Growdon family in the Eastern Cape

On our recent holiday trip we visited Steve’s second cousin once removed, Hamish Scott, and his wife Monica and their son Robbie at Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape.

Scott family

Hamish, Monica & Robbie Scott, Stutterheim, 17 May 2011

Hamish is the son of Steve’s second cousin, Florence Scott, born Moors, and Florence’s grandmother was Christiana Jane (Jenny) Growdon, who married Daniel Moors at Bethulie in the Free State.

Robbie runs a nursery, and self-catering cabins called The Shire which are built on the edge of the forest, and are a marvellous place for a holiday for people who want to relax and watch birds.

shire

The Shire, self-catering cabins at Stutterheim, run by Robbie Scott

The Growdon family came to the Eastern Cape from Cornwall in the 1870s and William Matthew Growdon (my great grandfather and Hamish’s great great grandfather) was a platelayer on the Cape Government Railways, building the railway line from East London to the interior. He retired to Queenstown with his wife Elizabeth (born Greenaway), and they are buried in the cemetery there.

After leaving Stutterheim we went to Queenstown to look at their grave, which we had last seen in 1975. At first we could not find it, and thought it might have been vandalised, as many graves in Queenstown cemetery seemed to be, but eventually found it with the help of one of the caretakers. The stones were intact, but the railing around the graves had been removed, presumably by metal thieves, which was one reason we could not find the graves.

Graves of Elizabeth and William Matthew Growdon in Queenstown cemetery

Death of Ron Hickman, car designer and inventor

We have just learnt of the death of Ron Hickman, Val’s fourth cousin once removed, at the age of 78. Ron was a fairly distant relation, but what brought us together was an interest in family history, and when Ron came to South Africa to do some family history research he came to see us at the beginning, and then, after visiting various archives and family members, he came to see us again for a kind of debriefing session, and shared his notes and findings with us.

When he visited he was a big hit with our youngest child, Jethro, then aged 7 going on 8, and crazy about cars, and Ron Hickman was a car designer, having designed the Lotus Elan sports car.

Val Hayes & Ron Hickman; Simon, Jethro & Bridget Hayes, Feb 1989

We learnt of Ron Hickman’s death through the alt.obituaries newsgroup, where someone posted an obituary from The Independent, and there are several others, including this one: Ron Hickman obituary | The Guardian:

The prolific designer and inventor Ron Hickman, who has died aged 78 after a long illness, made his fortune from an idea for a simple but multifunctional bench with a gap down the middle to grip wood. The Workmate enabled DIY enthusiasts to saw through pieces of timber without using the edges of chairs and tables for support. The idea had come to him in 1961 when he accidentally sawed through the leg of an expensive Swedish chair while making a wardrobe. Nearly 70m Workmates have been sold since Black & Decker put Hickman’s design into mass production in 1973.

and this one: Ron Hickman – Telegraph:

After spending three years as a styling modeller with Ford, Hickman moved to the Lotus company, run by Colin Chapman, and quickly became its design director. He headed the team that designed the trendsetting Elan sports car, with its fibreglass body and retractable headlights. This was followed by the Lotus Cortina, Lotus Europa and Elan Plus 2, a design of which he was especially proud.

Others were published on web sites that were linked to Ron’s interests, such as the Club Lotus one, which said:

It’s our sad duty to report that Ron Hickman died in a Jersey hospital on Thursday morning, 17th February. He was 78 and had been unwell since suffering a fall last autumn and his health sadly deteriorated in recent weeks.

Lotus sports car designed by Ron Hickman

Ron will probably be best known to Lotus enthusiasts as the man who created the legendary Elan but he also played a key role in designing the revolutionary Type 14 Elite. The Elite’s glassfibre monocoque was a groundbreaking piece of design and established Lotus Cars as manufacturers of world beating sports racing cars.

Colin Chapman originally wanted the Elan to have a glassfibre monocoque as well, but Ron knew this could not work in an open top car.  Ron therefore rapidly designed the backbone chassis for the Elan and this became the standard Lotus chassis design until Elise with its aluminium monocoque was launched in 1996.

The common ancestors were Johan Friedrich Wilhelm Flamme (1780-1832) and Johanna Sophia Breedschuh (1782-1836).

J.F.W. Flamme was born at Twiste in Hesse-Nassau, Germany, and came to the Cape Colony as a soldier in the Waldeck Regiment. He was captured during the British occupation and confined in Fort Amsterdam. He may have worked as an assistant to John Martin Durr, butcher, who gave surety for him in 1806. In 1817 he applied for citizenship.

Johanna Sophia Breedschoe was the daughter of another German soldier, Johan Christoph Franciscus Breitschuh, and Francina van de Kaap, a slave of Pieter Hacker. Johanna Sophia and her sister Dorothea Francina were thus born into slavery, and manumitted by their father in 1787.

JFW Flamme and Johanna Sophia Breedschoe were married on 1 January 1809 in Cape Town, and had 11 children (that we know of). One of them was Petronella Dorothea Francina Flamme (1822-1893), Val’s great great great grandmother, who married Henry Crighton. Another was Johanna Louisa Christina Flamme (1814-1880), Ron’s great great grandmother, who married Samuel Beningfield.

The Beningfields moved to Durban and had eight children, one of whom, Johanna Dorothea Beningfield (1838-1900), Ron’s great grandmother, married Edward Hoste Hickman (1834-1901). One of the Beningfield sons, Reuben Widdows Beningfield, married his cousin Martha Crighton of Cape Town, and so that branch of the Beningfields is more closely related to us than the others.

This was the bare bones of the genealogy we were able to give Ron Hickman, and when he visited the Cape Archives he photocopied enormous quantities of documents to fill out the family story, with lots of biographical information on Sam Beningfield and some of the others.

Of the Flamme family, only the daughters married and had children, and most of the sons died young (one while a student at Heidelberg University in Germany) so there are no descendants with the surname Flamme. But some of the daughters were prolific, and, in addition to the Beningfields, Crightons and Hickmans, their descendants include members of the Mechau and Burnard families, who in turn married into the Enslin, Haupt, le Roux and de Villiers and von Backstrom families, and many more, far too many to list here.

We’ve met some of them, and corresponded with some, but Ron Hickman was the one who was most interested in the family history, and he also met many others on his visits home to South Africa, and we first came to know of many of the later generations of the Beningfield and Hickman families through him.

Looking for Franca Greene, nee Bladezki

Have you ever watched Heir Hunters on the History Channel? We have had heir hunters looking for the heirs of Ignat Bladezki. Two different lots of heir hunters in the UK have contacted us in the last couple of weeks, looking for the heirs of Ignat Bladezki, who died in Coventry, England, in May last year.

Our connection is that a daughter of Ignat Bladezki, Franca, married Val’s dad’s cousin, Errol Royden Norman Greene. We met Franca Greene once, about 18 years ago, when she was living in Bryanston with her daughter Courtney, who was then about 14. Errol Greene died in 1980, when Courtney was less than a year old. We chatted about family history, and Franca gave us some details for the family tree. She said her father, Ignat Bladezki, was born in Russia, but had deserted from the Red Army and gone to live in England, so it may not even have been his real name, and he spoke very little about family connections. He married Yola Conti, who died some years before he did, and, according to the heir hunters, he himself died in a nursing home and no one on the staff knew who his relatives were.

We’ve lost touch with Franca, and Courtney, who must be about 30 now, may have married and changed her name. But we’d like to get in touch with Franca again, to let her know that her father has died, and also that she probably stands to inherit a sum large enough to make the heir hunters think it worth their while to try to trace the next-of-kin (they make their money by taking a commission).

Franca was Errol Greene’s second wife. He had two daughters by his first wife, Dionne and Tracey. They don’t stand to inherit anything, but if they can be traced they may help us to find Franca. Franca told us that Tracey had married a Grant Stack. So if anyone reading this knows where Franca or Courtney are, please ask them to get in touch with us.


Errol Greene ran an air-conditioning business in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, before his death in 1980.

In the steps of Fred Green

Twenty years ago this month we went to Namibia on holiday, and one of the reasons we wanted to go was to learn more about Fred Green, Val’s great great grandfather, who was a trader and elephant hunter there for about 25 years, from about 1850 until his death in 1876.

Frederick Thomas Green (1829-1876) Born Montreal, Quebec. Died Heikhamkab, near Walvis Bay

We’ve been scanning some old photos, including photos of that holiday trip, and so it seemed a good time to share them and some of the related family history, old and new. Val had been to Namibia a year before, about a week after it became independent, and spent some time in the archives looking up the history of the Green family, and meeting some relatives and other researchers, like Dag Henrichsen, from Switzerland, who was particularly interested in Fred Green’s eldest daughter, Ada Maria Green, known as Kaera. Val also met a cousin, a descendant of Kaera, Mburumba Kerina, who is credited with the invention of the name Namibia.

In April 1991, however we all went, driving via Upington and the Augrabies Falls on Bright Monday, spending a night in Karasburg, and reaching Windhoek the next day. It was the first time I had been back to Namibia since being deported nearly twenty years before. It was interesting to see how things had changed in twenty years, and especially since independence. Some friends in Windhoek said that the biggest change had taken place overnight — the moment that the South African army withdrew to south of the border the whole country breathed a sign of relief and peace descended. There were several new buildings in Windhoek, which seemed somehow brighter and more cheerful.

We went north to stay ar Gross Barmen, and from there visited Okahandja, Omaruru and Otjimbingwe, places that Fred Green knew well 130 years before. You can read more about Fred Green’s life and times here and here.

8-Apr-1991, Monday

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Bright Monday. Leave for Namibia. Visit Kuruman, Aughrabies Falls, stay in Karasburg

Left for Namibia at 03:30, and travelled down the freeway to Muldersdrift, then through Tarlton and Ventersdorp. It began to get light then, and between Ventersdorp and Coligny for quite a long way there were road works and deviations. At Biesiesvlei Val took over driving, and we stopped for breakfast in Vryburg at a restaurant that served a “Kalahari breakfast” of eggs, wors, bacon and chips. We reached Kuruman at about 11:00 and had a look at the eye, and the fish in the pool next to it, and filled up with petrol.

Augrabies Falls, on Orange River below Upington

Social weavers' nest on a telephone pole

We reached Upington about 14:00, and bought Kentucky fried chicken for lunch, then drove on to Keimoes where we filled up with petrol, and reached the Aughrabies falls at 15:00, and spent about an hour there wandering around and looking at the falls from various viewpoints. Simon found a colony of dassies. We drove west across a flat plain, and contemplated going to Pofadder and possibly sleeping there. I’d always wanted to see Pofadder, because of the name, and it seemed the most isolated place in South Africa, but the scenery looked boring, and so we decided rather to go to Karasburg via Onseepkans, and it was a scenic drive down to the Orange river with the sun beginning to go down, social weaver nests on the telephone poles, and groves of kokerbome on the hills, and one next to the road that we stopped to photograph.

Kokerbome (Quiver trees), found in Northern Cape and southern Namibia

Kokerbome (Quiver trees), found in Northern Cape and southern Namibia

At the border there was a square army tent with a black guy and a white guy in camouflage uniform, looking bored. They stamped our passports, and we crossed the river. It was quite wide there, flowing slowly through pools and reeds – nothing like the roaring rush of water through the gorge upstream at Aughrabies. On the Namibian side there was an identical tent, but the immigration/police officers smartly dressed in navy blue trousers and white shirts. One was reading an English novel with the help of a dictionary – with the official language being English now, a lot of people will have to learn it.

We drove into the setting sun towards Karasburg, and arrived there at 19:00. We asked for a room at the Kalkfontein Hotel, and they guy there offered us his “five-star” room, with six beds, and air-conditioner and a bathroom and shower for the all-in price of R175-00 – not bad for these days. We went straight to dinner – mutton stew and vegetables – and then straight to bed. It had been a long day of driving.

9-Apr-1991, Tuesday

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Karasburg to Windhoek. Supper with Enid Ellis

We woke up about 06:50, and had breakfast at the hotel – similar to what we had had yesterday, wors, eggs, bacon and chips. They had stickers from UNTAG and the Australian Army, relics of the transitional period last year. The atmosphere seemed relaxed and friendly. in marked contrast to what it had been when I left nearly twenty years ago. We left just after 08:00, and drove to Grunau, where we stopped for petrol at the Shell garage just north of the village. There was a shop in the garage with an amazing range of merchandise on sale, and a sign on the door that said “Come in” in English, Afrikaans and Kwanyama – the last seemed rather strange this far south. We bought a map and some postcards, and on the way to Keetmanshoop I wrote postcards to Joy Bidgood, Marios and Kia Prelorenzo. We took photos of the Karasberge – I had been through them many times, mainly at sunrise or sunset, but had never really taken pictures of them, and they were always to me the real sign of entering or leaving Namibia, even though they are about 200 km from the border.

At Keetmanshoop we bought a lot of stamps. Some cars had new number plates, with an N, followed by the number, and then a K, instead of the old SK ones. Others had green numberplates with GRN on, which I assumed stood for “Government of the Republic of Namibia” in place of the old A…G numbers. As we went north from there Val and the children stuck stamps on to the “Blue Press” that we were sending out. There was one section where they were working on the road, and we had about 15 km of gravel detour, with great clouds of dust. There were many heavy trucks on the road – far more than I remember from twenty years ago. Mukurob, the finger rock, which used to be visible from the road, was also gone – it had fallen down a couple of years ago.

We stopped at Mariental for hamburgers – real ones this time. There were many more cafes and shops selling food. Last time I had stopped at a cafe the menu had “Rice – or something else” and a “hamburger” consisted of very greasy mince on toast. Now they had some quite  good ones. We posted some of the Blue Presses, and pushed on to Windhoek. Rehoboth, too, seemed much developed. There were street lights on the main road, and many more prosperous-looking houses. We reached the Auas mountains about 15:30, and stopped to look  over Windhoek and take some photos, and when we started again the car battery light came on. We called at a garage at the bottom of the hill, and found that it was just that the ignition lock had been in the wrong position.

We drove into town, getting lost because of the new bypass roads a couple of times, and went to the post office, and posted the Blue Press for people within Namibia. We then went to Klein Windhoek, past 41 Klein Windhoek Road, where I had lived 20 years ago, and called on Val’s cousin Enid Ellis, and stayed for supper with them. Enid’s husband Justin was away at a conference. We saw their son Hugh, now aged 12, for the first time since he was three months old, and their daughter Bronwen, aged 7, for the first time ever. Bronwen was embarrassed because she had been to the beach at Swakopmund, and had been bitten by sandfleas, and was all over itchy bites.

I phoned Dave de Beer, who was staying at the Safari motel, and had said he would be here accompanying a group of European parliamentarians on a tour of Namibia. He wasn’t available, but I left a message for him to phone me back, and soon afterwards he did. He said we should go to see him about lunch time tomorrow at the hotel, as, though he would later be going to Johannesburg, we thought it

would be good to meet again on Namibian soil. Enid said that locally people spoke of the GRN number plate vehicles as standing for “Go Round Namibia”.After supper we drove to the Daan Viljoen Park on the Khomas Hochland road, and slept in a couple of huts there.

10-Apr-1991, Wednesday

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Spend morning in Windhoek archives, lunch with Dave de Beer. Enid Ellis & her children come to have a braai with us at Daan Viljoen Park

We went in to Windhoek in the morning, and parked in a parking ground opposite the Zoo Gardens, and went in to Wecke and Voigts, where I had bought a hat once. I looked for another hat like the one I had lost in Swaziland, but they only had JB Stetson Texan-style hats that would have been OK if it hadn’t been for the TV character J.R. Ewing. But in a shop next door they had some nice hats. A little further down the road there was a new pedestrian mall that went over Stuebelstrasse, and was very pleasant. We stopped at a kiosk there for some ham and salami brotchens for breakfast, and a guy came up and said he was hungry, and we gave him some money and he promptly bought chips and all the most bulky things he could get. We left the children looking at shops for stickers and T shirts and things, and went to the archives, where we saw Brigitte Lau, and told her about our project for transcribing Ada Leinhos’s case against the South West Africa Company. She said we had given so much stuff to the archives that she would give us a free copy of the German war map, which showed Frederick Vincent Green’s birthplace of Ehangero, on the Omuramba Wamatako, about 20km west of the present Okahandja-Otjiwarongo road. We looked up a few other things, and photocopied some missing pages from the court case.

Then we went to the Safari Motel to wait for Dave de Beer, whose conference was finishing. We had lunch at the Safari Motel with Dave, who told us something of what he had been doing. He had visited Gobabis with his parliamentarians, and they had stayed at the hotel there, and seen the jail. They had also visited Epukiro, where chief Munyuku was cooperating with the establishment of community farms. Dave said they were particularly concerned about health services, and that the nurses said that there was a lot of high blood pressure among Hereros, presumably because of all the milk and meat they eat. He said that in Ovamboland the traditional healers were cooperating with the health services, but when he asked about it in Hereroland, people were very cagey, though he had no idea why that should be so. He also said that Mburumba Kerina had been kicked out of parliament – I hadn’t known that he was in, but apparently he had represented a small coalition of his own group and the Rehoboth Basters, and Sam Nujoma had taken him and some of the other original petitioners to the United Nations along with him when he went there to apply for membership of the UN, even though they were now political rivals. This had led to Mburumba Kerina and Sam Nujoma being reconciled, and Mburumba joined SWAPO, so his original group obviously no longer wanted him as their representative. He said Assaria Kamburona was very active politically in the DTA, and that political differences had split the Oruuano Church, though he didn’t seem to have much evidence for that. Hiskia Uanivi is still, apparently, active in his Communist Party. While we were talking, Zephania Kameeta walked by, and said we could see him tomorrow at the Lutheran Church offices, where he is staying in a guest room.

We took Dave to the Anglican cathedral, and looked for Roger Key in the deanery, but he was out, so Val took some pictures of us together up by the bell, and we took some photos of the whole family there. We went down to the diocesan office, now in Fr Willie van der Sijde’s old house, and spoke to the diocesan secretary, who said that the diocese was chronically short of money and didn’t have enough to pay clergy stipends – though it was in the pockets of the people. It reminded me of the day I arrived [in 1969], when Dave himself was diocesan secretary, and he had R95.00 in the account and had to pay stipends the following week. We gave a calendar to Dinah Handura’s daughter, who worked in the office. Dinah had cleaned our house in Klein Windhoek.

Then we took Dave to the centre of town, and went to the OK Bazaars (another innovation since I was last here) and bought some ingredients for a braai tonight, and went back to the Daan Viljoen Park to prepare it. Enid, Hugh and Bronwen joined us about 16:30, and after walking around the dam we had a braai – except for Bronwen, who is vegetarian, and we chatted about old times, and caught up on the news of what we had been doing since we had last met 12 years ago, when we were in Melmoth and Enid was about to leave for England. The children all played soccer, and seemed to get on well together.

Bridget Hayes, Bronwen Ellis, Hugh Ellis, Jethro Hayes, Simon Hayes, Val Hayes, Enid Ellis at Daan Viljoen Park, Khomas Hochland, Namibia

11-Apr-1991, Thursday

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Visit Zephania Kameeta, stay at Gross Barmen

We drove around the Daan Viljoen Park before leaving, and saw several animals – jackals, tsessebe, kudus and wildebeest. We again went to town and had brotchens for breakfast, then went to see Zephania Kameeta. He said he and his wife had bought a house in Mariental, as she originally came from there, and houses were much cheaper. Their white neighbours were very right-wing, and it was a new experience for them to have blacks living next door. Zephania said that cabinet ministers were civil servants, and so got housing allowances, but on an MP’s salary he could not afford a house in Windhoek. We remarked on the relaxed and peaceful atmosphere in the place, and he said that it had originally seemed strange to think that they could cooperate with some of the right-wing political groups like ACN, but that when they did so, things seemed to work well. Zephania said he had done research into his own family history from the church registers in Otjimbingwe, where he himself had been born, and said we should go there and ask the Pastor, Pastor Mujoro, if we could look at the early registers, which should still be there.

Zephania Kameeta & Steve Hayes. Windhoek 11 April 1991

We left Windhoek then, and drove around Katutura for a while, and stopped to take photos of the graffiti on the Ovambo compound, which were colourful, and wondered what the compound was used for now. There was a new four-lane highway as far as Brakwater. At Okahandja we drove around for a while looking for Maharero’s grave – it was far more hidden away than I remembered it, and then went on to the resort at Gross Barmen, where we stayed in a marvellous flat, complete with air conditioning, chairs and tables, and we relaxed for the rest of the afternoon and in the evening went swimming before having dinner at the restaurant, and we chatted to the waiter who was Kwanyama, and knew Nehemiah Hamupembe and some of the Anglican clergy at Odibo.

The graves of Herero heroes at Okahandja: Clemens Kapuuo and Hosea Kutako

12-Apr-1991, Friday

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Visit Omaruru, drive round Erongo mountains to Otjimbingue

Anthill between Gross Barmen & Wilhelmstal

We were up early, and drove along the back road to Wilhelmstal, where I had gone when I worked for the department of water affairs. We saw lots of game – jackals, kudu and gemsbok – all along the road. We then went to Omaruru, which was much more green and pleasant than I remembered it. We stopped at a small cafe for breakfast – again our ham and salami brotchens – and handed out St Nicholas Calendars to everyone we met. We went to the municipal offices where there was a sign advertising tourist information, and spoke to a Mr Bester, a former policeman who had come here from South Africa in 1964, and stayed on when he left the police force. He told us about some of the tourist attractions in the area, and we bought a couple of booklets as well. He showed us some maps, and some reports of a geological survey done by people from Rhodes University a few years ago – they said that the nearby Erongo mountains were the largest volcanic formation in the Southern hemisphere.

We drove through the Erongo mountains, wishing we had more time to spend here and explore. I remembered one, in particular, that looked like an enormous lizard, and when I passed in when working at the Department of Water Affairs it had seemed as though this was the end of the world. Knowing the country beyond it, it now seemed much more tame. We drove south past the western edge of the mountains, stopping to take photos of the Erongo and Spitsberg. I had once travelled along this road when the sun was setting over the Spitsberg and the moon rising over the Erongo, and it had been spectacularly beautiful. But even in the middle of the day there was a grandeur to it. We stopped for cold drinks at Usakos, but most of the shops were shut for the afternoon siesta. We went on to Karibib, where I wanted to take pictures of the old hotel, but it had vanished, and someone said it had been demolished 16 years ago, which was sad, because it had been the most interesting building in the town.

The Erongo mountains in west-central Namibia -- country that would have veen familiar to Fred Green

Powder tower at Otjimbingue, said to have been built by Fred Green

We went down to Otjimbingue, and looked for pastor Mujoro, and found there were two pastors – a husband and wife, but the wife was out at the church council, and the husband was asleep and apparently not to be disturbed, so we did not get to see the church registers, but took photos of the powder tower, allegedly built by Fred Green in the 1870s. As we were leaving Otjimbingue, the exhaust pipe fell off, but we were able to tie it up with a bit of wire, and got back to Gross Barmen roaring like a ferry.

13-Apr-1991, Saturday

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Gross Barmen to Ai Ais. See Roger Key, but not Mburumba Kerina

My 50th birthday. We packed up at Gross Barmen, and drove in to Windhoek, went straight to a garage called Auto-Fit, where they repaired the exhaust pipe, and then once again parked at the Zoo Gardens parking ground, and got brotchens from Wecke and Voigts for breakfast, and then went round to Kerina’s office in Kenya House in Leutweinstrasse (he’d said the street name had been changed to Mugabe Avenue, but all the old signs were still up) – it took us some time to find it. He had said it was the former Grand Hotel, but only when we got there did my memory of it come back – I’d met some journalists there from the Argus Africa News Service once. But Kerina was not in. A guy at the reception counter was rather cynical – Kerina had said he would meet us at 09:30, and the guy said that meant he wouldn’t be in before 10:00.

Jethro, Bridget, Steve & Simon Hayes: at Zoo Park above Independence Avenue, Windhoek. 13 April 1991, Steve's 50th birthday

Roger & Shaunie Key

We went to see Roger and Shaunie Key at the Anglican Deanery, and chatted to them for a while, and Roger got me to sign the Cathedral visitor’s books. He said he’d been very surprised to receive the Blue Press we had sent him [it was Roger who told us how peace descended on the country when the South African army left]. We made another attempt to see Kerina, but he was still not there, so we left Windhoek, driving south to Ai Ais. We turned off the main road at Kalkrand, and went towards Maltahohe, reaching it at about 14:00, and filled up with petrol there. The town seemed absolutely dead. We drove on to Helmeringhausen across the flat and dusty plain, with the iron-red plateau range on the left. Helmeringhausen too was dead on a Saturday afternoon, a little hamlet with stone houses that looked as if it hadn’t changed for 80 years.

We drove on to Bethanien, and took some photos on the way, and stopped at Bethanien for petrol, and then drove on to Ai Ais as the sun was setting, seeing the Karasberge from the west this time, looking very different. It was dark by the time we got to Ai Ais, and we only just made it to the restaurant before they closed.

14-Apr-1991, Sunday

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Ai Ais to Olifantshoek

After breakfast we walked around for a while, looking at the Fish River canyon, and bought a few things at the shop, and then drove back north along the road we had come down in the dark last night, and went to the view point on the Fish River Canyon and took photos from there. We then drove to Grunau, and bought hamburgers and wors rolls for lunch. We debated going south via Vioolsdrift, Springbok and Pofadder, but decided that it was too late for that, and took the direct route through Karasburg and Ariamsvlei.

Fish River Canyon

We passed the Namibian border control post just past Ariamsvlei, quite a way before the actual border. Though it was a prefab building it looked quite smart, with the flag flying, and immigration officers who were polite and efficient. About twenty km on we came to the South African “monitoring post” – a khaki tent, no flag, and an enormous Casspir armoured car parked outside. There were three scruffy looking characters in camouflage uniform sitting at a folding table covered with cold drink cans – one to write down the information in the passports, the second to stamp the passports, and the third to read the picture story book. It could hardly have been a greater contrast.

I’d bought a copy of the Sunday newspaper “Rapport” in Grunau, and we were back to the reports of violence. Virtually nothing was said about any news in Namibia at all. We filled up with petrol in Upington, and set off for Kuruman as quickly as possible, as the car lights weren’t working properly, but by sunset we had only reached Olifantshoek, so we booked in at the hotel there. It was very pleasant. We had a good supper, and it was cheaper than Karasburg. We celebrated with a bottle of 5th Avenue Cold Duck, and when we popped the cork it hit the ceiling and squashed a mosquito there.

15-Apr-1991, Monday

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Returned home – someone had broken into the house

We left Olifantshoek after breakfast, and drove through Kuruman, Vryburg (where we stopped to get a couple of new tyres),
Biesiesvlei and Ventersdorp. We got home about 16:30, and there was a policeman there guarding the house. someone had broken in sometime, and broken seven window panes, but they appeared to have been disturbed, as apparently everything they had taken was at the police station. Marios came round, and said he thought the break-in was last night, as he had come to check the place and found all the lights on.

End of diary extracts

Much of the country we passed through on this trip would have been familiar to Fred Green, his wife Catherine Stewardson (who was born at Rooibank, near Walvis Bay) and their older children — Mary, who was born in Ovamboland, and Fred junior (Val’s great grandfather) who was born somewhere east of Omaruru.The graves of the Herero heroes took on a new significance when we discovered that Fred Green and Samuel Maharero had been firends (though they had also fought), and Samuel Maharero made a grant of land to Fred Green’s daughter Ada when the Germans were beginning to colonise the country. The Germans tried to give her land to a commercial company, but she took them on in court, and won. When the South Africans invaded in 1915, she had to fight the battle all over again, and won a second time, and she then lost it all when she stood surety for her no-good son-in-law.

When we started our family history research in 1974 we didn’t have a clue about the Namibian (or Canadian) connections of the Green family, and we only learnt them when we made contact with Val’s great aunt Gladys Clark, so this trip enabled us to look at things with new eyes.

Livingston mysteries

Yesterday I was scanning some family photos and came across one showing three middle-aged women in strange poses. I turned it over, and found I had written on the back who they were — fortunately I had asked my mother before she died, and she said it was her grandmother, Ellen Hannan, and her cousins Bella and Flora Livingston.

Ellen Hannan (nee McFarlane) with her cousins Bella and Flora Livingston

Ellen Hannan’s maiden name was McFarlane, and her parents were David McFarlane and Emily (or Amelia) Livingston, who were married in the parish of Barony in the county of Lanark in Scotland in 1846.  There is some confusion about whether it was spelt Livingston or Livingstone. So if these women were Livingston cousins, they must have been children of Ellen’s mother’s brother(s).

But we don’t know Emily (or Amelia) Livingston’s parents’ names, so how can we find the names of her siblings, and know that they were her siblings?

A bit of scratching around online led me to a family in the Scottish censuses, which I think is the right one — David McFarlane, a calico printer (that fits with what we already knew) and an Emelia McFarlane. Emelia could explain the confusion between Emily and Amelia on the marriage certificate.  David McFarlane was born in Maryhill, Glasgow, in about 1816. His grandson Willie Hannan was MP for Maryhill for about 25 years until he retired in 1976. But David McFarlane’s wife Emelia seemed to have been born in Ireland about 1828, which complicates matters somewhat — how do we go about looking for her siblings in Ireland, if they were born of unknown parents?

But the census did reveal some brothers and sisters of Ellen McFarlane that we hadn’t known about before, so perhaps we can follow some of those up:

  • Duncan McFarlane, b. 1847
  • Maria McFarlane, b. 1849
  • James McFarlane, b. 1853
  • David McFarlane, b. 1855
  • Ellen (or Helen) Mcfarlane b. 1858 (married William Hannan)
  • Amelia McFarlane, b. 1862

They all appear to have been born in Maryhill.

If anyone knows anything more about these McFarlane or Livingston families, please get in touch by leaving a comment or something.

 

 

Agnes Green – education pioneer

Margaret Agnes Ann Green (known as Agnes) would have been about 11 when her father was transferred to the Cape Colony from Canada. She was born in Nova Scotia, where her father, William Green, was in the commissariat department of the British Army, and her mother, Margaret Gray, died when she was about 9 or 10. Several of her brothers went on to make names for themselves in southern Africa, but she soon left for New South Wales.

She married William Wilson, presumably at the Cape, when she was about 15 or 16, and went with him to Australia in about 1853 on the Countess of Yarborough. Their first child was born at Sydney early in 1854. They moved to Moruya, about 300 km south of Sydney, soon afterwards, and her husband was storekeeper on the Kiora Estate. He was drowned in the Tuross River in April 1856, leaving her a widow at the age of 20 with two young children, one aged 2 years and the other 8 months.

In 1858, at the age of 22, she married again to Alfred Dawson Francis. Between them they had four children, and went on to have another four, and continued to live at Moruya.

Francis committed suicide in 1864. Agnes was then 28 years old, and had four young children, ranging in age from almost 10 to 18 months, and was pregnant with a fifth (her second child had died five years previously). There was not much chance of opening a school at Moruya, so she moved inland to Queanbeyan, New South Wales, and opened a school there, which later became the Queanbeyan public school. Perhaps it was because it would have been impractical for her to run a school and look after a toddler that she left the youngest, Edith Lilian, with the McLeod family of Bateman’s Bay (also on the south coast, just north of Moruya). Her assistant teacher was a Miss Goote, who later married her brother Alfred.

The new school was recognised as a National School in August 1864, but met with some opposition from local clergy, especially the Anglicans and Presbyterians. who preferred denominational schools. This, coupled with the fact that the school was just across the road from the Methodist Church, may be why she was a Methodist in later years. There were several incidents of harassment, with people prowling in the garden and windows being broken.

When the new baby arrived, she found it difficult to make ends meet, and Captain E.M. Battye, a former military officer turned policeman, persuaded her to leave the youngest child, Louisa, with them. Captain Battye had been stationed in Nova Scotia, and so knew Agnes Francis’s family, and no doubt knew her as she was growing up there (letter from Caroline Brathwaite to her niece Katie Pollock, see Cowley 1996:198). Caroline claimed that Captain Battye was with her grandfather (William Goodall Green) at the Cape Colony, but the dates make this seem unlikely, and it is more likely that they knew each other in Nova Scotia, since the Battyes went to New South Wales in 1847, about the time that the Greens went to the Cape.

It is possible too that Captain Battye was the natural father of Louisa, since Alfred Dawson Francis died 8 months before she was born, and had been living away from the family, in Sydney, for four months before his death.

Agnes Francis sent in her resignation in June 1865, barely a year after starting the school, and after an unsuccessful attempt to take private pupils moved to Sydney, probably before the end of 1865.

The family had not been in Sydney long when her eldest daughter, Caroline Wilson, was sent to stay with her brother Edward Lister Green in New Zealand.

In 1871 Agnes married Walter William McLean Thwaites in Sydney, and had four more children by him. She married him again in Adelaide in 1879, after the birth of their children (his first wife was still alive at the time of their first marriage – see Cowley 1996:82). In 1887 she was back at Queanbeyan, trying to open another school.

According to Bruce McLeod, a relation said she remarried “Napoleon Wilson in 1869, possibly a member of her family”). According to her death certificate, she was born in Nova Scotia, North America, and she had lived 3 years in South Australia, 4 years in Victoria, and 20 years in N.S. Wales. Her first marriage took place in Cape Town, South Africa, when she was 15 years old.

Her three years in South Australia were possibly at the time of her second marriage to Thwaites, though they do not seem to have stayed together long after that.

She was the “Arthur Francis’s mother” who had a letter from “Judge Wiekalet” (probably Gustavus Wicksteed, who married her mother’s sister). This letter, of which handwritten copies circulated among the family in South Africa, contributed to the legend of royal descent. Margaret A.A. Green also received a monthly pension from the Bank of Montreal, of which her grandfather John Gray was founder and first president.

She seems to have had a pretty tough life, and none of her three husbands seem to have been much of a support to her.

There is more about her on our Family Wiki site.

Much of the research on her life was done by Bob Cowley of New South Wales, who wrote a comprehensive (though unpublished) history of the Cowley, Green and related families of Australia. Agnes Green’s son-in-law was Sir William Throsby Bridges, who founded the Australian military college at Duntroon, near where she had opened her pioneer school.

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This post is part of a Carnival of Genealogy on Women’s History. Click the link to read some of the other posts.

Tombstone Tuesday: Adelaide & J.B. Cottam

West Street Cemetery, Durban, KZN, South Africa

John Bagot Cottam was born in Salford in 1836, the son of Richard Cottam and Margaret Bagot. He grew up in Manchester, where he was a warehouseman. Her married Adelaide Herbert, daughter of Reuben and Ellen Herbert, in 1858, and their first three children, Margaret, Ada and Jessie were born in Manchester.

Adelaide Cottam, born Herbert

He came to Natal in 1863 as accountant to the Natal Cotton Plantation Company. The American Civil War had disrupted the supply of cotton to the Manchester cotton mills, and it was thought that Natal might be an alternative source of supply. That soon fell through, however, and in 1867 J.B. Cottam set up business on his own account as a wool presser and fresh produce dealer. When the Durban fresh produce market was opened in 1876, he became the first market master. In 1891 he became a city councillor. For two terms he served as a town councillor of Durban until he retired in 1894. He then started his own business as accountant and auditor at 61 Esplanade Buildings.

Like many people of his time, he was a member of the Freemasons and other social and charitable organisations. He was district Grand Warden EC since 1887. He was district grand secretary for 12 years and held other offices in the Craft as well as being a prominent member of the Durban Town Guard formed during the Zulu War. He was also treasurer of the Durban
Benevolent Society for several years and occupied the position of secretary to the Seamens Institute.

He took an active interest in church affairs, and was one of those who supported the Colenso schism from the Anglican Church in Natal, and was at one time publicly rebuked to be Bishop of Natal for preaching without a licence from the bishop.

John Bagot Cottam (1836-1911)

They had five more children in Natal: Richard Herbert, Lucy, Bessie, Lily and Kate.

John Bagot Cottam’s younger brother, William Henry Cottam, also came to Natal, and farmed near Verulam.

The mystery of the cast-off Castorffs

Solve one family history mystery, and another dozen spring up to take its place.

Last week we had a breakthrough with Val’s Morton ancestors, described in the previous post. Val’s great-great grandmother, Mary Nevard Morton, married August Decker of the British German Legion at St Botolph’s, Colchester in Essex on 31 October 1856. We’ve known that for more than 30 years. But now it appears that two of Mary’s sisters may also have married German legionnaires, possibly on the same day, and we have ordered their marriage certificates just to make sure.

According to the FreeBMD Index, Emma Morton married George Casdorff:

Surname      First name(s)            District      Vol      Page
Marriages Dec 1856   (>99%)
Casdorff     George David Julius          Colchester     4a    443
Decker     August                              Colchester     4a    443
Morton     Emma                              Colchester     4a    443
Morton     Mary _e_and           Colchester     4a    443
Rodwell     Emma                              Colchester     4a    443

and Emma Morton alias Rodwell married George David Julius Casdorff. They sailed to the Easten Cape on the Stamboul, and disembarked at Eastlondon on 2 February 1857. According to the German Settlers Database George Kasdorf purchased his discharge on 16 February 1860.

Having finally found the Morton family in the 1851 census we know Mary had a sister Emma, and when August and Mary Decker had their first and only son Edwin baptised at King William’s Town in 1861, the godparents were George and Emma Castorff.

But that seems to be the last sign of George and Emma in South Africa. Searching for Castorff or Casdorff (and Kasdorff and Kastorff) in the South African archives index NAAIRS draws a blank, and they should have appeared there if they died in South Africa. There are a few references to Kasdorf, but none appear to be related. So they must have emigrated again, as many of the German military settlers did. Any reports of sightings anywhere will be gratefully received.

The mystery of the Mortons

We’re taking another look at the mystery of the Morton family of Colchester in Essex, and their South African connections.

Over the last week or so, as you can see from the previous posts, we’ve been looking at the family of Val’s paternal grandmother, Emma le Sueur, formerly Green, formerly Chelin, born Decker. When we started looking into the family history, soon after we were married in 1974, she was our only survivang grandparent, and so we started with that side of the family, and within a couple of years had got down most of the (then) current generation in Southern Africa. A few years later a German genealogist helped us to trace one branch of them back to the Brandenberg Huguenots. But one branch we were stuck on was the Mortons.

Val’s gran and her surviving brother Cecil Decker, and her sisters, told varying stories. She told us her father was Edward Decker. Turned out he was actually Edwin Robert Morton Decker, and we found his baptism in King William’s Town. Grandmother and great aunts told us that Edwin’s father was De Nevard Decker, a Swedish nobleman, or a French nobleman, and that his wife Mary Morton came from Colchester in Essex and had an aunt or a sister who was Lady Mount, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria.

St Botolph's Church, Colchester

We found August Decker’s death notice in the Cape Archives. Not a Swedish nobleman, but a German waiter, died at Mr S. Grussendorf’s house, no property, buried by public subscription. The real disappointment was the family connections — parents unknown, spouse unknown, one son, name unknown. Well, we found the link to the son in the King William’s Town Anglican baptism register, but also in the KWT museum we asked if they had anything not on display, and they had a card index of the German military settlers of 1857, and August Decker was there, and it said he came from Auerstedt in Prussia. We knew that a lot of the German military settlers of the British German Legion had come from Colchester Camp, where they had trained to fight in the Crimean War, and that gave us a date – 1856. So we wrote off to the General Register Office in England for the marriage certificate, and got it. August Decker and Mary Nevard Morton were married at St Botolph’s Church in Colchester on 31 Oct 1856. His father was Carl Decker, farmer. Her father was George Morton, gardener. That helped with the Decker family, but what about the Mortons?

Some time soon after that we trawled through microfilms of the 1851 census of Colchester at the LDS Family History Centre, but found nothing. Perhaps we missed it, perhaps we were looking in the wrong place. At that point we more or less gave up 0n the Mortons.

We visited Colchester when we went on holiday to the UK in 2005, and even looked in at St Botolph’s Church, where they were preparing for a play or a concert of something. We had heard many things about Essex girls, and wondered if their reputation had been the same in 1856, when Val’s great great grandmother got married. A sign in a shop window in Colchester seemed to confirm what we had been told about Essex girls.

After the death of her first husband, Mary Nevard Morton married another German military settler, Ernst Bergesheim or Burgersheim, from Stralsund in Prussia. At one point they ran the Butterworth Hotel in the Transkei, and she also ran the Waverley Hotel, between Tarkastad and Queenstown, and Val’s gran was brought up there after her father died when she was 8. Mary Burgersheim died in Durban during the flu epidemic of 1918.

Now, looking at that side of the family again, we did manage to get hold of the 1851 census which shows Mary Morton, aged 8, with her parents, George and Elizabeth Morton, both aged 45, and therefore born about 1806. Elizabeth came from Boxted, up near the Suffolk border (perhaps nearly not an Essex girl!). Mary had an older brother G. Fred, and an older sister Emma, aged 10. Her younger siblings were Thomas (3) and Catherine (1). And here’s where the mystery deepens.

If she was 8 in 1851, she was surely too young to get married in 1856, when she would have been only 13, even as a minor with her father’s permission. It must be the right family, unless there was another George Morton in Colchester who was a gardener and had a daughter Mary. And the FreeBMD site shows Mary Nevard Morton being born in 1843.

FreeBMD also shows an Emma Morton being born in 1838 (when we would have expected Mary to be born) and dying in 1839. Then there is Mary Nevard Morton in the June Quarter of 1843. Emma is dead, long live Emma. She shows up alive and well and aged 10 in the 1851 census.

And get this: on the same index page as Mary Nevard Morton’s marriage to August Decker, TWO Emmas married a George David Julius Casdorff — Emma Morton and Emma Rodwell. As if that were not enough, on the previous page of the FreeBMD index, an Elizabeth Mount Decker married another German. Perhaps she was the “Lady Mount”!

It looks as though we will need to order the other two marriage certificates, as well as Mary Nevard Morton’s birth certificate to see what happened.

One of the interesting stories about the German military settlers is that some of them were married on board ship (presumably to Essex girls) just before the ship sailed. At the end of the ceremony one of the ship’s officers remarked to the chaplain who married them that he thought some of them were holding the wrong hands. “Don’t worry,” said the chaplain, they can sort themselves out when they get outside.” The result was that a special Act had to be passed by the Cape Pasrliament, to remove doubts concerning the marriages of certain German settlers. Now I’m wondering if there wasn’t a similar chaotic scene in St Bololph’s Church, with hundreds of German soldiers marrying Essex girls, and perhaps two Emmas marrying poor old George Casdorff. And somewhere, in the back of my mind, is a memory of one of the documents in the family history being signed by a George Castorff, as a witness or something.

And one last thought. Val’s middle name was Muriel, and it was said that she was given it after her paternal grandmother, Emma Muriel Decker. And perhaps the Emma came from her aunt. But there are more mysteries. When she signed for her share of the Koch inheritance (see earlier post), a fifth of a sixth of a third, she signed Emma Isabel. So we thought we would order her birth certificate to see what names she was registered with. The certificate came back with a rubber stamp in the space for the first names: Not Stated. Attempts to see if she was in the baptism register for Butterworth in 1900 were not successful. Perhaps we should try again. But at any rate we now have a lot of things to try for on that side of the family.

Susannah Cottam Kellett

Today I followed the story of someone in my family tree, which struck me as rather sad.

She wasn’t a direct ancestor, she was my second coursin three times removed, and the story is just a bare outline, gained from the birth, mattiage and death indexes and census records for Lancashire.

She was the eldest daughter of John Cottam of Heaton in Lancashire, and Nancy Kellet of the nearby parish of Heysham. According to the 1871 census, Susanna Cottam was 3 years old, and her younger brother Adam was 1. Her father John was a farmer of 102 acres at Forton in the parish of Garstang.

In the 1881 census the family was still at Forton, Susanna was 13 and listed as a scholar, and her brother Adam was 10, and there were several younger brothers and sisters: Margaret, Ann, Robert and Elizabeth Alice.

In the 1891 census she was no longer with the family, but I could find no trace of her in the census staying anywhere else. She would have been 23 years old, so perhaps she had left home and got married, and was living under another name. The rest of the family had moved to Nether Wyresdale, and there were no farm servants — perhaps the older sons provided the labour on the farm, or perhaps they lived out, and came in to work; at any rate he is listed as an employer. John Cottam’s widowed mother-in-law Margaret Kellet was also staying with them, living on her own means.

In 1901 the family had moved to Preston, and they appeared to have come down in the world. John Cottam was a farm labourer (cattle), working for someone else, as were the older sons. The mother-in-law had gone, probably died. There was another daughter, Nancy, aged 7.

And the oldest daughter was back, aged 33, and a cotton weaver. She was listed as Susanna Kellett, rather than Cottam. And there were two grandchildren: Edith Kellett, aged 9, and Florence Kellett, aged 5, clearly Susanna’s daughters born out of wedlock.

Why was she now listed as Kellett rather than Cottam? Was she an illegitimate daughter John Cottam’s wife had had before they were married, and now that she had illegitimate daughters of her own, was her father distancing himself from her by listing her under her mother’s maiden name?

Part of the answer is revealed in Susannah’s baptism record in St Peter’s Church, Heysham:

Baptism: 20 Oct 1867 St Peter, Heysham, Lancashire, England
Susannah Kellet – [Child] of John Cottam & Nancy Kellet
Abode: Heaton & Heysham Lordsome House
Occupation: Farmers Son & Farmers daughter
Notes: Single Woman
Baptised by: Charles Twemlow Royds Rector
Register: Baptisms 1849 – 1900, Page 41, Entry 322

Jphn Cottam and Nancy Kellet seem to have married soon after Susanna’s birth, and almost immediately after they were married went to live at Forton in the parish of Garstang, where most of the other children were born. She was listed as Susannah Cottam on the next two censuses, perhaps because no one there knew them.

So I wondered what eventually happened to Susanna. Did she marry, either the father of her daughters or someone else, and live happily ever after? Apparently not.

According to the death register she died in about August 1907, at the age of 38. She was listed as Susannah Cottam Kellett. Her elder daughter would have been 15, ans the younger about 10 or 11. I wonder what happened to them. Did their grand parents continue to care for them, or uncles and aunts? And from the bare outline, Susanna seems to have had rather a hard life. There have been lots of single parents beofre and since, including others in my own family. But her story left me feeling a bit sad for her.

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