IS THERE A 'BLACK (W)HOLE' IN SOUTH AFRICAN PUBLISHED GENEALOGY?
Suid-Afrikaanse Geslagregisters / South African Genealogies 5 L-M originally
compiled by J.A. Heese/R.T.J. Lombard), edited and augmented by Genealogical
Institute of South Africa (GISA), Stellenbosch 1999.
Volume 5 of this major genealogical work - based entirely on the late Dr
J.A. Heese's research - is an anomaly. I often visited the late Dr Heese at
his retirement home at the Strand. I saw him at work on his magnum opus .
His envisaged research had already been completed. This entailed all
families and individuals appearing in the church records up to 1850 plus
constellations of many many other post 1810-families that Heese had
researched and amassed over many years. This was not just families up to
the letter "L" in the Roman alphabet, but all surnames right up to
body of the research was in the form of countless index cards which Heese
painstakingly researched, compiled and wrote out by hand over many years.
Consequently the genealogies merely needed to be written and/or typed up and
edited into a published series by the HSRC. Such was the agreement.
Knowing this first hand, I was startled to read in the Forward to this
latest GISA edition:
"This edition is still in the same format as the previous ones. For the
following editions of the series, considerable changes and additions are
Nowhere on the cover of Volume 5 does Dr J.A. Heese's name (or that of the
HSRC) appear. Inside the paperback volume, Dr Heese is minimised to being
merely one of the original co-compilers! Is this indicative of the extent
of the considerable changes we can expect in future? It grieves me that Dr
Heese's memory and overriding contribution are being minimised. To what
extent is his work being "augmented" by GISA ?
J.A. Heese's legacy
For the first time in South African genealogical history an honest attempt
had been made by the late Dr J.A. Heese to compile detailed genealogies of
ALL recorded (mostly Christian) South African families - be they 'white',
'yellow', 'brown' or 'black', English- or Afrikaans-speaking. All
goes to Dr Heese for not having been racially restrictive or
consanguineously-challenged...unlike most local genealogists of yore. Even
in Volume 5 we still have evidence of Heese's healthy assault on selective
amnesia by the Establishment - see under LAMBRECHTS p. 21 for an inclusion
of 'misfits'. Bastards have been excluded from orthodox genealogies for far
Under the editorship of the HSRC's Dr Lombard, volumes 1-4 have already
been published. Mrs Isabel Groesbeek, successor to Dr Lombard, finalised
the publication of volumes 3 & 4 and her editorship of volume 5 was
unexpectedly interrupted by the removal of the HSRC's genealogical assets to
the University of Stellenbosch. GISA has now "augmented" and published
The Introduction/Inleiding to Volume 5 leaves much to be desired. Was it
ever edited? Was it ever proof-read? We are informed (in Afrikaans) that
prior to Heese, published genealogies went no further than 1810; whereas we
are also informed (in English) that "previously these genealogies in most
cases had gone further than 1810" ?!? The content of the
Introduction/Inleiding to Volume 5 is seriously problematic in many places.
(1) Input by contributors, we are informed, has been acknowledged "in each
case" . Even a casual glance through the volume has one wondering...Who,
for example contributed the substantial information on the
LOUBSER/LAUBSCHER, LOMBARD/LOMBAARD, LOUW, Van der MERWE and MARAIS
families? GISA itself? This is doubtful... This absence of proper
acknowledgment is a matter of serious concern.
(2) There is no mention that 'Familia' has been used as a major source for
information by GISA and its predecessors when acknowledging extracts from
published works. The GSSA is a founding member of GISA and yet its
long-standing quarterly journal gets no mention whatsoever.
(3) The claim that "every bit of information had to be re-evaluated
afresh..." cannot be reconciled with the final product, eg the genealogy for
Louis van Bengale (see under LOUYS, p. 331) is hopelessly incorrect despite
the fact that it has been published in detail and long available in
'Kronos'. In many instances the known, published or recorded provenances of
progenitors have been left out, eg LAMBRECHTS, LECRIVANT & van der MERWE.
Where provenances have been mentioned, little attempt has been made to
identify these places more correctly. In the case of the LOUW and MYBURGH
families, provenances are mentioned that are highly questionable. The
respective Danish and Norwegian origins of the progenitors of these two
major families have already been pointed out in 'Capensis'. The LOUBSER
stamvader's likely place of baptism in Switzerland has been identified. Did
GISA take the time and trouble to consult Adolphe Linder's authoratative
'The Swiss at the Cape of Good Hope 1652-1971' ? Jan MAURITS we are told,
is merely "van Nederland". Such an expedient tag is always a tell-tale sign
that our man is more likely to be Cape-born. And so he is... Being the
'voorzoon' of one Catharina van Bengale perpetuated by 'De Villiers/Pama'
'Catharina Opklim'. The man executed for killing the MARAIS progenitor is
not named. Why? Published sources ('Kronos', Franken, Böeseken and even
publications of the Franschhoek Museum) inform us that he was an aborigine
named Edessöa alias Dickkop . Why not mention him by name? Much
genealogical data exists in print which could easily have been included, eg
LETTERSTEDT, de LIMA and MENZIES. Then there are some glaring mistakes, eg
under LOURENS, yet again Matthijs de Sweed gets confused with Matthijs
Michiels from Glückstadt despite numerous allusions to this now obvious
mistake. We read MOVY instead of MOUY which genealogy has been left out
completely. So has MAGEER and John MATTHEWS and his descendants...We find
that De LETTRE was married to Neethling [sic] instead of Nöthling (a
different family pointed out long ago in 'Familia'). Many genealogies
submitted by contributors for inclusion in the series have not appeared.
Contributors have also offered their expertise or could have been co-opted
in terms of correcting and refining the genealogies. These offers and
opportunities were never taken up.
(4) In reference to criteria for the qualification and inclusion of families
into this volume, no actual cut-off date is mentioned. All we are told is
that "the cut-off date was determined by the date of arrival of the ancestor
as well as the extent of the particular family..." In a recent interview on
'Radio RSA' (Tuesday, 14 September: 'Boekrubriek met Daniel Hugo'), the
Director of GISA intimated to his 'Afrikanophone' audience that 'ons'
should begin research at GISA, before anywhere else; 'hulle' (ie English
and brown people) had their own places for research, viz: the '1820 Settler
Association' in Grahamstown and UWC's 'Mayibuye Centre', respectively.
Listeners were also informed that the initial 'shortage-of-women' -
presumably European or 'white' women (?) - and the extent of
that took place amongst 'Afrikaners' went hand in hand...What exactly is
the connection? Such a sweeping statement reveals a facile assessment of
the many factors (eg wealth, isolation, religion, otherness, choice etc)
that contributed to human intercourse at the Cape of Good Hope. Anybody
working through Hoge's 'Personalia of the Germans at the Cape' will readily
concede that women were not necessarily in short supply...Daniel Hugo's
(deliberate?) choice of music during the interview with GISA's Director
could not have been more appropriate: Karen Hougaard singing "Halwe Hart"
and 'PJ' Powers ululating "True Colours"...
(5) English-speaking people were baptised in the Afrikaans church,
"particularly where the ministers were Scottish". The latter qualification
is odd. Many Anglophones baptised and worshipped at the Afrikaans church
simply because of intermarriage or the lack of a local non-Afrikaans church.
Finally, when assessing GISA's latest 'output', however, two worrying
aspects in particular, remain:
(1) The statement in the Introduction/Inleiding to Volume 5 that this new
series contains the "complete [sic - emphasis is mine] family registers of
Afrikaans families from [the] seventeenth to approximately [the] middle
nineteenth century" is fantastic. The Cape's original church registers were
generally 'ethnically-cleansed' when featured between the covers of
Canada-born Theal's original publication of the 'Geslachtsregisters' by C.C
de Villiers. This fundamental omission was further perpetuated by the
subsequently 'doctored' edition of De Villiers/Pama's 'Geslagregisters
Ou Kaapse Families' of which the English title is a dead give away
('Genealogies of old South African Families'): 'Cape' has been
transmogrified into 'South African'. It was a feeble post Union/republican
attempt to consolidate the myth of a united Afrikaans- and English-speaking
'white' 'South African' 'nation'. Although the Heese/Lombard
pave the way for greater inclusivity, the fundamentally flawed 'De
Villiers/Pama' is still being re-incorporated almost verbatim. With the
exceptions of Dr Heese's own corrections, little is being done to correct
this serious 'Black Hole' in South African published genealogy. The latest
appeal by GISA "to readers to bring any errors to the publisher's attention
so that these can later be corrected" could not be more pressing. Given
the lacuna mentioned above, the title of the current GISA series remains a
misnomer - unless there are bona fide attempts to include ALL recorded
families within the geographic and political boundaries of South Africa.
Furthermore, the usage out of context of that peculiar and euphemistic
abbreviation 'v.d.K.' for anything that is deemed to be 'non-white' is
also illogical, misleading and redundant.
(2) GISA was created with assets of which the true ownership is in
question. The hijacking of these national assets has been reported more
fully in 'Capensis Newsletter' No 4 of 1997 (November 1997) pp. 1-3 and on
Conrad Mercer's Digest.
Does GISA have the representivity or the expertise to undertake this "unique
cultural cause" (to use GISA-speak) alone? GISA continues to be dependent
on the contributions of others. Unless GISA gets its professional,
scientific, political and ethical acts together, gospel-ised genealogical
errors will continue to be perpetuated in print. To what extent are GISA's
sponsors, Nasionale Pers (NASPERS) and The Rembrandt Group, sensitive to
these issues when financing the marketing of the 'augmented' and
legacy of the late Dr J.A. Heese?