When we first started doing family history, soon after we were married, we asked Val’s grandmother, Emma le Sueur about her ancestors. She often couldn’t remember their names, but she remembered what they had died of and what pills they took. But she did tell us that her mother was Jessie Falkenberg and her father was Edward Decker (and that he had died when she was about 8, at Covimvaba).
About a year later, with special permission from the magistrate (I was banned at the time) we went to Cape Town on holiday, stopping to visit relations and do family history on the way. We visited Violet McDonald, a Growdon relative, in Queenstown, and spent a morning looking through the parish registers at St Michael’s Anglican Church, and right away got lucky. We found not only Growdons, but Falkenbergs as well. lots of them. Jessie Decker, nee Falkenberg, was there, though it turned out that her full name was actually Justine, along with several brothers and sisters. Her father was Michael John Christian Falkenberg, and her mother was also Justine, alias Jessie.
We recorded all this, and went on to Cape Town, where in the archives we found more about them in death notices and immigration lists.
Michael John Christian Falkenberg came from Germany in 1858, with his wife Dorothea and 3-year-old son Friedrich. But at some point his wife had died and he had remarried to Justine Schultz, who had come over on the same ship with her family, but was 9 years old at the time. He married her when she was about 15, but we still have not been able to discover where.
On our way home again we called at Stutterheim, and there found a grave for a Frederike Falkenberg, born Luthow. The age was right, so could she have been Michael John Christian Falkenberg’s first wife? But the name was different — Dorothea/Frederike?
We traced descendants of both wives. But ancestors were harder. They were in East Germany, and the government there did not encourage genealogical research, and communication was difficult. But a Mr Hans Georg Bleibaum in West Germany was interested in South Africa-Germany connections, and offered to help. He sent a parcel of groceries to an East German researcher, who found the Schultz ancestors, and then a Martin Schultz who married a Marie Payard and traced the Payard side back to the Huguenots in the 17th century.
But the Falkenberg side was a dead end.
Then, last week, along came Peter Woddow. He asked in a South African genealogy mailing list about Germans from the Ueckermark who had settled in South Africa. I mentioned the Falkenbergs to him, and within a short time he had confirmed for us that Frederike and Dorothea Falkenberg, born Luthow, were one and the same person, solving the mystery of the grave we saw in Stutterheim more than 30 years ago.
And now he has given the parents, brothers, and sisters of Michael Johann Christian Falkenberg, which we had despaired of ever finding.
Oh, incidentally, on our trip in 1975, we also visited King William’s Town and found the baptism of Val’s grandmother’s father, who turned out to be Edwin, not Edward. Edwin Robert Morton Decker, to be precise.