Whether your ancestors are European immigrants or native South African, our professional genealogists and onsite agents can help with South African genealogy research..
The Impact of Language in South African Genealogy Research
With 11 official languages, South African genealogy research can be intimidating if you don’t know how to read the records. In addition to the native people, South Africa was settled by Protestant British and Dutch immigrants beginning in the 1600s. This means that if your ancestors are of European descent, it’s likely that most of the records created about them will be recorded in English, Dutch, or Afrikaans. If your ancestors are natives of South Africa, the records will likely be recorded in the dialect of their people.
Records for South African Genealogy Research
South African genealogy research can be very difficult due to the lack of available records. There are a very small amount of records available online and at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA (this library houses the largest collection of genealogical records in the world), so almost all research needs to be done onsite. Also, South Africa doesn’t consider vital records (civil registration) to be public records, so privacy laws can make it difficult to obtain copies, and generally a power of attorney form is needed if they’ll allow you to have the record at all.
From our experience, we’ve found that death notices (not the same as death certificates) and estate files are the most useful and available records for South African genealogy research. Not everyone has one, especially if they were very poor, but when found, these sources can contain a good amount of detail about an ancestor. Since these records are generally easier to obtain than a death certificate, they are always worth looking for.
While unfortunately it is fairly common to not find a lot of information about South African ancestors, it’s important to search all available records and leave no stone unturned. With enough diligence, it can be possible to learn more about your family and extend your lines.
Our Team of Professional Genealogists Can Help
If you have South African ancestors and need helping obtaining onsite records, reading the language on records you’ve already found, determining where your European ancestors lived before they arrived in South Africa, or any other genealogical assistance, our experts and onsite agents are ready to help!