An introductory aside here, for any readers who have not come to this blog post via my post on Jacoba Adriana’s husband, Georg Jacob Wiehahn. I am aware of some inaccuracies on online family trees relating to this couple, based on misunderstandings or mis-transcriptions of records, rather than on the original records themselves. If you have relied on extracts on Family Search, you may not be aware that in recent years many of the 19th century Church records have been digitised and are now online. It is always preferable to view the original record where you can. Because of that I feel the need to focus, in this post, on the information in the records that influenced me, rather than on the story of Adriana Jacoba’s life. I hope that the lists of sources at the end of the post will help direct you to the documents I have viewed, and discussed in this account, and also that they are useful to you in your research of this family.
I am one of the many great grandchildren of Jacoba Adriana Wiehahn (1854–1932), one of the daughters of Gerrit Adam Wiehahn (1817–1892) and Cornelia Sophia van der Poll (1823–1891). Known always as Adriana, my great grandmother was named after her paternal grandmother, who is recorded in most of the baptisms of her eleven children as Jacoba Adriana van den Burg (or van den Berg). Sometimes, as with her marriage record, the Adriana is written first, suggesting that it may have been the name by which she was familiarly known within her family and community. For consistency, in this account I will refer to her, however, by her first name, Jacoba.
I learnt while studying history at Wits, under Professor J.S. Marais, that the suffix van de Berg very often indicated that the person concerned was ‘a person of colour’ as he cautiously expressed it. So when I discovered about 50 years ago, that I had in my Wiehahn line an ancestor named Jacoba Adriana van der (or den) Berg, who had been born during the Dutch Occupation of the Cape of Good Hope, I knew that she could well be a descendant of one of the indigenous peoples, or of an ‘immigrant’ slave rather than a servant. Another indication of mixed race in those early communities were suffixes such as van de Caap, van de Caab or van de Cabo (all three meaning of the Cape), which were applied in the absence of an official surname.
Some time ago I located, via Family Search, the baptisms of eleven children born to Jacoba and her husband Georg Jacob Wiehahn but it was not until the first of the 2020 pandemic lockdowns that I had time to try to find the record for their marriage.
1798 Marriage Record for Georg Jacob Wiehahn and Adriana Jacoba van de Caap
The snip below is an extract from the register that records Adriana’s marriage to Georg Jacob Wiehahn. This particular marriage register has been digitised, but not indexed, so the entire film needs to be browsed in order to view the page on which the marriage is recorded. I started about the time of the birth of their eldest child, Anna Elisabeth Wiehahn in 1799, and then ‘paged’ backwards in the register until I found this record for their marriage:
Eleven marriages are noted against the date of the event, written in the margin as 2 xber 1798. This translates to 2 December 1798, with an abbreviation for December (xber) which dates back to the time of the Julian Calendar when the new year began in March, December being the tenth month of the year. X is the Roman numeral replacing the decem (the Latin word for ten, as in December. Theirs is the first marriage in the above snip.
I included in my snip the two marriage records that followed theirs, because I noticed they also involved women identified without surnames, and whose origin was described as van de Caap. You will note that Georg is described as a Jongman (bachelor) and van Orlishausen, which matches the place listed for him in the VOC Opvaarenden records. It looks to me as if the minister or clerk had begun to write a surname for our Adriana Jacoba because it appears to me that the van has been struck out. This could suggest he intended, in her case, to record van den Burg/h but perhaps decided, or was formally informed, that it was not her legitimate surname. It was a genealogy-happy-dance-worthy occasion to get confirmation of Orlishausen as a match with the man on the Buitenverwachting and to know that he was a bachelor. In addition, having Jacoba recorded without a ‘proper’ surname, with her origins described as van de Caap, had been absent from every other record I had, until then, found for her.
Apart from entries for family members in the early Cape Directories, the baptisms of their children, and the death notices for some of them, I have not yet learnt much about the married life of this couple. We know that during their marriage, the Stellenbosch kerk was their ‘local’ church, and that the birthplace of their children was often noted as Caapsche Duine (Cape Dunes) which were probably somewhere in the sandy area known as the Cape Flats. In those same children’s Death Notices, however, the birthplace of their children was frequently given with the more precise location of Kuilsrivier. They do not appear to have lost any children in infancy and on the whole their children made what their parents would have regarded as ‘satisfactory’ marriages.
The baptisms of Georg and Jacoba’s children record the respective Getuige/Getuie—the witnesses, or godparents—for each child, and give us some idea of their parents’ network of family and of close associates. From these eleven baptisms, I have been able to identify two relatives, potentially Jacoba’s parents, who are recorded as witnesses to four of the baptisms.
Key Witnesses at the baptisms of the Wiehahn children
The last of three witnesses recorded at the baptism, in 1799, of Georg and Jacoba’s first child, Anna Elisabeth, was Ger[ri]t van den Burg. It’s a high frequency Dutch surname, so one has to be wary of jumping to conclusions with regard to any relationship. However, an uncle or grandfather was often asked to be one of the witnesses at the baptism of his grandchildren or nephews.
At this point I began to pay attention to Gert van den Burg. Gert is the nickname for Gerrit, and I knew that, in 1817, the name was given, to the couple’s youngest son, Gerrit Adam Wiehahn. At that time, the traditional naming patterns were often followed within the Lutheran and Calvinist churches, whereby the first daughter in the family was named after the maternal grandmother. And in this family, Anna Elisabeth was that first-born daughter.
Moving on to the baptism, in 1801, of their second child, Johan Carel, the last of five witnesses was recorded as Anna Elisabeth van de Caap. It was at this point, that I began to wonder whether this Anna Elisabeth might be the maternal grandmother of the Wiehahn children. If Georg and Jacoba were following the traditional naming pattern, then, if de Villiers and Pama were correct in identifying his paternal grandfather as Christian Valentin Wiehahn, then why did he not receive at least one of the names of his putative grandfather? The ‘leading’ witness at the baptism was Carel Solg, perhaps a particularly close friend, while another of the five witnesses was the infant’s uncle, Johan.
At the baptism in 1815, of their tenth child, Petrus Johannes, Gerrit Adam van den Burg was a witness, this time the fourth of five witnesses. We can’t be sure that he was the same man as the Gert of 1801.
And finally, their eleventh and last child, born 31 December 1817, was baptised Gerrit Adam. The name Gerrit Adam would, in time, be given to several of this infant’s grandsons, one of whom was my beloved grandfather.
It is beginning to feel as if we may have identified here a significant male relative—perhaps a grandfather, or an uncle—of Adriana Jacoba van de Caap, who in all other records, is recorded with the surname in one or other form of van den Burg/Burgh or Berg.
Death of Georg Jacob WIehahn
After the death of Georg Jacob on 8 June 1819, life must have become more difficult for his widow and for all their eleven children, all under the age of 20 with six of them under the age of 12.
In 1820, their eldest child, Anna Elisabeth, married an Italian immigrant, Felix Orlandini, and settled in the village of Stellenbosch. About that time, Jacoba seems to have transferred her church membership from Stellenbosch to Cape Town. The following year she married, in Cape Town, a widower, Johan Christiaan Loock, a long-time family associate, and a witness at the baptism of at least one of Jacoba’s grandchildren. Johan Loock had children from a previous marriage, so their marriage enabled them to share the role of raising, and providing for, the younger children of those previous marriages.
Death of Anna Elisabeth van den Burgh (c.1750–1834)
My lockdown research bore further fruit when I found the official notice for the death, in Stellenbosch, on 24 February 1834, of Anna Elisabeth van der Burgh. This records her birthplace as Cape of Good Hope. It includes the following information:
Names of the parents of the Deceased: Unknown.
Age of the Deceased: 84 years.
Condition in Life:
no occupation of late, was formerly married to a Farmer.
Married or Unmarried, Widower or Widow:
Widow of Gerrit van der Burgh.
At what House, or Where the Person died:
at Felix Orlandini in the village of Stellenbosch.
Names of the Children of the Deceased, and whether Minors or Majors:
Jacoba van der Burgh, Widow of Johan Christiaan Loock and formerly married to Georg Jacob Wiehahn.
Whether Deceased has left any Property, and of what Kind:
no property whatsoever having been supported at the sole Expence (sic) of Felix Orlandini, the Subscriber hereto.
Felix Orlandini (1780–1849) made his mark to confirm the information he had given about “Anna Elisabeth van den Burg”, his wife’s maternal grandmother, for whom he, Felix, had provided in her old age.
Taken at face value, this document seems to confirm that Jacoba’s parents were Gerrit van den Burgh and Anna Elisabeth “van den Burgh” (who is almost certainly the Anna Elisabeth van de Caap, who was a witness at Johan Carel’s baptism in 1801). This ties in with the striking out of the beginnings of a surname, that van in the 1798 marriage record so that no surname was provided for Adriana Jacoba, and only a place of origin, namely, van de Caap. I am not certain whether, or at what point, Gerrit and Anna were ever married. The document notes that Jacoba was the only child born to Anna Elisabeth. This is helpful in that a person of interest, the 72 year old Gerrit van den Berg, who died “beyond the Boundaries” aged 72 in 1839, husband of Maria van Biljoen (sic), was too young to have been Jacoba’s father, though it is not sufficient to exclude his having perhaps been Jacoba’s legitimate half-brother. This Gerrit would have been born in 1766 or 1767, if the age given for him on 26 July 1839 is correct. He would have been eleven years older than Jacoba.
Death of the Widow Wiehahn, female progenitor of the Wiehahns (c.1778–1835)
Jacoba died the year after her mother, on 6 July 1835, at 5 Piper Street, Cape Town. She was then in her fifty eighth year, which should be interpreted as not yet 58 at the time of her death, giving Jacoba’s birth as having been on a date from 7 July 1777 to 6 July 1778. Her death notice helpfully identifies her birthplace as Cape Town. The informant for her death was her second daughter, Catharina Jacoba Jacobsz, whose first child, Adriana Jacoba Catharina Jacobsz, had been born the previous year, barely a week after the death of her great grandmother, Anna Elisabeth and named after her maternal grandmother.
There is a line in this death notice that is puzzling and that is the names provided for Jacoba’s parents. Death certificates often have errors, partly because the informant is often a close family member, who may be suffering from shock or grief. Also, if the informant is performing this role for the first time, he or she may be unprepared, for all the questions that will be asked. If innumerate and illiterate, the task is much more difficult.
The names of Jacoba Adriana’s parents as recorded on her death notice.
I think the line reads G [H?] van den Burg & Joh[ann]a Elis[abeth] but the surname at the end of the line is less clear than the others: Here’s what I make of the letters, with question marks representing a letter that’s not clear: ?i?ha? OR ?i?he?
- Taking the three problematic letters in the last word, the initial capital is most likely to be an M, possibly a W, or even an N or an H.
- The second problematic letter is either a, c or e. The letter d is not impossible though it would affect the following letter, which I’ve assumed to be the letter h.
- The third problematic letter (or letters) could be l, ll, le.
Of course, Wiehahn is a fairly obvious name that would fit the ?i?ha? pattern, but no Wiehahns have been found in the Dutch and the VOC records matching a woman of child-bearing age in the Cape of Good Hope when Jacoba was born.
Surnames, besides Wiehahn, that would fit around the visible letters are the surnames Micha[u] or Michell, perhaps the most likely. I could not find a potential Johanna Elisabeth, but I did find an Anna Elisabeth Michiels, the mother of Maria Margaretha, who was baptised in Cape Town, in 1759, the father being named as Fredrik Jacob Wesler.
This month it will be two years since I first came across this death notice, and was so astonished by the names provided for Jacoba’s parents that I remember exactly where I was at the time. I’m a little miffed with myself that I haven’t yet any further information that could decide whether or not Catharina Jacoba understood the question, or whether she was confused. It’s not uncommon to realise that mistakes are made, even with regard to relationships, when a grandchild is the informant at the time of death.
The challenge here is with Item 3 on the death notice, in which the informant has to provide the names of the deceased’s parents. Here, Catharina records her grandmother as Johanna Elisabeth, rather than as Anna Elisabeth. Catharina would surely have known that her elder sister was named for their maternal grandmother. Did she assume that the name Anna was a nickname for Johanna?
A year earlier, Catharina and her husband had followed the traditional naming pattern in naming their elder daughter after her maternal grandmother. I should also make clear that, while Catharina’s signature does not quite match the handwriting of the person who filled in the rest of the death notice there are enough similarities for me not to be completely sure it was not someone else’s handiwork. In the latter case, if there was an intermediary between Catharina and the receiving official, there would be more opportunities for error.
Gerrit Adam van den Burg is almost certainly Jacoba’s father and it seems probable that Anna Elisabeth van de Caap, also known as Anna Elisabeth van den Burg, is Jacoba’s mother.
There were earlier van den Bergs at the Cape. Eight weesmeisjes (orphaned girls) from Rotterdam were sent to the Cape in 1687, arriving in Cape Town on the Berg China in 1688. They were intended as wives for some of the Dutch bachelors at the Cape. One of the orphans was Adriaantje Jacobsz van der Berg but she is not under consideration here, since she married a man whose surname was not van der Berg.
I’d also like to point out that there was at least one Dutch settler with the surname van der Berg in the early days of the Dutch settlement at the Cape of Good Hope and that he had descendants, of whom Gerrit van den Burgh could conceivably have been one.
I would welcome comments on my arguments, and look forward to hearing any theories you might have on the interpretation of the documents to which I have referred.
How to replicate my research, if only to satisfy yourself
Please note that you should be able to find most of the records fairly easily on Family Search. With the marriage record, however, you will need to apply the advice I give, below, for finding the image that has the Wiehahn record. Make sure to restrict the location for your search to South Africa, before you enter the search terms in their relevant boxes. Alternatively, digital images of all the records can be viewed at the Family History Library in Utah, or at your nearest Family History Centre or Family Search Affiliated Library.
Family Search’s Search Page, https://www.familysearch.org/search/, accessed 19/10/2020. Start by clicking on the continent of Africa, on the map under the heading Research By Location. Then scroll down the pop-up list of countries, and click on South Africa. Only then should you fill in the names of interest. Do not click on the small boxes next to First Names and Last Names as there are often variations in the spelling of names within records for the same person.
‘Find a Family History Center (sic) and Family Search Affiliated Libraries’, https://www.familysearch.org/help/fhcenters/locations/, accessed 19/10/2020.
List of documents
These are the documents mentioned in this account and all are available to view and download on Family Search. I will shortly upload a post providing a list of the various godparents at each of the eleven baptisms. If this will be useful to you in your research, I suggest you follow my blog so that you can be notified when I upload new posts.
1798 Marriage of Georg Jacob Wiehahn and Adriana Jacoba van de Caap, Cape Town.
You can access this record using the FHL Film No 008039065. I can save you time here—it’s image number 690 of 876 . (You’re welcome! 😉) It will have a number of subsets, so use the image numbers to leap along until you find yourself in a section that has 876 images. The original records are included in the Cape Dutch Reformed Church Records, reference G1/13/5 ‘Cape Town Marriages 1790–1800’.
1799 Baptism of Anna Elisabeth Wiehahn
She married firstly, Felix Orlandini in 1820, and secondly William McDonald in 1849, whom she married soon after Felix’s death of Felix. Felix’s own death notice reveals that he and Anna were officially separated at the time of his death.
1801 Baptism of Johan Carel Wiehahn
I have not yet found further records for Johan Carel. He may be the Carel Wiehahn who was a witness at the christening of Carel Wilhelmus van Druten in 1835, the son of his sister, Maria Isabella Wiehahn. There are several Carels in subsequent generations of Wiehahns but all would have been too young to be the Carel who was a godfather in 1835.
1815 Baptism of Petrus Johannes Wiehahn
He married Johanna Hendrica Smit, daughter of Abraham François Smit.
1817 Baptism of Gerrit Adam Wiehahn
He married Cornelia Sophia van der Poll, daughter of Hendrik van der Poll and Susanna Maria Vermaak.
1834 Death of Anna Elisabeth van den Burg, Stellenbosch
1835 Death of Jacoba Adriana van den Burg, Cape Town
Genealogical Society of South Africa, Genesis, Ball, R[ichard], Weesmeisies, Issue 15, July 2007, p.6–12. This is also available on the eGGSA website, https://www.eggsa.org/articles/Weesmeisies.htm accessed 19/10/2020.