Serendipity & Generosity: Solution to MINNAAR Puzzle

I am a descendant of a younger brother of Hendrik Minnaar, Pieter Frederik Minnaar (1865 – 1923). How can I contact you to share some information? — Scott Kotzé

Could a genealogist hear more thrilling words! In a number of previous posts I’ve chronicled the frustratingly slow process of searching for the ancestors of Hendrik Nicolaas MINNAAR, my husband’s great-grandfather. Hendrik lived and died in South Africa, and we live in San Francisco, which means that my research in that far-off country must be done using hired researchers, rented microfilms shipped from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and whatever bits of data I can find online. Each small piece of the puzzle feels hard won.

Genealogists halfway around the world have contributed pieces to the puzzle of the MINNAAR family tree. Image courtesy of 89studio at

Genealogists in South Africa have helped to solve
the puzzle of the MINNAAR family tree.
Image courtesy of 89studio at

But, once in a while, serendipity takes over, and the generosity of genealogists halfway around the world gives my research a large boost in a short time. The information that Scott shared with me added so many colorful pieces to the puzzle of the MINNAAR tree that I can now trace Hendrik’s line back to his French Huguenot stamouer (progenitor) Philippe MESNARD in 1688. I will write about his lineage — and the research that remains to be done — in a later post. For now, let’s consider the chain of events that led to Scott.

  1. After Hendrik’s death in 1903, his family placed a stone on his grave in the main cemetery in Potchefstroom. Despite the stone’s current horizontal position, it is not chipped and the inscription is still clear.
  2. Volunteers for the National Cemetery Recording Project took a photograph of the stone, which the project’s sponsor, the Genealogical Society of South Africa, published on its website.
  3. In November, I wrote a post about the gravestone and e-mailed a request to Richard BALL for permission to use the photo. I no longer remember why I chose his name since he’s not the person listed on the site as the coordinator for the project. (Sending my request to the coordinator may well have had the same result, but one never knows.) In the e-mail I expressed gratitude for the ongoing work of the cemetery volunteers and, at the last minute, included a brief summary of my efforts to find Hendrik’s parents.
  4. Richard lives in Norfolk, England, but a few days later he published an excerpt from my e-mail on the GSSA site and included a link to my blog. Yet again, the Internet truly connects us; think how long the editorial process would have taken 20 years ago.
  5. Recently, Scott saw the excerpt and left his comment on my blog. Once we made contact, not only did he send me the MINNAAR tree with details taken from a variety of sources, he translated the sections written in Afrikaans and generously shared photos and stories of his own family lines — all while working full time and writing a book on his KOTZÉ forebears!

This chain of events makes me think of the old saying that begins “For want of a nail the shoe was lost…” and ends with the loss of the kingdom. If any one of the persons in the above sequence had not taken action, a kingdom would not have been lost, but I would still be inching along in my research, perhaps for years. Baie danke to everyone for their help!

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4 Responses to Serendipity & Generosity: Solution to MINNAAR Puzzle

  1. Pingback: b5c2d3e3f1g4: Hendrik Nicolaas MINNAAR (1855 – 1903) | QUESNELL & POOLE Families in South Africa

  2. Pingback: It Takes A Global Village | QUESNELL & POOLE Families in South Africa

  3. Phillip says:

    I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, but
    great topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.
    Thanks for magnificent information I was looking for this info for my mission.

    • Mary Beth says:

      Thank you, Phillip. I’m glad to have been of help with your “mission” and would like to hear more about it.

      As for where I get my information, I have received MINNAAR family trees compiled by a couple of people. If I don’t mention the compilers specifically in a post, it is because I always verify what is sent to me by looking at original records or microfilmed copies of original documents, usually rented from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. When I find records that support the vital information found in un-sourced family trees and post about my findings in the blog, I add source information such as the FHL microfilm number, the title of a reference book, etc. Sometimes the details of the source are in the Research Notes that appear at the end of the post. I am always happy to provide specific source details to anyone who asks.

      You say that you have to spend some time “learning more.” I have been doing genealogy non-stop and nearly full-time since February 2005 and find that one must always keep learning, by reading, attending seminars and webinars on a wide variety of topics, including online search methods, and talking to more experienced researchers. I’m immersed in the Great Trek now and could probably spend the rest of my life reading about it and the settlement of the Afrikaners in Natal and the Transvaal. I also love solving mysteries and genealogical research provides plenty of those.

      Good luck with your research.

      Mary Beth

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