The outcasts

3H7B0022 Charlie Els 1Charlie Els [Familia 2018 Vol. 55/2 p56]
This informative article is about the search for the author's step-aunt of whom the family knew nothing. All a niece of his knew was that their grandmother, Catharina Elizabeth Els (born Uys) had previously been married to a Van der Merwe and that two daughters were born out of the marriage, one of whom died early. The author was able to determine according to the naming pattern that his aunt's name was Dina Magrietha van der Merwe. With this information the author was able to follow in her footsteps to the Pretoria Leper Institution west of Pretoria where he was able to obtain confirmation that she was the daughter of Catharina Elizabeth Els. Dina is also mentioned in the records of the Middelburg concentration camp where the conditions were extremely appalling. He was also able to locate other family members who were similarly denied by the family.
The author gives a lot of interesting information about this disease that has been considered reprehensible since biblical times. He discusses its handling through the ages, which has led to these people being denied, rejected and forgotten by their families. Ironically, it is a bacterial disease that can be easily treated, as we know today.
Extract from panel adjudicators' comments
For many centuries it was believed in the Christian world that leprosy was brought on as a punishment for mankind's sins. The Christian conviction was so strong that lepers worldwide were removed from communities and placed in isolation. Against the background, the tragic story of Dina van der Merwe and her other family members is read with a touch of sadness. The article provides new information to our genealogical knowledge. Is professional, interesting and fun to read with full references.
The theme of this article is refreshingly original and the writing style captures the reader's attention. Although the theme of leprosy is considered in the context of the author's 'lost' relative, the cause of the disease, the origin of the accompanying stigma and the wider implications for affected individuals and their families over the centuries also become detailed and are dealt with empathy.
The author indirectly makes the genealogist aware of another possible source where an absent, lost or missing family member can be searched - the records of leprosy hospitals, psychiatric facilities or similar institutions - that many genealogists have never thought of as a search site.