Thursday, January 28, 2010
Seeking SA ancestors on NAAIRS
For family historians who haven’t used NAAIRS before, it’s well worth reading the on-site introductory pages which explain information categories, source codes, acronyms and tips for structuring searches. The Help pages give user-friendly instructions for Getting Started, Searching, Selecting a Database, Saving Queries etc, plus a list of FAQ.
Before you begin the search, have some basic family history details handy: the ancestor’s name, location if known (i.e. Cape, Natal etc), an approximate date parameter, and any extra facts which would assist in identifying an individual on the index, such as an unusual middle name or a spouse’s forename or maiden name. This is essential when looking for a John Smith or Joe Brown, to avoid an avalanche of hits. As with any search, always try variant spellings of a surname.
If you find no reference to your ancestor on NAAIRS don’t jump to the conclusion that he never came to South Africa. He may simply have remained invisible as far as public records were concerned. Possible reasons for that are many and varied.
The colonies often provided an opportunity to turn over a new leaf and an emigrant may have used an alias. This would effectively mask his identity in the records and imaginative search options might be needed: e.g. he could have taken his mother’s maiden name.
Access NAAIRS at www.national.archives.gov.za/