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South African female Progenitors /Stammoeders

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South African Progenitors - Matriarchs/Stammoeders

The object of this project is to examine the subject of Stammoeders, Matriarchs & Female Progenitors and define how we will use the terms on the South African Geni profiles for the immigrants who arrive in SA and started families. (See South African Progenitors - Stamvaders for Males).

This is not as straight forward as it first looks, because the term for Stamvader / Male Progenitor (SV/PROG) usually encompasses both the cultural notion of the head of a family name line, as well as the biological notion of the oldest DNA progenitor. That these are two distinct concepts, isn't often obvious on the male profiles in a patrilineal tree (one that passes the father's surname down), because they are usually the same person.

Not so, for the females:

The oldest biological mother progenitor of her family line (PROG), and the stammoeder cultural matriarch of her husband's surname line (SM) can often be two different women,

and so we have to be quite precise when we label them:

// 1) Progenitor (PROG)

The oldest mother of a family to arrive/be born in South Africa. (Biological)

(Also includes the oldest mother of a family to be born in SA, if her parents are unknown, and the oldest known mother of a line indigenous to SA.)


Just as with males, if female siblings come out together, and both procreate, they are ranked PROG 1, PROG 2 according to age.

// 2) Stammoeder / Matriarch (SM)

The wife or partner of the Stamvader (Cultural) who is the mother of his male (patrilineally surnamed) children

(This also applies to a woman who may not actually arrive in South Africa with her husband and children, usually having predeceased them.)


Stammoeder & Progenitor (SM/PROG)

Sometimes a woman is both Stammoeder & Progenitor. The oldest mother of her family to arrive/be born in SA, who is also the partner of a Stamvader (SV/PROG)


1 Cornelia (Neeltje) Sterreveld, SM/PROG 1
2 Ariaentje Sterreveld, SM/PROG 2


These definitions apply to those women (and men) who were the oldest/most senior member of a family - i.e. they need to have progeny/children to become a progenitor. A childless man or woman is not a progenitor! In some instances the families are incomplete on GENi - so there are couples who have been in the past defined as SV/PROG and SM/PROG with no children added to the family. These need to be added for the titles to stay, or if there were no offspring, the suffix removed.

It's easier to see it using practical examples:

Widowed Ouma de Klerk comes to South Africa with her son, Boet. Boet marries Isabel Wilkins, whose parents - Joe & Sue - came to South Africa on the boat.



Widow de Klerk = PROG
She is the oldest/most senior biological mother of the de Klerk immigrants to SA - so she is the Progenitor (PROG).
As a widow, she is not married to a Stamvader (SV/PROG), so she is not a Stammoeder/ Matriarch (SM) of the de Klerks in SA.
Meisie de Klerk
She is neither the oldest female of her line to come to SA (that's her mother); nor is she married to an SV; so she is not PROG or SM.
Boet de Klerk = SV/PROG
He is the oldest father out of the de Klerk immigrants & also the first male of the South African de Klerks - so he is an SV/PROG.
Isabel de Klerk (Wilkins) = SM
By marrying a Stamvader (SV/PROG) & having de Klerk children, Boet's wife, Isabel, becomes the Stammoeder / Matriarch (SM) of the de Klerk line in SA.
She is not the oldest biological mother of her family line in SA, though. Her mother is that, so Isabel is NOT a Progenitor (PROG).
Joe Wilkins = SV/PROG
Joe is the oldest father and the first to pass the Wilkins name down, so he is the SV/PROG.
Sue Wilkins (Merry) = SM/PROG
Sue is the oldest mother of the family who arrived in SA, so she is the female Progenitor (PROG).
Sue is also married to the Wilkins SV/PROG, so she is ALSO the Wilkins family name Stam Moeder/ Matriarch (SM).
Jack Wilkins
Jack is the second generation of Wilkins men in SA, so he is not the SV/PROG
Catharina Wilkins (van de Kaap)= PROG
Catharina is the oldest mother we can track of her DNA line in SA. So she is the PROG (even though she was born here). Her husband, Jack Wilkins, isn't the SV, though (that's his father, Joe) - so she doesn't become an SM.


... update the project by adding links to any SM; SM/PROG or PROG profiles in the tree. It helps if you add the title in the suffix field. SM is added after an space after the de Villiers number if in place. It also helps visually if you use the appropriate image (see the image gallery linked to this page) where another image is not available..

To participate in any project

- you do need to first be a collaborator or collaborating with a collaborator - so please join the project using the request link under "actions" at the top right of the page. Visit Geni Wikitext, Unicode and images which gives a great deal of assistance.


Questions to ask when trying to decide a woman’s status:

1. Is her parentage known?

a. If they are go to question 2.
b. If not she is PROG. (This includes also the oldest known mother of an indigenous line.) This could change if her ancestry is subsequently found.

2. Did she arrive from abroad?

a. If not then her mother (or another more senior ranking female family member) is the PROG,
b. If she did then:

i. If her mother accompanied her (assuming no other senior direct family member accompanied the family) the mother is the PROG
ii. If her mother and other senior direct family members accompanied the family (e.g. a grandmother), then the most senior female according to the ranking of paternal/maternal ancestor in that family group, is the PROG.
iii. If the mother, accompanied by other senior female family members or not, arrived before the daughter and her family, then the most senior female in that family group, according to the ranking, is the PROG.
iv. If her mother was deceased and she was accompanied by another older/more senior female in her father’s or mother’s direct ancestry, then her older female ancestor, according to the ranking, is PROG.
v. If no more senior females accompanied the family then the daughter is PROG.
vi. If the mother arrived after the family, the PROG remains the one decided from ii to v above. The mother is PROG only of any children she bears after arriving.

3. Is her husband or partner a Stamvader (SV/PROG)? 

a. If he is then she is a Stammoeder (SM) of any male (patrilineally surnamed) children she has with him.
b. If he isn’t then she is not a Stammoeder, but she could still be PROG depending on the answers to the previous questions.

Many women will be both a Stammoeder and a Progenitor (SM/PROG), i.e. a woman who was -

a. The first and oldest/most senior female in her family to arrive in the country.
b. Married to or partner of a Stamvader (SV/PROG).
c. The mother of children (born either in the country or not).

It is worth emphasizing that to be a progenitor a women (or man) needs to be the oldest/most senior member of a family to have progeny/children in the country. A sibling (male or female) who does not have children recorded does not get the title. If it is subsequently discovered that they did, then the situation changes.

Examples to consider - Points to Debate

Robert Pringle 1820 Settler

Robert Pringle's family illustrates a few examples. He travelled to South Africa with his 2nd wife and their 3 young children. He was accompanied by some adult son's from his first wife, Catherine Hailtie, who had died in 1795.

One of his daughters from this marriage, Jessie Pringle followed in 1833 with her husband William Ainslie SV/PROG, and was SM/PROG of the South AFrican Ainslie family. She was a Pringle PROG, being the most senior female of her Pringle family. Had her mother been alive and in South Africa this would not have been the case.
His daughter, Catherine Haitlie Pringle who went to South Africa as a child later married John Brown Rennie SV/PROG 1, and was SM of her children with him. His widowed mother, Elizabeth Rennie neé Brown who was an 1820 Settler, was SM/PROG. Charles Rennie, the younger brother of John Brown Rennie, was SV/PROG 2.

Catharina van Bengale, SM/PROG

Catharina van Bengale was born outside South Africa and was therefore the PROG of her daughter Catharina Opklim. - father not known. She is SM/PROG of the children she had with her two named SV/PROG partners. Her daughter had children with Jan Willemsz Vermeulen, SV/PROG' and became the SM of his children. She was not SM/PROG - that title fell to her mother.

Catherine Taboureaux

Catherine arrived with her husband Charles Marais SV/PROG and was the oldest/most senior mother - so a PROG, as well as SM/Matriarch of the Marais family. She married secondly Daniel de Ruelle, SV/PROG and would have been the SM/Matriarch of any de Ruelle she bore.

Daniel de Ruelle, SV/PROG was first married to Anne Goudalle which shows up another interesting scenario! Anne Goudalle was born in France but died at sea on the way to South Africa with her husband and children. As she does not arrive in South Africa she is not the SM/PROG of the family.

The daughters of Daniel de Ruelle and Anne Goudalle would be Progenitors because their mother never arrived in South Africa. Ester de Ruelle married Estienne Bruere, SV/PROG but had no children with him so has no title.

However - her sister, Anne de Ruelle married Charles Marais b2 became PROG, not SM/PROG. That title belongs to her mother-in-law Catherine Taboureaux .

Anne du Ruelle is a PROG, but her mother-in-law is the wife of the Marais SV/PROG, so her mother-in-law is the SM/Matriarch of the Marais grandchildren. (Her mother-in-law, Catherine Taboureaux, is also the oldest/most senior biological mother in her family, so she is also a PROG in her own right).

Jacques de Savoye, SV/PROG

...arrived at the Cape after his first wife, Christine Madeleine du Pont died in 1686. Her daughters Marguerite-Thérèse de Savoye (1672 - 1742) and Barbe-Thérèse de Savoye b. 1674 are SM/PROG 1 and SM/PROG 2 in the absence of their mother.

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