“A Name Puzzle” Revisited

Genealogical research — and writing a blog about it — can be both heartening and humbling. The latter aspect came to the fore recently when in the same post I overlooked the obvious and failed to observe some research fundamentals.

In my last post, I referred to Angela Letitia VANDERHOFF as “one of the sponsors” at the christening of Angela Letitia POOLE, my husband’s mother. However, she wasn’t just a family friend standing as sponsor, as I originally thought, but was in fact the child’s maternal grandmother.

So how did I fail to identify her? She’s in my husband’s family tree database, I have copies of her marriage and probate records taken from microfilms at the Family History Library, and while living in South Africa for five years I learned which names were likely to be English or Afrikaner in origin.

Error #1: In reading the christening record, I correctly identified the name “Angela Letitia” as English in form and surmised that the Afrikaner surname “VANDERHOFF” was the result of marriage. In contrast, oral family history states that Angela POOLE’s maternal grandmother was an Afrikaner by birth and that her married name was MINNAAR. Therefore, in my mind, the two women were different persons.

Error #2: Focusing too tightly on some aspects of Angela POOLE’s christening record made me forget an important research guideline: Expect your ancestors to be like other people in their community. Afrikaners in the early twentieth century usually followed European naming conventions with the oldest daughter being named after the maternal grandmother. (Angela was the first and only daughter in her family.)

Error #3: I was so enamored by the record copies in front of me that I failed to search my digital database for the VANDERHOFF/VAN DER HOFF surname, which turned out to be that of her second husband. (She was widowed when Angela’s grandfather died in 1903.) If I had done the search, I would have discovered that she had “translated” her names into the English “Angela Letitia” on the christening record. Her 1941 Death Notice, however, lists the Afrikaans form of her names (and includes an additional given name): Engela Aletta Jacobmina.

But sometimes humbling errors morph into heartening experiences and advance my research. As I study the names of Angela’s maternal female ancestors on the family tree chart, the Afrikaner naming pattern emerges like a game of hopscotch, giving me new leads to follow in my quest for yet another generation of ancestors.

Next Steps 

1) Obtain a christening record, presumably from the Dutch Reformed Church in Potchefstroom, for Engela Aletta Jacobmina STEINHOBEL.

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4 Responses to “A Name Puzzle” Revisited

  1. Amanda Steinhobel says:

    Hi there, I am busy on the family history of Steinhöbel, could you let me know if you have any information on Steinhöbel. Thanks Amanda

    • Mary Beth says:

      Dear Amanda,

      Is my face red! It’s been over a year since you’ve written, and I’ve failed to reply, mainly because I was rather new to blogging. Interestingly, I started the serious research on my husband’s family with the Steinhöbel family. It’s exciting to meet someone else who is undoubtedly a distant cousin since I think there was only one stamouer. At any rate, I will contact you via your personal e-mail so we can exchange findings.

      Again, I’m sorry for the delay.

      Best wishes,
      Mary Beth

  2. Hendrico says:

    Please include me in this talks please I know little but I do know my family of Steinhobel may have dropped the umlaut on the o so it could have been steinhöbel meaning rocky area or direct translation it’s brick fuselage lol but seriously add me asb. I’m 26 and finding any info is very difficult my granny told me we came from Poland just right before the onset of the great war my grandfather faught ( excuse my spelling ) along side the Germans against the British Red necks she’s of Dutch stock both were deaf and dumb pardon that term is often seen as offensive in my case my gran don’t mind so they found each other of which they had 3 sons 4 daughters i guess playstation didnt exsist back then lol but please email me hsteinhobel1488@gmail.com with your finding I’m utterly heartbroken of the lack of info into the family I would like to get our family emblem tattooed one day and would prefer not making a arse of my self by having a prof telling me it’s the sign for low mentality or something like that I do realise Poland did not have these they would assimilate into clans of different surnames yet my surname is of German stock hilf mir bitte thanks will wait for a reply one day I just need a point in the right way.

    • Mary Beth says:

      Thank you for your comments, Hendrico. It has been a long time since I’ve been able to do any South African research and post to the blog. Thank you for your email address, but I’ll reply on the blog in case my comments might be helpful to other Steinhöbel family members. You can subscribe to the blog in the right hand column if you wish to receive all updates.

      It’s not clear where you are located, but here’s a little of what I’ve found about the Steinhöbel family in South Africa. According to the “Geslagregisters van ou Suid Afrikaanse Families”, the first person with that surname, Johann Christiaan Steinhöbel, was born ca. 1849 in Wolfenbüttel, Dithmarschen, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. (Of course, Germany as a unified country didn’t exist at the time; according to the Encyclopedia Britannica website, until 1866 Dithmarschen was a semi-independent territory under the king of Denmark.”) According to Vol. 12 of “Suid-Afrikaanse Geslagregisters” published by the Genealogical Society of South Africa (GISA), he arrived at the Cape in 1784 as a “soldaat” from “Wolfenbüttel, Brunsyk, Duitsland” and became a “kanonnier” in 1786. (I haven’t sorted out the geography to know whether these two towns are the same.) The same source states that he married Johanna Barbara WICHT on 7 Nov 1796 and that they had three children: Christian Ludwig, Frans Friedrich, and Ernst Pieter, all of whom were christened in the Lutheran Church in Cape Town. My husband is descended from the youngest son. One has to be careful; one published source, whose title I no longer remember, conflated Ernst Pieter (1803-1842) with his son Franz Frederik (1833-1921) and omitted the latter, making for a long life indeed for Ernst Pieter.

      Good luck with your research. I’m not sure how common is the Steinhöbel name in Germany, but there are sites that give the frequency of names in a specific country. The only one I tried couldn’t find the name with any of the various spellings.

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