South African Genealogy Archives Using MyHeritage - Legacy Tree (2024)

Have you started your South African Genealogy and feel overwhelmed? We’ll show you how MyHeritage can help you discover your ancestors and trace global lineages. Continue reading!

South African Genealogy Archives Using MyHeritage - Legacy Tree (1)

South Africa’s rich historical tapestry is woven with diverse cultures, pivotal events, and ancestral stories waiting to be discovered. The country’s archival heritage stretches back to its colonial origins, capturing the intricate interactions between indigenous populations, Dutch and Huguenot settlers, British pioneers, and subsequent waves of immigrants. Within the corridors of South Africa’s archives lies a treasure trove of documents that illuminate this past and our ancestors’ place within it.

South African Genealogy Archives Using MyHeritage - Legacy Tree (2)While journeying to these archives can be a rewarding endeavor for onsite researchers, practical constraints often make this a challenging feat. Fortunately, modern technology provides alternative paths for genealogists to explore their South African roots and their global heritage. In this article, we’ll delve into the significance of onsite research and unveil how MyHeritage is revolutionizing the way we trace our ancestry across borders. We’ll also underline how a harmonious blend of traditional and digital approaches is key to successfully tracing our South African ancestors.

Essential South African Genealogy Record Types

Death Notices and Estate Files

Death Notices stand as a cornerstone for South African research, tracing back to their inception in 1834. These notices often weave together details of three generations within a family—parents, spouse, and children. While not every individual has one, they should always be sought. The dates available online through the National Archives site and others vary by province, but generally end by about 1958. Later years must be searched for onsite.

Access these through the National Archives and Records Service, Cape Town or the sister site in Pretoria.

Civil Registration

Distinguishing themselves from death notices, death certificates provide more limited information, primarily centering around the cause of death. Marriages and births, on the other hand, are rich sources of data for genealogists. Though some records are accessible online, delving into the pre-1910 period often necessitates visiting archives within the relevant province where the event occurred.

Church Records

Initially settled by staunch protestants, the Dutch Reformed Church registers date from as early as 1660. They are housed in both the Cape Town Archives and the Stellenbosch Archives, and some, but not all are available online. When the British began to arrive in 1820, they brought with them not just the Anglican religion but also Presbyterianism and Methodism. MyHeritage’s extensive collection of these church records, coupled with its efficient record matching algorithm, significantly streamlines the search process.

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Passenger Lists and Immigration Documents

South Africa saw almost a constant influx of immigrants from the early 1700s on. First Dutch, German, and Huguenot, the British were not far behind. Records of these immigrations can sometimes be found in the country of origin, as is often the case with passenger lists, but the South African Colonial Office also holds an extensive collection of immigration documents including permits to both remain and leave, naturalization, and farm registrations. These are almost all available only onsite.

Slave Registers

South Africa’s history also bears the scars of forced immigration and slavery. Enslaved individuals, originating from the East Indies and other regions, are chronicled in slave registers primarily housed in Cape archives and the British National Archives Colonial series.

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Newspapers and periodicals serve as windows into the past, capturing everyday events, community happenings, and personal stories. These sources can illuminate ancestors’ lives beyond official documents. Throughout regional repositories lie collections of newspapers, some in partial states of digitization.

Land and Property Records

Land and property records are invaluable resources for tracing South African genealogy, particularly for Afrikanners. These records provide a unique glimpse into the lives of our forebears, often revealing details about their economic and social standing. The Deeds Offices scattered across the country house deeds, cadastral maps, and related documents.

Military Records

South Africa’s history is punctuated by conflicts and wars that have shaped the nation. Military records can provide details like enlistment, service, medals awarded, and even personal correspondence. The South African National Defence Force Documentation Centre and the National Archives house a wealth of military records, including muster rolls, medal rolls, and war diaries. While some records may be accessible online, others may require onsite visits to these institutions or collaboration with specialized military history organizations.

Widen the Search

While frequently discussed record types offer valuable insights, South African repositories harbor hidden treasures. Mining records from the Witwatersrand gold rush and journals from figures like Jan Van Riebeeck provide avenues to unveil unique ancestral narratives. Whether your ancestor was a Cornish miner or a contemporary of Van Riebeeck, these underutilized records can shed light on diverse aspects of South African history.

The Onsite Research Experience

Onsite research remains an indispensable aspect of unearthing historical records from South African archives. The experience of physically handling documents, tracing faded handwriting, and immersing oneself in the ambiance of historical repositories is unmatched. While the process may require time and effort, the reward is a deep, personal connection to history. Many researchers find themselves captivated by the tangible connection to their ancestors’ lives as they sift through old documents and letters.

Many records needed to solve complex research problems are only available onsite in South Africa. There are many record repositories and knowing where to look is key. Knowing access and photography rules for each repository is imperative as well—many allow photography only with express permission and some require you to place a request for the records you wish to view before you arrive.

The Role of MyHeritage in South African Genealogy: Bridging Time and Space

While onsite research offers a unique experience, physically visiting the South African national or provincial archives is impossible for many. The digital age has introduced innovative ways to explore one’s heritage, transcending geographical boundaries. MyHeritage empowers individuals to build their family trees, discover historical records, and connect with relatives around the world. Through partnerships with archives and libraries, MyHeritage has amassed an extensive collection of South African records, making it possible for users to access birth, marriage, and death certificates, as well as immigration records, from the comfort of their homes.

Unveiling Global Heritage

Beyond its South African collections, MyHeritage provides a gateway to global heritage. For those with immigrant ancestors, the platform hosts an array of collections from countries worldwide. Whether tracing a family’s journey from Europe, Asia, or elsewhere, users can tap into a vast repository of records that illuminate their ancestors’ experiences and challenges. Not only does MyHeritage host a vast array of records, but the opportunity, through SmartMatch, to connect with others researching your ancestors is incomparable—and just might save you a trip to an archive they’ve already visited.

The quest to unravel South African history speaks to the vital importance of understanding our roots to shape our future. Onsite researchers continue to be torchbearers in this journey, forging connections through physical interaction with historical artifacts.

However, MyHeritage bridge the gap between heritage and modernity, offering a digital haven where individuals can explore their South African ancestry and global legacy. As we navigate the currents of time, these tools empower us to weave together the intricate tapestry of our shared history.

Hire A Genealogist

If you’d like help with your South African genealogy research, we’d love to help you on your journey to discover more about your family and your roots. You can get a free quote for your South African genealogy project here:

South African Genealogy Archives Using MyHeritage - Legacy Tree (2024)


How to trace your family tree in South Africa? ›

Useful websites
  1. GISA - Genealogical Institute of SA.
  2., although a lot of those links will simply send you back to Ancestry (and the pay gate).
  3. South African Genealogy.
  4. is a mine of information for descendants of the 1820 settlers.

Does ancestry com have South African records? ›

Here you'll find record collections, history, and genealogy resources to help you trace your South Africa ancestors.

Is it worth hiring a genealogist? ›

There are lots of types of work needed when discovering your family's history. Working with a professional may be the best option for some projects or some types of work and not others. Consider hiring a professional genealogist for tasks you can't do yourself or don't want to do yourself.

How much does it cost to hire a genealogist? ›

According to the Association of Professional Genealogists, hourly rates for a genealogist can “vary from $30 to $40 per hour to well over $200 per hour, based on experience, location, project types and uses, demand, time constraints, and other factors.” That's a significant cost range!

How to find lost family members in South Africa? ›


Protecting Family Links (PFL) is a free and confidential service to help reconnect people with their missing relatives. PFL services are offered across the world to people regardless of their legal status in that country. Everything you tell us will be confidential.

Is there an ancestry site for South Africa? ›

Search for Your Ancestors

Use to trace your roots and find out more about your genetic makeup.

What is the genealogy database in South Africa? ›

Welcome to, South Africa's largest and most cost-effective resource for Genealogy or family research! Our aim is to collect, verify accuracy, maintain, protect and preserve data related to South African ancestors for historical and research purposes.

How far back does African Ancestry DNA go? ›

Using the power of DNA and the most comprehensive database of indigenous African genetic sequences in existence, African Ancestry is the ONLY company that can trace your ancestry back to a specific present-day African country and ethnic group of origin dating back more than 500 years ago.

How far back can genealogists go? ›

Most people can trace some of their lineage back to the 1700s or beyond, but how far back family trees can go depends on the availability of the records, how common the surname is and the family's social status.

Is the genealogist better than ancestry? ›

The images load like lightning, compared to the time it took with Ancestry and the search engines are much more comprehensive. Not only that, it's much much cheaper than Ancestry.

What is the most useful tool for a genealogist? ›

Many genealogists said Zotero was their preferred tool for reference management. LaTeX is a document preparation system that includes features designed for the production of technical and scientific documentation. It is the de facto standard for the communication and publication of scientific documents.

When should I hire a genealogist? ›

Hiring a professional genealogist is an excellent way to discover your family roots. If you encounter a challenging research problem, if you lack skills or the time to research, or if travel is a problem, you may benefit from the assistance of an experienced professional.

Do you have to have a degree to be a genealogist? ›

Postsecondary Training

There are no formal requirements for becoming a genealogist.

Can you hire someone to do your ancestry tree? ›

Every family tree is unique, and every research project is different. Our genealogy research services are customized to meet your specific needs, and each project is priced individually after speaking with us. Depending on the complexity of your research goals, pricing may start as low as $3,500 USD.

How to trace a person in South Africa? ›

You can then search for public records such as birth and death certificates, marriage records, and census records. You can also contact the South African Police Service for assistance with tracing a person, as they may have additional information that could help you locate the person in question.

Is Ancestry DNA available in South Africa? ›

DNA ancestry testing and lineage testing services by EasyDNA South Africa – the definitive means of discovering your ancestry and lineage. Begin digging into your true ancestral origins, taking a step back in your prehistoric roots.

How to find birth records in South Africa? ›

Getting copies of birth certificates
  1. complete Form BI--154 and submit it to the nearest office of the Department of Home Affairs if you are in South Africa, or the nearest South African embassy, mission or consulate if you are overseas.
  2. pay the required fee for the application.

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