We serve a community of dedicated amateur family researchers. Anyone who hasn't ever dabbled in genealogical research can imagine the relief, joy and great exultation that the genealogist experiences on having made a breakthrough, or finds the final link to complete a family line. It truly is the experience of a lifetime.
Families have migrated far and wide within South Africa. Later descendants of families that arrived in South Africa as early as 1676 trekked North and East, some ending in the present day Namibia and or even further afield to Angola and Kenya. Tracing their footsteps, opens up new worlds, and gives one insight into cultural, political and the religious motivation for these great treks.
The Genealogical Society of South Africa (GSSA) that was established in 1964 has twelve branches of which eleven are land based and one which is an electronic branch catering for members worldwide, via the internet. Each branch arranges its own activities and meets all year round apart from December and January. More information can be gleaned by visiting the branch pages of Members  become close friends and are more than happy to assist newcomers with their research. Many a dead end has been resolved by discussing the issue with a fellow genealogist.



4th Article –1820 settlers the story The Abeona

In November 1820, the transport-ship Abeona was chartered by the Government for the conveyance of emigrants to the Cape of Good Hope. Having taken on board fourteen passengers at London she proceeded to the Clyde, where 126 emigrants embarked. There were 21 crew on board and with a fair wind the ship left Greenock, Scotland on the 13th October 1820 and began her voyage down South.

She caught fire at 4°30’N, 25°30’W and burnt for 15 hours. She was completely destroyed.

Three boatloads of survivors were rescued by a Portuguese merchant ship and taken to Lisbon.

“Arrived here yesterday, the Royal Charlotte, from Lisbon, in 17 days, having on board the surgeon, second mate, carpenter, one seaman, and three boys; and also 22 emigrants, part of those saved by the boats from the wreck of the Abeona transport, Capt. Pritchard.” from The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for India and its Dependencies, Vol 2, page 206-7

The following year 6 survivors set off for the Cape in HMS Sappho, arriving in Simon’s Bay in August 1821. Who were they?

“May it please your Excellency, We the undersigned five men of the few survivors that were saved from the Abeona after losing all our families and property in that melancholy catastrophe and after our return finding little comfort at home again petitioned Government through the medium of the Magistrates of Glasgow to grant us lands as near as possible to Cape Town consistent with the views of Government and at the same time petitioned for agricultural implements and seeds to our farms, which petition being kindly granted us along with passage, we accordingly proceeded.


James Clark, John McLaren (a joiner, lost his wife and 4 children), John McLean (lost his wife and son) Thomas (a sawyer, lost his wife as per our list) and his wife, Agnes Reid, Robert Thompson (a bricklayer, maybe the Thomson below).” As per M D Nash.

It would appear that these men settled in the Western Cape. The full story and passenger list is available elsewhere on this website.


3rd  Article - 1820 Settlers the story

The Fanny and the East Indian both sailed from the Cove of Cork, Ireland on the 12th February, 1820. On the 30th April the East Indian arrived in Simon’s Bay, followed the next day by the Fanny.  Only leaders of parties were allowed ashore.

The leaders met with the Colonial Secretary, Colonel Bird, who informed them that they would not be heading for Albany but were to be settled in the Clanwilliam district. This would reduce the number of settlers arriving in Albany by about 350 and would also keep the hot-headed Irish apart from the other settlers.

Parker and two other men left for Clanwilliam on horseback on the 13th and on the 17th were shown the locations by the Land Surveyor. Horrified at, what he considered, the awful conditions and the position the settlers would find themselves in, the three men hurried to Saldanha Bay to try and prevent the settlers leaving the ships.

The two ships had left Simon’s Bay together again on the 16th May and headed back up the West Coast to Saldanha Bay.

The East Indian had one party on board – 222 settlers under the leadership of William Parker some of whom had embarked at Deptford before the East Indian left for Cork where the rest of the party embarked.

The Fanny was a much smaller ship than the East Indian but had three parties on board:

32 settlers under Captain Thomas Butler – this group had walked the 140 miles from Wicklow to Cork,

28 settlers under Captain Walter Synott – this group had made their way by road down from Northern Ireland to Cork where they embarkedand James Ingram’s party of 67 settlers from Cork.

Teams of ox wagons belonging to the local farmers were waiting to meet the settlers and transport them to their destination. The three parties on the Fanny disembarked, loaded up and made their way to the Clanwilliam district where they were allocated farms.

Parker meantime boarded the East Indian and told the party of the awful conditions at Clanwilliam and dismissed the rest of the wagons. They would not be needed. They would not settle there.

Then suddenly he changed his mind. Why? He had heard that there was gold North of Clanwilliam. He could not be persuaded that it was in fact copper. He thought this was a story made up by the locals to dissuade him from following up the claim. So he arranged for transport wagons to be hired from the farmers again and the party set off for Clanwilliam where they were allocated farms.

And then the squabbling started - unfair allocation of land - the land was no good for farming - more and more complaints.

By the end of June virtually every settler was dissatisfied with their lot. Work agreements were annulled while others asked for their services to be officially terminated. Some just absconded while others made their way to the Zuurveld, now renamed Albany.

In 1825, when two commissioners arrived in Clanwilliam to hear the settlers complaints  they found only two families still on their original locations and only twelve families still remained in the area.


2nd Article: 1820 Settlers the story

Following the events earlier described, three philanthropists, Vernon, Harberd, and Stracey proposed a privately owned emigration scheme to the Cape of Good Hope. The editorial which appeared in The Times on 12 July 1819 promoted the scheme.

The proposal of the three philanthropists saw discussion in parliament on 12 July 1819 and £50 000 was voted by the government to finance the scheme. A condition of the availability of the fund was that it had to be spent within six months .This stipulation had the effect that not sufficient planning could be done before the implementation phase commenced. It can be said that this was one of the reasons for the failure of the scheme. The scheme was managed by the Colonial Office and was advertised by way of pamphlets which were distributed.

The Colonial Office received more than 90 000 letters of application. Some journalists described the mood in the UK as emigration fever.

The Colonial Office arranged to appoint a number of party leaders. Once appointed party leaders recruited members for their parties. Parties had to have a minimum of 10 men. Party leaders received free passage for the voyage for themselves, their families and their servants.

Party leaders were responsible to lodge £10 for each single male or family group consisting of a married couple with two children over the age of 14. For additional children between the ages of 14 and 18 years of age the cost was £5 each; for every child under 14 years of age £2 10s had to be lodged. Single women had to lodge £10.

These fees were to pay for food for the settlers in each party until they had harvested their first crop at the Cape.

The way these funds had to be lodged lead to various private arrangements between settlers as regards the composition of “families.”

The Colonial Office was not concerned with the way these party leaders compiled and selected the members of their parties.

At this point in time Britain was in the grip of a very deep recession. Parishes and charitable organizations made use of this scheme to relieve them of the obligation to look after large numbers of people who were in need of shelter and substance. The parishes in fact paid the money which settlers had to lodge on behalf of the settlers.

Matters would have worked out fine for the Colonial Office if the settlers could have sailed immediately, however this was not possible and during the delay before sailing the newspapers started publishing cartoons, particularly those by Cruikshank which depicted savages taking bites out of the bodies of settlers. These cartoons and articles did not deter would-be settlers and when ships were available they sailed with full compliments. In some cases would- be settlers developed cold feet and left the parties, however their places were quickly filled by other eager settlers. This process created havoc with passenger lists and other records.

The first ships sailed from the Downs at the mouth of the Thames River from December 1819. Ships also sailed from Liverpool, Bristol, and Portsmouth. The Irish settler contingent sailed from Cork.

According to reports the weather during the passage was good. The first ship, “Chapman,” which arrived in Algoa Bay was spotted in the bay on the 9th April 1820. During April and May all the ships arrived at their destinations except the Abeona which was lost at sea.

The weather may have had the result that the voyage was comfortable but the atmosphere on board ship was stormy. By the time the ships arrived most settlers have tried to terminate their contracts with the leaders of the parties to which they belonged.


1st Article - 1820 Settlers the story

In the latter stages of the 17th century and in the early stages of the 18th century the dominant population groups in the Eastern Cape area were the white cattle farmers and the black cattle farmers. Both groups were constantly looking for more land on which their cattle could graze. These opposing groups clashed in a series of skirmishes or wars.

Colonel John Graham was the originator of the plan to settle a large group of Scottish Highlanders in this area. He was in charge of the British troops at a fort in the area. The fort later becomes Grahams Town. The plan was not implemented due to the fact that Britain was still involved in the war with Europe and emigration schemes were not priorities.

In 1817 captain Benjamin Moodie brought 50 young Scottish men who were artisans to the Cape as contracted workers. Later on he brought out a further 150 men. Cape citizens bought the contracts of the first group of artisans however some members of the second group absconded; thus leaving captain Moodie with a financial loss. In the final analysis the Cape gained 200 much needed artisans.

Peter Tait tried to emulate Moodies model but only managed to recruit 30 settlers.

On 22 April 1819 Xhosa Chief Mdushane attacked Grahams town with 10 000 warriors and overran the settlement.

This attack as well as the successful settlement of the Moodie settlers motivated the authorities at the Cape to write an appeal to Lord Bathurst to implement a settler scheme.

The end of the European war brought misery to the British population due to inflation, unemployment and the general stagnation of the economy. These miserable conditions lead to food riots in London in May 1819.

These riots in London added pressure to the then Tory government to consider an emigration scheme to the Cape.


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Rhino Project - 1972 Voters Roll

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The Familia / Best Article 2018

1e Familia Buiteblad

The Familia is the Quarterly Journal of the Genealogical Society of South Africa. On the photo above, the first cover of the Familia published during 1965/66 can be seen. The Northern Transvaal Branch of the GSSA has since the early 2000 presented a yearly prize, available for the best article published during a particular year.

The criteria by which such an article must comply includes the following: 

The Panel's Comment: It's a good, well laid out article that reads well and is abundantly illustrated with photos and which contains new information about the family. The author's references refer to bibliographic requirements and the genealogical notations which is required by Familia. In addition to meeting all the criteria as required, it is one of the few articles that provide sources as far as criteria is concerned, research, namely, that genealogists can follow it up and check.

In 2018 the best article in Familia was dedicated to Charlie Els for his article Die Verstoteling”. One of the judges had the following to say:

The theme of this article is refreshingly original and the style of writing captivates the reader. Although the theme of leprosy is seen in the context of the writers lost family member, the cause of the condition of the illness together with the source of involved stigmas and the broader implications of infected individuals and their families throughout the ages are detailed and treated with empathy.

The write makes the seeking genealogist indirectly conscious of yet another source of looking for an absent, lost or disappeared family member the records of Leprosy Hospitals, psychiatric facilities of similar instances whereby many a genealogist has never thought of searching at. The genealogist is also subtly challenged to verify all information through consulting primary sources, thus to avoid incorrect assumptions in regard to place of death, cause of death of a person on incorrection information that has been generated by earlier generations in an attempt to cover up any shamefulness or stigmas.

Click here to download the article

This is what you can expect on your journey to find, as soon as your interest in Family Research has been aroused.