Tag: Pretoria

The National Archives in Pretoria

Having done a bit of genealogy in the past few years, I know about the National Archives and the potential they have for research. There are a number of archives in South Africa, and each houses material pertaining to activities in their provinces. It’s difficult to really describe what they are about though until one actually goes there and draws a file.  Most genealogists or researchers use what is loosely known as “Naairs” (National Automated Archival Information System  to look up files in the archives. It’s a slightly finicky way of doing things, but it is all that we have. The results returned often do not really say very much. An example would be:
TAB is the National Archives Repository (Public records of the former Transvaal and its predecessors, as well as of magistrates and local authorities), and it is in Hamilton Street, Pretoria.  There is a very good explanation on the Naairs website as to what all that mumbo jumbo in the results actually means. 
It is best to request files before heading to the archive; in my case I faxed them the day before and confirmed that they received the list and that would have as much ready for me as possible. The reading room contains desks and tables where researchers are able to photograph or collect information.  I was really there to take photographs of files for later research, and that is what I did. Unfortunately photography is not allowed in the Cape Archives (KAB) which really makes things very complicated. 

What really amazed me was the information that is there if you really look for it or know what you are after. Amongst the material I was after was pre Boer War era material and one item I saw was a petition to Paul Kruger for a pardon. I did not really explore it more, but I am sure somewhere amongst the many signatures on it I  would have found that of Paul Kruger himself. 

 There we also a number of interesting old maps that somebody had requested. And amongst them was one from Johannesburg, dated 1896 and loosely described as “The Residents’ and Strangers’ Friend”.

It is a wonderful glimpse into Johannesburg of the past, and this was probably the original. It is interesting to see how the city had grown from when it officially became one in 1886 till then, and of course Braamfontein Cemetery was in use, and its register from that era is equally interesting.  

What I did find interesting is how well developed the machinery of filing and bureaucracy was, with its arcane language, revenue stamps and formal forms of address. SMSspeak did not exist in the civil service, and proper spelling was extremely important. You also “humbly begged to be your obedient servant” and signed your name with a flourish. Of course the occasional gem can also be found in those reams of  formality…
To say that my curiosity isn’t piqued would be an understatement, there is so much to discover at the archives, but like most things you actually need to have a distinct purpose when calling up files; whether they are for genealogy or curiosity, randomly choosing a file may not really be fruitful, and I am already contemplating what to look for next. 
I did find the staff very helpful, and the experience was an interesting one. There is much to see, and so much to discover hidden in that building that it should be a compulsory exercise for children in school. I just wish we had been able to do this when I was young. 
© DRW 2012-2018. Images recreated 25/03/2016
Updated: 26/12/2017 — 15:13

Detour in Pretoria

Following my initial trip to Pretoria on the Gautrain I was determined to start exploring a bit further. There is a lot of history in the city, and it is not really a place I know well. My weekly trips to the archives are very busy, but occasionally I may need to break these off to explore something along the way.  One of two possible places that I needed to see were Melrose House, and to find a memorial in Burgers Park. Both of these are next to each other, so it was just a matter of actually doing it. 
We parked at Melrose House, which is between Jacob Mare and Scheiding Streets.  The house is quite famous, as it was here that the peace documents that ended the Boer War were signed on 321 March 1902. The house was originally built for George Heys, and was completed in 1886. It was named after Melrose Abbey in Scotland. 
The back of Melrose House

The back of Melrose House

It was designed by WT Vale of London, and has stables and a tennis court in the grounds. The house has seen many famous personages living in it, including Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener and has always been somewhat of an iconic structure in Pretoria. It was declared a national monument on 17 May 1971.

Just across the street from Melrose House is Burgers Park.  The site for the park was set aside in 1874 at the recommendation of President TF Burgers, and development was started in 1889. It is a very pretty space and of special interest is the statue of President Burgers, as well as the South African Scottish Memorial which was what I was really looking for.  The park was declared a national monument in 1979.

The ornate gates originate from the house “Parkzicht” but these have since been vandalised, as has the Victorian bandstand. Fortunately the SA Scottish Memorial is in an excellent condition. 

South African Scottish Memorial



There is also a Florarium on the site, and a tree that was planted by Queen Wilhelmina in 1898,  although the original tree is long gone. Finally, a quick visit to President Burgers and then it was time to dash off home. 

FT Burgers (State President 1872-1877)

The one thing that struck me the most about this park was what a nice green space it was in Pretoria. Unfortunately, like everything else in South Africa, metal thieves are going to reduce it to rubble.

© DRW 2012-2018. Images recreated 25/03/2016

Updated: 26/12/2017 — 15:15

The Police Memorial

Following my the wreath laying ceremony at the VTM I went and did a spot of gravehunting at Rebecca Street Cemetery in Pretoria before heading to the Union Buildings to photograph the SAHA Memorial and take a closer look at the Police Memorial which I had only seen from a distance before.
When I had seen the memorial originally I noted that there were a lot of plaques with names on them, but when I actually stood at the plaques then I only realised how many there actually were. By my reckoning there are roughly 4114 names on the memorial, dating from roughly 1920 till 2011. Being a policeman in South Africa is not for the feint hearted. Unfortunately the sun was in a really bad position for photography, so my pics were not great at all. But, it is worthwhile returning here one day to capture all of those names and see how it compares to the ROH of the police.
For those that are interested, the cornerstone was laid on 20 May 1983 and it was unveiled by the then State President PW Botha on 17 October 1984. 
It is a sobering memorial, because many of the police mentioned here may not have covered themselves with glory, and given the amount of controversy surrounding the police in South Africa at the moment I think many of those named here would be ashamed to associate themselves with the police force. 
© DRW 2012-2018. Images recreated 25/03/2016.  Links replaced 20/05/2015
Updated: 26/12/2017 — 15:22
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