Slave Owners or Fathers?

Started by Sharon Lee Doubell on Wednesday, July 23, 2014


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7/23/2014 at 3:05 AM

Ek het 'n baie interessante vraag vanoggend ontvang:

More Sharon
Ek het jou hulp nodig, voel ,n bietjie onseker.
Ek het die volgende inskrywing gekry, dit gaan oor die doop van kinders.

21 Jan 1708. Slawekinders van Gerrit Victor, SV/PROG
Moeder- Heter van Suratti
Kinders: Johannes, Caatje en Anna Magdalena.
Ek sou se dat die Pa in die geval Gerrit Victor, SV/PROG is. Hoe dink jy.?

13 May 1708. Dirkje. 1 slaafkind van Jennis Janse van Schalkwyk, geen moeder. Was Jennis die Vader?

30 jun 1708. Helena Barbara. Slaafkind van Simon van der Stel, SV/PROG
Vader: Hendrik Constant van Macassar
Moeder: Lena Felix van Macassar.
In die geval is die Vader en Moeder genoem, en ek sou se dat die ouers slawe was van Simon van der Stel, SV/PROG.

7/23/2014 at 3:15 AM

How are we interpreting the documents pointing to slave ancestry? In the case of baptismal records, does the church usually record it explicitly if the slave owner is also the father - or is it usually left ambiguous?

In the geval van Gerrit, as jy na sy boom kyk - sien jy dat sy seun slawe kinders verwek het: Jacobus Victor, b2; Unknown slave; Christiaan Victor, b2c1.

7/23/2014 at 5:46 AM

I have seen this query also in anorher discussion/message.
I agree it sound a bit ambigous. Maybe we should approach Dr Helena Liebenberg / Delia Robertson / Richard Ball who often do this type of research on their interpretation.

7/23/2014 at 5:56 AM

Good idea.
Delia Robertson?

7/23/2014 at 6:30 AM

I think Delia is doing FFY First Fivety Years

7/23/2014 at 6:45 AM

Well then, we'll need to decide on our own.

Private User
7/23/2014 at 6:58 PM

Ek het die bladsye van die boek aangeheg onder Luitenant Kaje Jesse Slotsboo. Die inligting kom van Family Search.

Private User
7/23/2014 at 10:47 PM

My interpretation is that in the first 2 instances Gerrit Victor and Jennis are the fathers, but in the third not (the father is clearly named).

There are a number of slave baptisms at
where the father's are not named - as company slaves these women were house in the Slave Lodge which was frequented by company employees and others for their pleasure - DNA may reveal the descendants of these children were the children of known men - and whether there is a record of a documented line of descent or not is dubious! There were so many slaves of similar/same names that linking baptisms to later marriages would not be straight forward!

Delia Robertson would be the person to give feedback here. The pages at TFFYP are invaluable regarding the slave children baptised - see
Further examples of children baptised where the slave owner is named -

18 Jul 1660
Jannetje, child of Thielman Heindricxsz, free burger

Pietertje, child of a slave woman belonging to Pieter van der Stael

Reintje, child of a slave woman belonging to the Commander

Translated from

Den 18:en d:o heeft d:o Karon wederom een predikatie gedaen, ende gedoopt dese 3 kinderen, een van Thielman Heindricxsz <vrijburger> en is genaemt Jannetje, een van mijn slavin is genaemt Pietertje, en een van de slavin van den h:r commandeur is genaemt Reintje, dese twee zijn onechte kinderen, Godt de geeft dat dese gedoopte kinderen tot zijne naeme eere mogen opwassen.

on the same page - an interesting entry

8 April 1663

Louwijs, child of a slave woman
witnesses: Gabriel Joosten Cornet, and Denijs Otto, both corporals

Den 8:... ende een van een slavin gebooren, en is genaemt Louwijs, de getuigen sijn Gabriel Joosten Cornet, en Denijs Otto beide corporaels, dit kint is in onecht geboren Godt de Heere geeft dat dese gedoopte kinderen tot Sijne naeme eere mogen opwassen.

On page

[Sept 6 1665] - the father named
een slavinne zoon van W. Mostaart diens
naam Sabba, het kind Dirik

There are many instances where the baptism of a slave-child has witnesses who were not slaves judging by their names. It would be incorrect procedure to assume that the man was the father of the child. I will add some examples here when I come across them.

In my opinion it would be presumptuous to assume that the owner of the slave was the father of her children - they may well have been but it isn't necessarily the case.

I would value input from Jansi Syfert

Private User
7/23/2014 at 11:15 PM

Feedback from Corney Keller (transcriber eGGSA) on the opening transcriptions -

Gerrit Victor, Teunis Dirksz Schalwijk and Simon van der Stel are the owners NOT the fathers.

The transcriptions are erroneous (names and dates). See my transcriptions on

2[8] Januarij
drie slave-kindren van Gerrit Victor,
de moeder is Hester van Suratte; de getuigen,
Maria van Bengalen en Rebecca van de Caap.
- Jannes
- Caatje
- Anna Magdalena

Corney - Unless specifically mentioned (that they are the fathers), they are the owners only and not the fathers.

The word "van" in these cases always mean 'belonging to' as an object and not a child.

Private User
7/24/2014 at 1:34 AM

Marie send me the attatched entry and I feel it is not clearly stating him as the father. Although it is a possible. But So I tend to go with June and Corney and will rather say he brought the children of his slaves to be baptised. It was part of the owner of the slaves responsibility, I think.
And yes as June states here the word "van" (of") states him the owner and not the father.

Private User
7/24/2014 at 1:43 AM

Corney's words - The word "van" in these cases always mean 'belonging to' as an object and not a child.

Sorry didn't make that clear.

7/24/2014 at 2:00 AM

Thanks June for the input from Delia and Corney, Jansi will find additional information if she digs in.

Private User
7/25/2014 at 12:18 AM

I have had some feed back from Richard Ball

"I agree with Corney - there is no paternal evidence in these baptisms
unless the father is named, as he is in

1709. 30 June
a slave child belong to the ex-governor Simon
van der Stel, the parents were
Hendrik Constant van Macasser en Lena
Felix van Macasser; the witnesses was [Vrije]
Helena Barbara

1708. 2[8] January
three slave children belonging to Gerrit Victor,
the mother is Hester van Suratte; the witnesses
Maria van Bengale en Rebecca van de Caap

1708, 6 May
a slave child belonging to Teunis Dirksz van Schalkwijk;
the witnesses Moses Aarons, en Sara van Macassar

"As slaves were entirely at their owners disposal any slave children
could have been fathered by the owner - but the fact that slave
children belonging to an owner are baptised in itself makes no
suggestion that he was the father.

In the vast majority of slaves born at the Cape, there is no evidence
as to who the father was.

It is best to use the already provided transcripts

Slaves were legally pieces of property, belonging to their owners, and
any children born to the slaves became likewise his or her property".

7/25/2014 at 12:50 AM

We will need to wait for more DNA research to be done in conjunction with these records I think.

7/25/2014 at 3:13 AM

It is true that 'van' generally implies possession and not necessarily paternity (in some cases it is spelt out) when a slave is mentioned as 'van' an owner.

And yes it is usually not possible to tell from the baptism record that the child is that of the owner of the child's slave mother.

However there is a tendency among some researchers to completely dismiss the weight of evidence strongly suggesting paternity. The sense I have (resulting from discussions) with some individuals, is that this may be a consequence of assuming that owners who engaged sexually with their slaves, were thereby guilty of abuse and this does not sit well with them.

Of course this point of view completely overlooks the fact that slavery itself was fundamentally and grossly abusive as also the many, many documented instances of abuse by owners of slaves - male and female. There is also a great deal of research that illustrates the abuse of slaves, including sexual, by owners and their colleagues/friends/family members/employees wherever in the world slavery has occurred - whether at the Cape or elsewhere.

The early Cape settlers were not different in this respect.

Coming back to the issue of paternity.

As I mentioned previously, one needs to look at the weight of evidence. This can include a myriad of things, including who later witnessed baptisms of the individual's children, and whose baptisms the individual witnessed; wills and inventories; the name given to and used by the individual and naming patterns in the subsequent generation(s).

And yes, in time, DNA studies will help us unravel some of these mysteries.

7/25/2014 at 3:26 AM

Thankyou that's very useful. Agree with you completely.

7/25/2014 at 4:57 AM

Thank you Delia, I knew you had a wisdom to contribute which adds to the total picture.

Private User
7/26/2014 at 6:03 AM

Thanks Delia as me and Tobi always say - a star and not a disaSTAR.

7/27/2014 at 1:16 AM

Welcome - hope it helped. D

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