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Johannes Martin Els, The Progenitor of the ELS Family in South Africa

originally printed in the March 2011 issue of Familia, the quarterly journal of the Genealogical Sociey of South Africa.


On his wife’s Inventory documents the Els progenitor in South Africa, Johannes Martin Els, signed his name Johan Merthien Eltz (MOOC 8/17:32; Inventory, dated 22 May 1779) (Image below):



He is also recorded as Johan Martien Eltz an his marriage entry in Stellenbosch on 8 May 1763 (VC 639, Stellenbosch marriages, page 45):


This inscription reads:

1763 Den 8 Maij Johan Martien Eltz van Stendaal in 't Brandenburgsche burger aan Swellendam jonghman met Anna Maria Pieterse van Cabo de Goede Hoop

In some Cape records he was sometimes simply called Jan Els or even Marthinus Els.

He originates from the town Stendal, then situated in the Kingdom of Prussia (German: Königreich Preußen) of which Brandenburg was the power base. Presently Stendal is situated in the state of Saxony-Anhalt which lies directly west of and adjoins the present state of Brandenburg in Germany.

He is recorded in the Baptism and Confirmation Book of the parish of the Jakobikirche (St. James Church) of the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church in Stendal as Johann Martin Oeltz, born 4 June 1724, the son of Martin Oeltzen and Gertrud Gronemayers (See abstract below):


INSCRIPTION OF THE BIRTH OF JOHANN MARTIN OELTZ (Source: Copy obtained from the Church Administration (Kreiskirchenamt), Stendal)

The entry reads:

Johann Martin Oeltz, Martin Oeltzen Bürger und Tageslöhners und Fr. Gertrud Gronemayers Sohn, war geboren anno 1724 d.(den) 4 Juni

(Johann Martin Oeltz, son of Martin Oeltzen, Citizen and Day Labourer and his wife Gertrud Gronemayers, was born in the year 1724, the 4th June.)

He was baptised in this church on the 7 June 1724 and he was confirmed as a member of the church in 1738.

The godparents at the baptism were Matthias Gronemaier, Gertrud’s father, a citizen and day labourer, his wife (probably 2nd, as shown later) Maria Schültzen and four other persons (Me Erdmann Arneburg, Me Johanna Cramer, Johann Martin Sape and one more person who’s name could unfortunately not be deciphered on the baptism entry).

The Jakobikirche is situated in Breite Strasse in the so-called “old town”, the old part of Stendal. Built in the 14th and 15th centuries, it is the second of Stendal's three major churches. The building which preceded the present-day Jakobikirche was possibly the village church in the days when Stendal was only a village, the one mentioned in the document of privileges which established the town.1

The church’s present tower stands in place of the original one which collapsed on 30 April 1808. The tower was also previously destroyed by lightning in 1701 and was rebuilt in 1704.

The church is known for its exceptional bell play (glockenspiel) (listen to it on ).


THE JAKOBIKIRCHE (ST. JAMES CHURCH) STENDAL (Source: Website of the Jakobikirche, Stendal at )

The church is renowned for its beautiful interior. Major parts of the decoration of this parish church have been preserved. A particular feature is the colourful pulpit, made out of sandstone by Hans Hacke, from Werben. (See photo’s on the website at )


The church records show that Johann Martin Oeltz’s parents were Martin Oeltzen (also written Martin Öltzen) and Gertrud Gronemeyer. They were married on the 2nd January 1709 (See marriage entry below):


MARRIAGE ENTRY OF THE PARENTS OF JOHANNES MARTIN ELS (Source: Copy obtained from the Church Administration (Kreiskirchenamt), Stendal)

The entry reads:

Anno 1709

den 2. Januar: ist Martin Ölze mit j. Gertrudt, ..... Matthias Gronemaiers, gewesenes Tagelöhners Tochter, copuliert worden.

(Year 1709

the 2nd January Martin Ölze entered into matrimony with Miss Gertrudt, daughter of Matthias Gronemaiers, who is a Day labourer.)

The father Martin Öltze was thus a day-labourer. Like his son, his full names were also Johann Martin, as recorded at his death (see below). In old German the first name given to a son was usually the first name of his father. They were, however, usually called by their middle names; so also Martin Öltze. He died on 22 June 1751 at the age of 79 years (thus born in 1672) and was buried on 24 June 1751. The entry from the church’s “Sterbebuch” (Book of Deaths) reads:

19 Johann Martin Oelze, ein 79 jähriger Bürger u. (und) Tageslöhner ist gestorben den 22ten Juni früh um 4 Uhr, den 24ten, auf dem Johannis Tage mit der gantzen Schul ….. parentate und 2 hl. (heiligen) Glocken beerdigt, die Kirche empfing 22 gr. (Groschen) “

(19 Johann Martin Oelze, a 79- year old Citizen and Day Labourer died on 22nd June early at 4 am, buried on the 24th on the Day of Johannis 2 with the whole parentate (probably accompanied by the ringing of) the two holy bells, the Church received 22 Groschen” (a coin then used in various German states))

Gertrud Gronemeyer was baptised on 5 March 1686. Her parents were Matthias Gronemeyer and Ilse Limpermanß. Ilse is probably Matthias’s first wife as, at the baptism on 7 June 1724 of Gertrud’s son, Johan Martin Oeltz (Johannes Martin Els), his wife is given as Maria Schültzen. She is thus probably the second wife.

Both Johannes Martin and his parents are mentioned in the Citizen Books of the City of Stendal 1694 – 1850 (“Bürgerbücher der Stadt Stendal 1694 – 1850; Dr. Willy Salewski, Marktschellenberg, Verlag Degener & Co., 1938)

This record shows the alternative ways that the surname was written (Eltze, Elze, Öltze).


EXTRACT FROM CITIZEN BOOKS OF THE CITY OF STENDAL 1694 – 1850 (Source: Bürgerbücher der Stadt Stendal 1694 – 1850; Dr. Willy Salewski, Marktschellenberg, Verlag Degener & Co., 1938.)

According to the above Johann Martin Eltz gains citizenship of Stendal on 10 October 1746. His father, Martin Öltze acquires citizenship for both him and his bride to be, Gertrud Gronemayer, on 5 November 1708. He was a burger from “Jürgen, Kossät in Farchan”. (Farchant is a town in the district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria, Germany. It is situated 75 km southwest of Munich).


Stendal is situated on the Uchte, a tributary of the Elbe River, approximately 100 km west of Berlin and 55 km north of Maagdeburg, presently in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.

In the early 1700’s Brandenburg was the most important portion of the Kingdom of Prussia. When Prussia was subdivided into provinces in 1815, the territory of the Margraviate of Brandenburg became the Province of Brandenburg. In 1618 the province’s western border was brought eastward to the Elbe River, with the Altmark region (west of the Elbe) going to the newly-formed Province of Saxony.

In 1945, the Soviet military administration combined Magdeburg and Halle-Merseburg with the State of Anhalt into the Province of Saxony-Anhalt which, in 1947, became a state. Germany was not united until 1871. In the 1600’s and 1700’s the Germany of today consisted of 1 789 kingdoms, principalities, grand duchies, dukedoms, electorates, free cities and small personal estates. In 1700 Stendal was in the kingdom of Prussia, in the province of Sakse, generally referred to as Prussian-Sakse to distinguish it from the electoral princedom of Sakse.

Although Stendal is situated in a fertile agricultural region with mining and manufacturing activities, during the 1600’s and 1700’s the German states, in particular Prussia, were ravaged by wars and conflicts. Furthermore, the German princes led a life of ease and luxury at the expense of their impoverished subjects by imposing burdensome taxation.

Low productivity, the high taxes and rents as well as the requisitioned labour service, caused the majority of the people to fall heavily in debt. The crops were just not adequate to pay for the taxes and rents required by the princes. Thousands from all parts were compelled to sell what little property they had. They paid their debts, took their remaining possessions and went looking for a new life elsewhere. Emigration records repeatedly show reasons given for emigrating as “scarcity of food”, “hard times”, “lack of livelihood”, “poor crops”, and “high taxes”.

(Sources: An extract from “Routes to Roots – Tracing your European Ancestors”; by Anne Lehmkuhl;     and The History of the Johann Friedrich Mohr Family; Eugene Irving Mohr at: )

During this period the “Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie” or “V.O.C” (Dutch East India Company (D.E.I.C.)) was a major employer of maritime labour and was recruiting sailors and soldiers for the ships of their trading fleet with the east and for their colonies at the Cape of Good Hope, Batavia and elsewhere in the East. The V.O.C. preferred recruiting sailors from abroad and younger employees who were still unmarried. The young job seekers from the German areas were ideal candidates. The Netherlands, in contrast to their country at the time, was a neutral country that benefited and prospered during the time of wars elsewhere. Many Germans, including Johannes Martin Els, went to the Netherlands in search of a better future.


Johan Martin Els, recorded as Johan Martien Ulsen from Stendaal, was employed by the V.O.C. on 8 January 1749 as a soldier 3. He was assigned to the ship Elswoud 4, under the command of Captain Dirk Took, which left on the same day, 8 January 1749, from the “Rede van Texel” (the V.O.C. anchorage at this island of North Holland) for the Cape and Batavia. It was the ship’s maiden voyage. The Elswoud did not call at the Cape but at False Bay on 2 June 1749. According to his ship’s Pay Ledger (Scheepssoldijboek) Account he went ashore on 15th June 1749. The ship left again on 3 July 1749 to sail to Batavia where it arrived on 12 September 1749. On the return journey, leaving Batavia on 28 October 1749, the Elswoud called at Cape Town again, arriving on 25 January 1750 and leaving for Texel on 17 February 1750.

His name appears on page 431 in “Personalia of the Germans at the Cape 1652-1806” by Dr. J. Hoge, namely:

ULSEN, JOHANN MARTIN.- StendaI. Arr. 1749 as so., woodcutter 1751, wagon-driver 1752, so. 1753-55, b. 1756, resident at Stellenbosch (GMR 1750-55; Rq. 1756: 82; Stellenbosch Arch., vol. 369.)

As a VOC employee, before he became a Free Burger on 16 March 1756, he is thus recorded in the “Generale Muster Roles” (Hoge’s reference “GMR”) from 1750 to 1755 as a soldier (woodcutter in 1751, transport driver in 1752) under the names Johan/Jan Martin/Marten Ulsen from Steendal/Stendaal/Stendal.

In 1754 and 1755 he was stationed at “’t Revier Zonder Endt” (the river runs into the Breë River). There were a few VOC “Buitenposten” in the area such as “ ’t Ziekenhuijs” and “Zoetemelks Valleij”. The present town Riversonderend in the Western Cape is in this area.

There were huge forests in ’t Revier Zonder Endt with a variety of large trees that provided good quality building timber and wood suitable for making wagons, which was transported to the Castle by ox wagon.5 In 1760 he is also recorded in the Muster Roll as Jan Marthen Ulsen of Drakenstein District.

On page 87 of “Personalia”, Hoge records his marriage, based on information from “Geslacht-Register der oude Kaapsche Familiën of C. C. de Villiers (Hoge’s reference” “G.R.”), not realizing that it is the same person as the Johann Martin Ulsen above:

ELS, JOHANNES MARTIN.- Stendal. (1763 ?) Anna Maria Pieterse, illeg. d. of Willem Hendrikse by Elsje Gerrits (later married to Jan Pieterse, G.R. III, p. 23), bapt. 17.12.1747 at Stellenbosch. 6 children. (G.R. nr. 109.)

“Johann Martin Ulsen from Stendaal” disappears from the records after he became a Free Burger in 1756 (see below) while “Johan Martien Eltz van Stendaal” appears in the records for the first time when he married Anna Elizabeth Pieterse in 1763.

His VOC employment particulars are as follows:


V.O.C. SERVICE INFORMATION OF JOHAN MARTIEN ELS (Source: VOC – Opvarenden, Nationaal Archief records at )
By the time he left the employ of the V.O.C., the situation in his home country was still bleak. Between 1756 and 1763 Prussia fought on the side of Great Britain and Hanover in the Seven Year War against France, Saxony, Austria, Sweden and Russia. This was the first war in history really fought on a worldwide scale. The seven Years’ War resulted in havoc and destruction in Prussia, Saxony and other parts of Germany. During this war the Swedes ransacked much of Saxony. Saxony was on the loosing side and had to give one-third of its territory to Prussia. Prussia itself was gravely affected by the war and prospects for its youth were poor. This was probably known in the Cape as news was brought by visiting ships. This situation made it unlikely that a V.O.C. official who retired from service would consider returning to his home country. Johannes Martin left the service of the V.O.C. on 16 March 1756 and became a Free Burgher.


On 8 May 1763 he married Anna Maria Pieterse. She was the illegitimate daughter of Willem Hendrikse by Elsje Gerrits ("Personalia of the Germans at the Cape, 1652-1806"; J. Hoge). She was baptised on 17 December 1747 in Stellenbosch:


BAPTISM ENTRY OF ANNA MARIA PIETERSE IN STELLENBOSCH (Source: VC 633 Stellenbosch baptisms, p. 51)

Anna Maria carried the surname of her stepfather, Johannes (Jantje) Peters/Pietersen, who, together with her mother, Elsje Gerrits, probably raised her from the age of about 5 years following his marriage to Elsje (if not earlier, as they had an illegitimate son about two years before they got married).

Anna Maria died in about May 1779, shortly after the birth of her last child. Her Inventory was dated 22 May 1779 (Inventories of the Orphan Chamber, Cape Town Archive Repository, ref. MOOC 8/17.32).


On 14 January 1774 the loan farm, Jagersrivier, situated east of Oudtshoorn between the Groot Swartberge and the Kammanassieberge on the Olifants River, between De Rust and Barandas in the Klein Karoo, was allotted to Els as grazing land. He had to pay the usual leasehold of 24 Rix-dollars (Rijksdaalders) per annum to the magistrate in Swellendam. He was also obliged to deliver 10% of his wheat-harvest free to the Castle in Cape Town and deliver the receipt for it to the magistrate.

Although the original farm was later subdivided into a number of portions, the remaining portion of the farm Jagersrivier still exists (situated where the Snyberg siding is on the railway line between Oudtshoorn and Willowmore).

The original farm is shown amongst other farms along the Olifantsrivier on the following Sketch plan:


MAP OF LOAN FARMS ALONG THE OLIFANTS RIVER, SHOWING ALSO THE FARM JAGERSRIVIER (Co-ordinates 33° 28’ 46” S, 22° 52’ 21” E) (Source “Bewaarders van ons Erfenis” Deel 8 (Distrik George); J G le Roux, J J Niemandt, Mariana Olivier; 2003; p 33.)

By 7 April 1787 Els had abandoned the farm as on this date grazing rights on the farm were granted to fellow farmer Douwe Gerbrand Stein. Els fell in arrears with the payment of his debt on the land. He was in arrears for a period of 12 years and 3 months. This was recorded in the "Resolutions of the Council of Policy of Cape of Good Hope" on 24 July 1788 (Resolutions of the Council of Policy of Cape of Good Hope; ). Arrears rent for the farm is also mentioned as a debt of the estate in Anne Maria Pieterse’s above-mentioned Inventory.

Copies of the original loan farm licenses were obtained from the Cape Archive Repository. The loan transaction of J. M. Els is also recorded in “Changing Hands” as ID 5553 in the section “1687 to 1793 – Salt Collection and Hunting Permits and Loan Farm Applications”). The following are transcriptions of the licenses:


Jul: 14 Swellendam

Werd door deesen gepermitteerd aan den Landbouwer Jan Marthinus Els omme voor den tijd van een geheel jaar met Zijn Vee te mogen gaan leggen en wijden op de plaats gen’d (genaamd) de Jagers Rivier geleegen aan de oliphants Rivier, mits aldaar ijmand leggende in’t hoegten niet hinderlijk te zijn, nogh help om geen consequentie te trekken, de houden wegende voordat dese ter Secretarije zal werden registreerd daarvoor in’t E Comp’s (Edele Compagnie’s) Cassa te tellen tolken recognitie voor d’ E Comp (Edele Compagnie). Een Somma van Sesthien (Goue?) ducats a 72 Sts.ijder of te rd (R(ix)d(aalders)) 24 en deese permissie binnen den tijd van een maand naar dies Expiratie wederom te moeten laten vernieuwen op de panalteijten (penalties?) daartoe staande voorts verpligt blyvende de thiende van’t aldaar ‘t’ougste Coorn ter deesen Casteel aan den Heer af De E Comp (De Edele Compagnie) te moeten opbrengen en deesen alvoorens aan den Landdrost Joachim Frederik Mentz, over te geven.

In’t Casteel de Goede Hoop den 14 Jann 1774..was geteekend : /J.V. Plettenberg/:lager:/voldaan/:en geteekend:/ J.J. Le Sueur
Geboek door my 3 Jaaren en 10 mde tes agteres BJ Leijdler . Gers tot den 14 Novbr 1778 -
Huyden den 7 april 1787 heeft opgem(elde) Els met voorkennis van den Edelen Heer goewerneur bovenstaande veeplaats verlaten en de daar op tragten den agterstal van twaalf Jaar en Drie maanden benevens Zegelregt Bvehoorlik in’t Comp’s (Compagnie’s) Cassa te hebben voldaan ……………                                                                                                                          P A Horak ………….119 ½                                                                                                                   E G Cliney


Fo(lio) 110 ½ Swellendam
Werd door deesen Gepermitteerd aan den Landbouwer Douwe Gerbrant Stein omme voor den tyd van een geheel Jaar met zyn vee te mogen gaan leggen en weiden op de plaats genaamd de Jagers rievier gelegen aan den oliphants rievier , zynde door den meeden Landbouwer Jan Marthinus Els verlaten, gehouden weesende voor dat deese ter politicque Seretarye zal werden geregistreerd daar voor in Comp (Compagnie’s) Cassa tot een recognitie van de E Comp (Edele Compagnie) te tellen eene Somma van Sestien op Ducatons a 72 (Stuivers) ijder ofte Rxdrs. 24: en dese permissie binnen den tyd van een maand naar experatie deeses wederom te laten vernieuwen op de penaliteiten daartoe staande. Voorts verpligt blyvende de tiende van’t aldaar t’ougste Coorn ten deesen Casteel aan den Heer op de E Comp op te brengen en deesen alvoorens aan den Landdrost Constant van Nuld Onkruid over te geven.
./ onder stond /. In’t Casteel de Goeden Hoop den 7 April 1787 /:was geteekend :/ C F van de Graaff /: lager: / voldaan /: en geteekend :/ G H Cruywagen
                                                                                                                              Geboek door                                                                                                                  W L Van Hardenberg

Stein too was in arrears for a period of 6 years on payments on another farm before he was granted grazing rights on Jagersrivier. (Resolutions of the Council of Policy of Cape of Good Hope, 24 July 1788). First Clerk Horak was found guilty of misconduct and negligence and severely reprimanded for having recorded these (and other) debts as paid and having issued receipts in respect thereof while the debts were in fact not paid. The commission that investigated the actions of Horak also recommended that farmers be prohibited from leaving their farms and letting it to others (Resolutions of the Council of Policy of Cape of Good Hope 24 July 1788 ( TANAP )

The house on the farm is mentioned in Anna Maria Pieterse’s Inventory of 22 May 1779:

“Een opstal staande op die leenings plaats gen:t de Jagers Rivier geleegen aan de Oliphants Rivier”

(Inventories of the Orphan Chamber, Cape Town Archive Repository, ref. MOOC 8/17.32, date 22 May 1779, TANAP )


In summary the following is a time line of major events in the life of Johannes Martin Els:

Johann Martin Oeltz/Öltz

Born in Stendal: 4 June 1724 Baptised (Jakobikirche, Stendal): 7 June 1724 age 3 days Confirmed (Jakobikirche, Stendal): 1738 age 14 years Gains citizenship of Maagdeburg: 10 November 1746 age 22 years

Johan Martien Ulsen

Join service of V.O.C. as soldier: 8 January 1749 age 24 ½ years Leaves from Texel on the “Elswoud”: 8 January 1749 age 24 ½ years Arrives in False Bay: 2 June 1749 age 25 years (The Elswoud leaves False Bay for Batavia: 3 July 1749) Leaves service of the V.O.C. and becomes a Free Burger: 16 March 1756 age 31¾ years

Johan Merthien Eltz/Johannes Martin Els

Marries Anna Maria Pieterse: 8 May 1763 age 39 years First child, Johannes Marthinus, born: 20 December 1763 age 39½ years Obtains loan farm “Jagersrivier”: 14 January 1774 age 49½ years Last child, Anna Maria, baptised: 18 April 1779 age 55 years Death of wife (leaving him a widower): 18 April-22 May 1779 age 55 years Abandons the farm “Jagersrivier”: 7 April 1787 age 62¾ years Clerk Horak is found guilty of misconduct: 24 July 1788 age 64 years

The obscure periods in the life of Johannes Martin Els require further research. From what is recorded about him in the Cape Muster Rolls during the 7 years that he was a V.O.C. employee after he landed in False Bay on 15 June 1749 until he became a Free Burger on 16 March 1756, we know at least that he was for some time stationed at ’t Revier Zonder Endt with the rank of soldier but that was not necessarily his occupation. According to the Muster Rolls he also served as a woodcutter and wagon driver. We also know that, after becoming a Free Burger in 1756, he lived in the Drakenstein district in 1760. Nothing further is known about his life during the 7 years before he married Anna Maria Pieterse in Swellendam on 8 May 1763 and also about his life and whereabouts during the almost 11 years from his marriage until he was granted the loan farm “Jagersrivier” between De Rust and Barandas on 14 January 1774. It is also not known when and where he died.


The origin of the father of Anna Maria Pieterse, Willem Hendrikse, is unknown. From J. A. Heese’s “Die Herkoms van die Afrikaner, 1971” it can be deducted that he is probably Dutch.

The descend of Elsje Gerrits is also unsure. According to the above publication of J. A. Heese she could be "non-white". Heese, however, seems unsure about this and puts a "?" behind his own contention that her daughter Anna Maria is “1/2 Dutch and 1/2 Non-white”. No other source mentions anything about this. Like her daughter, Anna Maria Pieterse, who was recorded as “Anna Maria Pieterse van Cabo de Goede Hoop” at her marriage, Elsje is also recorded in “South African Genealogies” as “Elsje Gerrits van die Kaap” which could reflect on her possible non-European decent. In his publication "Groep Sonder Grense", 1984 and an article in "Die Vaderland" of 23 October 1985, following the publication of "Groep Sonder Grense", Prof. H. F. Heese lists "Els" as one of the South African surnames with "Euro-Indian" (probably slave ancestry) connections.

Elsje Gerrits could have been an unrecorded daughter of Hermanus Gerrits and Anna Maria Brits (Note that Elsje named her daughter “Anna Maria”; it could be after her mother, Anna Maria Brits). The parents of Hermanus were Gerrit from Oldenburg and Susanna van Bambaser, the freed slave of Anthony van Angola. That would explain the alleged Indian slave connection in Elsje Gerrits’s ancestry. This could, however, not be confirmed. Elsje is, in fact, not mentioned as a daughter of Hermanus Gerrits and Anna Maria Brits in a study by the respected researcher Margaret Cairns: “Gerrit Gerrits of Oldenburg and Susanna of Bambaser. An Early 18th century couple”. (Familia Vol. XVII 1980 no. 3/4; p. 49). Also, neither Anna Maria Brits nor any of her relatives appear as witnesses at the baptisms of Elsje Gerrits’s children, nor do any of Hermanus Gerrits’s relatives (he was already deceased by then).

Alternatively, there seems to be strong circumstantial evidence that Elsje Gerrits is in fact the same person as Anna Elizabeth Weyers, daughter of Heinrich Weyers from Epe in the Netherlands. Like her mother, Anna Elizabeth Gerrits - who was known as Elsje Gerrits - she seems to have also been called Elsje Gerrits.

Anna Elizabeth Gerrits was the daughter of Caspar Gerrits of Nijmegen in the Netherlands and Elsje Speldenberg, daughter of Hendrik Speldenberg, also of Nijmegen, by Arriaantje van Cathryn, the daughter of Catharina van Malabar, an Indian ex-slave of Cape Commander Cornelis van Quaelberg. Catharina was baptised in 1673, set free in 1676 and married Cornelis Claessen (Kees de Boer) on 15 March 1676 when Arriaantje was approximately twelve years old.

With the exception of one child, where the relatives of the father, Jantje Peters, were the witnesses, the witnesses at the baptisms of all the other children of Elsje Gerrits were relatives of Anna Elizabeth Weyers, including Elsje Speldenberg, who (if the baptism entry is correct), together with Jantje Peters, brought Elsje Gerrits’s last child, Marthinus Pieterse, for baptism on 4 June 1763 in Stellenbosch. Elsje Gerrits could have died before the baptism and Elsje Speldenberg (the grandmother of Anna Elizabeth Weyers), seems to have stood in as “doopmoeder”.

(For more particulars see “Die Herkoms Van Elsje Gerrits, moeder van Die Els-stammoeder, Anna Maria Pieterse”; Charlie Els, Pretoria, Julie 2010)


In conclusion the ancestry of Johannes Martin Els can be summarized as follows:

Johan Merthien Eltz/Oeltz, born in Stendal, Germany on 4 June 1724, baptised in the Jakobikirche (St. James Church), Stendal on 7 June 1724, died after 1787, married in Stellenbosch on 8 May 1763 to Anna Maria Pieterse, baptised in Stellenbosch on 16 November 1721, died about April/May 1779, illegitimate daughter of Willem Hendrikse and Elsje Gerrits.

His parents:

Johann Martin Öltze(n)/Oeltzen (called Martin) from Jürgen, Kossät in Farchant, district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany, born 1672, died 22 June 1751 in Stendal, Germany, married on 2 January 1708/09 to Gertrud Gronemayer, baptised 5 March 1685/86, daughter of Matthias Gronemaier and Ilse Limpermanß from Stendal, Germany.


On Anna Maria Pieterse’s Inventory of 15 March 1779 the following is, inter alia, listed amongst the “Schulden van den burger Jan Martin Eltz”:

“52 voet planken aan Nicolaas van Rensburg tot twee dood kisten voor zijn vrouw en kind geleverd                   6:4 Rd:s”

Although Anna Maria’s death was clearly related to the birth of her last child, Anna Maria Els, baptised on 18 April 1779 6, the child who died about the same time as Anna Maria and for whom the coffin was made, could not be this last child as she grew up to marry Jan Willem Minie on 2 August 1795. The child who died was probably the son, Christiaan Els, twin brother of Frederik Nicolaas Els; the twins were baptised on 27 April 1777. While Frederik grew up and later married Susanna Cornelia de Bruyn on 20 November 1803, Christiaan’s name does not appear in any later records, also not on Anna Maria’s Inventory of 22 May 1779 (MOOC8/17.32), while her other children are mentioned. Christiaan probably died shortly before his mother, at the age of about two years.

Johannes Martin Els and Anna Maria Pieterse had six children; five sons and a daughter:

  1. Johannes Marthinus, born 20 December 1763, baptised Stellenbosch 9 September 1764, died 9 September 1844, Klipplaatdrif in the Winterberg, district Albany, married 16 Nov 1783, Johanna Catharina van Tonder, baptised 12 November 1769, Olifants River, Cape Province, died 30 May 1846, Caledon.
  2. Nicolaas Jacobus, baptised Cape Town, 7 June 1772, died before 18 August 1830, married Swellendam, 1 March 1795, Hester Botha, baptised 18 February 1781, died between 1811 and 1817. His second marriage: about 1818, Maria Albertha Joubert.
  3. Johannes Christoffel, baptised Cape Town 19 January 1775, married Graaff-Reinet 30 Oct 1803, Elizabeth Sophia van der Merwe, died before 6 February 1839.
  4. Christiaan (twin brother of Frederik), baptised Drakenstein 27 April 1777, died probably before 22 May 1779.
  5. Frederik Nicolaas (twin brother of Christiaan), baptised Drakenstein 27 Apr 1777, married 20 November 1803, Susanna Cornelia de Bruyn, baptised Cape Town, 20 May 1787.
  6. Anna Maria, baptised Drakenstein 18 April 1779, married 2 August 1795 Jan Willem Minnie, baptised Tulbagh, 25 December 1772.

While the birth dates of the last 5 children are spaced the usual two to three years apart, the first two children were born almost nine years apart, which is unusual. A possible explanation could be that there were additional children, who did not survive, born between the birth dates of the first two children.


The majority of South Africans with the surname Els (and at least one known third generation branch who changed the surname to Else) are descendants of one of the four sons, Johannes Marthinus, Nicolaas Jacobus, Johannes Christoffel and Frederik Nicolaas Els, although there could be some Elses who are descendants of the Irish progenitor Patrick Henry Ellis from Dublin Ireland, who married an Afrikaans woman, Margaretha Magdalena Joubert, in Drakenstein on 14 August 1803. On the baptism entries of their children in the Swellendam and George baptismal registers, they were simply entered with the Afrikaans spelling Els in stead of Ellis. The children also all married Afrikaans spouses and many of the families probably became Afrikaans.

There is also a John Arthur Ells from Godalming, Surrey, Engeland who married an Afrikaans woman, Elsje Sophia Pansegrouw, born in Agter-Sneeuberg, Cradock 24 April 1858, in the Methodist Church, Kroonstad on 12 December 1882. Most of his children also had Afrikaans names. Whether any of his descendants adopted the surname Els is not known.



The author acknowledges with gratitude contributions and assistance provided by Daniël Jacobs, Jean le Roux, Edwin Conroy, Richard Ball, Harry Rascher, Annelie Els, Roderick Hinkel and Brigitte van der Linde. Their contributions were indispensable.


1         Baptism, Confirmation and Deaths Records of the parish of the Jakobikirche of the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church, Stendal; information supplied by the Church Office Administration (Kreiskirchenamt) of the Evangelische Kirche, Stendal.

2          Bewaarders van ons Erfenis, Deel 8 (Distrik George); J G le Roux, J J Niemandt, Mariana Olivier; 2003.

3          Cape Town and Stellenbosch Baptism and Marriage registers.

4          Die Deutschen am Kap unter der Holländischen Herrschaft, 1652-1806: Prof. Dr. Edward Moritz.

5          Die Herkoms van die Afrikaner; J. A. Heese; 1971.

6          Die Vaderland, 23 October 1985; article about “Groep Sonder Grense” by Prof. H. F. Heese.

7          Gerrit Gerrits of Oldenburg and Susanna of Bambaser. An Early 18th century couple,   by Margaret Cairns; Familia Vol. XVII 1980 no. 3/4

8          Groep Sonder Grense; Prof. H. F. Heese; 1984.

9          Web Site of Jakobigemeinte Stendal

10         Inventories of the Orphan Chamber; Cape Town Archives Repository, South Africa (TANAP)   

11        Personalia of the Germans at the Cape, 1652-1806; Dr. J. Hoge

12        Resolutions of the Council of Policy of Cape of Good Hope (TANAP)

13        Routes to Roots – Tracing your European Ancestors; Anne Lehmkuhl;

14        Stadarchiv, Brüderstrasse, Stendal; Information obtained from the Curator.

15        The History of the Johann Friedrich Mohr Family, Eugene Irving Mohr

16        Inventories of the Orphan Chamber, Cape Town Archive Repository

17        VOC – Opvarenden, Nationaal Archief records

18        Wikipedia Encyclopedia

19        Table of Women whose deaths were childbirth-related; Maureen Rall from:              MOOC8/1-75 (75 volumes), period 1720 to 1834 in “Cape Transcripts TEPC,               two centuries transcribed 1673-1934


[2]   The Day of John (also “Johanni” or “Johannestag”) is the Anniversary of the birth of John the Baptist on 24 June. It is closely linked to 21 June when the summer solstice occurs. The Night of John is the night before the Day of John, from 23 to 24 June. The Catholic and some other churches consider the Day of John as of greatimportance.

[3] If he gave his name as Oeltzen or Öltzen (in German pronounced like in “Jewel”) it could easily have been interpreted as “Ulsen” by a Dutch VOC registration officer. There is a Dutch surname “van Ulsen”. Ulsen is not a German surname; Oeltzen, Oeltz, Eltz and Els are. The surname Els is still largely concentrated in  Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg in Germany (consult World Names Profiler at

[4] The name Elswoud is “Mogelijk genoemd naar de buitenplaats Elswoud bij Haarlem”; thus derived from what presently is a nature area, “Landgoed Elswout” (Elswoud Estate), situated between Haarlem and Aerdenhout in Overveen (North Holland). The ship’s name has no connection with the surname of Johannes Martin Els.

[5] Die Buitenposte, D. Sleigh, Pretoria Boekhuis, 2004; page 549

[6] Table of Women whose deaths were childbirth-related; Maureen Rall uit MOOC8/1-75 (75 Volumes), period 1720 to 1834 in “Cape Transcripts TEPC – two centuries transcribed 1673-1934”

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