Unser Stammvater aus Thüringen
Among the benefits of the Lockdown, along with the birdsong, was having time to tie up some loose ends relating, for once, to my own forebears. Research into two Deutschmann servicemen for one of my war memorial blogs, South Africa Remembers, had reignited my interest in, and curiosity about, people of German descent who served in the British Army during the First World War. I became curious about the role my relatives of German descent might have played in WW1 and WW2.
But when I found them, I found gaps in the information available for their parents, particularly for the Wiehahn who died in Germany while a prisoner of war, a victim of the 1918 pandemic. I realised that this would require what amounted to a #OneNameStudy for the Wiehahns of at least the first two or three generations. I subsequently found that, besides our POW in Germany, back in South Africa a number of young Wiehahn men of his generation were also losing their lives in that pandemic.
This led to a decision to review what I knew of this couple, from research I had done in the 1970s, into the ancestry of my Wiehahn great grandmother, herself a granddaughter of the progenitor (stamvader or Stammvater) of the Wiehahns of South Africa.
Georg Jacob Wiehahn (c.1767–1819) has long been identified as the Wiehahn progenitor. He is listed as such in Christoffel de Villiers’ opus, Die Geslagregisters van die Ou Kaapse Families. A significantly revised edition of this book by Pama, in 1981, was followed by Die Groot Afrikaans Familie-naamboek, in 1983. The Wiehahn entry in the latter, summarised and transcribed by Pieter Conradie, closely resembles what I remember of the original entry in de Villiers & Pama. It translates as follows:
Georg Jacob WIEHAHN, from Orlishausen (Germany), born 15.4.1767, son of Christian Valentin WIEHAHN and Catharina Elisabeth WÜRZBURG. Soldier 1786; [later] left the service, and [became a] carpenter at Kuilsrivier. Died 8.6.1819. Married 2.12.1798 to Adriana Jacoba VAN DEN BURG (10 children).
Georg Jacob was indeed a carpenter at Kuilsrivier, and at some point he employed, as a house carpenter (huistimmerman) in his business, his younger brother, Johann Christoph (c.1774–1824), sometimes recorded as Johan Christiaan. Johan Christoph has also been reported in the past as having followed his brother to Southern Africa.
One of the benefits of returning to South African research after a long interval, has been that, increasingly, more records for the 19th century are being made accessible online, including, in recent years, some VOC records, which provided further information about Georg Jacob and his brother Johann Christoph.
I was intrigued to discover, when I accessed Wie Was Wie, that passenger lists (Opvarenden records) listed two Wiehahns in the records of the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie, (VOC) —the Dutch East India Company.
The two Wiehahns turned out to be, as I’d hoped, Georg Jacob and Johan Christoph Wiehahn, and the record listing them was a pay ledger for the Company’s vessel, the Buitenverwachting, for the years 1794 to 1795. As this date fits in with Georg Jacob’s arrival “at about the time of the First British Occupation” of the Cape of Good Hope, I immediately set to work to find the related images.
The brothers appear in this ledger on consecutive spreads in the Scheepssoldijboek (Pay Ledger) for the Buitenverwachting, a ship built in 1789 for the Chamber of Amsterdam. (Each Company employee is recorded across a spread of two pages.) The ledger records, for both brothers, their entry into the service of the VOC on 5 May 1794 which seems to contradict the old story that his younger brother followed Georg to Southern Africa—though, you will see that there is an alternative explanation for this.
Georg is recorded in the pay ledger as arriving at the Cape on 20 September 1794.
Here’s a glimpse of part of the record for Georg Jacob as provided in the pay ledger.
The ledger also notes that the brothers were born in Orlishausen, which is in Sömmerda, in Thuringia. For anyone inclined to maak ‘n draai, it’s not far from Weimar. However, the record for the death of Johan Christoff (sic) Wiehahn in Cape Town, on 12 April 1824, recorded his birthplace differently, as Leibzig in Saxen, the city we now know as Leipzig.
According to the Buitenverwachting‘s pay ledger, each brother was employed by the Company with a contract to perform the function of a huistimmerman, (house carpenter) and it appears to have been VOC policy that, in contrast to the ship’s carpenter, house carpenters would not work onboard, and that their service as carpenters would commence only after his arrival in Asia.
Georg Jacob left the service on 10 October 1794, the reason given for his ‘departure’ from the service being that he had not appeared for the inspection or roll call—Niet bij de monstering verschenen. Next, it notes the reason for his absence as his having been missing (vermist). Since he was expected to appear for the monstering, perhaps before the Buitenverwachting sailed for Batavia, it seems possible that he simply decided quietly to abscond.
It is possible that Johan Christoph continued his voyage to Asia on the Buitenverwachting when it sailed on 10 October. It completed its voyage to Dutch East India on 29 January 1795. The pay ledger entries suggest that Johan Christoph might, in contrast to his brother, have worked off part of his debt, either on the voyage or in Asia. However, his records show Johan as leaving the service at the Cape, but without providing an associated date or stating the reason for his departure from the Company’s service. The reason for leaving was laatse vermelding, which was used to describe a situation where a reason was not given, not known, or unclear. Johan’s account in the ledger was not, however, closed.
After 1795 there are no entries for the brothers until June 1803 when there is an entry for each brother, made four months after the British returned the Cape of Good Hope to the Batavian Republic. The timing suggests that the time lag between the entries, was because of the capture of the Dutch Colony in 1795, and that the Cape’s relatively brief return to Dutch hands probably resulted in some tidying up to settle debts or missed payments. The entries in 1803 concern a further payment with regard to a Schuld (obligation or debt), the amount recorded being greater for Georg than for his brother.
Initially Georg employed his brother in his own business, as a house carpenter, but Johan subsequently set up shop in his own right, as a cabinetmaker in Cape Town, where the African Court Calendar, lists him at 21 Plein Street. An entry in the register in which Johan’s death, on 12 April 1824, is recorded, helpfully provides his age at death precisely, as 50 years, 3 months and 11 days, giving him a date of birth of 1 January 1774. Johan had married, in 1806, Gesina Cristina Ahlers, widow of Johann Heinrich Wulff. The couple had two daughters, Gesina Cristina and Maria Catarina. As far as I can discover, Johan had no surviving sons, so, apart from his daughters, those with the surname Wiehahn, are descended from Georg Jacob and his wife, Adriana.
Georg Jacob’s story is continued in the post for his wife, Adriana Jacoba.
A blog post on what the baptisms of their children reveal about the family’s social network in the first two decades of the 19th century will be uploaded on a later date. If you follow my blog, you will automatically receive a notification when I upload a new post.
Documents that have made it possible to find this information now
1. Family Search has made digitised images of South African records accessible online. I found I could access the record for Georg Jacob’s marriage, as well as the baptisms of his eleven children. Finding his marriage, however, involved browsing the register, going backwards through the register, starting with the baptism of their first child. The marriage record confirmed that Georg was a bachelor and also provided a significant, but not unexpected, piece of information about his wife, Adriana Jacoba.
2. The baptisms of the first generation of Wiehahns are also now accessible on Family Search, and were more informative than is the case with similar records in England, Scotland and Wales. The records provided the date, and place, of birth of each child, as well as the date and place of their baptisms, but with the added bonus of listing at least three witnesses/godparents. It was interesting to gain some knowledge of their associates and those within their more intimate circle.
3. The National Archives of the Netherlands take seriously their role as custodians, rather than as sole owners, of public records, and therefore make it possible for us to access a wide range of digitised records online, at no cost.
For those who are interested in following up the VOC Opvaarenden lists, I also intend to upload a post which will demonstrate and explain the steps I took to access the relevant images. This will be uploaded to this blog, my professional blog. If anyone were to express a particular interest, I will prioritise that post!
DEIC: Dutch East India Company
VOC: Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie
Conradie, P., ‘WIEHAHN, Georg[e] Jacob Wiehahn’ https://www.stamouers.com/stamouers/surnames-v-z/620-wiehahn-georg-jacob, accessed 22/9/2020.
de Villiers, C.C. and Pama, C., Die Geslagregisters van die Ou Kaapse Families, 1966, revised 1981.
Family Search, https://www.familysearch.org/en/, accessed 26/
Genealogiese Genootskap van Suid Afrika, Rekeningen uit de Scheepssoldijboeken, https://documents-at-eggsa.org/main.php?g2_itemId=1057235, accessed 23/9/2020.
This web page is in English, despite the Dutch title, and provides background to the Accounts from Ships’ Pay Ledgers.
Nationaal Archief, Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), Opvaarenden, Nummer Toegang 1.04.02, Inventaris nr. 6842, folionummer 180, ‘George Jacob Wiehahn’.
Nationaal Archief, Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), Opvaarenden, Nummer Toegang 1.04.02, Inventaris nr. 6842, folionummer 181, ‘Johan Christoph Wiehahn’.
Pama, C., ‘Wiehahn, Georg Jacob’, Die Groot Afrikaanse Familie-naamboek, https://www.stamouers.com/stamouers/surnames-v-z/620-wiehahn-georg-jacob, accessed 16/9/2020. 1983 edition.
TANAP, ‘Layout of the Ship’s Pay Ledgers of the Six Chambers of the VOC, 1700–1795), http://tanap.nl/content/voc/appendices/payledgers.htm, accessed 23/9/2020.
Wie Was Wie, https://www.wiewaswie.nl/, accessed 23/9/2020. This is the Dutch language version. There is a link on its home page to the English site, which will be useful for understanding descriptions and instructions, if your Dutch or Afrikaans is rusty or non-existing. Or you can simply go to https://www.wiewaswie.nl/en/.