Friday, December 30, 2016

Early Durban views: West Street

West Street Durban looking west: no tar on the roads, which could be a quagmire in wet weather, horse- and ox-drawn vehicles predominate, some trees remain alongside the road, all of these would disappear as West Street developed.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

New to South African genealogy research?

If you are just starting to put a toe gingerly into the murky waters of South African family history research, take a look at the Beginners' Guide on this Blog:

This offers useful tips on sources and procedures to be followed during your search, giving an introduction to the topic - where to start and what your aims should be. What is a deceased estate, what is the difference between a Death Notice and a Death Certificate, how to obtain certificates in South Africa - and much more.

I do not undertake private research for others but you could check the list of professional researchers for all provinces given on the NAAIRS site at

Happy Hunting!

Young woman photographed by H Kisch

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Season's Greetings

Happy Christmas to all blog visitors and followers and
May your New Year be Full of Light

Best Wishes from Mole

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Souvenir Saturday: HMS Southampton at Port Natal June 1842

Engraving by Thomas Bowler
HMS Southampton at anchor near the Bluff, Durban, and firing on
the rebellious Dutch who held the British under siege
at the Port.

For more on this incident see

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A peal for the Waratah: 15 December 2016

It is 107 years ago on 15 December that the Lutine Bell pealed, announcing the loss of SS Waratah.

‘On 15 December 1909, the Waratah was officially posted as missing. Lloyd’s of London’s most famous symbol, the Lutine Bell was rung, heralding the announcement of the loss of the SS Waratah to underwriters and brokers. This action from Lloyd’s of London was profoundly final.’

Interior view of the Lloyd's of London, London 
showing the Lutine Bell, housed in the Rostrum.

In the main Underwriting Room of Lloyd's stands the Lutine bell, which was struck when the fate of a ship "overdue" at its destination port became known. If the ship was safe, the bell would be rung twice; if it had sunk, the bell would be rung once. This had the practical purpose of immediately stopping the sale or purchase of "overdue" reinsurance on that vessel. Nowadays it is only rung for ceremonial purposes, such as the visit of a distinguished guest, or for the annual Remembrance Day service and anniversaries of major world events.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Costume in early Natal 1850s

This is a beautiful portrait of sitter Charlotte Rose, It is difficult to tell whether it is an ambrotype or a tintype without holding the photograph in one's hand, I would suggest an ambrotype but perhaps a little flat as to colour. She is wearing the undersleeves and dropped shoulder bodice of the fifties. Middle parting another clue as to date. We cannot see much of her skirt but it would be crinoline style..

Checking on dates I find that tintypes did not come into use until about 1863, which would be too late for the costume in this picture - so that decides the ambrotype issue.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Costume in early Natal: 1860s

Fashion plate 1869: by this time, with more regular shipping arrivals, the ladies of Natal were able to peruse the fashion magazines and keep up with trends overseas.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Costume in early Natal 1850

The lady's bonnet was the basis for the sunbonnet or 'kappie'
 worn by Dutch/Afrikaner women which evolved into a traditional
form of headgear - however, its origins were the English bonnet as seen here.
These fashions would have been in the forefront of trendiness when Natal's
settlers left England to journey to Natal ca late 1840s/50s. Their outfits were made
to last until completely outmoded, old gowns being unpicked and restitched, young boys' garments being cut down and made up to fit the child.
As to the gentleman's outfit, it would have been out of place for a farmer
in the Natal Midlands, who would wear drill trousers and calico shirt in the field, possibly with a  straw sunhat.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Souvenir Saturday Durban 1855

West Street Durban 1855: engraving

Friday, December 9, 2016

Costume in early Natal: riding

The riding habit - at right - was an essential part
 of any colonial woman's wardrobe.
This photograph was taken by Kermode and Murray.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Costume in early Natal: the hunter

A typical hunter of Natal's early days, with his dog and rifle - huge beard and hat.
 Thomas Baines would have worn similar attire.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Costume in early Natal: the missionary's wife

Isabella Thomson nee Smith was married to a missionary (William Ritchie Thomson of Chumie Mission Station):
her costume is fashionable and not adapted to the rigorous life she must have led, particularly in the heat of Natal's summer.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Souvenir Saturday: Carte de Visite ca 1875

Carte de Visite: young lady with bustle ca 1875

 A carte de visite was a small photographic portrait of a person, mounted on a piece of card. By the 1860s, entrepreneurs were mass-producing cartes de visite - small photographic prints that originated as calling cards - of well-known figures.

The 'ancestor' you may find among your cartes de visite may not be an ancestor at all but an important well-known figure of his time, such as a Prime Minister. Such cartes were collected and put into albums.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Costume of the settler era in Natal

Bonnets of the 1850s - what our female Natal ancestors wore.

This is probably a tintype: a tintype, also known as a melainotype or ferrotype. This is a photograph made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal coated with a dark lacquer or enamel and used as the support for the photographic emulsion. Tintypes enjoyed their widest use during the 1860s and 1870s, but lesser use of the medium persisted into the early 20th century and it has been revived as a novelty in the 21st.
Tintype portraits were at first usually made in a formal photographic studio, like daguerreotypes and other early types of photographs, but later they were most commonly made by photographers working in booths or the open air at fairs and carnivals, as well as by itinerant sidewalk photographers. Because the lacquered iron support (there is no actual tin used) was resilient and did not need drying, a tintype could be developed and fixed and handed to the customer only a few minutes after the picture had been taken.
Although prints on paper soon displaced them as the most common type of photograph, the tintype process continued to enjoy considerable use throughout the 19th century and beyond, especially for casual portraiture by novelty and street photographers. In South Africa, travelling photographers to be found producing tintypes in mining camps and other temporary 'towns', carrying all the necessary equipment in a wheeled cart - a portable 'studio'.