Category Archives: Stevens

My Cousin Megan

The old Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk at Glen Lynden built in 1828 by Thomas Pringle.

Despite my distinctly British heritage, my great-grandmother’s ancestry provides a link to the earliest settlers in South Africa; some European; some not; some free citizens; some not. My great-grandmother was baptised Catharina Louiza Norton in the Dutch Reformed church at Komga in the far Eastern Cape province. Her father, Benjamin Norton, was born in South Africa to Jewish 1820 Settlers. He converted to Christianity and married Aletta Maria Muller, a young woman with a long Afrikaans pedigree. Tracing this pedigree has been fascinating, but quite complicated.

We initially struggled with tracing the ancestors. The Suid-Afrikaanse Geslagsregister (South African Genealogical Register) (SAG) proved very helpful. SAG was the product of a project of the Department of Home Affairs to map the familial connections of the Afrikaans population of South Africa using church records. This showed Aletta Maria’s parents as Cornelis Johannes Muller and Agatha Catharina Ferriera and provided links from them right back to the original Muller and Ferreira settlers in the early 1700’s – the Stamvaders. With Megan having links to the same founding families, we established that we are in fact related.

This was wonderful, but problems soon began to emerge with the narrative. Agatha Catharina could not have been the second wife of the Cornelis Johannes nominated for her, because his first wife was reliably recorded as having married a second time, as a widow, and having a second family whose descendants clearly exist. There were also doubts as to Agatha Catharina’s parentage. Generations of Ferreira descendants show her as being the daughter of a different Ferreira father and mother than SAG does. All very confusing and annoying and would Megan and I still share ancestors?

I had researchers photograph documents in the South African National Archives. I visited all the websites – eGGSA, Ancestry, Geni etc. I interrogated the people who maintained family trees and profiles. None was able or willing to provide solid documentary evidence to support their propositions. Agatha Catharina’s parentage, however, began to firm up as being Thomas Ignatius Ferreira and Aletta Maria Potgieter. Naming conventions would have seen Aletta Maria Muller named after her maternal grandmother so this seemed quite probable, and there was a convenient gap in the family tree in SAG. This link, however, brought the quandary of Agatha Catharina’s sister, Susannah Elizabeth, who is well documented everywhere as also marrying a Cornelis Johannes Muller, but with some commentators suggesting that this Cornelis Johannes was actually the one who had married Agatha Catharina. This was just more confusion.

Then Megan found links to two document collections on the Family Search web site. The first is for church records from the Dutch Reformed churches in the Cape and the other is for the official death notices for the Cape Province. These yielded three critical documents that settled the questions of where Agatha Catharina fits in and who her husband was.

The first is the baptismal record for Agata Catharina Feraire who was born in 1817 to Thomas Ignatius Feraire and Aletta Maria Potgieter. So SAG was wrong and the Geni profilers had got it right.

The second is the death record for Cornelis Johannes Muller who died in 1844 on the farm Mak Fontein in the Somerset district of the Cape. It shows that he was married to Agatha Catharina Ferreira and was born in 1812 to Cornelis Johannes Muller and Johanna Catharina van Rooy(en). This is the Cornelis Johannes Muller who is shown in SAG and on virtually all the websites as having married Susannah Elizabeth Ferreira. They all have it wrong.

The third is the marriage record for Susannah Elizabeth Ferreira and Cornelis Johannes Muller who were married in 1841. This provided the second confirmation that the Cornelis Johannes Muller everyone was showing as Susannah Elizabeth’s husband could not have been so. The record shows that both parties to the marriage were Minderjarig (Under Aged) – ie less than 21 years old. On the wedding date, the nominated Cornelis Johannes, born as he was in 1812, would have been almost 29 years old and therefore definitely not Under Age. Susannah Elizabeth’s husband was clearly one of the many other Cornelis Johannes Mullers living in the area at the time.

We knew that Agatha Catharina’s and Cornelis Johannes’s second child, Cornelis Johannes, was baptised in the Anglican church at Port Elizabeth. The collection yielded the baptismal records of their younger children; all at the old church at Glen Lynden (near modern day Bedford) where they would have been baptised by the Scottish dominee, Alexander Welsh. These showed an extra daughter not recorded on any of the websites or on Cornelis Johannes’s death notice. She clearly died as a young child.

Their oldest child, Aletta Maria, was born in the Gamtoos River area south-west of Port Elizabeth on 3 October 1832 – ten days before her parents were married with her mother just 15 years old!

The confirmed marriage and parentage of Agatha Catharina has allowed us to revisit the connections between Megan and me. Looking back over twelve generations we have a number, because there was only a small population pool which intermarried extensively – especially amongst the French Huguenots to whom we are both connected. Our closest common ancestors are our shared seventh-great-grandparents, Johannes (Jan Harmensz) Potgieter (1674-1733), Marthinus Jacobus van Staden (1706-1746) and his wife Catharina Botha (1714-1781).

We are officially 8th cousins.

More to come. There are some interesting characters.


©Alun Stevens 2019

Partridge and Walford

Banner is Cornelius Walford; Witham House; and grandfather Arthur Partridge Stevens’ serviette ring.

My grandfather’s name was Arthur Partridge Stevens and my great-grandfather’s name was Richard Walford Stevens. Why Partridge and Walford?

It seems likely that the second name, Walford, was derived from Cornelius Walford who was Richard Walford’s uncle and married to his mother’s sister at the time of his birth. A not uncommon naming practice at the time was to give a child its godparents’ surname as a second or third name. The likelihood, therefore, was that Cornelius (2 April 1827 – 28 September 1885) and Jane (neé Malyon; 1827 – 1 January 1863) Walford were Richard Walford’s godparents.

Cornelius was a very interesting person. He was clearly talented with a wide range of interests and aptitudes. He was involved with building societies and insurance in Witham and had an abiding interest in shorthand. He went on to become a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries (as I did 120 years later) with a significant career in insurance, including managing some significant companies of the day. He was also a Fellow of the Statistical Society, a Fellow of the Historical Society and a barrister. He published work for both Societies and the Institute including a year book on insurance.

It seems almost certain that Richard Walford named his son Arthur Partridge after his next eldest brother of the same names. Arthur Partidge died at the age of 22 in September 1878 on a steamer between Melbourne and New Guinea, at about the same time that Richard Walford arrived in South Africa. The question, therefore, is why Richard and Eliza Stevens named their third son Arthur Partridge at about the same time as Cornelius and Jane Walford named their first son Richard Partridge?

The likely source of the name is Robert Partridge who was a real estate and land agent of prominence in Witham. He and his wife occupied Witham House (57 Newland Street), a grand house with extensive land including a cricket pitch. He acquired the house from the Pattisson family who had built it in about 1750. Jacob Pattisson was a prominent merchant and well respected, but his great-grandson, also Jacob, was not of the same calibre. He was a solicitor and was, in 1852, publicly accused by Cornelius Walford of inappropriate dealings with the funds of the Witham Building Society. He survived this accusation, but in 1859 went bankrupt and fled Witham and Robert Partridge acquired Witham House.

Witham House is not far from Batsford (100 Newland Street, the Stevens family home) so it is probable that there was interaction between the families. The Partridge children were of similar ages to the Stevens children and later history shows a fairly close connection between the Stevens and Partridge boys involving cricket.

The likelihood, therefore, is that Robert and Jane Partridge were the godparents to Arthur Partridge.

©Alun Stevens 2018

1868 Indigenous cricket tour to England

On 10 April 2018, Cricket Australia announced the men’s and women’s teams that will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 1868 tour to England by an indigenous team from Australia – the first ever overseas sporting tour by Australians. Ashleigh Gardner will captain the women’s team and Dan Christian the men’s.

This news prompted me to write this short blog and finalise an article on my Stevens ancestors of Witham, Essex, and their involvement in cricket, because this involvement included organising and playing in one of the matches against that touring indigenous team in September 1868.

My great-grand-uncle, Charles Richard Stevens (1851-1910) helped organise the match between the tourists and the ‘gentlemen’ of the Witham Cricket Club. He also played in the match. He only scored 4 and 6 as the tourists went on to win by an innings and 43 runs.

Judging by the members of the two teams soon to go to England, the current gentlemen of the Witham Cricket Club would seem unlikely to do as well against the tourists as their predecessors did in 1868.

The field on which they played still exists and cricket is still played on it as my photograph, taken in August 2016, attests. But it will not feature in this year’s tour.

My overview of the 1868 match and the involvement of the Stevens family in cricket in Witham can be found HERE.

©Alun Stevens 2018

Trip to Witham

My great grandfather was Richard Walford Stevens. His parents were Richard Stevens and Eliza Ann Malyon. Richard practised as a solicitor in Witham, a small town in Essex, as well as in London. He was initially articled to Edward Banks in Witham and lived with him at his residence in Newland Street. Once qualified, he became Edward Banks’s partner and eventually took over the practice and the residence.

Eliza Ann grew up in Witham and was, at one stage, a servant to Edward Banks and his clerk, Richard Stevens, whom she eventually married. Their family arrangements were interesting in that Eliza Ann and the children lived in London while Richard continued to live and practice with Edward Banks in Witham.

Richard Walford was born in London in 1859, the youngest of their eight children. His mother died soon afterwards and he and his siblings moved to Witham. The 1861 census shows them living in Newland Street with their father, an uncle, a cousin and four servants. The residence was therefore reasonably substantial.

In August 2016, Megan and I went to Witham to trace the family home and any other information we could find on the family. Janet Gyford, a local historian, very kindly showed us around and provided us with a lot of local knowledge.

We found the old residence. It was indeed a substantial building and still is. It is located at 100 Newland Street and, at the time the Stevens family lived there, was called Batsford. It is now a Wetherspoon public house.

This means that the building has had a number of additions and alterations, but much of the original building remains and it retains its character.  The advantage of it being a pub is that we could just wander around and look at the building. We were also able to have dinner in the front room – probably close to where the family had had their dinners back in the mid to late 19th century. It was quite atmospheric.

I took a number of photographs and Janet Gyford provided a lot of historic detail about the house which can be found HERE.


©Alun Stevens 2018