Pietermaritzburg, Commercial Road Cemetery

The transcriptions that were done under the auspices of the Genealogical Society of South Africa, Natal Midlands Branch and members of the Natal Inland Family History Society, have now, with their agreement and co-operation, been added to the eGGSA Burials database and can be searched online. There are also a number of Maps that were drawn up at the time of the transcriptions.

0001 Commercial Rd overview Friedhof

photo: Eckhard von Fintel.


In the usual layout of Voortrekker towns, we find the cemetery situated on the perimeter of the town. Pietermaritzburg was no exception and the early Voortrekkers buried their dead in what is now known as the Voortrekker section of the Commercial Road Cemetery (the old Grey’s Hospital side.)

Unfortunately, the names and dates of early settlers buried before 1889 (when the cemetery registers were started) (5) and who did not appear in a church burial register, or have stones erected in their memory, are now lost to us. The earliest inscription on a tombstone is that of Hendrik Van den Berg, who was born 1.3.1785 and died 5.9.1839 in the City at 54 years. (He was a Voortrekker whose burial took place within a year of the founding of Pietermaritzburg.)
It would seem that from the earliest times, the cemetery was divided up according to various religious denominations – Anglican, Catholic, Dutch Reformed, Presbyterian and Wesleyan. In Bishop Colenso’s book, “Ten Weeks in Natal”, (published 1855), he mentioned how on 7.2.1854 “we rode over the bridge …. and passing the burial grounds (where differences which separate Christians during life are still permitted to part their bodies after death) we entered the broad streets of the City.”

It was as early as the year 1860 that the City Council appointed a Public Cemetery Committee, one reason being to decide on the best site for a cemetery and the amount of land required. In 1883 and 1885 the area was fenced and the Municipality employed a caretaker who supervised the maintenance. (4). In 1918 the Anglican Church required more land for burials and purchased it from the Dutch Reformed Church. Thus Anglican graves can be found on both sides of Commercial Road.

In 1948 the Municipality took over the churchyard and it was close for burials except in exceptional circumstances. At a later date, the Municipality handed over all registers and maps regarding the Commercial Road Cemetery to the Natal Society Library for safe keeping.

From: The KZN Family History Society Website, author: Diane Scogings 2/4/1992


There are, so far as is known, no Commercial Road Cemetery burial registers dating from before 1860, for any of the churches. I don’t really know why but apparently the Municipality kept the registers up to 1860, despite the various cemeteries being owned by the churches (and my understanding is, being maintained by the churches). I don’t know what happened in 1860 and why it changed, but from that date the municipality no longer kept registers, and these were the responsibility of the various churches. Unfortunately, the municipal registers up to 1860, like all municipal records in Pietermaritzburg, were lost when the first City Hall burnt down in 1898.

So for all the cemeteries any records of deaths or burials prior to 1860 in the attached lists are what were taken from the actual tombstones.

From 1860 to 1948 the cemeteries were administered by the churches, who all kept registers EXCEPT apparently the Roman Catholic church. With the exception of a list of the indian people buried in the Catholic section, there are no registers for the Catholic section, and as far as can be ascertained, there never were. Personally, I find this hard to believe, but that is what the records in the Bessie Head Library tell me. Why they would have kept a list of the indian people but no others, does not quite make sense, but there It is.

In 1948 the Catholic section was “cleaned up” by the municipality following their takeover (with, apparently, the agreement of the Catholics) and all broken tombstones, etc removed. This list is therefore probably a long way short of being a complete list of persons buried in this section.

The municipality wished to “clean up” the other sections as well, but could not get the agreement of the churches so to do.

Notes from Neil Bloy, 2022 November.


ANGLICAN Section

Registers from the Natal Society Library were consulted. Burial registers of the Anglican Church were also examined. These records can be located in the Natal Diocesan Archives at the Cathedral Centre in Pietermaritzburg. Maps of the cemetery are available. Some of the graves which are listed have been badly vandalised, but we were fortunate to be able to piece together some of the broken stones and record them.

All graves researched and checked by the members of the Genealogical Society of South Africa, Natal Midlands Branch, and members of the Natal Inland Family History Society. The list was compiled by Mrs D Scogings and Mr M Scogings.
JANUARY 1993


CATHOLIC SECTION of the Commercial Road Cemetery, Pietermaritzburg
Researched and compiled by Jennifer G Duckworth - 1984

This is a list of graves with tombstones existing in 1984. As There is no plan or register of the Catholic cemetery, nor does there appear to have ever been one, and the graves themselves are unnumbered and randomly arranged, I have divided the cemetery into 6 rough blocks as indicated in the accompanying sketch.

Some of the stones are covered completely by earth and grass and may have subsequently disappeared once more.

There is also a list of Indian plot owners which is a bit unsatisfactory as the original compiler of the list seems to have been only semi-literate. Most of the Indian and Black graves are in Block F which has very few gravestones.

Blocks A, B, C & D are parishioners' graves. Block E was used by the religious orders of priests, nuns and brothers.

HISTORY: The burial ground was granted to the Roman Catholic community in 1850. At this point it measured only 1 acre 30 perches. An extension was granted in October 1884 which doubled its size. The earlist gravestone surviving in the cemetery is that of Sarah Doyle who died on 18 June 1854 aged 37. She was the wife of Dennis Doyle, an ex-45th Regiment soldier.


DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH and PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH sections

This list of graves has been compiled by D & M Scogings from registers held by the Presbyterian Church, Longmarket Street Pietermaritzburg and the Dutch Reformed Church at their archives in the Synodale Sentrum in Burger Street, Pietermaritzburg. Dates in the Presbyterian section have been checked by Mrs S Spencer.

All graves researched and checked by the members of the Genealogical Society of South Africa, Natal Midlands Branch, and members of the Natal Inland Family History Society in 1992.


WESLEYAN CEMETERY, Commercial Road, Pietermaritzburg

All Wesleyan graves researched, transcribed ad checked by Mr. D. Buckley, senior librarian in charge of special collections, Natal Society Library, Pietermaritzburg and the Map of the Cemetery was also drawn by Mr. D. Buckley.

Index compiled by Mrs D. Scogings and Mr M. Scogings.
MARCH 1993


 

 

 

 

 

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Drakenstein dope 1694 tot 1799

VC 647 2Inligting verkry vanaf die Drakenstein doop register tussen 1694 en 1744 is nou beskikbaar in the eGGSA BDM databasis.

Die transkribering is soos volg gedoen: Lizette Svoboda die tydperk 1702 tot 1732, Corney Keller 1733 tot 1744, Richard Ball 1694 tot 1713. en Cornel Viljoen van 1756 to 1799 en het die ook skakels van die LDS aanlyn kopieë wat van die oorspronklike registers, G1 8/1, G3 3/1, G3 3/2, G3 3/3 and G3 3/4, wat by die NGK Argief, Stellenbosch gehou en onderhou word, verskaf.

Om die foto’s te sien moet navorsers by FamilySearch.org. registreer.

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Graaff-Reinet NGK doop registers 1792-1805

graaff reinet doopCornel Viljoen was so vriendelik om sy transkripsies van die Graaff-Reinet NGK doop register 1792-1805 vir die eGGSA BDM databasis, beskikbaar te stel. 

Sy transripsies is van die Latter Day Saints foto’s, vanaf die oorpsronklike register, wat by die Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerkargief, Noordwal-Wes, Stellenbosch is en is op ons databasies beskikbaar, met die toestemming van die NGK argief.

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Fort Beaufort Register 1840-1850

Fort Beaufort Cover

Die register van die Anglikaanse pastoor in Fort Beaufort, (daar was geen kerkgebou in daardie tyd nie), wat die Dope, Huwelike en begrafnisse insluit, is getranskribeer deur Lorraine Beechy, vanaf die foto's van Tessa King. Die foto's is van die oorspronklike register, wat in die Cory Biblioteek is, geneem. Die proeflees is deur Brenda Gassner gedoen.

Dit is in die eGGSA se DBM databasis, gevoeg.

Baie dankie aan almal wat betrokke was. Ons is opreg dankbaar.

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Drakenstein/Paarl NGK huwelike 1815-1839

Paarl 1824 400Transkripsies van diè huwelike is by die eGGSA BDM databasis gevoeg. Hierdie is veral interessant, aangesien hulle, vir die meeste van die inskrywings, die ouderdomme van die partye, asook die name van die vaders (as patroniem), insluit. Die is nie algemeen vir die NGK (Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk) huwelike, van daardie tydperk nie en daarom van groot waarde, vir die genealoog en navorser.

Ons dank aan Jonathan Heath, Corney Keller en Richard Ball vir die transribsies.

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Kaapstad NG Kerk Kaapstad huwelik transkripsies

Corney Keller het ses ekstra jare (1756 tot 1762), by sy reeds manjifieke reeks transkripsies, aangaande die Kaapstad Nederduits Gereformeerde (NGK) rekords.

Sy transripsies aangaande die huwelike (1696-1756), is ook verwerk, sodat dit soekbaar is op die eGGSA BDM databasis en kan reeds daar gevind word.

'n Groot dankie aan Corney, vir sy volhardende en wonderlike werk, wat hierdie belangrike rekords aanbetref.

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Uniondale NGK doopregisters 1866-1920 tot die eGGSA BDM databasis bygevoeg.

Die doopregisters van Uniondale Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK) 1866-1920, is deur Carol Beneke getranskribeer vanaf Mechelle Beneke se foto's van die oorspronklike register, in die Uniondale kerk afgeneem by ooreenkoms met die dominee.

Hierdie rekords is tot die eGGSA BDM databasis bygevoeg en is nou vir gebruikers beskikbaar. Enige navrae of regstellings kan aan Richard Ball.

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Voortrekker Dope tot die eGGSA BDM databasis bygevoeg

Cornel Viljoen het goedgunstiglik 'n bydrae van sy transkriberings van die Voortrekker Dope, FK 2290 in die Pretoria Argiewe, 'n foto koepie van 'n vroeër transkribering deur onbekendes van registers van Natal, Vrystaat en die ou Transvaal, vanaf 1837 tot 1850, tot ons beskikking gestel.

Hierdie addisionele 4,600 dope is verkrygbaar en soekbaar by die eGSSA BDM databasis. Vanne ingesluit kan hier ... gesien word.

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Begrafnisregister van Christchurch, Grahamstad, tot die eGGSA BDM databasis bygevoeg.

Christchurch burias

Die begrafnis register van Christchurch ( Anglikaanse ), Grahamstad, 1877-1917 , is deur Lorraine Beechey getranskribeer vanaf William Jervois se foto's van die oorspronklike register in die Cory Biblioteek, Rhodes Universiteit, Grahamstad, MS 17 633, by ooreenkoms met die Cory Biblioteek en die Aartsbisdom van Grahamstad. Brenda Gassner het dit geproeflees.

Hierdie rekords is tot die eGGSA BDM databasis bygevoeg en is nou vir gebruikers beskikbaar. Enige navrae of regstellings kan aan Richard Ball gerig word by Richard Ball

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Church Registers in South Africa - a brief outline

Until the 19th century, the recording of baptisms, marriages and burials was largely the province of the church. When the Dutch East India Company (VOC) established its trading post at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652 it also established at that outpost the state church of the Netherlands, the Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK) which remained, throughout the Company's rule an integral part of the Church in the Netherlands, subject to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Amsterdam classis (governing body), its ministers being appointed by the Church authorities in the Netherlands and paid for by the VOC. 1

Until the appointment in 1665 of the first resident minister at the Cape, Johann van Arkel, baptisms were performed by visiting ministers on their way between the VOC's headquarters at Batavia (Indonesia) and the home country. Marriages could be performed by the Governor or by visiting ministers. Burials were naturally performed as and when necessary.

Some baptisms, marriages and deaths were recorded in the diaries kept by the Governors of the settlement, but the first permanent record was established by Ds. Van Arkel in 1665 from when baptisms and marriages were recorded in the register books of the Cape (later Cape Town) church. We have no burial or death registers from this period.

Until [1783] the NGK was the only permitted church at the Cape, even though the mother country, the Netherlands, practiced a policy of practical toleration towards other religious sects. In that year a Lutheran church and congregation was permitted in Cape Town. Not until the British government assumed control of the Cape in 1805 were other Christian religions tolerated. The Muslim belief had been propagated and taken up from early days of the Dutch settlement, largely by slaves and freed slaves and their descendants, but what the attitude of the authorities toward this religion was is not known. The Muslim communities  appear not to have kept registers of their members and the VOC did not recognise Muslim marriages. 2

In 1758 the Cape Government introduced the recording of deaths in the colony, a rather haphazard and perfunctory business at first, but by about 1800 the detail recorded was significant. These records survive in the Cape Archives3 and later, in 1834, were succeeded by the familiar, and still current, Death Notice system for recording deaths.4

By the time the British took over in 1805 there were around 8 Christian church congregations in the Cape recording baptism, births and, in some cases, burials. After that event the establishment of new congregation for many different sects and of missionary stations proliferated. I have not come across any comprehensive list of all the congregations established during the 19th century at the Cape and the records they kept.

Recently there has been a fair amount of work put in hand transcribing these registers and making these available in various formats, for instance Ockert Malan's magnificent transcription of the early Stellenbosch baptismal register5 published as a CD in 2004, and his very recent transcript of the Stellenbosch burial records6 and also a number of transcriptions commissioned by the web site Ancestry24.com, some available only to paying members and some available free of charge7. The web site e-family.co.za has also, for some time, housed a searchable database of transcripts done by Nolene Lossau from LDS Church microfilms, covering Cape, Orange Free State and Transvaal records.8

Also extremely useful in this context are the extracts transcribed by Sue Mackay from a number of Cape Newspapers housed in the National Archives, Kew. These transcripts are available on several web sites including the eGGSA Newspaper Library.

If I have omitted any other sources I will be happy to add them to this introduction.

Richard Ball


Hattersley, Alan F. An illustrated social history of South Africa, A.A.Balkema, 1969, page 54

for further information see Shell, Robert - Children Of Bondage, a social history of the slave society at the Cape of Good Hope, 1652-1838, Witwatersrand University Press, 1994, page 356

Cape Archives, MOOC 6, Record of deaths at the Cape of Good Hope, 1758 - 1831

eGGSA Collection of Estate Files

Stellenbosch Doopregister 1688-1732, Die Genootskap vir die Kerkversameling, met vertolking deur
Ockert Malan & Lorna Newcomb.

Stellenbosse Dode- en Grafregisters, saamgestel deur Ockert Malan, Die Stellenbosse Heemkring

Ancestry24.co.za

e-Family.co.za, contributions by Nolene Lossau

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The eGGSA BDM project

The eGGSA Archive Project was begun several years ago and so far has covered photographs of archive documents, gravestones and Family Bibles. The aim of this project has always been both to preserve and make available records of genealogical interest and value housed in South African archives and libraries. We aim to do this by photographing the records and making them available, either as photographs or transcripts, on this web site or on DVD, thus making copies of the originals which can be use in place of the originals.

We have felt recently that it is difficult to establish where any church register or copies of such can be found. Various projects have been initiated recently to transcribe some of these, as mentioned on our introductory page, and it seemed a good idea to try to provide a guide to where such records are or may be found, assuming we could establish this information ourselves! During these discussions the idea was mooted that we also photograph, were possible, original registers with the primary aim of preserving them and the secondary aim of transcribing them so as to make them available to all. So we are hoping achieve both of these aims with this project.

Recently there has been a fair amount of work put in hand transcribing church registers and making these available in various formats, for instance Ockert Malan's magnificent transcription of the early Stellenbosch baptismal register1 published as a CD in 2004, and his very recent transcript of the Stellenbosch burial records2 . Ron Smit's web site, e-family.co.za, has also, for some time, housed a searchable database of transcripts done by Nolene Lossau and Ellen Stanton from LDS Church microfilms, covering Cape, Orange Free State and Transvaal records4.

Also extremely useful in this context are the extracts transcribed by Sue Mackay from a number of Cape Newspapers housed in the National Archives, Kew. These transcripts are available on several web sites including the eGGSA Newspaper Library.

We have started our series of transcriptions with the early NGK registers and the Anglican registers of the diocese of Grahamstown. Our transcriptions of the NGK registers are being done from the photocopies of the originals made by the HSRC in the 1980s and now housed in the Cape Archives and the Pretoria Archives6, and those of the Anglican Grahamstown Diocese from photographs taken for us in the Cory Library7 by William Jervois, genealogist at the Albany Museum.8

Our aim is to arrange for the registers to be photographed so that we may transcribe them and add them to our searchable database of these records. A copy of the photographs will, of course, be presented to the body housing the registers and also, if desired, to the originating church itself. The transcripts will be available on our web site for all to access. The first of these are now ready, and have been joined by transcripts done by Gary Cannon who has kindly made these available to add to our database.

The project is funded from the income of the eGGSA branch whose source is the annual membership fee and the small profits we accumulate from online sales of CDs and from the photographing of documents in the Archives. We have also received a very generous contribution towards the cost of the project from one of our members, Ian Edwards.


Stellenbosch Doopregister 1688-1732, Die Genootskap vir die Kerkversameling, met vertolking deur
Ockert Malan & Lorna Newcomb.

Stellenbosse Dode- en Grafregisters, saamgestel deur Ockert Malan, Die Stellenbosse Heemkring

e-Family.co.za, contributions by Nolene Lossau

See the introduction to the 1665-1696 Cape Town Registers for some more details.

Cory Library

Albany Museum

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Searching and using the content of these Registers

Use the menu on the left to choose the type of register you wish to search.

Our object in the transcriptions done as part of the eGGSA project is to try to convey, as accurately as may be possible in the circumstances, what actually is written on the register pages. With this in view we have transcribed names, places, dates, abbreviations, etc. without interpretation on our part. Nothing in any entry that could be read has been omitted. We have added notes about any problems or oddities we have encountered during the transcriptions.

The registers vary in what information they record, from church to church and from one era of time to another. We have attempted to fit them all into one database format to allow coherent searching and reporting but no information has been knowingly omitted in the process.

Each entry as provided in the resulting list has its source included. When using this information we would ask you please to retain this information - it is the authority for that information.

Since spellings are not always what we might expect nowadays, you will probably need to use a certain amount of ingenuity in your search. Spellings may vary due to many factors, not least among which may be a mis-reading by the transcriber. If you find what appears to be a mistake please contact me - I will be happy to check against the photographs of the originals. Any other feedback will also be gratefully received.

Richard Ball

NB. The content of these registers is provided here for the use of all, it may not be used in any commercially motivated enterprise, or sold on for any purpose whatsoever. It may, of course, be used as reference material for published books or articles, when it should be quoted in full.

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