4. Roussouw, Van Eeden and Potgieter

1778 Panoramic view to north across Table Bay from Cape Town showing Simonsberg and Hottentots Holland Mountains in the distance just right of centre.

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3. Shared ancestors – overview ◄ ● ► 5. Van Staden and Botha

Johannes (Jan Harmensz) Potgieter (1674-1733) is our shared 7th great-grandfather. He had two families. The first with Clara Tarling connects to Megan via Charlotta Croeser, Megan’s Oupa’s mother. The second connects to me via Aletta Maria Potgieter, Agatha Catharina Ferreira’s mother and also connects to Megan via the Van Eeden line to Megan’s Ouma.

Johannes was the first Potgieter born in South Africa. His father, Harmen Jansz, was a Companje soldier from Nordenham, Lower Saxony, Germany. (There are quite a few soldiers from Germany in this story.) Harmen Jansz became a vrijburgher in 1663 and went on to become a builder and blacksmith and one of the first residents at Eersteriveir, Stellenbosch. Johannes’s mother, Isabella “Beeltjie” Fredericks, was from Amsterdam. Harmen Jansz and Isabella, interestingly, are also Megan’s 7th great-grandparents because of separate connections she has to two other children of theirs. Both link to the Van Eedens via the Steyns.

Johannes became a farmer in the Kliprivier area near Wellington. In 1715, he notably took part as Wagtmeester in a Kommando 2  expedition to recover cattle from the San (Boesmans). Johannes fatally wounded a San woman and, after an enquiry, was court martialled. This dragged on for some years, but in 1727, he was discharged because of advanced age and improper behaviour (geverderde ourderdom en onbehoorlike gedra). He died in 1733. (Geni. Potgieter)

©Alun Stevens 2016

Johannes’s first wife, Clara Tarling, provides our first slave connection. Her mother, Lijsbeth Sanders van de Caep, was born a slave to a mother, Lijsbeth Arabus van Abyssinia, who was a Companje slave from Madagascar. For simplicity I will call them Lijsbeth and Lijsbeth Snr. respectively. Their intriguing stories are examined in detail in Mansell Upham’s essay Made or Marred by Time (Upham 2012a) – which is the source for the following discussion.

Lijsbeth Snr. was captured as a child on Madagascar by the French who regarded her as local royalty and a princess. The royal houses of Madagascar at the time were based on immigrants from Aceh in Indonesia augmented by Arabic Africans and this is reflected in her naming as Arabus and Van Abyssinia. She would have been a Moslem.

She was famously offered as a gift to Maria de la Queillerie (Jan van Riebeeck’s wife) by French Admiral Gilles de La Roche-St André in March 1656 when she was around 12 years old. This was opposed by the visiting VOC Commissioner, Rijckloff van Goens, but he agreed to her being placed in the household of Pieter van Stael, the sick comforter, who was married to Van Riebeeck’s sister, Gertruida. When the Van Staels left the Cape in 1663, Lijsbeth Snr. was reallocated to the Companje gardener, Hendrick Boom (whose name occurs a few times in this story).

Maria de la Queillerie
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Rijckloff van Goens
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

We then need to jump forward to 1671 when her daughter, Lijsbeth, is recorded as being sold aged 12 to carpenter Adriaen Willemsz van Brakel by baker Matthijs Coijmans. This indicates that she was born in 1659 when her mother was about 15 years old. Matthijs Coijmans had bought two slaves and two children in 1665 from the Booms when they left the Cape. Lijsbeth must have been one of the children, but Lijsbeth Snr. was not part of the transaction. The two slaves were Anna van Guinea and Claes van Guinea and the second child was Anna’s daughter, Maria Everts. (Whilst not relevant to our ancestry, Maria Everts, when freed, was one of the slaves who prospered. She went on to become a very wealthy woman, owning Camps Bay and a number of farms before her early death in the smallpox epidemic of 1713.)

Lijsbeth in later life regarded Anna as her foster mother, so it is possible that Lijsbeth Snr. was dead, but this is not clear. Lisbeth was listed as heelslag (full blood) which meant that her father was also a slave. As a result, there would have been no qualms about, or restrictions on, separating Lijsbeth from her mother. Lijsbeth Snr. could therefore have been alive and reallocated as a Companje slave to the incoming gardener Jacob Hubertsz Rosendael and his wife Barbara Geems. If this was the case, she was probably the slave caught up in prostitution allegations against Barbara Geems in 1666 after her husband died leaving Babara destitute. There is, unfortunately, no specific evidence of what happened to Lijsbeth Snr., but she appears to have died quite young.

There is, however, quite a lot of information about Lijsbeth Jnr. She came to notice again in 1678 when she was convicted of stealing from freed slave Louis van Bengale. He was awarded ownership of her as compensation for her crime. He freed her in 1683 by which time she had had two children. One of the children was Louis’s and the other seems to have been fathered by Louis’s knecht (labourer), Wiliam Tarling, an Englishman. Louis and Lijsbeth entered into a contract of engagement to marry in 1687, by which time they had had two more children.

Things then fell apart because Lijsbeth deserted her prospective husband and went to foster mother, Anna van Guinea, by then a free woman. A lawyers’ picnic ensued. Louis sued Lijsbeth in early 1688 and was granted custody of their three daughters. Tarling then sued Louis and Louis countersued him for stealing his fiancé and prosecuted both of them at the end of 1688. Lijsbeth claimed abuse by Louis, but in April 1689 also admitted that the child she was then carrying (Clara) was Tarling’s. Louis was awarded compensation from Tarling, but did not succeed in his desire to have Lijsbeth re-enslaved. This was a step too far for the court. Clara Tarling was born soon afterwards.

Very little is known about William Tarling except that he was from England and worked for the Companje until becoming a vrijburgher print to working for Louis as a shepherd and labourer. He also worked for another vrijburgher after leaving Louis, but there is no information about him after the court cases. He disappeared from the history.

We know that Lijsbeth and her two Tarling children moved in with Stellenbosch farmer, Johann Herbst, and Clara took his name, but it is not clear as to when exactly this happened because Lijsbeth was convicted again in 1696, this time for stealing jewellery. She was sentenced to be flogged and to three years of hard labour. It seems likely that she moved in with Herbst after this event rather than before it. Where Clara and her brother went while Lijsbeth was on Robben Island is not known, but they were probably looked after by Anna van Guinea at her home in Table Valley. Lijsbeth then kept out of the records until 1738 when she entered into a contract with her eldest daughter (by Louis) for her old aged care for which she gave her daughter a slave and the slave’s six children in exchange. She died in 1742 aged ~83.

Clara died in 1714 when she was 26 years old, probably in childbirth.


Johannes’s second wife, Maria van Eeden, and her connections are best discussed in the context of the Van Eeden and Rossouw families that link me and Megan via her Ouma. Megan’s Ouma, Jacoba Jacomina, was a Rossouw. Her mother, also Jacoba Jacomina, was a Van Eeden. Ouma represented a joining of the Rossouw and Van Eeden lines which were also linked at the beginning in South Africa.

The Rossouw line traces its origins to Daniel Rousseau and Marie Rétif who were French Huguenots who left France with their children, Pierre and Maria, following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes that had protected Protestants from the Catholic majority for nearly a hundred years. They came from the Central Region of France. The children were born in Blois in the Department of Loire-et-Cher on the Loire River in central France. Father, Daniel, came from Suèvres, a little village just outside Blois, and Marie came from Orléans which is a bit further upstream. The area is inland from Nantes.

Pierre (1666-1719) is generally regarded as the stamvader (founding father) of the Rossouw line while Maria (1659-1711) is the stammoeder of the Van Eeden line having married the stamvader, Jan Jansz van Eeden (1637-1704). Pierre traces directly to Ouma and so do Jan Jansz and Maria. The Rousseau’s underpin both lines and both Pierre and Maria link to me via Johannes Potgieter.

Jan Jansz van Eeden came from Oldenburg, Lower Saxony, Germany. The town is located in North West Germany between Bremen and the Dutch border – 40km south west of the Potgieter hometown of Nordenham. He was also a German military man. He was initially a Lance Corporal (onder scheepskorporaal) with the VOC, but later became a farmer on the Krom River in what is now Stellenbosch. He married Maria Rousseau after divorcing his first wife for adultery – committed on the ship to the Cape.

The Van Eeden line is built on their third son, Frederik. Their two older boys died aged 23 and 21 in 1713 in the first smallpox epidemic to affect Stellenbosch, but a descendant of second son, Jacobus, later married back into Frederick’s line. Their daughter, Maria van Eeden, provides one of the links between Megan and me through her marriage to Johannes Harmens Potgieter. This Potgieter-Rousseau link was strengthened by Maria’s and Johannes’s son, Theodorus Potgieter, marrying his second cousin, Hester Anna Marais, who was Pierre Rousseau’s granddaughter.

Quite a tangle which would have been wonderful to have known when interacting with Ouma as she was one of the people who felt that I was a little too English. It would also have been helpful when interacting with my father who was the one who felt that Megan was a little too Afrikaans. North African slaves, Moslems, and even an Ingelsman. Quite a story, but it gets even more colourful when we examine the Van Stadens and the Bothas.

3. Shared ancestors – overview ◄ ● ► 5. Van Staden and Botha

©Alun Stevens 2019

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