Friday, February 21, 2014

Why no reference to my ancestor on NAAIRS?

Not finding a reference on NAAIRS, the SA National Archives online index, doesn’t mean the ancestor did not spend some time in South Africa. It could be that his activities didn’t generate any public records, or that his sojourn was brief and he remained invisible as far as records were concerned.

If you’re searching for a deceased estate, bear in mind that not everyone who died in South Africa had an estate file lodged with the Master of the Supreme Court. Where there are minimal assets – literally no ‘estate’ – a deceased estate file would not be opened. The death might have occurred within the last 20-30 years, in which case there would be no reference on NAAIRS: the file would be at the Master’s Office in the area where death occurred. Incidentally, there’s no legal or other obligation for the Master to send estate files to archival repositories at any stage; it’s incorrect to speak of deceased estate files being automatically ‘transferred’ to archival repositories.

The ancestor, contrary to what you or your family believe, may not have died in South Africa but moved on elsewhere or even returned to his place of origin: emigrants were extremely mobile.

The name you are looking for might not be correct: quite apart from variations in spelling names were sometimes changed completely if a person wanted to start out with a clean slate in the colonies. Do some lateral thinking - he might have used his mother’s maiden name.

If his time in the country pre-dates 1834 you won’t find a death notice for him.

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