Durban and Coastal Branch

Durban & Coastal Branch

GSSA Helping_visitorsThe Durban and Coastal Branch presently has 37 members all enjoying doing research on their families. Some have made great progress and have even published the results of their research. Many are having fun doing voluntary work for the Society creating more and easily accessable research information.
They volunteer and help with: The transcription of the RSA 1984 Voter's roll;  The photographing of Gravestones; - The transcription of cemetery registers. Our Branch completed the Stellawood cemetery registers (114 000 entries) which is now available on CD.
Recently our members completed an index of all marriages registered in Natal from 1845 to 1955 (421 874 names) which will be available on the internet soon. We have monthly get togethers on the second Saturday of each month which are held at the Durban Family History Centre where we have access to the wealth of research information it houses.   We often invite speakers on related subjects to address us.  
  • Hits: 1233

Durban Aflame, The burning of German Businesses - 1915

11 March 2017

Guest speaker : Donald Davies of SA Military History Society

Donald set the scene by introducing John Frederick Baumann who arrived in Durban in 1851 and established a business as a bread baker and grocery store. He and his nephew, John Michael Bauman BakingLeonard Baumann who was an apprentice baker in Germany joined him many years later (1880) after JML had established his own bakery in London. A great seller was the “Ships Biscuits” supplied to sailing vessels and various garrisons stationed about the country. (And who does not know of ‘Bakers' biscuits?). Baumann Baking Co. West Street, Durban 1895 (Courtesy of The Baumann business was one of the German-owned businesses that were severely affected by the ‘Avenge the Lusitania' campaign (ironically, the Baumann sons were fighting on the British side). Latent animosity built up from 1899 (Boer War events) and continued during the course of ‘The Great War' in South Africa between the English and Afrikaans-speaking sectors, and the sinking of the Lusitania on May 7, 1915 perhaps sparked the flame. The Lusitania (passenger ship) was headed towards an English port and was hit by a torpedo from a German U-Boat and sank in the Irish Sea 18 minutes after the strike. There were 703 survivors from 1900 passengers and crew. Despite warnings by the Germans in April of that year they would attack in the sea vessels, and a published piece in USA on 1 May 1915, the Lusitania went on its journey. Aboard were a small number of shell casings, but not live ammunition. An official of the Cunard Line stated “no submarine will catch the Lusitania”. (A few potential passengers did not board for the journey as they took heed of the German Embassy warning, rather than the reassurances of the Cunard official).


Continue reading

  • Hits: 8069


Gail Richards of the Durban and Coastal Branch reports:
We had a fabulous meeting this afternoon, braving a fierce thunderstorm and torrential rain and a tiny bit of hail. What a pleasure it was to see so many new faces (10 visitors), and we wish them well with their new journey.
Eleanor Lea gave an outline of how genealogy research works and where it starts with the gathering of information relatives, and how to deal with stumbling blocks. We all agreed that we should have spent more time, and had more interest, when family stories were laughed and cried over. Click on the image to enlarge.

{artsexylightbox singleImage="images/Durbanl/Entralled_Visitors.jpg" path="images/Durbanl" color="white" previewWidth="200"}{/artsexylightbox}

Our visitors raised what inroads they had made in to their Family Tree investigations – some at the very beginning (and dreadfully complex by all accounts), to those who had a fair measure of success with a few stumbling blocks along the way. If I can speak for my fellow members, it makes our hearts very happy when we see people interested in finding out about their heritage.

Continue reading

  • Hits: 11274

Feedback from our April & May Meetings

Our speaker, (and also member), Prof. Ken Knight, was most interesting. Now 94 years old, he had us all enthralled recounting his genealogy experiences. His interest was sparked 35 years ago while he was attending the Grahamstown Festival. He and his wife decided to go Prof Ken Knightinto Crahamstown Cathedral where they found a plaque which honoured a Capt. Arthur Knight. After taking a photo of the words, Ken spent time at the Cory Library from which he gained an amazing amount of information ... and, yes, he was descended from Arthur Knight!
So began his "journey". Prof stated that on the software package that he uses, he has 500 000 names on one of the versions, and 600 000 on the subsequent version - not all his family of course, but names of many other people he has researched.

Duncan 1"Sugar and Settlers - A History of the Natal South Coast 1850 -
Our guest speaker was Duncan Du Bois, the author of this book. He is an entertaining speaker who is a passionate historian. The book, published last year, is the product of research done by Duncan for his Ph.D. Thesis which he completed at the University of KwaZulu Natal in 2013. The south coast of Natal has had very little written about it, so his idea was to attempt to produce a critical, comprehensive, wall-to-wall account reflecting the lives of  those pioneers set within the colonial and imperial context. It is also an account of how the colonization process affected the lives of the indigenous African population and experience of Indians both as indentured labourers and as free settlers.

Click to Read the full stories:

  • Hits: 10467

World War 1 comes to the Northern Cape-Ken Gillings

The artical below is a summary of a presentation to the Durban and Coastal Branch by Ken Gillings at their November meeting.
Click on the images to enlarge

{artsexylightbox singleImage="images/Durbanl/Ken_Gillings.jpg" path="images/Durbanl" color="white" previewWidth="300"}{/artsexylightbox}

When the South African government declared war on Germany in 1914 (following the German incursion into South Africa at Nakob), it resulted in a bitter feud between several Afrikaner leaders who opposed going to war against a former ally during the Anglo-Boer War.One of these was General Manie Maritz, who had joined the newly established Union Defence Force with the rank of Lt Colonel. Maritz gathered together a party of Boer rebels and decided to attack Upington on the 24th January 1915 although first encounter with Union troops had in fact been on the 19th January 1915 at Lutzputz, approximately 70 km west of Upington. By remarkable coincidence, the rebels' advance had been observed by a gentleman named George St Leger Gordon Lennox who was none other than the legendary Scotty Smith and who warned the garrison of the impending attack. Maritz had, however, evidently sent a message to the garrison commander - who happened to be Colonel Jaap van Deventer - demanding his surrender. Van Deventer refused and Maritz responded with a note boasting that he'd have breakfast in Upington the next morning.

{artsexylightbox singleImage="images/Durbanl/Kakamas-graves_of_Lt_Neethling_and_Pte_Kruger.jpg" path="images/Durbanl" color="white" previewWidth="200"}{/artsexylightbox}

The inhabitants of Upington were warned to take shelter in the local church and the two hospitals and at dawn on Sunday 24th January 1915, Maritz, accompanied by Major Jan Kemp (another UDF officer who had joined the rebels) attacked with 1000 Boer rebels, four German guns, two pom-pom guns and two machine guns. The Cape Field Artillery had already taken up a position on two koppies north of the town and they engaged in a duel with the German guns. The rebels – led by a rebel leader from Kakamas named Stadler - approached the town

{artsexylightbox singleImage="images/Durbanl/016-German_graves_near_Kakamas.JPG" path="images/Durbanl" color="white" previewWidth="200"}{/artsexylightbox}

Maritz lost 12 killed, 23 wounded and 97 POW to the UDF's 3 killed and 22 wounded. Kemp surrendered on the 4th February 1915 and he was imprisoned until 1916. Many of those rebels captured were wearing German uniforms. The dead rebels were buried in hastily dug graves in the dry river bed, but the wind soon uncovered the bodies and the Union troops reburied them in deeper graves in the same area. After the war, in 1920, Kemp became a Transvaal MP and he obtained official permission to rebury them in his constituency of Wolmaransstad.The South African casualties were buried in the Upington cemetery and their graves are well maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.There was a second prong to this attack; a force comprising Germans under the command of Major Hermann Ritter. Ritter's force headed for Steinkopf but on hearing of Maritz's defeat, decided to attack Kakamas instead. He camped outside the town, mindful of his orders not to remain in South Africa for longer than 14 days. At dawn on the 4th February 1915, Ritter launched his attack under cover of his artillery, hoping to capture the two drifts across the Orange River and then proceed downstream. His force comprised 205 mounted riflemen, four guns and four machine guns. The telegraph line to Upington was then cut and a South African outpost was captured. The German guns opened fire at a range of 920 metres targeting the force of South Africans guarding the ferry while the German mounted riflemen charged down towards the drift. They hit a snag, however, when they were stopped by barbed wire fences, so they dismounted and headed towards the ferry landing on two flanks. The South Africans on the south bank tried to send reinforcements across the river but were prevented from doing so by heavy artillery fire from the German guns.

Continue reading

  • Hits: 18937

A Tiny Grave

The Cemetery Recording Project of the GSSA brings together people from three continents.
It all started with this e-mail received for Barbara Rea-Venter: "I am hoping you may be able to help. Two of my Grant cousins, Thomas (died 1st August 1943) and James (died 5th March 1942) are buried in South Africa. I have copies of documents that suggest they are buried at Stellawood Cemetery.- Grave No 383 Block W. Is it possible to obtain a picture of the grave? Regards, Barbara Rae-Venter- California USA
This is how Maureen Schnittker responded: After we had looked at all the gravestones and not found it we decided to look again more closely, it was at the top end. It is a small gravestone and the surname is not as pronounced as some of the others, my son actually found it and cleaned it, I just did the photographing. It gives me great pleasure to be able to help loved ones far away and unable to come to the cemetery themselves which I think apart from capturing the history this is one of the aims of the eGSSA gravestone site. - Maureen Schnittker South Africa
 001 The Tiny Grave Original 1
002 The Tiny Grave 1
And this is the history behind it: - Ross Holmes and Shona Smith Australia
Just two blocks of stone remain, one for each little boy. The angel, originally surmounting it, has long since flown and the mouldy darkening of the marble bears witness to seven decades of weathering. Yet this diminutive monument represents a story of escape, sorrow, reconciliation and survival. It also reminds us of a generosity of spirit demonstrated by the people of Durban during the years of the Second World War and continued today.
Early in the nineteenth century, the growth of the motor car industry created a need for huge amounts of rubber for tyres. Large rubber plantations were established in tropical areas, including Malaya, and many expatriates moved to Malaya to manage the plantations. These included the Scottish families of Charles Grant and Eleanor Margaret Little who met and married in Malaya in the 1930's.
Charles and Eleanor (who was known as “Bunny”) lead an idyllic lifestyle and had two boys, Peter and John, during the late 1930's. This lifestyle was sent into turmoil shortly after the birth of their third child, James, when Japanese forces invaded the Malay Peninsula. Charles was required to serve in the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force (FMSVF) as part of a general mobilisation on 1st December 1941. Charles and Bunny were separated when Bunny and the children fled to Singapore with her mother early in 1942.
Their situation was complicated by medical problems experienced by baby James who was unable to digest any food and would vomit when fed. He was being treated with a German medication which became unavailable due to the war.
Bunny, her mother and children endured daily bombing in Singapore before boarding the “Empress of Australia” a Canadian liner which was converted into a troopship. The ship departed Singapore about a week before the city fell.
It was diverted from its original course to Australia due to enemy activity and travelled via Colombo arriving in Durban, South Africa on 2 March 1942. James' health continued to deteriorate during the voyage.
When the “Empress of Australia” berthed, a distraught Bunny fled with her sick baby and tried to get a taxi to hospital. After finally hailing a taxi, Bunny experienced the generosity which the people of Durban were extending to a huge number of refugees. Bunny explained to the driver that she had no money, a very sick baby and an urgent need to get to a hospital. The driver didn't think twice, just told her to hop in and conveyed her to the hospital, speedily and at no cost. 
Sadly James Robert (Hamish) Grant died three days later and was buried at Stellawood Cemetery. He was just eight months old.
Seven decades later the generosity of Durban was once again in evidence as Henry Rudman and Maureen Schnittker located and photographed the original grave at the request of James' siblings in Australia via their cousin Barbara Rae-Venter in California USA. Of course there is more to the story. Charles was able to secure his escape from Singapore on a fishing boat making a passage via Indonesia and eventually landing in Australia. He searched in vain for his wife who he believed was in Australia, but they were eventually reunited in South Africa after both had written to a relative in Scotland. They had another son, Thomas Christopher who also died in infancy and was buried with James in Stellawood.
From Durban, Charles and Bunny went farming in Transvaal and Kenya before returning to manage a rubber plantation in Malaya after the war. Sons Peter and John attended school in Perth Western Australia from 1947 and the family eventually migrated to Australia in 1952 with two infant girls Shona and Sue. Once again they were escaping a war, but this time it was from the guerrilla activities of the Malayan Emergency.
Charles and Bunny are buried together in Karrakatta Western Australia.
  • Hits: 11125

In Search of two Infant Graves

By Maureen Schnitker.
(Request from Babara Rae-Venter form California USA) 
Click on the images to enlarge

{artsexylightbox path="images/stories/Durban_and_Coastal/Infants/Headstone" previewWidth="160" previewHeight="120"}{/artsexylightbox}

Trying to find a particular grave in Stellawood Cemetery is not easy. The grave numbers which were once on a metal plate have been stolen a long time ago. We still find the odd metal grave number when we excavate vandalized gravestones which have been pushed over, luckily my son and his friends come with me on a Saturday afternoon to help me as some of these gravestones are very heavy. You just have to look on the website at those that are brown and sometimes broken to see how many we actually have to dig out.
Before I went to the Cemetery Eleanor Garvie sent me a copy of the Cemetery Block Book where the names appear so that I could see the names of the people buried on either side in case the grave did not have a gravestone, I then telephoned the Office to get an idea of where this section actually is. Cyril who works in the office and is of great help to me, knows the cemetery like the back of his hand, directed me from the X Block which we are working on at the moment , but I think when you know an area so well you perhaps miss a point or two so although we did get lost we knew more or less where it was, drove around until we saw the “W” marker. Had to scramble up a steep embankment to the top. Not being numbered you don't know at which end you are, the top or the bottom, so my son, a friend and I just looked at every gravestone and of course as Murphy's law would have it we were actually at the bottom end. After we had looked at all the gravestones and not found it we decided to look again more closely, it was at the top end. It is a small gravestone and the surname is not as pronounced as some of the others, my son actually found it and cleaned it, I just did the photographing.

Fortunately there was no embankment on this end so did not have to scramble down, sent my son to fetch the car and pick me up on that side, it was actually a lot closer to where we were working than where we started looking.

It gives me great pleasure to be able to help loved ones far away and unable to come to the cemetery themselves which I think apart from capturing the history this is one of the aims of the eggsa gravestone site. We are seeing so many gravestones which are being vandalized as is this one, the angel at the top is missing and is nowhere to be found. This grave has been bought outright so it will never be recycled.
We need to get the photographing of this cemetery done as quickly as we

{artsexylightbox path="images/stories/Durban_and_Coastal/Infants/Stricker" previewWidth="160" previewHeight="120"}{/artsexylightbox}

can. The large gate on the left-hand side of the cemetery has been broken for who knows how long so vandals have easy access day and night and there is not a section that has been left untouched by them. So with recycling, weathering and vandals we never know how long this history will remain there.
The attached photo taken on 31 May 2014 is from left to right, me, Lyn Paul, Rose Mc Arthur and my son Henry Rudman, it appears in the Durban and Coastal latest newsletter.

This how Barbara's initial request read: "I am hoping you may be able to help.
Two of my Grant cousins, Thomas (died 1st August 1943) and James (died  5th March 1942) are buried in South Africa. I have copies of documents that suggest they are buried at Stellawood Cemetery."

  • Hits: 9380