Friday, April 2, 2010

Using NAAIRS to find Anglo-Boer War Ancestors

The South African National Archives and Record Service online index (NAAIRS) at can help when tracing Anglo-Boer ancestors.

The Gravestones database (GEN) on NAAIRS offers memorial inscriptions collected by the Genealogical Society of South Africa (GSSA), some of which refer to casualties of the Anglo-Boer War. A Cemetery Recording Project run by GSSA now offers a series of index CDs (obtainable from the Society) – recently helping me to find an Australian trooper buried in a small graveyard in the Orange Free State.

A search of NAAIRS may reveal an ancestor’s deceased estate file with Death Notice included. Sometimes there are two Death Notices in such files of the Anglo-Boer War era: one filled in briefly at the place of death, by the Adjutant or Medical Officer perhaps, and another notice completed more fully later.

Correspondence in archival files could give information about the next-of-kin: widows or mothers claiming the deceased’s pay or the five pound war gratuity, a seemingly scant return for the supreme sacrifice. A memo mentions a youthful soldier’s only piece of movable property – his horse, ‘killed for food during the Ladysmith siege’.
If your ancestor's regiment is known, it's worth searching NAAIRS for likely references to its name. The combined used of British and South African records, published sources as well as online information, can help in the search for a gentleman in khaki who was, as Kipling said, 'out on active service, wiping something off a slate.'

by Rudyard Kipling

When you've shouted " Rule Britannia," when you've sung " God save the Queen,"
When you've finished killing Kruger with your mouth,
Will you kindly drop a shilling in my little tambourine
For a gentleman in khaki ordered South?
He's an absent-minded beggar, and his weaknesses are great -
But we and Paul must take him as we find him -
He is out on active service, wiping something off a slate
And he's left a lot of little things behind him!
Duke's son - cook's son - son of a hundred kings
(Fifty thousand horse and foot going to Table Bay!)
Each of 'em doing his country's work
(and who's to look after their things?) …  SA Military History Society: various articles by specialists in military history. offers: a history of the KwaZulu Natal town of Ladysmith, the two famous stories of the town, the Siege of Ladysmith and the Relief of Ladysmith; a database of the residents of Ladysmith from its earliest days to around 1900; a database of all known British military personnel who died during the whole of the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902. This website was started in 2004 with the objective of making available information on the Anglo Boer War 1899 - 1900.  The site is free to use and has grown over the years so that it currently consists of over 2,300 articles, over 11,000 images and more than 12,500 pages in searchable PDF format.


csharper said...

Hi is there anyway to search the sa archives online?

Mole said...

Yes go to and choose a database e.g. RSA = All SA (if you aren't sure which province) or NAB = Natal or KAB = Cape etc Regards Mole