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This article was originally printed in the July 2007 issue of genesis, the quarterly journal of eGGSA, internet branch of the Genealogical Society of South Africa.

Die Nederlandse Weesmeisies is deel van die mitologie van die vroeë Kaapse genealogie. Volgens J.A. Heese[1]: 'Colenbrander en baie ander navorsers oor die samestelling van die Afrikaanse volk, heg baie waarde aan die feit dat daar in Simon van der Stel se tyd aan die Kaap, talle Hollandse weesmeisies na Suid-Afrika gestuur is, om die ongetroude vryburgers van vroue to voorsien.' Hierdie artikel bespreek die getalle van hierdie weesmeisies asook wie hul afstammelinge was.

The Dutch Weesmeisies (girls from an orphanage) have become part of the mythology of early Cape ancestry. As J.A.Heese writes[1]: 'Colenbrander and many other researchers into the composition of the Afrikaners attach much value to the fact that during Simon van der Stel's time at the Cape, quantities of Dutch orphan girls were sent to South Africa, in order to provide wives for the unmarried free settlers'. This article covers how many such orphan girls there in fact were, and who their descendants are.

As a result, it seems, any woman of unidentified origins has often been labelled a 'weesmeisie'. If you do a Google search for 'weesmeisie', for instance, the largest number of entries will refer to Maria Kickers. As you will see if you read on, she was not one of the Weesmeisies (as defined above). It is not known how or when she arrived at the Cape. It seems because of this someone in the past decided to include her in the Weesmeisie category and that this epithet has stuck and been endlessly copied without further investigation. Other such examples are also to be found.

It seems, in fact, that there were only eight of these girls imported from an orphanage in Rotterdam who arrived during 1688. Wet writes[2] :

'Jan van Riebeeck had already in 1659 requested that the Council of Seventeen (of the Dutch East India Company) send out at least 20 marriageable girls from Europe to the Cape settlement. In 1685 Simon van der Stel made a similar request, differing in that he asked for between 30 and 40 girls. The Council of Seventeen reacted favourably to this request and decided to send 40 farm girls to the Cape. Suitable girls were apparently no so readily obtainable and in the event only 8 orphan girls from Rotterdam,

Ariaantje Jansz van Son,

Willemijntje Ariens de Wit,

Ariaantje Jacobsz van den Berg,

Judith Jansz Verbeek,

Petronella Cornelisz van de Capelle,

Intjen Cornelisz van der Bout,

Catharina Jansz van der Zee and

Anna Eltrop

departed in December 1687 on the ship 'China' for the Cape. By October 1688 six of them had already married and the last of the eight was married on 8 May 1689. The orphan girls were in fact so few that they resulted in no noticeable improvement in the shortage of marriageable women in the Cape settlement'.

J.A.Heese in his article[1](based on an article in the Zuid-Afrikaansche Tijdschrift of 1882) gives a list of 10 young women:

Willemijntjie Ariens de Wit

Adriaantjie Jacobs

Catharina van der Zee

Anna Eltrop van Kleef

Engelte Cornelissen

Adriaante Janse

Adriana van Zon

Petronella van Capelle

Judith van der Bout and

Judith Verbeek

but since his Engelte Cornelissen and Judith van der Bout are probably two readings of the same name, i.e.. Engeltje Cornelisse van der Bout, and the same is the case for his Adriaante Janse and Adriana van Zon, whose name was, in fact, Adriaantje Jansz van Zon, we seem to have the same list in both accounts.

Geoffrey Dean [3] supplies a translation of an extract from the letter listing the young women:

... we now therefore have favoured eight young women with a passage to the Cape of Good Hope on the ship China (which is a large vessel) ... and they are to remain at the Cape for the above purpose under a five-year contract ... The names are:

Ariaentgen Jansz van Son van Rotterdam

Willemtgen Arijens de Wit d[it]o.

Arijaentgen Jacobs van den Berg d[it]o.

Judith Jansz verbeecq d[it]o.

Petronelle Cornelis van Capelle d[it]o.

Jongetgen Cornelis van den bout d[it]o.

Catharina Jans van der Zee d[it]o. and

Anna Eltrap van Kleef d[it]o.

conversant with (farm work and) the cultivation of the soil. And it is the intention of the Lords 17 to employ these and other young women as agriculturists. We therefore request and earnestly recommend to you that you see that they are suitably placed, or if they marry, see that they do so with honest, capable and industrious men engaged in farming or of definite intention to undertake such work, and with whom these young women may be able to make a living, while (at the same time) as far as possible dissuading them from marriage with military men, as this is not within the intentions of the Lords Seventeen.

In the meantime, and until the marriage of these young women, it is incumbent upon you to provide them with the necessary sustenance and housing, maintaining such discipline you may deem suitable, and providing them appropriate handiwork or honest employment, so that their occupations and deportment may further their own advancement; and the management and conducting of this recommendation we entrust to your 'Honours' discretion. [4]

De Wet supplies source references for his list.[5] I have not been able to examine the originals but I have found him on the whole punctilious and accurate as to his sources. Heese provides no other source than the Zuid-Afrikaansche Tijdschrift of 1882.

De Wet gives us no further information on these young women, but Heese gives a short statement on each of them. I shall preface each of his statements with the label 'Heese states' and follow it with comments based on my own research.

Heese states: Willemijntjie Ariens de Wit was married to Detlev Biebow. Their daughter Maria was the stammoeder of the De Vos family.

This statement is incorrect.

Wilhelmina Adriaanse de Wit, born Rotterdam, died circa June 1727 [6]

married (1) 24 December 1688 at Cape Town [7]

Dideloff Bibouw, surgeon, of The Corner of Tweede Berg Dwars Straat, Table Valley, died circa 1695[8]

married (2) 2 October 1695 at Cape Town

Jacob Pleunis

The children of Wilhelmina Adriaanse de Wit and Dideloff Bibouw:

Hendrik Bibouw, baptized 28 May 1690, Cape Town

Maria Bibouw, baptized 2 March 1692, Cape Town, died circa 1713 [9]

married 25 March 1708 Cape Town

Philip Morkel, constable on the returning ship 'Oosterstein'

Cornelis Bibouw, baptized 7 March 1694, Cape Town, died before September 1695

Anna Bibouw, baptized 21 August 1695, Cape Town

The child of Wilhelmina Adriaanse de Wit and Jacob Pleunis:

Johannes Pleunis, boekhouder (1727) [10]

He left a number of daughters who married. I do not know if there are living descendants or not.

It was, in fact, the only surviving child of her daughter Maria Bibouw, namely her granddaughter Elisabeth Morkel, who married Wouter de Vos on 5 September 1728 at Stellenbosch as his second wife. Elisabeth Morkel is, therefore, joint stammoeder of the De Vos family, sharing this honour with Maria Sophia van der Bijl, his first wife. Elizabeth Morkel herself married a second time to Johannes Louw Jacobsz: circa 1732 and also has a very large number of descendants from that marriage.

Heese states: Adriaantjie Jacobs (later known as the carrier of porfiria) was the stammoeder of the Van Deventer family.

She was indeed the stammoeder of this family and has many descendants. For a good deal more information about her, see the article 'Die Stammoeder Ariaentjie Jacobs of te wel Ariaentjie Ariens' by N.A. Coetzee in Familia XV 1978 no 1. Some of the author's conclusions, particularly as to names and patronyms seem to me, on the face of it, dubious, but there are no sources stated and I have done no research into this area, so merely note this here.

As to being the carrier of porphyria, although Geoffrey Dean traced the origian of porphyria variegata in the South African population back to she and her husband, Gerrit Jansz van Deventer, he states that there is no evidence as to which of this pair was the actual carrier of the gene. [3]

Heese states: Catharina van der Zee was married to Jan Visser and thus stammoeder of that branch of the Vissers. Only b5.3 has descendants in South Africa today.

My research indicates that his couple had the following family:

Catrina Janse van der Zee, born Rotterdam

married 8 May 1689 at Cape Town

Jan Jansz Visser, baptized 16 January 1667, Cape Town

They had seven children baptised at the Cape:

Jannetie Visser, baptized 5 March 1690, Cape Town

Zacharia Visser, baptized 1 April 1691, Cape Town

Johannes Visser, baptized 29 November 1693, Cape Town

Willem Visser, baptized 26 August 1696, Cape Town

Geertruyd Visser, baptized 31 May 1699, Cape Town

Catrina Visser, baptized 20 August 1702, Cape Town

Willem Visser, baptized 17 July 1705, Cape Town

But this couple and their children disappear from the Cape Records after 1708. They made their last opgaaf return in 1705, when they were recorded as having one son and three daughters, and they last appear in the muster rolls, living at the Cape, on 31st January 1708. After that there is no record of them at the Cape. Did they move on to Batavia or repatriate? There is the following entry in the Cape Town Congregation membership register of 1696-1712, page 121: 1708, 27 June, Johannes Visscher, onder-coopman, met attest[atie] vertrokken, but whether it applies to them I do now know. So far as I can establish they left no descendants at the Cape.

Heese states: Anna Eltrop van Kleef was married to Andries Beets but had no descendants.

The marriage appears in the Cape Town church register, 1688, page 85

Den 26 7ber (September) Andries Be[ets] van Mastrigt J.M. vrijborger aan de Caap met Anna Elkop J.D. van Cleef.

This would imply that her name was Anna Eltrop/Elkop (as given by Wet) the van Cleef being her place of birth. I can find no baptisms of any children to this couple, so must agree that they left no known descendants at the Cape.

Heese states: Adriaante Janse. She married Albert Holder. They had two daughters but did not establish a progeny.

Her marriages and family were as follows:

Ariaantie Jansz van Son, born circa 1659, Rotterdam, died circa April 1731 [11]

married (1) 16 October 1688 at Cape Town

Aelbert Holder, born Bremen, burger of Stellenbosch, died circa 1697 [12]

married (2) 4 December 1701 at Stellenbosch

Pieter Malmer

The children of Ariaantie Jansz van Son and Aelbert Holder:

Heijltje Holder, born circa 1689 [12], died 1713 [13]

married 1 February 1709 at Stellenbosch

Allardus Bartholomeus Coopman, born Utrecht, died circa 1720

This couple had two daughters, both named Ariaantje and both of whom seem to have died in infancy. Allardus Bartholomeus Coopman married again circa 1715.

Trijntjen Holder born circa 1691 [12]

Maria Holder born circa 1693 [12]

Rebecca Holder born circa 1695 [12]

Alberdina Holder born circa 1697 [12]

Rebecca Holder attained adulthood since she appears as a witness at the baptism of Ariaantie, daughter of Allardus Bartholomeus & Elsje (sic) Holders, 8th November 1711, but apart from Heijltje, they do not appear to have married, and none seems to have left descendants. Perhaps they all died in the smallpox epidemic of 1713.

The children of Ariaantie Jansz van Son and Pieter Malmer:

Pieter Malmer [14]

Johannes Malmer [11] born circa 1707 [15], died circa 1772 in the Swellendam district.

In her will of 1730 [11] Ariaantie stated that since her two sons lacked the ability to manage their inheritance, she named the heemraad Jan Nel as guardian and controller of their inheritances.

Ariaantie Jansz van Son seems to have left no descendants beyond her children.

Heese states: Engelte Cornelissen was married to Bart Koopman. Although they had three children this family did not survive to propagate in South Africa.

Engeltje Cornelisz van der Bout, born Rotterdam

married (1) 11 October 1688 at Stellenbosch

Bartholomeus Jansz Coopman, blacksmith, born Utrecht (he was a widower at the time of his marriage.)

married (2) 19 November 1719 at Stellenbosch

Hans Carelse van den Burgh, died circa 1725 [16]

The children of Engeltje Cornelisz van der Bout and Bartholomeus Jansz Coopman:

b1. Annetie Coopman, baptized 20 August 1690, Cape Town,

probably died before 1698 [17]

b2. Cornelis Koopman, baptized 24 October 1691, Cape Town, died circa 1771 [18]

extra-marital relationship (1)

Anna van de Caab, died before 1759 [18]

married (2) 12 April 1761 Swartland

Catharijn Thomasse

Many descendants. See my web site: Cornelis Koopman

b3. Francina Coopman, baptized 14 September 1694, Stellenbosch

married 5 July 1709 Castle, Cape Town

Jacob Hendrikse

There was one child of this marriage, Hendrik Jacobs Hendrikse, but whether he left descendants I do not know.

b4. Anna Maria Coopman, baptized 17 July 1695, Cape Town [19]

married 10 January 1712 Stellenbosch

Pieter Zaaijman

All the South African Zaaimans/Saaimans are descended from this couple. See my web site: Anna Maria Coopman

b5. Catharina Coopman [20], born at the Cape

married 22 September 1715 Stellenbosch

Simon Pieterse Plooij died circa 1733 [21]

A large progeny. See my web site: Catharina Coopman

b6. Matien Coopman, baptized January 1700, Stellenbosch

b7. Johannes Coopman born, baptized 9 January 1701, Stellenbosch

b8. Annetje Coopman, baptized 4 March 1708, Cape Town

The children of Engeltje Cornelisz van der Bout and Hans Carelse van Den Burgh:

b1. Hendrik Carelse van den Burgh, baptized 19 November 1719, Stellenbosch

b2. Anna Carelse van den Burgh [18]

Heese states: I could find no records of marriage for the other four orphan girls .

They are: Adriana van Zon, Judith van der Bout, Petronella van Capelle and Judith Verbeek.

The first two are duplicates of two already dealt with above, as previously mentioned.

Petronella van Capelle

I also can find nothing about her.

For Judith Verbeek

I have not found a marriage, but I have found the following baptism, but no further record, at the Cape, of this couple or their child:

Cape Town, baptisms, 1693, page 50: Den delfde(sic) Dito (16 Aug) Een kindt gedoopt waervan vader is Wille[m] Duijsert, de moeder Judith Verbeek, tot getuijge stondt Dirk Mol, ende Daentie Rijkes ende is genaemt Cornelis

Heese states: Of the ten weesmeisies were there thus only three who were stammoeders of Afrikaner families (his implied list is: Willemijntjie Ariens de Wit, Adriaantjie Jacobs and Catharina van der Zee).

Given that there were in fact only eight of these orphan girls (see above) there would still seem to have been only three who contributed to the general population of South Africa, although Heese and I differ as to the third candidate. My list consists of: Wilhelmina Adriaanse de Wit, Ariaantje Jacobsz van den Berg and Engeltje Cornelisz van der Bout.

Richard Ball, Norfolk, England

copyright 2007

There have been a number of queries regarding the Weesmeisies on the various South Africa interest Genealogy email groups which stimulated my interest in the first place and I then found that most of these women intersected with other aspects of my research. Details of most of the above families, along with detailed references to the original documents on which I have based my conclusions, are to be found on my web site:

I thank Gerda Pieterse for bringing to my attention the article by J.A.Heese [1] and Colin Pretorius for his help.

Notes and Sources:

(all original document references are from the Cape Archives)

1. J.A.Heese, Die Hollandse Weesmeisies, In: Familia, 1976, no 3. All further quotes from this article, which is written in Afrikaans, are my own translations into English.

2. Wet, Die Vryliede en Vryswartes in die Kaapse Nedersetting, 1657-1707, Die Historiese Publikasie-Vereniging, 1981, page 147. (The Free Colonists and Free Blacks in the Cape Colony, 1657-1707). This quotation is my own translation into English of the original Afrikaans text.

3. Geoffrey Dean, The Porphyrias. London, Pitman, 1963. pages 77 – 78

4. Cape Archives: C.416, pp. 1030 to 1032, Letter from the Directors of the Chamber of Rotterdam to Commander Simon van der Stel, Commander at the Cape of Good Hope, and his Council, from the, of the Dutch East India Company, dated 23.12.1687. As quoted in The Porphyrias, by Geoffrey Dean.

5. Cape Archives: C.502 Outgoing Letters. Governor and Council of Policy to the Council of Seventeen, 11.10.1688 and Governor and Council of Policy to the Chamber of Rotterdam, 15.4.1689, pp. 238 and 345-6; C.593 Diary 8.5.1689, p.218.

6. MOOC 13/1/2, 48 Estate Accounts - De Wit, Wilhelmina - 1727

7. I have checked all church register entries used in this article using the VC photocopies held in the Cape Archives: Cape Town: VC 603, VC 604, VC 605, VC 621, Stellenbosch: Palmkronieke 1, Doop Register Stellenbosch 1688-1732, and VC 639 marriages 1700-1788, Drakenstein: VC 644 and VC 654.

8. MOOC 8/1, 14, Inventory - Bibout, Ditloff - 1695

9. MOOC 8/2, 87 Inventory - Bibou, Maria - 1713

10. MOOC 13/1/2, 48 Estate Accounts - De Wit, Wilhelmina - 1727

11. MOOC 7/1/4, 93 - Will - Son, Arriaantje Jansz van - 1730

12. MOOC 8/1, 29 - Inventory - Holder, Albert - 1697

13. Malan, Ockert - Verlore Dokumentasie oor die Gemeente Stellenbosch van 1689 tot 1725: 1713 Heijltie Holder f6 (burial charges). In: Capensis 2/2001: 36-41.

14. Stellenbosch Church Meeting Notes, page 36 and 37, 17 September 1713

15. Stellenbosch Church Meeting Notes, December 1714

16. MOOC 1/4, Weeskamer Notulen, Maandagh den 7e Januarij 1726

17. VC 39, 1698, Cape Muster rolls of Freemen 1660 onwards

18. MOOC 7/1/19, 70 Will - Koopman, Cornelis - dated 1759 and exhibited to the Weeskamer 7th June 1771

19. There is no baptism of an Anna Maria Coopman to be found. My guess is that she is the same person as the daughter baptised 17 July 1695 as Maria Coopman, the more particularly since the baptismal witness on that occasion was one Anna Marie. Catharina Coopman’s first child had baptismal witnesses Maria Zaaijman and Cornelis Coopman (brother), the third had: Sijmon de Plooij en Catryn Coopman (sister and her husband); the fourth had Hans Carelse van der Burg and Engela van' Bout (mother and step father), and the fifth had Jan de Buys, en Francina Coopmans (sister).

20. There is likewise no baptism of a Catharina Coopman to be found but I believe she is in all probability a daughter of this Coopman family. The evidence is slim but I find it convincing. In the Muster Roll of 1719 (VC49, Cape Muster rolls of Freemen 1660 onwards, Stellenbosch, 1719, page 408) she is listed with her husband: Symon Pietersz Plooy & Catharina Bartholomeus. Thus she is given the patronym (father’s name) of Bartholomeus. She was also a witness at the baptism of Catrijn Zaaijman, daughter of Anna Maria Coopman, on 22 October 1719. Being witness at a baptism was an honour usually accorded to members of the family. She herself did not, apparently, have any of her family as baptismal witnesses for her own children.

21. MOOC 8/5, 115 Inventory - Plooij Simon - 1733

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