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