The Genealogical Society of South Africa
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Johannesburg Branch

Randjeslaagte Memorial Hall "The Johannesburg Branch of the GSSA serves genealogists in the immediate Johannesburg area. The Branch holds meetings at 2.30pm on the 3rd Saturday monthly at the RJM Hall at Randjes Estate, Randjeslaagte Road, in Highlands North which offers secure parking facilities.
Monthly meetings are started with a speaker or lecture, on genealogy related topics. These meetings are followed by tea provided by the Committee. After tea the Library is open for research purposes.
Interested parties are invited to contact the Vice-Chairman David Kinghorn on 082 808 4864 or committee member Margaret Gundry on 011 828 7176.
The Johannesburg branch hosted FAMILY ROOTS, a 30 minute genealogical program presented on Radio Today (Repeats can be heard on 1485 MW/AM in Greater Johannesburg and country wide on DSTV Audio Channel 869 and streaming globally on http://www.1485.org.za.)"

Visit to Jewish Roots in Belarus

Stan Close who will be telling us about his visit last year to Belarus in search of his Jewish Roots. This promises to be a very interesting meeting and has raised my interest me so much that when I realised how little I knew about the Jews in South Africa.
“I was born in Bulawayo in (then) Rhodesia, attended primary school in Bulawayo and Ndola, and senior school in Johannesburg.
Stanley John Close married Edith Close (yes – maiden name Close) on 12 December 1970 in Graaff Reinet. The fact that the couple shared the same surname begged the obvious question whether the two Close families were related in any way. And so Stan’s genealogical research began. Back in the seventies this was not easy as the internet wasn’t around, most other family members were luke warm on the subject, and all charts and family trees had to be done by hand. Stan’s research dribbled along until 2015, when some new information on the Jewish side of the family came to hand, and he decided to revive his research work, on the Jewish line as well as the two Close lines.
The Jewish line : Stan’s grandfather, Alan Robert Close, married a young Jewish lady, Lilian Sylvia Rosenberg in (then) Salisbury on 23 July 1919. Lily was the daughter of a Russian Jewish couple, Coppel and Mathilda (née Mechanik) Rosenberg, who had emigrated from two small villages in then Russia, now Belarus, to settle in Bulawayo, Rhodesia. This part of the research concerns the origins of the Jewish family in Belarus, the passage of the Rosenbergs from Belarus to Bulawayo, their lives in Bulawayo, and follow up on Rosenberg descendants in South Africa, England and the USA.
In August 2015, together with a local genealogist/ guide, Stan and his cousin Paul Tomlinson (Paul’s mother was my grandmother Lily Rosenberg’s sister) visited Vilnius in Lithuania and the towns of Vashiliski, Zheludok and Scuchin in Belarus – where our Jewish family originated - to uncover as much information as possible regarding the original Jewish family (ies) who had lived there, and also to expose ourselves first hand to the typical way of life in these small Belarusian villages.

May Meeting

The meeting gave an opportunity for members to tell about their recent discoveries, each giving a short presentation. 11 Members briefly shared their experiences during their research. Marion Hofmeyr remembered her grandmother and showed a certificate authorising her grandmother to teach weaving. Also she showed some of her grandmother’s later crochet work as well as small bust of her grandmother. Warren Cassidy discussed some of his Cassidy relatives, one of whom was South African-born doctor who was the physician to King George V. Also he showed how he was related to the Spencer family.
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The Shaw Presentation

George Shaw gave a fascinating insight into his 40 year’s research into his family history to the Johannesburg Branch of the GSSA for their April 2016 meeting. George’s approach to genealogy is not just lists of names, places and dates. Rather it is to collect documents and photographs and other items from the period, making up a detailed story of what was going on at the time
Click here to read the article

The Bible Project

The Johannesburg Branch got involved in the Bible Restoration Project following a talk on Radio Today specifically about the Bibles which were looted during the Anglo-Boer War, in the time of Vicky HeunisKitchener’s Scorched Earth policy. Elria Wessels of the War Museum, in Bloemfontein explained that it was through the tireless insistence of The Quakers or the Society of Friends that many looted bibles made their way back to this country.
The Johannesburg Branch took up the challenge to raise funds and become directly involved in the Bible Restoration Project run by the War Museum, Bloemfontein.
Bible records are a PRIMARY source for genealogical research - do you have an old Family Bible – or know of someone who has one? GET IN TOUCH with a member of the GSSA- they know what to do!! Vicky Heunis holding the Bible we chose to be restored with funds donated by the Joburg Branch of the GSSA.

Using The Johannesburg Branch Library

The Johannesburg Branch of the Genealogical Society boasts a very well stocked Library. Making useof the Library suits the beginner, just starting out and certain publications and guides offer excellent advice for the more experienced researcher too.

 Concentrating on South African resources, all researchers are welcome to peruse a complete set of Indexes to Estate Files for each Archives depot in South Africa; these indexes are a mine of information and although they are available online, we generally find that in the printed form, name variants, or groups of surnames are easier to see when searching for Death Notices and Probate references. Formal Sources in the Library include the well-thumbed Guide to Genealogical Research; and of course A-Z Genealogies of Old South African names now published by the Genealogical Institute of South Africa. Another excellent book is Esme Bull's Aided Immigration 1856-1866 which gives fantastic details about new
English, Irish and German settlers to these shores.
To counter the possibility of re-inventing the wheel, we heartily encourage new members to check the numerous publications on South African family histories such as Van Der Merwe, Le Roux and Truter books so that if a Family Tree exists, one can check information or even collaborate with the Author.
What members find particularly useful is the printed version of the GSSA product of selected Cemetery Recordings in South Africa. Keeping up with the times and moving swiftly into the 20th Century the Genealogical Society has for a number of years offered these Cemetery Recordings on DVD and the Library has a full set of them. Members researching specific settlers refer to British Settler's in Natal by Shelagh O'Byrne Spencer or The Cotton German's of Natal or Afrikaner Families in Natal and of course Pieter Coertzen's Huguenots of South Africa and those with 1820 Settler stock will find several publications of old Settler families very useful, for example The Tarr's of Rokewood or 1820 Settlers by Guy Butler but a favourite must surely be The Guide to Manuscripts held at Cory Library in Grahamstown second only to the List of Photographs (A-G} which is held at the Albany Museum.
A good number of members busy tracing their Scottish, English or Irish ancestors, will find our Library is well stocked with Guides to researching Census Records or Baptisms and Marriages in Methodist, Baptist or Church of England records, as well as several Guides to researching in Public Record Offices in Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland. The more experienced researcher will be pleased to learn how to make use of Tudor England's Muster Rolls, the Poor Law Union records or even Hearth Tax records for various counties in England.
Heraldry research compliments historical and Genealogical research thoroughly. The Library has several publications on Heraldry such as The Complete book of Heraldry by Stephen Slater an excellent publication covering an international history of heraldry and its contemporary uses. In the same vein, descendants of landed Gentry may find the well-known Whitakers or Burkes Peerage of good use. Books are available to the researcher when the Library is opened after each monthly meeting every 3,d Saturday monthly at the RJM Hall, Randjes Estate, Highlands North.icon Library Book List