Thursday 29 May 2008

a1b4c5d2e8f7. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

Colin Möhr recetly asked the above question on Rootsweb (South Africa). A long discussion followed. Here are some edited replies.

A while ago it was announced that approximately 800 000 South Africans emigrated over the last decade. Johann Hanekom indirectly refers to such by writing: ... and so they are becoming progenitors in their own right in their new abodes. Does it make genealogical sense to hang on to their SA coding?

Although lengthy, this articles is a must to read --
for beginners and experienced genealogists.

Richard Ball, Norfolk, England: First of all, always bear in mind that the De Villiers numbering system, which you are quoting here and which is used in the original Villiers Geslagtregister', also De Villiers/Pama revision of 1966 and the current volumes of the the South African Genealogies, still in course of publication, is a relative system, not an absolute one.

Therefore, any descendant number such as you quote above must first have

  • a family name and then
  • publication to which it refers.
It is not valid in the abstract,even though two publications may agree on the generations, you should always also quote the publication from which you are quoting the generation code.

For more information on this coding system see: The numbering system we are discussing is on that page 6 -- the de Villiers/Pama system but in a nutshell, here is how it works:

a is the progenitor or stamvader, the person who first arrived in South Africa. There may have been just one, in which case the a is not usually quoted (although the surname must always be quoted) or there may have been more than one progenitor, in which case they will be labelled a1, a2, etc.

b is the second generation (or first one born in SA -- sometimes some confusion here) and the number is the order of that particular child in the birth order. b6 is the sixth child of the progenitor.

b2c3 is the third child of the second child of the progenitor, and so on.

These numbers do not carry on to the children of female descendants which, in the De Villiers system, take their numbering from their father's family.

To illustrate what I mean when I say the code is only relevant to the publication in which it appears, take the Van Wyk family where there were 6 progenitors, including the two main early ones, where the 'Die VAN WYK-families van Suid-Afrika', compiled by the Noord-Transvaal branch of the GSSA, labels Willem van Wyk, a2 and Roelof van Wyk a1.

This is a recent revision of the family and differs from what appears in the original Geslagtregister' or 'DeVilliers/Pama' and any numbering of the generations will only be intelligible if the publication from which the code is taken is also quoted.

For instance take the following two Van Wyks:

the Roelof van Wyk who married 1727 Aletta Bezuidenhout is coded a2b1 in the DeVilliers/Pama book, but in the new revision a1b1c1;

the Willem van Wyk who married (1)1729 Johanna Campher and (2)1746 Hendrina Monk (and left many descendants) is coded a2b3 in the DeVilliers/Pama book but in the new revision a2b6.

So, unless you also have the name of the publication, you cannot identify an individual simply with a code.

Francois Greeff: Think about the kind of "roadmap" you get when you stop to ask for directions in a city:

"Take the second left
then the third right
then the second right
then the fourth left
then the seventh turning to the left again..." and so on.

Effectively, you have a set of directions that get you from one specific point in the city to another specific point.

A family tree is just a map of how the different points in a family are related to each other, and there are two different kinds of map: One for ancestors, and another for descendants. The reason for this is that the two trees, or maps, have different structures.

A map of ancestors follows a very rigid progression because each person has exactly TWO biological parents. Each ancestral map has the same structure (from the bottom upward):

128 ggggg grandparents, and so on (each generation having twice as many people as the one before)
64 gggg grandparents
32 ggg grandparents
16 great great grandparents
8 great grandparents
4 grandparents
2 parents
1 person

This structure is easily seen in an ancestral chart (Click on the link to see an example, and count the number of people in each column:

In this tree each person has a unique place AND NUMBER that defines his or her relationship to all other people in the tree. The numbers are simply: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 11, 12, 13... and so on. (See

If you click on the last link you will see that it happens that:

1. all males have even numbers (except number one, who could be female);
2. all females have odd numbers;
3. each person's father is double their own number;
4. each person's mother is double their number, plus one and
5. every wife has her husband's number plus one.

The structure of this ancestral chart (or map) is EXACTLY THE SAME FOR ALL PEOPLE. One can thus refer to the chart and say that numbers 1, 3, 8, and 9 attended the funeral of number 19 and any person in the world could see that the person whose tree it is (1) and his mother (3) and his paternal grandfather's parents (8 & 9) went to the funeral of number one's father's father's mother's mother. Using the numbers to refer to people is clearly much simpler than "number one's father's father's mother's mother", especially when one gets to a huge tree of ten or twenty generations.

Second and third wives and husbands NEVER enter into this kind of ANCESTRAL TREE for the simple reason that the tree lists ONLY the ancestors of number one, and no one can have two or more biological mothers.

Now we can look at a map of descendants.

Descendant's trees (or maps of family relationships) are far more difficult, simply because each set of parents has a different number of children, and different marriages.

In this system we have two separate counters:

  • One counter for each generation (a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j and so on) and
  • Another counter for the number of children in THAT family (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc).

In this system ONLY BLOOD RELATIVES ARE GIVEN NUMBERS, and by that I mean blood relatives of the one person whose descendants we are describing.

The DESCENDANT'S CHART also starts with ONE PERSON, who is coded a, because a is the first generation in the tree. It is a common mistake to put the progenitor (or starting person in the tree) down as a1, because that means that he was his parents' first, or oldest, child. If he is known to be the fourth child, then he should be a4.

So a has two wives, who have NO NUMBER in this system. a has four children by his first wife, and three by his second wife. All of a's children are the second generation in the tree, so they are generation b, and in addition to that they are numbered in order of birth: b1, b2, b3, b4, b5, b6, b7.

It is obvious that b5 is the fifth child of a. Now b5 has five children, who are generation c in this tree. They are c1, c2, c3, c4, c5.

A problem arises immediately, because b7 also has children, six of them, and in this tree they are also the third generation, thus c. They are ALSO c1, c2, c3, c4, c5, c6.

In order to tell all the c generation children apart we look at who their parents and grandparents were, and renumber them:

ab5c1, ab5c2, ab5c3, ab5c4, ab5c5 and
ab7c1, ab7c2, ab7c3, ab7c4, ab7c5, ab7c6.

Now each person has a unique number.

That unique number also maps out each person's PLACE IN THE TREE (or place on this family map).

Returning to the example you asked about in the first place, "a1b4c5d2e8f7", you can begin to see that this long number is:

  • A specific person in a tree and
  • A set of directions that define his relationship to all the other people in that tree.

Do you remember the set of directions above you got to travel across the city? "Take the second left, then the third right then the seventh turning to the left again..." and so on.

"a1b4c5d2e8f7" is also such a set of directions for you to navigate in a family tree (or a map of the family). In fact, an abbreviation of a set of directions. Let us break "a1b4c5d2e8f7" up and look at what "a1b4c5d2e8f7" means.

  • a1 is the main person around whom the entire tree is built, a because he is the first generation, and 1 because he is the first child of his parents.
  • b4 is the fourth child of a1
  • c5 is the fifth child of b4
  • d2 is the second child of c5
  • e8 is the eighth child of d2 and
  • f7 is the seventh child of e8.

This system was invented by the late de Villiers to describe SOUTH AFRICAN FAMILIES. De Villiers, consequently, made an exception of person a, because he was studying a very specific group of first generation people. All of his first generation people were THE FIRST MAN OF A FAMILY TO ARRIVE IN SOUTH AFRICA -- the progenitor of his clan in South Africa.

Very soon de Villiers ran into a new problem, of which my clan happens to be a good example:

  • Matthias Greeff arrived at the Cape in 1680;
  • Peter Greeff arrived at the Cape in 1734 and
  • Friedrich Greeff arrived at the Cape around 1775.

So now we have THREE progenitors of "the Greeff family" in South Africa.

De Villiers solved the problem by making an exception of the number that follows:

a: Given that he had three Greeff progenitors he numbered them a1, a2, and a3.

Consequently the numbers behind a DO NOT mean that that person was the first, second or third child of his parents, but it means that he was the first, second, or third person of that surname to arrive in South Africa.

In the De Villiers numbering system the number following a is thus NOT a mistake, because it still refers to the first, second or third person (or progenitor - "stamvader") to arrive in South Africa.

For the sake of simplicity I have not covered some of the other exceptions in the system, nor all the finer details.

Johan Hanekom: It is a valid point about always quoting the publication from which the code for an individual is taken -- but lately it has became apparent that the REVISION of that publication also needs to be considered, as revisions correct errors and omissions from previous revisions. If I do my job on our family tree well, I am afraid that the next revision of SAG Vol3 is going to be very interesting to see.

My interest in the Hanekom family tree ( goes way beyond the South African progenitor, and I am sure that goes for a lot of researchers here too. Unfortunately that makes a bit of a nonsense of the coding.

Richard Ball: Oh yes, certainly -- not only the publication but its edition, too. The coding is only meaningful in the context of its exact publication.

Johan said: “My interest in the Hanekom family tree ( goes way beyond the South African progenitor, and I am sure that goes for a lot of researchers here too”.

I presume you mean you are interested in the the progenitor's ancestry? This is seemingly a modern concept. It seems the earlier researchers had little interest in the European or other antecedents of the stamvaders.

Johan also said: “Unfortunately that makes a bit of a nonsense of the coding”.

The De Villiers coding seems firmly established for the main South African genealogical publications. I have seen a variation that goes backward from the progenitor using upper case letters B1.C2 etc, but you are, of course, at liberty to use your own for any publication you produce.

Johan Hanekom: I think I am not unique in finding that more and more originally South African family names are no longer purely South African family names, but becoming international. In my research into the Hanekom family I find a lot of members now living in the UK, USA, Saudi Arabia, Namibia, New Zealand, Australia, and even one (my son) back in Germany, close to where our SA progenitor came from originally. And so they are becoming progenitors in their own right in their new abodes. Does it make genealogical sense to hang on to their SA coding? I don't know.

With the excellent charting and reports now available I personally find it easier to use a pedigree chart to display and track the ancestry of a given person, than trying to implement a numbering system that keeps changing.

Now let me throw a second stone in the water. At the risk of offending researchers who publish their family histories, I would posit that genealogical books don't generate a lot of royalties for the author, and that e-books containing the anecdotal history of the family, with a searchable family tree, would be a worthwhile consideration. It would be cheaper for the author to publish, easier to update, and of much more value to genealogical researchers -and save a few more trees in the process.

Richard Ball: Villiers, however, if indeed he devised the system (his incomplete work was edited and prepared for publication by G.M.Theal), was not designing a database but a system which would help a reader to locate the various generations in a long printed list, similar to such systems as used by most genealoly programs. If you look at the original books that G.M.Theal produced from De Villiers's data, you will see the logic for

1. the printed page
2. 5 or 6 generations
and part of this original system was the use of specific indentation for each generation, as below, making it relatively easy to run one's eye down the page, concentrating on one generation. (Dots inserted for the sake of neat typing.)

This was the purpose of the system.

Saturday 24 May 2008


Twee Senators, ‘n Kabinetminister en
die Argitek van die Voortrekkermonument

Deur Lucas Rinken

Op Maandag 19 Mei 2008, het gesiene genealoog Johan VERMEULEN aan die e-poslys van SAGen geskryf en besonderhede gevra oor Senator HF de WET en sy vrou, ouers van Emmerentia Roelofviena Petrocina de WET wie getroud was met Senator Marthinus Joachim VERMEULEN.

Dit het my op ‘n wonderlike soektog geplaas wat my groot genot verskaf het.

Senator Hendrik Francois de WET (a1b1c2d5e4f3g9), gebore 20.4.1860 en gedoop op Aliwal-Noord op 12.8.1860, was 24 jaar oud toe hy op 31.3.1884 op Rouxville getroud is met Hester Catharina Johanna ODENDAAL, gebore 20.8.1863 -- die dogter van Michiel Wilhelmus ODENDAAL en Amerentia Roedolphina Petrusina BOTHA.

Hulle het sewe kinders gehad waarvan die oudste, soos reeds genoem, en gebore op 8.5.1885 in 1912 trou met Senator Marthinus Joachim VERMEULEN gebore op Sutherland op 28.3.1881 en ook daar gedoop op 23.4.1881.

Marthinus was 'n prokureur op Lindley. Hy het sy onderrig aan die SA Kollege, Kaapstad ontvang. Hy was lid van die Provinsiale Raad vir Heilbron en Voorsitter van die Vrystaatse Provinsiale Raad vanaf 1915 tot 1929. Hy was ‘n klompie jare lank -- vanaf 1929 -- 'n Senator in die Unie van Suid-Afrika Regering. Hy was ook lid van die Hoofbestuur van die Vrystaatse Helpmekaar. Verder was hy ook burgemeester van Lindley.

Hulle het 6 ses kinders gehad. Die derde een was Adv. Marthinus Joachim VERMEULEN gebore 29.12.1916 en gedoop op Lindley op 25.2.1917. Hy trou in Pretoria op 14.12.1914 met Dr. Irma Leonora MOERDIJK, gebore inPretoria op 6.9.1923. Sy was 'n argitek en skrywer en die houer van van 'n doktorsgraad -- PhD in Stads- en Streeksbeplanning. Sy was ook die dogter van die beroemde argitek Gerard MOERDIJK. Hy het onder meer die Voortrekkermonument in Pretoria ontwerp asook tientalle kerke, bankkantore, kantoor- en ander geboue.

Dr Irma MOERDIJK het vanaf 1948 as argitek by verskeie genootskappe gepraktiseer en was ook as argitek in diens van die Bloemfonteinse munisipaliteit. Irma het verskeie boeke geskryf, onder meer 'n boek oor haar beroemde vader. Dit heet: "Man en Monument - Die Lewe en Werke van Gerard MOERDIJK ".

Maar daar eindig die interesante familie-verbintenisse nie.

Dr. (Eregraad) Gerard Leendert Pieter MOERDIJK is gebore op 4.3.1890 in Nylstroom. Hy is waarskynlik die bekendste Afrikaanse argitek. Tientalle Afrikaanse Kerke is deur hom ontwerp en aangepas om by die behoeftes van ons Afrikaanse eredienste aan te pas. Hy het ook veral aandag gegee aan die akoestiek in die kerke. Hy het verskeie kompetisies vir die ontwerp van geboue gewen -- die belangrikste, dié van die Voortrekkermonument.

Maar wie was sy vrou?

Sylvia PIROW (b3) gebore 7.9.1896 is in 1918 met hom getroud. Sy was die dogter van Dr. Carl Bernhardt Ferdinand PIROW wie in 1889 uit Ludwigslust, Oos-Pruise hier aangekom het, getroud met Henriette Jasmine Marine TOMBY.

Hulle het drie kinders gehad -- die oudste, Adv. Oswald PIROW (links) gebore 14.8.1890 in Aberdeen en getroud met Elsé PIEL.

Hy was ‘n Minister in Genl. JBM Hertzog se Kabinet.

Na sy studies in Duitsland en Engeland, het hy in Suid Afrika tot die Balie toegetree. In 1924 was hy verkies tot die Parlement waar sy dryfkrag en entoesiame hom die poste van Minister van Justisie en van Verdediging onder Gen. JBM Hertzog besorg het.

Terwyl hy baie gedoen het om militêre bekwaamheid te verbeter, het sy beweerde Duitse gesindheid en veral sy besoek aan Adolf Hitler, baie kritiek uitgelok.

Hy het ook boeke geskryf oor die Bantoe-lewe en oor die lewe van Generaal Hertzog. Hy is in 1939 oorlede.

Friday 23 May 2008


By Kimberly Powell -, Genealogy Guide (5 May 2008)

A recent letter issued by the Vatican Congregation for Clergy directs Roman Catholic dioceses worldwide to keep The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from "microfilming and digitizing information" contained in Catholic sacramental registers, according to a report in the Catholic News Service. The reason give for the move is to prevent LDS Church members from using the records to posthumously baptize Catholic ancestors by proxy.

The Vatican directive says the purpose of the policy is to:

"... ensure that such a detrimental practice is not permitted in [each bishop's] territory, due to the confidentiality of the faithful and so as not to cooperate with the erroneous practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

One of the core tenets of Mormon faith is that the dead can be baptized into the Church to offer them the opportunity to accept the faith in an afterlife and achieve salvation.

Thursday 15 May 2008


Legacy 7 Charting is 'n towenaar. Dit het pragfunksies waarmee mooi familiekaartekaarte gemaak kan word. Hieronder is 'n voorbeeld van een uit 'n klompie keuses wat dit bied. Klik daarop om dit te vergroot.

Dié program sal deel van die nuwe Legacy 7-weergawe wees wat eersdaags vrygestel word. Intussen is dit op 'n proefgrondslag (reklamemiddel) gratis aan Legacy-gebruikers beskikbaar gestel.

Die program is betreklik maklik om te gebruik. 'n Nuweling sal die funksies gou bemeester. "Gebruik net jou 'common sense'", het my pa gesê. "Lees net behoorlik wat daar staan," het my ma gesê. Uiteraard moet die data en foto's op Legacy ingevoer wees.

Meegaande (klik op die kaart om dit te vergroot) is gemaak as 'n geskenk aan 'n ouerpaar wie se baba, Heston Fox Ferreira (*27 Februarie 2008) gedoop is. Nadat dit gedruk is, beslaan dit 3 x 4 A4-grootte bladsye.

Die sukses hiervan was dat die 30 foto's van die baba se onmiddellike vier voorgeslagte almal opgespoor is. Dit is van pa en ma tot by die sestien grootoupagrootjies en grootoumagrootjies.

Met die saamstel hiervan het 'n klompie belangrike (ou) lesse weer na vore getree.

Legacy word wyd in genealogiese kringe gebruik. Hoewel Legacy nie in almal se smaak vir datavaslegging is nie, bly dit die moeite werd om nuwe ontwikkelings dop te hou.

Les: Benut 'n nuwe, erkende program, veral as hy gratis is.

Dié soektog na die foto's het drie maande geduur. Eintlik was dit nie 'n soektog nie. Dis hoe lank dit geneem het om almal so ver te kry om die foto's beskikbaar te maak. Die meeste data is oor dieselfde tydperk gevind, maar nie alles nie. Hopelik sal dit mettertyd kom. Dan druk ons die kaart weer en vervang die een in die raam.

Les: Moenie ophou vra en soek nie, jou kanse word al beter om te kry wat jy benodig.Buiten die "stamboom" kan 'n mens met Legacy 7 Charting bykomende foto's/prente en skrif insluit. Gevolglik is vier pragfoto's op die kaart aangebring:
  • Een van die ma, Erika Fourie, enkele minute voor die geboorte;
  • Pa Dawson en oupa Heston John Grewar enkele dae na die geboorte.
  • Oupa Heston en sy nageslag op die dag van die doop en
  • Oom Ruhan (15) wat klein Heston op die doopdag die kerk ingebring het.
  • 'n Afdruk van die baba se voetjies pas na sy geboorte is ook ingesluit.
Les: Neem foto's van goeie en unieke oomblikke. Ordentlike foto's.Oupa Heston het in 'n stadium opgemerk dat hy die enigste oorlewende is wat die mense op sekere foto's kon uitken. Só was dit ook met ander foto's. Die foto's is daar, maar daar is niks wat aandui wie daarop verskyn nie.

Les: Doen jou nageslag 'n yslike guns en dokumeteer jou foto's voor dit te laat is.
Voor die samestelling van die kaart is heelwat tyd aan die restorering van die foto's bestee. Dit is tydrowend, maar die moeite werd. Al 31 foto's is gekrop sodat net die gesigte wys. Almal is ook ewe groot gemaak -- 6" x 4". Al
die foto's van oupas/ouma en ouer is 'n bruinskakering gegee om dit 'n ouer voorkoms te gee.

Les: Doen moeite met jou foto's. Kry 'n geskikte rekenaarprogram. Daar is heelwat.

Die ander oupa, Johan Fourie, het 'n pragskets van 'n jakkals gemaak, omdat die baba se een doopnaam "Fox" is -- uitsonderlik, maar dit het 'n stukkie geskiedenis wat nie hier ter sprake is nie. In die baba se familie is daar drie joernaliste. Hulle het die skryfwerk gedoen. Kort stukkies, maar goed gedoen. 'n Tante het met die kleure en 'n vriend het met die komposisie gehelp.

Les: Benut jou familie (en vriende) se talente.
Klein Heston se ouers sal dié kaart -- geraam -- as 'n geskenk op sy doopdag kry, maar dis nie goed genoeg nie. Die foto's is. Hulle sal ook 'n volledige stel (behoorlik gedokumenteer) daarvan op CD kry om vir hul kinders te bewaar. Dís mos spesiaal om te hê. Dink net hoe danig dié kleinman daaroor sal wees as hy verstand gekry het.

Plaaslik kos dit R3 om 'n poskaart-grootte foto af te druk. Ander pryse is: 6" x 8" = R12; 8" x 10"= R30 en 8"x 12" = R35.

Terloops: die druk van die kaart het R30 gekos -- by 'n plek wat argiteksplanne druk.

Les: Bewaar die ware Jakob as jy dit het.

Ongelukkig het die program ook 'n paar tekortkominge. Dit sluit in die gebrek aan 'n volledige "grid" om die plasing van bykomende foto's en skrif te vergemaklik en 'n gesukkel om foto's te vervang. (Altemit het ek nie behoorlik gelees nie.) 'n Funksie om die eerste geslag (die baba) se foto te vergroot, is ook wenslik. So ook om die foto's van almal in die laaste (jongste) geslag in te sluit. Origens is dit 'n pragprogram. -- Japie Bosch, Jeffreysbaai.

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