Revised De Villiers/Pama Code: H. N. MINNAAR (1855 – 1903)

Genealogists are often cautioned to consider information that lacks a source citation as a clue and not a proven fact. The De Villiers/Pama System for coding the male-line ancestry of South African families should be viewed in the same light.

The system is usually applied to descendants of men who arrived in the country early in its history, e.g. at the Cape of Good Hope as employees of the Dutch East India Company. It assigns a letter to each generation, starting with “a” for the stamouer or first person of the line to have arrived. Within a generation, each child is assigned a number based on birth order; for instance, the first child in the second generation would be b1, the fourth child in the third generation would be c4.

The underlying assumption of this system is that all of the children in each generation are known and accounted for, which is not always true, especially if a family has not been extensively researched or if vital records are missing for one or more children.

That was certainly the case for my husband’s great-grandfather Hendrik Nicolaas MINNAAR, whose code is shown as b5c2d3e3f1g4 in some family trees. However, it quickly became apparent that his birth-order number was incorrect. More research needed to be done to establish his position in the seventh generation of the MINNAAR family. (For details, refer to the original post on this topic.)

The following is a summary of the steps I took to establish the correct code. (For further details about the two sets of children mentioned below and the sources used, refer to the posts for 9 Jun 2013 and 16 Jun 2013.)

1) Voortrekkerstamouers: 1835 – 1845 showed that Hendrik’s father, Philippus Andries MINNAAR, was married twice, although no children are named in this reference work.

2) Genealogieë van die Afrikaner Families in Natal gave the names and birth dates for the three children (g1, g2, and g3) born to Philippus’s first marriage to Anna Christina MARÉ and for the two oldest children of his second marriage to Helena Dorothea STEYN (Petronella Helena, g4, and Johannes Christoffel, g5).

3) Helena Dorothea’s Death Notice listed nine of her ten children in what appears to be chronological order starting with Johannes Christoffel. (Petronella Helena is not listed, which indicates that she had died some years earlier.) Martha (MINNAAR) LOMBARD and Stephanus Izaak are also listed before Hendrik Nicolaas and were presumably born before he was.

4) Church baptism records verified a birth year of 1853 for Stephanus. However, several searches in the film did not uncover a record for Martha.

5) A name search on the site of The Genealogical Society of South Africa found a photo of the gravestone of Martha Susanna LOMBARD which listed 69 as her age at the time of her death on 3 Sep 1919, making her birth year about 1850. Even if the age was off by a couple of years, it still confirmed to my satisfaction that Martha was older than Stephanus.

6) Recalculation of Hendrik’s birth-order number: Philippus’s three children from his first marriage are codes g1 – g3. The four oldest children from his second marriage are codes g4 – g7. Hendrik is the fifth child of his second marriage, which makes his code g8. Pending further research, his full code is therefore b5c2d3e3f1g8.

Finding incorrect information is a good thing. It spurs me on to do additional research.

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3 Responses to Revised De Villiers/Pama Code: H. N. MINNAAR (1855 – 1903)

  1. Pingback: b5c2d3e3f1g?: Hendrik Nicolaas MINNAAR (1855 – 1903) | QUESNELL & POOLE Families in South Africa

  2. BetsC says:

    In doing genealogy i accumulate data points . . . no one of them assumed to be correct . . . and i keep accumulating . . . and then chip away the stuff that seems not quite right . . . (i still find that stuff useful, usually . . . sometimes i end up on a wild goose chase, for a while) . . . . It’s like a straw stack (did you get to slide down those as a kid? we did in Missouri), lots of little pieces, for a while . . . then it’s more like sculpture . . . . you chip off the stuff that’s not supposed to be there . . . sometimes you end up with kinda a shadowy, ragged outline, but still a figure of a person . . . . i think that’s why it’s fun . . . for the most part, no one piece of documentation is conclusive . . . (mistakes show up in everything). – b

    • Mary Beth says:

      What a good description of the often messy research and analysis process! Those who expect genealogy to be clear-cut and can’t abide the feathers and chips and dust miss out on a lot of fun.

      Mary Beth

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