One of my husband’s cousins recalls hearing that their grandparents had eloped. The tale seems plausible, given the fact that “Oupa” Arthur Henry POOLE had arrived in South Africa in 1901 as a member of the British Army sent out to fight against the Boers, the group into which “Ouma” Aletta Celina MINNAAR had been born.
However, the index to civil registration of Transvaal marriages shows they had married on 1 May 1907 in Potchefstroom, where the bride’s family lived, which made an elopement seem unlikely. Since my research also shows that they had their two oldest children baptized, I thought they had probably been married in church.
Having tentatively concluded that the family had taken part in the Great Trek in the 1830s (see earlier post), it seemed likely that they would have been members of the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk rather than one of the other two branches of the Dutch Reformed Church. According to Wikipedia, NHK “developed as an autonomous Reformed Church in South Africa during the Great Trek of Afrikaner-Boers.”
Surprisingly, the NHK church record appears to be identical in format to a civil register document. Perhaps the church clerk filled out two forms to be signed, with one to be submitted to the civil authorities and one to be filed at the church. Even in the unlikely event that a mistake had been made in identifying the documents during microfilming, two pieces of information support the conclusion that the couple was married in a religious ceremony.
The eighth column from the left is headed “Na huwelijks afkondiging of licentie” or “After wedding announcement or license.” In other words, did the couple marry after having banns read in church for three successive Sundays or did they obtain a license, which would allow them to marry sooner and/or without undue attention? The register indicates that the couple had the banns read, presumably in two different churches, since Arthur was a member of the Church of England at the time of his joining the British Army.
In addition, in the middle of the lower section of the register is the bold signature of J. F. BOTHA above the term “Predikant” or minister of religion. The option below it is “Landdrost” for a marriage performed by the equivalent of a justice of the peace.
Romantic as this marriage between two persons of such divergent cultures might have been, the register shows that the couple did not elope. However, they would have had to leave for Cape Town shortly after the wedding to board the ship that would take them to the U. K. for their honeymoon. Perhaps in the repeated telling over the years, their hasty departure was transformed into an elopement.
But an elopement might have occurred elsewhere in the MINNAAR family and will have to be considered as I find and analyze additional marriage records.
“Oupa” and “Ouma” are the Afrikaans words for “Grandpa” and “Grandma.”
Herbert Arthur POOLE, the oldest child of Arthur and Aletta, was baptized at St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Potchefstroom. The second child, Angela Letitia, was baptized at the Roberts Heights Garrison Church in Pretoria.
I’m intrigued by the signatures of the bridal couple in the lower right corner. Arthur’s signature is compact and joins the two initials of his given names as if he has little time (or patience?) to lift the pen. In contrast, Aletta’s signature sprawls using widely spaced punctuation and a break in the letters of her surname with the last letter tailing off. Might we infer from their two different styles that Oupa was a small man of tidy habits and few words while Ouma was more relaxed, outgoing and even more prepossessing physically?