FAQ

Death Certificate /  Death Notice Рis it the same thing?

No they are not the same thing. A Death Certificate is a document issued by a qualified medical practitioner and includes details of the deceased person and the official cause of death.

A Death Notice is a document which is usually completed by the next-of-kin (spouse, child, father etc.) or someone who knew the deceased (like a landlord, friend or medical attendant). The Death Notice includes personal details of the deceased, as believed to be correct, by the person filling in the form. It is important to emphasize that the accuracy of the details depends on what the person filling it in knew about the deceased. Therefore, whilst this document is undoubtedly the single most useful document for genealogical purposes in the South African context, it is not always 100% accurate and every detail must be challenged and verified.

Census records – where can I find them?

You can’t. Census returns are not available in South Africa. The statistics are extracted from the census forms and the original papers are destroyed. Or so we are told. The bottom line is that there are no census records for public scrutiny. There are certain Voters’ Rolls which we turn to in lieu of census lists but the information in these is limited to the individual voter and their place of abode.

Voters’ Rolls – where can I find them?

There are a few Voters’ Rolls available at the National Archives but they are few and far between and are not representative of the entire population. Typically, a person qualified to vote if they were property owners or earned a certain salary. This meant that a major part of the population did not qualify and are therefore not represented in these lists.

South African Passenger Lists – where do I find them?

There are many databases out there. All of them compiled by dedicated individuals who glean passenger lists by trawling through newspapers from the 1800s. There is, however no central database, so the information is fragmented and you will have to search for them online. South African Genealogy has compiled hundreds of lists and has made them freely available on this website. Visit the Search the Database page.

Immigration Records

Depending on the period you are researching, there are various sources for immigration records in the National Archives of South Africa (Cape Town repository). Here is a brochure (PDF format) that has been compiled by the staff at the Western Cape Archives.

Civil Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths

The official date for the implementation of Civil Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages was 1895. However, the various provinces in South Africa commenced keeping records at varying times, some earlier and some later than this date.

Here’s a table with the generally accepted dates for each province:

Province Births Marriages Deaths
Cape 1895 1700 1895
Natal 1868 1845 1888
Transvaal 1901 1870 1901
Orange Free State 1903 1848 1903

Read more

Why can’t I find the Transvaal Province on a map of South Africa?

The Transvaal was renamed Gauteng after the first Democratic Elections in 1994.

Translation of Dutch or Afrikaans words in documents

South African Genealogy has compiled a list of words most frequently found in documents pertaining to family history research. You can find it here.

Research help – who can I contact?

Send an email to South African Genealogy but be sure to read the Research page first.

What is a MOOC?

MOOC stands for Master of the Orphan Chamber. It is a series of records housed in the National Archives and consists of Deceased Estate files, wills and Liquidation & Distribution of assets documents, amongst others. It is in this series that you will find Death Notices for the Cape of Good Hope region. Other regions have these files under MHG (Meester van die Hooggegshof).