The Anatomy of a South African Family


The question that is probably most frequently asked to me is “where do you come from?”, or “in which country were you born?”

For some reason most people are surprised to hear that not only was I born in South Africa as were both of my parents. This is normally greeted with surprise, but you sound as if you come from England.

In fact the first relative that has been traced in South Africa is Francois Joseph Moser, my Great, great, great grandfather on the maternal side of my father’s family.  He was born in  Ribeauville, France on 9 November 1833. He left France in 1853 for Germany where he joined the British German Legion to fight in the Crimean War.

When the regiment as disbanded he volunteered as a military settler on the British Kaffraria border where left for the Buffalo Bay (East London) during November  1856 and arriving in February, 1857. Between 9 & 24 November 1856 seven ships set sail for South Africa viz; Sultana, Culloden, Stamboul, Abyssinian, Vulcan, Mersey and Coventer. Moser is recorded as embarking but the specific ship is unknown.

In line with all military settlers Francois Moser was allocated a plat of land to build a house and farm in return for seven years military service on the Border when necessary.  The Moser property was in Wiesbaden, later King Williamstown where a “stone cottage” was built that by the Mosers that in 1981 was declared a National Monument.

Francois Moser, officially, married Emily Blank in Berlin, Eastern Cape in 1876, she was born in St. Albans in England on 18 August 1853, no indication of an unofficial marriage is recorded

According to my records the first member of the family born in South Africa was their first son, George born on 2 February 1870

Vilhelm (William) Christian Nielsen. my Great, grandfather on the maternal side of my mother’s family was born in Kjobenhaven on 17 November 1853 and emigrated to South Africa on board the Pedrazda.

William Nielsen arrived in South Africa and first settled in the Kimberly Diamond Fields before settling on the Witwatersrand Gold Fields. In 1913 he was awarded a certificate for his contribution to the Goldfields since 1888 having been a recognises as a Rand Pioneer in a certificate presented in 1913.

My first records of the Howes family show that my Grandfather, Edward was born in         King Williamstown in 1889, the family then followed the development to the Witwatersrand where the family all settled.

John Arthur Hatch, my grandfather was born in Wilsdon, Yorkshire, England on 14 October 1892 and together with his parents and siblings left the poverty stricken coalfields of Yorkshire for the new Goldfields of South Africa.

The records of the Hatch and Howes family in South Africa remain very sparse at present, indicating that they do not appear to have been researched, this commitment I have undertaken to perform.

After almost twenty years of the new South African democracy I had hoped that we would have developed into a growing nation of opportunity where everyone is be looking for the opportunity to progress and create wealth for all.  Regrettably still too many people expect handouts, believe that they are entitled to start at the top and receive wealth and power without sweat and effort.

My ancestors including my grandparents had little because of poverty, they had limited education and struggled to get jobs, including bringing up large families during the depression. The one thing that they all had in common was determination to succeed in their country of adoption and to provide their children with the best education that they could afford, in most cases it was a moderate education but it provided the stepping stone to the future.

Whatever success that the various arms of the family have achieved has been through making the best use of the opportunities we had and not from a background of unbridled privilege.

Clive Hatch

About Clive Hatch

Clive Hatch is a political commentator and opinionist. He is a former Member and Leader of the Opposition in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature. After matriculating from Jeppe High School for Boys in 1967 Clive Hatch has lived, worked and been involved in the Emalahleni (Witbank) community.

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