Saturday, February 6, 2010

Organized emigration schemes and early arrivals

Organized schemes of emigration from the British Isles to South Africa would include the 1820 Settlers to the Cape; the Byrne settlers and other minor groups to Natal and the government-aided immigration which brought approximately 12000 British settlers to the Cape between 1857 -1867. The good news is that all of these schemes are well-chronicled.

Although emigration from Britain reached its peak in the 19th c, there had been some arrivals during the First British Occupation of the Cape (1795-1803) – troops to defend the frontier and government officials to do the paper-work, as well as missionaries endeavouring to save the souls of the indigenous population. The military and the missionaries were not immigrants and many had only a brief sojourn in South Africa.

The temporary military regime of the First British Occupation gave way to the short-lived Batavian Republic in 1803, followed in 1806 by the Second British Occupation. This time the British were there to stay and in 1814 the Cape was formally ceded to Britain. In 1820 about a thousand families were sent out to settle, precariously, on the eastern frontier of the Colony.

For ancestors who were among the British at the Cape from 1806-1844, the ‘Permissions to Remain’ or ‘Permissions to Leave’ provide an alternative to immigration records. Any individual wishing to stay in the Cape Colony had to obtain permission to do so. Usually, two other solid citizens would be named as securities, and the Governor would issue a permit to remain if the applicant undertook to behave in an orderly manner. Similarly, if an individual wished to leave the Colony, application had to be made, and permission would not be granted unless all debts and taxes owing had been paid by the applicant.

The registers of these permits are held at Cape Archives Repository as part of the Colonial Secretary’s records (CO). While not all-inclusive, the names supplied amount to a roll of British inhabitants: indications are given as to place of origin, occupation, and date of arrival in or departure from the Colony.

British Residents at the Cape 1795-1819 by Peter Philip gives details of 4 800 persons referred to in the Permissions as well as other Cape sources such as directories and newspapers. Included is a list of British regiments serving at the Cape from 1795-1819 and British ships of war at the Cape during the same period, with names of their commanders.

Usage of the term ‘English’ could also refer to people of Scottish, Welsh or Irish origin. Many Irishmen served in the British Army in South Africa, some choosing to remain permanently after taking their discharge.

Other data held at the Cape Town Archives Repository for the period of the First British Occupation include Ship Arrivals 1795-1800, Reports on Strangers, and Letters of Permission 1795-1801 (BO).

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