Monday, February 15, 2010

Did your German ancestor emigrate to SA?

There have been Germans resident in South Africa from the start of the Dutch era at the Cape of Good Hope in the 17th c. Most were not emigrants as such, but worked for the Dutch East India Company, perhaps initially in Holland and then sent to the Cape.

German missionaries established themselves at various centres in South Africa. The earliest efforts were made by George Schmidt, a Moravian whose work was carried on in the late 18th c by other Moravians at the famous Genadendal Mission Station.

The Rhenish Mission Society began their work in 1829 at Stellenbosch and Tulbagh among slaves and later penetrated Little and Great Namaqualand, working with the Namaqua and Damara peoples and others. Surnames such as Luckhoff, Esselen, Kleinschmidt, Hahn, Roth and Kolbe were among those famous in the Rhenish Mission.

The Berlin Mission sent missionaries to the Cape in 1834, founding Bethany station among the Korannas. Then, when the latter roving people moved on, the Berlin missionaries worked among the Bechuanas. Dohne was the pioneer of the Kaffrarian Mission of the Berlin Society, founding Bethel Mission Station in Xhosa territory. He was joined by Schultheiss, Liefeldt and Posselt.

The so-called War of the Axe (7th Frontier War 1846-48) intervened, when many mission stations were burned to the ground. Dohne, Posselt and Guldenpfennig started a mission in Natal, named Emmaus. By the 1850s the Berlin Mission had six stations, in the Cape, Orange River Sovereignty, Kaffraria and Natal.

Later, in the 1860s, the Berlin Mission sent Merensky and Grutzner into the field, at first ministering to the Swazis and afterwards to the Transvaal Basuto. Then, with Endemann and Nachtigal, to the Bapedi in the north.

The Hermannsburg Mission, led by Ludwig Harms, intended to start a colony of missionaries among the Galla peoples, but when this venture failed the missionaries went to Natal, founding Hermannsburg Mission Station in 1854 in Umvoti County, east of Greytown. An offshoot of this group was the Hanoverian Mission, led by a brother of Harms.

Descendants of many German missionary families still live in South Africa.

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