As a little girl I discovered one day two white crosses hanging up in my father’s garage and was always intrigued as to whose graves these crosses should have been on. Eventually I discovered that one belong to my brother who died at 6 weeks and the other belong to the little girl of the neighbours next door who died shortly before I was born. Needless to say the next door neighbours became my godparents and much of my infant years were spent in the home of the Admiral’s Chauffeur.
As a child my family always spoke about our family being related to nobility in England and it fascinated me until I was old enough to understand research and how to trace my family tree. My passion for genealogy has proven to be more than I expected as it has provided me with not only the knowledge and expertise of tracing your family history but increasing my love of history, archaeology and giving me a profession that my school teachers would be in awe of.
In 1992 I was the founder member of the Cape Town Family History Society and also started a small publishing company with a friend and we produced PDF historical books.
Looking to have your family tree researched? Contact Heather MacAlister
During this time I discovered that an old burial site in Prestwich Street in Cape Town and Sharon and I offered our services to the somewhat shocked archaeologists. Nevertheless we were given the opportunity to help spend the day excavating human remains – my dream still continues.
I also assisted Professor Robert Shell for almost 2 years in putting together his mammoth database of Changing Hands. About 13 years ago I discovered there was a need for a website that gave family historians a chance to get records online without having to travel or fly half way across the country to look for passenger lists or baptism records. There was also no proper list of websites that told researchers and family historians where all the records in South were or their email address or contact details. This was very quickly added to the list and Heather’s South African Genealogy Help List began. I taught myself the basic skills of html and I was literally in business.
Out of the blue in 2004 I was contacted by one of the talent scouts from Naspers / Media24. Unbeknown to me they had been eyeing my website and offered to by my website and asked if I would like to come and run their new commercial division of the first African commercial genealogy and ancestral website called Ancestry24 which was then sold to Ancestry.com.
Over the past 9 years I have been lucky enough to have been appointed as the official genealogical researcher on the South African series of “Who do you think you are?” as well as the 2018 BBC “Who do you think you are” with Shirley Ballas. I also spent 18 month as the Content Manager for South Africa for Ancestry.com as well as consultant and managed to spend time at their head office in Provo and visited the LDS Library in Salt Lake City. I have a passion for saving cemeteries and have photographed and tagged tens of thousands of graves in the last 5 years. I love a challenge and have a library at home of over 2000 genealogy and African books of which 50% of them are like hens teeth. I have a bad habit of buying books from 2nd handbook shops and also buy the latest South African Genealogy books hot off the press. I have been lucky enough to correspond with Hugh Grants father as well as his aunty from Newlands (yes in Cape Town) and traced his family back to Cape Slavery. Casper De Vries and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu have also been my clients as well but sadly Jacob Zuma declined at my offer.
Cape Talk Podcast Heritage Day 2018 on South African Genealogy with Heather MacAlister