Johannesburg Branch - Home Page

The Johannesburg Branch of the GSSA serves family history researchers in the central Johannesburg area with a high interest in overseas research and strong ties to the arrivals of  the 1820 Settlers’ the  O’Byrne Settlers (Natal); German Settlers; Swedish Norwegian and Dutch Settlers and lastly but by no means least, the Scottish Missionary Society. Front Page Logo
Our members’ interests all vary, with several people just getting started with research in SA trying to get to that point where they can start on the origin of their settlers overseas. The goal is a common one - to get as far back as possible; to make sure our information is correct; keep our histories secure and confirm or disprove family legends.
Our branch members’ level of experience varies considerably with several people just getting started with research in SA and trying enthusiastically to get to that point where they can start on the origin of their ancestors and in many cases, begin using overseas records. Others are well experienced researchers with many years of genealogical triumphs or disasters under their belts. Regardless of your level of experience, join us and we will get you on the right track to pursue your genealogical journey. Our main goal this year though, is through various activities and courses, to teach the public about this fascinating science and more importantly to encourage members to publish their work through Familia - the ideal avenue for such work.
Calendar: The 2021 calendar promises interesting talks, including an organized visit to the Holocaust Museum as well as a refresher course on using FamilySearh. We also have a two part training course starting in May.  This year four meetings will be held at the Church Hall, the other meetings will be held at outside venues, so keep in touch or download our Calendar. Meetings begin at 2.30pm on the 3rd Saturday monthly at St Columba’s Church Hall, Parkview (secure parking) finishing off with tea and cake and plenty of discussion about genealogical research.  If you are interested in attending any of our functions, let us know through the Contacts page.
Publication: The Branch Newsletter Tree Topics is published and circulated monthly followed by a flyer before each event. We recently introduced a feature called ‘Challenge of the Month’ in which members are invited to join a collaborative email group for submission of their research problem for discussion and assistance. We hope to showcase our first in the next issue.
Projects: This year we have planned for a Cemetery Recording to take place in October. The more interest and participation we have in recording, the better. On a more personal side, Doreen Piner who has been a Committee member for a number of years is continuing with her work on the Voter’s Roll which she does through the N. Tvl Branch.
Library: The branch Library includes a complete set of Indexes to Estate Files for each Archives depot; various Publications on Family Histories; Guides to Genealogical Research; Cemetery Recordings; CDs etc., Appointments to make use of the library are easily arranged.
Our Roots: We take this opportunity to remember former Committees through whose enthusiasm our predecessor, ‘The Southern Transvaal Branch of the GSSA’ was founded on 19th January 1988 by Chairman Con Roeloffze, Vice Chairman Robert Laing, Secretary Valda Napier as well as Willem Hefer, Frik van Rensburg, Hans Hatecke, Bill Olivier and Shirley Roeloffze.  By April 1990 under the Chairmanship of Conrod Mercer we introduced the ‘Genealogist of the Year Award’, now run by the National Executive Council. Another achievement was the Cemetery Recording Project initiated by the Late Peter Holden, which aims at recording every headstone throughout South Africa, a project which became so large it was taken over by the NEC.
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Visit to Jewish Roots in Belarus

Stan Close who will be telling us about his visit last year to Belarus in search of his Jewish Roots. This promises to be a very interesting meeting and has raised my interest me so much that when I realised how little I knew about the Jews in South Africa.
“I was born in Bulawayo in (then) Rhodesia, attended primary school in Bulawayo and Ndola, and senior school in Johannesburg.
Stanley John Close married Edith Close (yes – maiden name Close) on 12 December 1970 in Graaff Reinet. The fact that the couple shared the same surname begged the obvious question whether the two Close families were related in any way. And so Stan's genealogical research began. Back in the seventies this was not easy as the internet wasn't around, most other family members were luke warm on the subject, and all charts and family trees had to be done by hand. Stan's research dribbled along until 2015, when some new information on the Jewish side of the family came to hand, and he decided to revive his research work, on the Jewish line as well as the two Close lines.
The Jewish line : Stan's grandfather, Alan Robert Close, married a young Jewish lady, Lilian Sylvia Rosenberg in (then) Salisbury on 23 July 1919. Lily was the daughter of a Russian Jewish couple, Coppel and Mathilda (née Mechanik) Rosenberg, who had emigrated from two small villages in then Russia, now Belarus, to settle in Bulawayo, Rhodesia. This part of the research concerns the origins of the Jewish family in Belarus, the passage of the Rosenbergs from Belarus to Bulawayo, their lives in Bulawayo, and follow up on Rosenberg descendants in South Africa, England and the USA.
In August 2015, together with a local genealogist/ guide, Stan and his cousin Paul Tomlinson (Paul's mother was my grandmother Lily Rosenberg's sister) visited Vilnius in Lithuania and the towns of Vashiliski, Zheludok and Scuchin in Belarus – where our Jewish family originated - to uncover as much information as possible regarding the original Jewish family (ies) who had lived there, and also to expose ourselves first hand to the typical way of life in these small Belarusian villages.

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The Shaw Presentation

George Shaw gave a fascinating insight into his 40 year's research into his family history to the Johannesburg Branch of the GSSA for their April 2016 meeting. George's approach to genealogy is not just lists of names, places and dates. Rather it is to collect documents and photographs and other items from the period, making up a detailed story of what was going on at the time
Click here to read the article

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May Meeting

The meeting gave an opportunity for members to tell about their recent discoveries, each giving a short presentation. 11 Members briefly shared their experiences during their research. Marion Hofmeyr remembered her grandmother and showed a certificate authorising her grandmother to teach weaving. Also she showed some of her grandmother's later crochet work as well as small bust of her grandmother. Warren Cassidy discussed some of his Cassidy relatives, one of whom was South African-born doctor who was the physician to King George V. Also he showed how he was related to the Spencer family.
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The Bible Project

The Johannesburg Branch got involved in the Bible Restoration Project following a talk on Radio Today specifically about the Bibles which were looted during the Anglo-Boer War, in the time of Vicky HeunisKitchener's Scorched Earth policy. Elria Wessels of the War Museum, in Bloemfontein explained that it was through the tireless insistence of The Quakers or the Society of Friends that many looted bibles made their way back to this country.
The Johannesburg Branch took up the challenge to raise funds and become directly involved in the Bible Restoration Project run by the War Museum, Bloemfontein.
Bible records are a PRIMARY source for genealogical research - do you have an old Family Bible – or know of someone who has one? GET IN TOUCH with a member of the GSSA- they know what to do!! Vicky Heunis holding the Bible we chose to be restored with funds donated by the Joburg Branch of the GSSA.

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