran

Have you ever considered that your Ancestors marriages and baptisms in Cape Town during the 2nd British Occupation were not valid?, all by one minister who faked his identity. One of the strangest characters at the Cape of Good Hope during the first decade of the nineteenth century, was the Rev. Dr. Laurence Hynes Halloran (29 December 1765 - 8 March 1831). Little is known of his early life. Born in Ireland at Ratoath, he appears as a schoolmaster in Exeter at about the time when his first two volumes of poems were published, in 1790 and 1791. Next we find him in the Royal Navy as a chaplain, and present at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 while serving in H.M.S. "Britannia". Two years later, on 7 December 1807, he arrived at the Cape of Good Hope to take up his position as chaplain to the garrison, and, a little later, he became chaplain to the navy as well. His extraordinary [...]

Joshua Norton a peculiar man

Among the 307 new settlers for the Cape of Good Hope, who came ashore in Algoa Bay from the British transport Belle Alliance early in 1820, was a small Jewish boy from London, and aged nearly two years old. Joshua Abraham Norton born February 4th 1819, son of John and Sarah Norton, who accompanied his family to this wild and far-off region, by a strange chance, forged a unique link between South Africa and the United States. Those 4,500 emigrants, from England, Scotland and Ireland, came to the Cape in consequence of the distress prevailing in the Old Country after the Napoleonic Wars. Downing Street, untroubled by their inexperience and lack of equipment, welcomed them as human buffers against the Xhosa's across the Border. Though many learnt farming through bitter experience, John Norton turned towards the newly-founded settlements, first of Grahamstown and later of Port Elizabeth, where he built up a business as a ship-chandler and merchant. But here too, life was [...]

Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Sir Ranulph Fiennes has more connections with South Africa than most people are aware of. He was born posthumously after his father was killed in the 2nd World War and his mother moved to South Africa in January 1947 when he was 2 and a half, and lived there until he was 12 years old. Initially he went to Little People's Play School in Wynberg and then was educated at Western Province Preparatory School. He grew up in Constantia where his grandmother Florence Agnes Rathfelder descends from one of the wealthiest families in the Cape. Sir Ranulph Fiennes remembers attending St. Saviours Church in Claremont where Canon Wade was the resident priest. He said the Minister had two skinny daughters of which one of them was Virginia Wade who won the Wimbeldon Tennis Singles. On visits home he loves to eat out at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and makes a special place in his heart for Cape Town. Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, [...]

Hugh Grant’s Cape Ancestry

Hugh Grant Suave and dapper film star Hugh Grant family ancestral roots did not begin in the lavish suburbs of Notting Hill, London but right here in our very own vibrant mother City of Cape Town. Stumbling across an article I found about a year ago mentioned Hugh Grants' grandfather Major Ronald Grant being born in the Cape and passing away at his home in Newlands, Cape Town tempted me with my bloodhound instincts to dig a little deeper to see what I could find. But let's go back to the beginning...... Hugh Grant's grandmother Mina Waller Stewart was the daughter of Dr. James Stewart well loved and respected Missionary who was institutional in the creation of the Lovedale College in the Eastern Cape. His background has includes some wonderful and well respected people in his family as well inheriting his renowned social standing through his grandparents and through the generations of wealthy backgrounds. Hugh attended Wetherby School, Latymer Upper [...]

RH Morris Master Builder

By 1896 Richard H. Morris had become known as a builder of distinguished quality and workmanship and the fame of R.H. Morris had spread. Herbert Baker had met Richard on several occasions and took immediately to this man who built with such fine quality and precision. It was then that R.H. Morris secured the prestige contract for the restoration of "Groote Schuur", after the building had been extensively destroyed by fire.

Counterfeit Countess

Princess Catharina Maria Radziwill was born Ekaterina Adamevna, Countess Rzewuska, in St Petersburg, Russia on 30th March 1858. A journalist and only daughter of Count Adam Rzewuski, an exiled Polish noble-man living in Russia. Christened Ekaterina, she later changed her name to Catherine Maria. Whilst living in Russia and a favourite of Tsar Nicholas she married Prince Wilhelm in 1873 at the age of 15. They settled in the Radziwill family palace in Berlin and moved in the highest social circles, but because of her indiscretions - under a pseudonym she had written a series of articles in La Nouvelle Revue, in which she caricatured the royal family and other nobles. Her political meddling however resulted in her being banished from the imperial German court. In 1886 the Radziwills settled in Russia, where they lived at her country estate on the Volga, and in St. Petersburg during the winter season, alternated with journeys to the most fashionable European holiday resorts. Although she [...]

Sir Leicester Beaufort

On a recent trip to Plumstead Cemetery to photograph all those lost and forgotten people in, I found myself spending a lot of time thinking about the people buried there and where they came from. Some people’s names bother me and I have this urge to find out more. One particular person was Sir Leicester Beaufort who died on 13 August 1926 – now who would have thought that someone who had a title would have been left and forgotten with the thousands of other neglected and derelict headstones that say “we will never forget you” - how family members use this term on an epitaph always amazing me and 90% of the time they are forgotten and neglected. I asked some of the other volunteers who was with us on the day "who was the guy that invented the Beaufort scale? “And they all piped up “ah that was William” so it could not have been him but nice try. But [...]

Who’s Who of South Africa

In 2013, after being retrenched and closing down the website I started called Ancestry24, I was stunned when I was offered the entire collection of the Who’s Who publications as “thank you and good bye present” These books would have been literally dumped into storage and then probably gone for shredding. I am extremely grateful for this amazing set of books that sit proudly in my library. If you would like any personalities looked up, I do have small fee for supplying you with a copy. In 1907 the first South African Who's Who was published by The South African Who's Who Publishing Company in Durban. This amazing publishing company belonged to Ken Donaldson who was also the editor as well as the proprietor. By 1909 the 3rd issue of Who's Who was proving to be an amazing publication yet also differed somewhat from other books of a similar nature whereby who's featured mainly aristocracy. As regards omissions for that year, there [...]