Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why no Deceased Estate file for my ancestor?

There isn't a deceased estate file for every person who died in South Africa. Reasons for not locating an estate file vary. The most obvious is that, contrary to what you've been led to believe, the individual may have died in another country. There could have been minimal assets, literally ‘no estate’. The death may be of too recent a date to appear on the online index, NAAIRS. Death Notices did not exist until 1834 and to find information for the period before that date trying other research avenues will be necessary.

An ancestor who lived in South Africa but died in England may have had a South African Death Notice if he owned property in South Africa. In such a case, the country where the estate was administered would depend on where the individual was resident at date of death. Frequently, delays may be caused and a South African Death Notice may not be filed for some time after the death occurred.

Finding two separate Death Notices in one deceased estate file may mean that the first form was completed at the place of death e.g. by the camp Adjutant during a military conflict – there are many instances of this during the Anglo-Boer War. Later, a more detailed Death Notice would be produced.

The format of the Death Notice changed at various dates. Earlier forms were printed horizontally across the page and often on blue paper which doesn’t photograph particularly well. These ‘sideways’ Death Notices were invariably completed by hand (not always legibly) in pen and ink. The vertically-printed Death Notice followed, but were still filled in by hand until the advent of the typewriter made them easier to read (except where the ribbon was over-used and the text faded).

Recent Death Notices include the SA identity number which first came into being in 1955. The ID number can be important if you want to acquire a South African Death Certificate.

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