A new home for our family web pages

Our family web pages, which have been inaccessible for more than a year, are now back on line, and you can see our main family history page at:

http://www.khanya.org.za/famhist1.htm

We have had some family web pages since 1996, long before we started this blog, At first they were hosted by Geocities, but then Geocities was taken over by Yahoo! and killed off. We moved the pages to Bravenet, but that died about a year ago, and when it was clear that there was no hope of it’s being  rescuscitated, we’ve moved the pages to this site.

So if you had links to any of our pages are one of the old sites, please move them to this one!

It will take some time before we get everything working again, and some links are still broken, but the main family history page seems to be working OK for now.

 

A sense of place: Kilner Park

One of the things that I’ve noticed in researching family history is that we often have very little sense of where family members lived. We’ve sometimes visited the towns or houses where they lived, but things have often changed a lot since they were there, and it is often difficult to picture what it was like in their time.

It therefore seemed to be a good idea to record where we live now, our neighbourhood, before it changes and becomes unrecognisable.

Corner of Owen Avenue and Slater Street, Kilner Park

Corner of Owen Avenue and Slater Street, Kilner Park

This is where we live, at the corner of Owen Avenue and Slater Street, Kilner Park, looking south down Owen Avenue. We’ve lived here for over 25 years, so the trees have grown quite a bit since we first came. The green fence is our third fence. The first one was a low diamond-mesh one, and after 13 break-ins we replaced it with a higher one in 1991. The thorn tree in the corner of our garden was the envy of our previous neighbour, who said he wished he could include it in his garden before we moved in. It’s now about twice as big as it was then. The photos were taken on 5 September 2013, early spring. Most trees are still winter-bare. Others are just beginning to show  new leaves.

Corner of Owen Avenue and Matterson Street, Kilner Park

Corner of Owen Avenue and Matterson Street, Kilner Park

The picture above is from the other end of Owen Avenue, on the corner of Matterson Street, looking north. The open ground on the right is a servitude for the electricity pylons that go right around eastern Pretoria.

Matterson Street, Kilner Park

Matterson Street, Kilner Park

Looking west down Matterson Street. This is the way in and out of our bit of Kilner Park, the only way in and out by car. At the end can be seen the N1 freeway bridge. On the left is the railway line. Not much use to us, as we are almost exactly halfway between stations.

A memorial near the corner of Owen Avenue and Matterson Street, to N.A.R. Coetzee, known as "Kat". Persumably he died in a road accident nearby, though that seems a bit strange in our quiet little cul-de-sac, which gets very little traffic.

A memorial near the corner of Owen Avenue and Matterson Street, to N.A.R. Coetzee, known as “Kat”. Born 6 Oct 1959, died 25 Dec 2010

N.A.R. Coetzee was presumably he killed in a road accident nearby, though that seems a bit strange in our quiet little cul-de-sac, which gets very little traffic. Who he was, or how he died, we don’t know, but obviously someone still misses him.

Hartbees Spruit, looking North

Hartbees Spruit, looking North

After a dry winter there isn’t much water in Hartbees Spruit, seen from the bridge in Matterson Street, and the reeds are still winter-brown. But you can see, if you look carefully, a couple of weavers building a nest in the tree on the right. There are two nests, but I’ve heard that if the female weaver is not satisfied with the nest, she demands that the male build her another, so there may just be one pair of birds.

Queens Corner shopping centre, built on one of the sports fields of Clapham High School

Queens Corner shopping centre, built on one of the sports fields of Clapham High School

My destination, about 2,5 km from our house, was Queens Corner in Queenswood, the shopping centre, where I had to pick up some medicines at the chemist, a 50 minute walk. It was built on one of the sports fields of Clapham High School, and opened in about September 2000, so it’s been there for 13 years,and sometimes it feels as though it has been there for ever. The chemist is part of a chain called Pharmavalu, and when it opened we continued going to the one in the other shopping centre across the road, and wondered if there would be enough business to support two of them. The result was that the original one was forced to close down. It was originally called Queenswood Pharmacy, and later became part of a chain called Hyperpharm, but even then it couldn’t survive.

Old shopping centre in Queenswood, to the east. Soutpansberg Road on the right.

Old shopping centre in Queenswood, to the east. Soutpansberg Road on the right.

I walked back down Soutpansberg Road. Both Queenswood and Kilner Park were built on land that used to belong to the Methodist Church, and apparently one of the conditions was that no bottle stores or pubs should be built there. But some one must have gone to some trouble to remove the restrictions in the title deeds, because there are now several bottle stores in the area — they don’t seem to suffer from competition as the pharmacies do. Kilner Park was named after the Secretary of the Methodist Missionary Society, John Kilner. It was the site of a Methodist educational centre, called the Kilnerton Institute, but, like the theological seminaries of several other denominations, John Wesley Seminary (part of Kilnerton) was forced to close and moved to Alice in the Eastern Cape in 1963. It reopened on its old site briefly after the end of apartheid in 1994, but moved to Pietermaritzburg a few years later.

Old shopping centre in Queenswood, lokking west, towards Queens Corner

Old shopping centre in Queenswood, looking west, towards Queens Corner. The tree on the left is a jacaranda, having just lost its leaves. In another 6 weeks it will be all over blue flowers

The jacarandas that line Soutpansberg Road are bare now. They are always the last to lose their leaves in winter, and the last to bloom in spring, towards the end of October. I crossed C.R.Swart Drive. It used to be called Kilnerton Road, but was renamed by the old Pretoria City Council just before the end of apartheid, after the former National Party Minister of Justice who enforced so many of the apartheid laws, including the closing of the Kilnerton Institute. When Pretoria was incorporated into the new megacity of Tshwane the new council renamed several roads, but not this one, which remains as an insult to black people and a monument to the destruction of black education in South Africa.

The Kilner Park shopping centre is much smaller than the Queenswood ones. When we first moved here in 1984 it had a tea room (convenience store) on the right, called Tony’s, where our son Simon used to go to play arcade games like Ghosts ‘n Goblins. It was later taken over by someone else, and eventually incorporated into the Casbah Roadhouse, which opened some time in the late 1990s. We wondered if it would survive long, being off the beaten track, but it produced good food and cheap with generous servings. Their hamburgers had real meat, and one could get a large curry and rice for R18.00, Now the large curry and rice costs R120.00 and the hamburger patties are mass-produced, over-salted and tasteless, and probably consist of beef nostril and imported kangaroo offal.

Kilner Park shops, with the Casbah Roadhouse and Jock of the Bushveld Restaurant, and the Neon Cafe on the left

Kilner Park shops, with the Casbah Roadhouse and Jock of the Bushveld Restaurant, and the Neon Cafe on the left

There have been several restaurants there.

When we moved here in 1984 it was called the Count du Barry, and had a picture of a bloke riding on a shrimp. We never went there then. But it was taken over by a Yugoslav called Misha, who painted Yugoslav scenes on the wall, of Dubrovnik harbour and shepherds in the hills. He produced good pizzas, and flying saucers (pizza bases with no cheese), and a Yugoslav dish for carnivores, which consisted of 12-13 sausages with onions. Delicious stuff, but exceedingly filling. He also continued some desserts from the previous owners, notably the “Count’s Coupe” -made with ice cream and cherries.

Then Misha l;eft, and the name changed to “Peasant’s” (they kept the pictures of Yugoslav rural scenes). It was replaced by McLaren’s, which replaced the picture of Dubrovnik with a large and badly-painted Scottish flag, which seemed unnecessary vandalism. We went there for Christmas lunch once, after church, and when they served tinned fruit salad for an exorbitant price, decided never again. They did, however, give each of us a cheap wallet as a gift, and I still use mine, thought much of the imitation leather covering has worn off.

The restaurant later became a Blue Bulls fan venue (the local rugby side), and is now the Jock of the Bushveld. They advertise cheap lunches on Thursdays, and I’ve been meaning to try them some time, but have yet to get round to it.

North Shore flats, on the south side of Matterson Road

North Shore flats, on the south side of Matterson Road

On the south side of Matterson Road, beside the Hartbees Spruit, is North Shore flats, which, if I recall correctly, were built about the time we moved to Kilner Park at the end of 1984. And so back across the Hartbees Spruit, and home.

Hartbees Spruit, looking south towards the Colbyn Wetlands, with a train passing through. North Shore flats on the left

Hartbees Spruit, looking south towards the Colbyn Wetlands, with a train passing through. North Shore flats on the left

 

 

 

Visiting cousins and old haunts

This morning I left home before 5:00 am to go to Johannesburg for the Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Transfiguration, It starts at 6:00 to give people enough time to get to work afterwards. And, as I sometimes do on such occasions, I had breakfast at the Wimpy in Killarney Mall (they do hake with chips and salad). And then I planned to go and do some family history research in the Mormon family history centre in Parktown, but when I got there it was closed.

I didn’t feel like facing the freeway at the tail-end of the rush hour, so I took a leisurely drive through some of the haunts of my youth — a block of flats we had lived at in Sandringham, and St Nicholas Anglican Church down the road, where on Thursday mornings (rather like today) I used to go to be an altar server with old Canon Sharman and millions of angels. Canon Sharman seemed very old then, though he was probably no older than I am now. But he is long gone, The church was still there, though, but it has been converted into a private residence.

St Nicholas Anglican Church, Sandringham, Johannesburg -- now converted into a private house

St Nicholas Anglican Church, Sandringham, Johannesburg — now converted into a private house

Then I thought, having been deprived of the opportunity of looking at the names of long-dead relatives in microfilm readers, why not go and see a living one. So I went to see my cousin Peter Maxwell, whom I hadn’t seen for over 50 years, and met his wife Mellony for the first time. The last time I met him, I recalled, we had spent most of the time talking about cars, and he said he is still a car nut, and in the past drove in races and rallies. Nowadays it has become specialised and professionalised, and only the very rich could do it, but back then, he said, if you went to Castol and showed them your rally registration, they would sponsor you by providing a few litres of oil.

Steve Hayes & Peter Maxwell, 6 August 2013

Steve Hayes & Peter Maxwell, 6 August 2013

It’s more fun to meet one living relative than to pore over microfilm records to find a few facts about a dozen dead ones.

Peter Maxwell is the son of my father’s sister, Doreen Wynn Maxwell, born Hayes.

Axel Wilhelm Eriksson of Hereroland (1846-1901)

Axel Wilhelm Eriksson of Hereroland (1846-1901)Axel Wilhelm Eriksson of Hereroland by Ione Rudner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Axel Wilhelm Eriksson (1846-1901) was a nineteenth-century Swedish hunter and trader in south-west Africa, and this “life and letters” book gives a picture of his life, and what life was like for others there at that time.

All agree that everyone who knew him liked A.W. Eriksson, and he was well-known and widely-respected in what are now Namibia and Angola. That did not stop them from abusing his hospitality, taking advantage of his kind and generous nature, and cheating him on every possible occasion.

It took me nearly three months to read this book, mainly because I interrupted it by reading some of the sources on which it was based.

Axel Wilhelm was born in Vänersborg, Sweden (then spelt Wenersborg) on 24 August 1846, and in 1865, at the age of 18, he travelled to Damaraland (Hereroland), now part of Namibia to help his fellow-Swede, Charles John Andersson, to collect and mount specimens of the animals and birds of southern Africa for Swedish museums. Within 18 months of Eriksson’s arrival Andersson had died and Eriksson buried him in what is now southern Angola.

Eriksson then carried on hunting and trading on his own account, and became the biggest businessman in Damaraland, though he had to face setbacks caused by wars, droughts and, in 1897, the Rinderpest, the cattle plague that killed off most of the cattle in sub-Saharan Aftica.

My interest in him is twofold: having lived in Namibia for a couple of years I am interested in its history, and Axel Wilhelm Eriksson married a relative of my wife, Frances (Fanny) Stewardson, so their children are related. You can see more about that on our blig here: Elusive Namibian families.

The marriage was not a happy one, and ended i n divorce ten years later, when Axel Eriksson found that Fanny had committed adultery with his clerk, Clement Stephen Stonier. In one of his letters he described his marriage as “ten years of hell”. After the divorce, in 1883, he took his three oldest children, Sara (nearly 10), Andrew (6) and Axel (nearly 5) to Sweden to go to school there, and to be cared for by his elder sister Mathilda Olsen, who had herself been deserted by her husband. The youngest daughter, Maud, was brought up by cousins in Cape Town, where she married James Kirby, and later lived in England.

Axel Wilhelm Eriksson was joined in Damaraland by several of his brothers and a number of other Swedes, some of whom also became related by marriage by marrying into the Stewardson family, namely Oskar Theodore Lindholm and Charles Reinhold Carlsson.

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Anglo-Boer War photos

For as long as I can remember we have had a couple of photo albums that belonged to my grandfather, Percy Wynn Hayes (1874-1948). As they are now more than 100 years old, the photos are beginning to fade, and the albums’ bindings are beginning to disintegrate.

So the time has come to make digital scans of them, before they fade any more. The problem is that a series of images on a hard disk don’t tell you very much, and so I’ve been putting it off.

But now I have begun using the Evernote notetaking program, and it seems to be the ideal tool for this kind of thing.

I scan the photos in tiff format with the program that came with our printer/scanner, and then edit them with Irfanview to try to compensate for some of the fading. I then make a smaller, compressed jpeg copy (keeping the tiff one for archival purposes).

I press Ctrl-C on the jpeg version in Irfanview, to copy the image, and Ctrl-V in a new note in Evernote, and the picture is there. I give it a title, and some tags so that I can find it again. Then I type underneath the picture anything that my grandfather wrote in the album. He often didn’t.

Here’s one of the pictures:

img506

He didn’t write anything under that picture, so I’ve just given it the title “Five mounted soldiers”. But at least it is preserved, and can’t fade any more. And even the reduced jpeg copies, copied into Evernote, are bigger than the pictures in the original album.

So I’m quite chuffed with Evernote. It can do lots of different things, but one of the things it excels at is compiling a digital photo album.

If you’d like to see how Evernote prints a report (ie an album) of the first few pictures I added, click here to see the Evernote.pdf file it produced. You just select the “notes” you want included, and then print the album, which you can then send to other family members, etc. That way everyone can share grandpa’s photo album.

When I’ve finished scanning them, I might donate the originals to a museum somewhere. My mother sometimes threatened to do that, but I’m glad she didn’t, because back then we didn’t have the technology to make decent copies that we could keep.

Fred & Mary Greene

One of the things that was missing from our family history was a picture of Val’s great grandparents, Fred and Mary Greene. A few weeks ago, however, Jean Mary Gray sent us one. Jean’s grandmother, Connie Semple, was the half-sister of Frederick Vincent Greene.

Frederick Vincent Greene (1868-1949) and his wife Mary Frances  Crighton (1868-1957)

Frederick Vincent Greene (1868-1949) and his wife Mary Frances Crighton (1868-1957)

Frederick Vincent Greene was the son of Frederick Thomas Green, the Canadian elephant hunter, trader and partisan leader in Damaraland in the mid-19th century. He was born at Ehangero, Damaraland, on 21 November 1868. His mother was Catherine Agnes Ann (Kate)  Stewardson, who was born at Rooibank, near Walvis Bay (now part of Namibia).

After Frederick Thomas Green died in 1876, his widow, Kate Stewardson, married George Robb. With her two husbands she had at least 17 children, of whom only five survived to adulthood. So Fred Greene (Junior) had two sisters, Mary Elizabeth Green (1865-1952) who married Frederick Thomas Abbott, and Alice Isabella Green (1871-1945) who married John Martin Cuthbert O’Grady.

He also had three half-sisters, one from his father’s earlier wife, and two from his mother’s later husband (it gets complicated).

The eldest half-sister was Ada Maria Green (1864-1926), born at Otjimboro, Angola, of Frederick Thomas Green’s second wife, Sara ua Kandendu (his first wife was a Dixon, name unknown). Ada, also known as Ida and Kaera, was the ancestor of Mburumba Kerina, the inventor of the name “Namibia” (“Kerina” was the Herero pronunciation of “Green”).

Frederick Vincent Greene’s other two half sisters were the children of his mother, Kate Stewardson, and her second husband George Robb. They were Agnes Mary Elizabeth Robb (1878-1959) who married Charles Ernest Peers, a Cape Town artist, and Constance Sweetingham (Connie) Robb (1889-1964) who married John Semple, and is the grandmother of Jean Gray who sent us the photo.

Frederick Vincent Greene was 7 years old when his father died, and was brought up by his mother and stepfather, who moved to the Cape Colony about 1881 or 1882, and later moved to Johannesburg. At some point he married Mary Frances Crighton — we don’t know when or where, but their first child, Frederick Alwyn Bartlett Greene, was born in Ladysmith, Natal, in 1890. His father, Fred Vincent, was shown in the Anglican baptism register there was a “mechanical engineer”.

Mary Frances Crighton was the daughter of William John Crighton and Anna Maria MacLeod of Cape Town, where the family were saddlers and leather merchants. On her mother’s side there were also Canadian links, as her grandmother, Mary Kerwick, like Fred Vincent Greene’s father, was born in Quebec. See here for more on the Crighton family.

They had eight children, but they are the generation we know least about.

  • Frederick Alwyn Bartlett Greene (1890-?)
  • Charles Stanhope Greene (1891-?)
  • Arthur Walpole Francis Greene (c1893-c1943)
  • Allan Dudley Greene (c1893-c1942)
  • Edward Lester Greene (1897-c1950)
  • Frank Henry Greene (c1899-?)
  • Royden Braithwaite Greene (1905-1971)
  • Gladys Winifred Greene (1907-1997)

Val’s grandfather was Allan Dudley Greene, but he died before she was born, and when her father was a prisoner-of-war in Italy. He died of TB, but Val’s grandmother Emma le Sueur couldn’t remember when it was. She was good at remembering what pills they took and what diseases they died of, but was rather vague about dates and places. But she thought he had died in the King George V Hospital in Sydenham, Durban. So we went there and asked at the reception if they could find the record of someone who had been a patient 30 years before. They found him in the index, and said that because it was so long ago, his admission card would be in the basement. It took them all of 10 minutes to find it. So we got his date of death. We were delighted, because we had just spent the morning hunting through the records of the Master of the Supreme Court in Pietermaritzburg (for which I had to get special permission from the magistrate, being banned at the time) and had found no death notice or any other estate files for him. And we still don’t know when or where he was born.

The family surname was Green and remained so until the First World War. The eldest son, Frederick Alwyn Bartlett Green, changed his name to Greene when he enlisted in the army, and someone said it was because he had had a fight with his father. But by the end of the war all the sons were using the Greene spelling, and the father was too.

Some members of the family refer to the eldest son as Fred Skelm, because there are all kinds of rumours about him. He was arrested in South West Africa in the 1930s for illegal diamond prospecting in the Kaokoveld, and banged up in Outjo for a while. He claimed that he was heir to the land on which he was prospecting because it had belonged to his grandfather Frederick Thomas Green. His story was perhaps not as far-fetched as it may have seemed to the magistrate at the time, because his aunt Ada (Kaera) had sued the South West Africa Company for a farm that the German colonial government had given to the Company, which she maintained that the Herero chief, Samuel Maharero, had given to her father for her. She won her case too, and the deed, signed by the Herero chiefs’ council, may perhaps be the first written title deed in Namibia.

Fred Skelm seems to have married several times, and may or may not have had children by some of his wives, One story was that he worked on a mine somewhere in America, murdered someone, and escaped on a railway handcranked inspection truck. Another said he was run over by a bus in Clairwood, Durban, and yet another that it was in London.

The second son, Charles Stanhope Green was baptised in Johannesburg in 1892 when he was a year old, but we don’t know where he was born. He disappears after that. Perhaps he died young.

Arthur Walpole Francis Greene, the third (or possibly fourth) son was married in 1915 to Margaret McLaren, who left him 2 days later. He was said to have been drowned when the ship he was travelling on was torpedoed in WWII. Edward Lester Greene had a son Lester Frederick, who went farming in Zimbabwe. Frank Henry Greene went overseas as a soldier in World War I, but while in England was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment for stealing articles from a house. He apparently committed suicide at about the age of 25.

Roydon Brathwaite Green changed all three of his names, becoming Royden Braithwaite Greene. He was born in Johannesburg and lived in Port Elizabeth.

The youngest child of Fred and Mary Green was Gladys Winifred Greene, who married twice. We found that she was living in Ixopo, and Val went to visit we with her father, who was thus meeting his aunt for the first time. She was the one who first told us about the Namibian connection, which enabled us to find Fred Green the elephant hunter in the history books, though several of them erroneously referred to him as Frederick Joseph Green instead of Frederick Thomas Green. Later we met Gladys’s daughter Dion Stewart, who lived in Empangeni when we lived in Melmoth, and she was the first one who told us about the family royal legend, which turned out to be false, but did put us on the track of the real Green family history.

So we were very glad to have the photo, which is the only one we have seen of Fred and Mary Greene.

Adventure in South West Africa 1894-98

Adventure in South West Africa 1894-1898Adventure in South West Africa 1894-1898 by Eberhard Rosenblad

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A few weeks ago I read and reviewed Memories of several years in south-western Africa by Thure Gustav Een. Captain Een, a Swede, described his life and journeys in central and northern Namibia in the 1860s and 1870s, in partnership with a Swedish trader, Axel Wilhelm Eriksson.

Rosenblad’s book is very similar, but it is set in a period 30 years later. He too was a partner of A.W. Eriksson, and covered much the same ground as Een did.

The main difference is that in Een’s time the country was divided into a number of small states that were sometimes at war with each other. In Rosenblad’s time, it was the German colony of South West Africa. It is interesting, therefore, to read descriptions of the same country by two writers a generation apart.

Quite a lot of the difference in the writing reflects the New Imperialism that swept the world in the 1880s, and led to the Scramble for Africa by the European powers. Germany was a bit late in the Scramble, and got a largely desert country. One of the effects of the New Imperialism was that it gave Europeans in Africa an enormous sense of their own superiority to the native Africans, and of the importance of showing the natives that the white man was the Boss. Even though Sweden was not an imperial power, Rosenblad’s writing reflects this sense of European superiority.

Een was aware of cultural differences, and often compared local cultures unfavourably with his own Swedish culture, but he described them in some detail, and assumed that his readers would be interested in these descriptions. Rosenblad tends to dismiss them as not worth describing, except when he is making a point about the superiority of his own culture. He quite often describes the way of disciplining his own employees, with a sjambok, and giving them a beating. He does not entirely lack compassion, however, and expresses pity for a tribe that resisted German rule and were taken as prisoners of war, but it is pity from a position of superiority, as one might pity an ill-treated animal.

Both Een and Rosenblad admired A.W. Eriksson, and recognised him as a remarkably kind and generous man. But when Een was there, Eriksson was a young man, who had started as an assistant to the Anglo-Swedish trader and explorer C.J. Andersson. Thirty years later he was older and more experienced, and clearly had a good reputation with just about everyone.

Rosenblad’s book is less satisfactory than Een’s in other ways too. Not only does he give less details about the different cultures, but also about the individuals he met. Een gives character sketches of people, and describes something of their lives. Rosenblad often does not even mention their names.

At one point he describes how two German soldiers at Heigamkab discoverered a portmanteau with clothes, books and letters in the Namib desert. The papers revealed that the owner was a Damara (Herero), who had gone to the Cape Colony and studied at a mission institution. He had apparently returned by sea, and decided to walk across the desert rather than waiting for wheeled transport, and then got lost. This supposition was verified when Rosenblad’s party reached the Cape, and he writes,

He had probably lost his way in the darkness and fog. He must have drifted around for some days, suffering all the agonies of hunger and thirst, and then must have lain down to rest expecting the end. So much time had already elapsed when the soldiers found the portmanteau, that it was no use starting a search. Perhaps one day his skeleton will emerge from the treacherous drift-sand and grin at the passerby, but then the memory of this event will already have faded long ago.

But it might not have faded quite so much if Rosenblad (or his editor) had bothered to record his name.

The translators of the book, Jalmar and Ione Rudner, have gone to some trouble to give more information about people who are named in the text, but there is obviously nothing they can do if the names are not mentioned.

One of the reasons we read the book was because of our interest in family history, but apart from A.W. Eriksson himself (a relative by marriage), the lack of names makes the book of little use in that respect. It consists, for the most part, of hunters’ and travellers’ tales, such as are told by hunters around campfires in the evenings. That was their entertainment before satellite TV appeared, but for us the lack of historical detail made them less interesting.

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