Another Piece In The Joubert Jig-Saw
by K. van der Berg Joubert
published in Familia vol. 19, no. 4, 1982, P. 85-89
All genealogists remember hearing some sad tale of an old man who was immensely interested in family history and who had spent years researching minute details of family myths in order to 'discover the real truth!' Many have been amazed at his dedication and continually encouraged him to publish his results - but he had 'wanted to finish his research and publish the whole story'. While waiting for a final piece of family history, he suddenly died of a heart attack and uninterested relatives, simply wanting to 'clean up the place' bundled his material into cardboard boxes in the cellar where in a couple of months they mildewed and rotted. Later family researchers lamented 'Why did he wait so long? If only he had shared his findings with someone . . .'. Remembering, I suddenly felt guilty and resolved to share my limited findings with the world and perhaps gain in return those vital pieces of information which might help me solve my family myths. ...
Perhaps, it was 'Turning Forty' that developed my interest in family origins about nine years ago. Now living in Canada, somewhat isolated from my South African roots, I began to wonder 'where I came from?' Questions to relatives brought little in the way of concrete evidence and only produced more questions without answers plus a number of fascinating myths.
I struck gold when I finally discovered the Research Centre of the Huguenot Museum in Franschhoek, Cape, that with some skilful research provided me with a complete link between myself and Pierre Joubert who arrived in South Africa aboard the 'Berg China' in 1688. Background reading suddenly presented me with a colourful, heroic and very tragic saga of the courageous Huguenot struggle for freedom of religion and a series of memorable names which had played a vital part in the history of Southern Africa. This explosion of heritage resulted in my returning to South Africa accompanied by my Canadian wife, Fern, after an absence of over 25 years to discover how beautiful and awe-inspiring my homeland really was! To visit the Huguenot museum; discuss my heritage; visit the lovely graceful La Provence at Franschoek; to wander slowly from Stellenbosch retracing the ruts of my ancestors' wagonwheels through the Karroo desert to the lovely city of Graaff-Reinet; to watch the sun slowly setting from the verandah of the Land-drost Hotel as I puzzled over the unsolved Joubert's myths.
Mystery No. 1 - The first mystery to be solved on my return to Canada was to investigate the difficulty I had encountered when I asked for details of Pierre Joubert's French origins. I was told that he was recorded as coming from La Motte d'Aigues in Southern France. But here the information stopped! Letters to the National Archives of France in
Paris produced little help. They had suggested that perhaps the name was misspelled and that further research could be provided by the Centre for Genealogy for the Midi-Provence in Avignon, France. The combination of this information matched with a reliable researcher finally produced results. Pierre Joubert did not read or write! The family name prior to leaving France was spelled - not Joubert - but JAUBERT! I was horrifed at the countless number of past seekers who had been looking for the wrong spelling of their own family name.
Notorial records for the period 1633-57 (Marriage contracts, wills, etc) produced the beginning of a French Family Tree, as follows:
What a thrill it was to receive copies of Wills in the original writings and grammar of the 1600s. What Will and Testament today carries the poetry and mystique of that period. I quote from the beginning of Pierre Jaubert's (Pierre's grandfather's) Will:
In the name of God, May it be, Amen. In the year 1665, on the 20th day of the month of May, as it always is in this world of misery, only one thing is certain: and nothing more uncertain than the time it will come; each day each of us gets nearer to it....
And in these rich, faded historic documents there suddenly appears a ray of light which begins to illuminate another mystery which has plagued family history writers for centuries . . .
Mystery No. 2 - Reviewing the fate of Pierre Joubert - ancestor in South Africa of all the Joubert clan - one comes across confusion in all historical sources. On gathering details, I remember being teased by friends about the manner in which 'Pierre Joubert jumped from wife to wife . . .'. In the Journal of the History of French Protestantism, 1899, there are questions being asked concerning the disappearance of Pierre's first wife, Susan Reine. These questions are still being asked in the famous Capt. Hinde's report of 1895 to the Huguenot Society of London. And the question still remains unanswered in both Graham Botha's 1919 The French Refugees at the Cape and in the 1980 letters from the National Archives of France and the illustrious Central Bureau lor Genealogy in the Hague, Holland. What confusing facts caused the 300 year old mystery?
(Fact No. 1) In 1885, Dr W. de Rieu, then Librarian at the University of Leiden recorded that he had located evidence that on Feb. 1, 1688, one Pierre Joubert, native of de la Motle d'Aigues in Provence had married Susanne Reyne de la Roque, Native of Antheron, Provence and embarked on the ship 'Mont de Sinai' bound for the Cape of Good Hope. . . .
(Fact No. 2) On the 20th March, 1688, one Pierre Joubert of de la Motte d'Aigues sailed from Rotterdam on the ship 'Berg China' as a bachelor. For some reason, writers over history have provided him with an appropriate wife on board - Isabeau Richard. It is interesting to note that on the passenger list of the 'Berg China' published in the 1970 edition of Botha's book, Isabeau Richard is shown as the '20 year old wife of Pierre Malan'. It can only be assumed that Pierre Malan was one of the 30 deaths reported on board the four month voyage and that Pierre Joubert married the 'widow'.
Suddenly the research in La Motte, France raises new hope of a solution. Lven M. Boucher's recent book, French Speakers at the Cape, indicates the possibility of several Pierres in the same family! In fact, there appear to be TWO 24 year old PIERRE JAUBERTs, both born about the SAME YEAR, in the same VILLAGE - first cousins! Both were named after their grandfather; and both appear from local records to have fled the area at the same time -just prior to the dale of the required 'oath of acceptance of the Catholic faith' - possibly they escaped together - as cousins might just do. (Suddenly I feel a lot more relieved about the morals of my ancestor in dumping wives so quickly!)
Since there appears to be general agreement that Pierre and Susanne sailed lor the Cape in the 'Mont de Sinai', there is some concern that no record can be found of that ship arriving and discharging her human cargo. My efforts through the Algemeen Rijksarchief (State Archives) of the Hague, Holland to have the ultimate destination and fate of the ship traced have been fruitless so far! Perhaps because of the international war situation, the ship was diverted to Batavia? Somewhere in the world we may yet find another branch of the Joubert clan growing fruitfully but unnoticed!
Mystery No. 3 - One of the most colourful legends in the Joubert family history is the story of a young Minister, while polishing a silver chalice in a little church in the Cape, suddenly became aware that the vase he was holding was engraved. On having the inscription trascribed, it appeared to be a permanent record of land holdings of the Joubert family in France. A local member of the family was notified and the matter was duly investigated. Ultimately this resulted in a journey to France where the matter was placed before the French government and a claim made for a 'beautiful chateau'. Since it appeared that the land had been seized from the family by the 'evil' King about 1688, the present anti-monarchist French authority agreed to settle the value of the land and chateau 'provided that all possible heirs were recorded and satisfied. . . .' (So the story goes - what a modern romance it would make!)
However, my investigation reveals that a now deceased relative of mine, Daniel ('Danchie') Francois Joubert (born 1875 Graaff-Reinet; died 1955) appears to have made this journey of investigation about 1913 to apparently check on the authenticity of a silver vase which was located in a church in the Cape. He apparently was told by the French government that the land recorded was still in Chancery' after 300 years. My efforts to locate his children in South Africa (Shiela Grantham - nee O'Niell; Noreen Culverville - nee O'Niell; Andrew Joubert of Sea Point; Harry Joubert of Mossel Bay) in order to authenticate this story have been in vain.
However, the Will and Testament of Jacques Jaubert (dated 1665) reveals that Pierre was an only son and would inherit his complete estate. Previous Wills of the grandfather (also Pierre) include death gifts of land to this branch of the family. There appears to be no record of any claim being made by Pierre once he settled in South Africa. It could, in fact, be true that the estate has never been settled and that perhaps, like the plot in any good film, 'somewhere in the hills of Provence, France there lies a lovely green valley with a quaint chateau with the Joubert crest emblazoned above the outer gate' . . .dream along, genealogists all. . .!
Since I do not speak or read French and my Afrikaans is very limited, I continue to carry on my Joubert family research at a long distance and with linguistic difficulty. I would appreciate any assistance in this endeavour and hope that my small contribution to 300 years of confusion and mystery is appreciated like 'a candle in a cavern of darkness'.
Kenneth van der Berg Joubert
Departmental Archives, Departemente de Vauclause, Avignon, France. - Marriage of Jacques Jaubert & Francoise Rambert; 1665 (Contract May 1665; Reg. 293, Folio 78; Archival Index Meilhasse reg. 297 me).
- Will of Jacques Jaubert - father of Pierre Jaubert of South Africa; (above - dated May 23, 1665; Reg. 293; Folio 78)
- Will of Pierre Jaubert - senior (Pierre's grandfather); (Fonds enjoubert Pertuis; me Meilhasse Reg. No. 292; dated Nov. 1, 1660).
(French and English translation of the above copies held by author)
Histoire du Protestantisme Francais; Vol. XLVIII; Paris 1899; p. 671.
Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London; Vol. 5; 1894-96;
Capt. W. H. Hinde, RE, 'The Huguenot Settlement at the Cape of Good Hope; p. 205.
The French Refugees at the Cape; C. Graham Botha; C. Struik (Pty) Ltd., Cape Town; (1970); Original edition 1919.
Pierre Joubert & Isabeau Richard; unpublished manuscript by unknown Joubert member; deceased 1970; provided by Miggie Joubert of Claremont, Cape.
French Speakers at the Cape;M. Boucher; University of South Africa, Pretoria; 1981.