Changing Hands

A calendar of bondage in Southern Africa 1550 – 1888

South Africa’s chequered past includes a history of change of ownership.

Slaves, property and the colony changed ownership often between 1588 and 1888, and many of the important documents discussing ownership are inaccessible because of their obscure locations or difficulty in reading the original handwriting.

Ancestors South Africa has recently launched a database by Prof Robert Shell called Changing Hands – A Calendar of Bondage. Changing Hands is a second generation research aid, a selection of those documents found useful in research on the colonial Cape. The items included comprise perhaps less than a small percentage of all documents in the Cape archives in this period, so there is no pretence at completeness.

However, the 132,974 items on the Changing Hands database are unified by a theme of ownership and change of ownership. Every item in the database is indexed.

This new electronic version includes many new databases, such as the archives’ contracts and testaments; Leonard Guelke’s and Scott Macfarlane’s loan farm database, Linda Duvenage’s and Nigel Worden’s Lodge deaths database; Anthony Whyte’s manumissions, and the compiler’s own slave transfer database, to name the biggest new additions. There are over forty databases and a further twenty documents. It would take 45 days to print these out at six pages a minute. Do not attempt this!

“Scholars, history students, genealogists, property developers and generally people who are passionate about history will enjoy this innovative new research tool. It is fun,” says Heather McAlister, owner of Ancestors South Africa Research.

“I am sure this product will be of immense use to anyone interested in the original ownerships of land and property at the Cape.”

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