Monday, February 1, 2010

Deceased Estate files in SA family history research

In the context of South African family history research, deceased estate documentation is a valuable starting point. If an ancestor died in SA, the chances of discovering further information are good – better than if he was passing through on his way to another colony or making a temporary stay before returning to his place of origin.

Using deceased estate material it’s possible to go back to his earlier history as well as forwards to more recent generations, even to living descendants.

First, search NAAIRS to identify a relevant deceased estate file for your forebear. If his area of residence isn’t known search on the RSA (all SA) database adding a reasonable time frame for the event in the ‘beginning’ and ‘ending’ facility at the foot of the search form. As always, it helps if the ancestor had an unusual surname or forename.

You can expect to find the following in an estate file: Death Notice, Will, Final Accounts and correspondence. All of these are potential sources of information. There’s a tendency to access only the Death Notice: while this is an important document, it’s advisable not to stop your search there but to check (or delegate your researcher to check) the other file contents too.

It is false economy to limit a search to the Death Notice alone. There is so much more to be discovered in even the most unlikely pieces of paper e.g. an argument by correspondence between family members over who would pay for the tombstone reveals precise details as to burial place of the deceased. Such information may not be obtained easily elsewhere.

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