1 Martha Magdalena Brand
In the year 1848 a farmer from the furthest dune-country of Namaqualand, Izak de Villiers,1 made a clothes chest for his wife Maria, or Mietjie as everyone called her. He lovingly made it by hand and inlaid the front front with her initials, M D V, in bone. At the same time their neighbour’s wife, Martha Magdalena Brand2, passed away. Her namesake and daughter, Martha, was only five years old, and Izak and Mietjie raised her as their own. Martha Magdalena Brand was the first Martha in this extended family, and her first name was passed from daughter to daughter through seven generations, either as Martha Magdalena or Martha Catharina.
2 Martha Magdalena Auret and Henrik Andries Auret
The day the foster child and second-generation Martha, Martha Magdalena de Villiers3, nèe Brand, married Hendrik Andries Auret on 4 September 1881, when they were both twenty years old, Izak and Mietjie gave her the chest for her trousseau. Martha and Hendrik Auret4 had 12 children. They were:
- Geesie Maria Jacoba
- Judit Susanna Auret
- Andries Gous Auret
- Magdalena Jacoba Auret
- Martha Magdalena Auret5
- Hilena Maria (Maria) Johanna Auret
- Willem Petrus Auret
- Jacobus de Villiers Auret
- Hendrik Andries Auret
- Floris “Floors” Johannes Jacobus Auret
- Johanna Susanna Auret
- Aletta Jacoba Elizabeth Auret
SHARED DESTINY – FOSTER CHILD MARTHA MAGDALENA BRAND
One of the features of rural, pioneering Afrikaner farming families from 1750 onwards, was their sense of a shared destiny. These people were primarily family-oriented and focused on the greater good of the extended family. The welfare of all the members of a family, and their community, was inextricably linked. Each family was linked to all the other families in the community through patrilineage, and sometimes also through inter-marriage since the population numbers were low. It is estimated that around 1850, the same time in which Izak de Villiers made the chest, there were only about 2000 families living north of the 26th parallel south latitude – in other words, in the northern section of the Northern Cape Province – and farms were as much as 100km distant from each other.
As a result, people called each other aunt, uncle, nephew, niece, grandma and grandpa, even if they were not related by blood. It was not only a sign of respect, but also a sign of familiarity and recognition of their shared lot. Orphaned children, children for whom their parents could not provide, and even unmarried adult children were routinely taken in by relatives and given a home, as was the case with Martha Magdalena Brand. TOP OF PAGE
2.1 Gesie Maria Jacoba Auret
The eldest of the twelve Auret children was Gesie (Geesie) Maria Jacoba. She had crippled feet, never married, and lived with her parents Hendrik and his second wife, Hannie, on the farms Strandfontein, and later, Rooivlei.
2.2 Martha Magdalena Auret
The third generation Martha, Martha Magdalena Auret, was born on 10 October 1889, the fifth of the 12 children. After the death of her mother, Martha Magdalena Auret, on 11 March 1926 at the age of 64 years, 11 months and 11 days, she inherited the hope chest. She lived in Springbok and according to her, the original Aurets or Aurette had come from Kalkbaai. TOP OF PAGE
2.3 Jacobus de Villiers Auret
The eighth child, Jacobus de Villiers, was only 20 when he died.
THE AURET FAMILY ORIGINS
The earliest found reference to the Auret surname in the Cape, was not from Kalkbaai, but from Simonstown, very close by. Jeremias Auret, was born about 1720, in s’Gravenhage (Den Haag), in the Netherlands. He died 21 August 1786. His father was Jeremie Etienne Auret and his mother was Maria Anna Robiquè. They were most probably French Huguenots who fled from Nantes to the Netherlands. Jeremias Auret married Mariana (Maria Anna?) Grovè (Groves?), born 1721, identified as the widow of a bookkeeper, Daniel Brousson, on 11 February 1748, in Cape Town – so at some point he must have emigrated to South Africa. Jeremias and Mariana had 5 children: 1. Anna Maria Auret, d. 1 March 1805 2. Jeremias Auret, b. 8 May 1749, in Cape Town, d. October 1794, Simonstown 3. Maria Hendrina Auret, b. 1753 4. Petrus Auret 5. Andries Auret, B. 1759, d. before 1800
The second child, again called Jeremias Auret, and Mariana had 8 children: 1. Jeremias Auret, b. 1775 2. Beatrix Saatje Auret, b. 27 November 1776, d. 2 October 1852, Greenpoint, Cape Town, South Africa 3. Maria Anna Auret, b. 1778, d. 8 January 1806 4. Abraham Auret, b. 1780, d. 1789 5. Petrus Auret, b. 1783, d. 1841 6. Fredrik Auret, b. 1785 7. Hendrik Pieter Auret, b. 1788 8. Abraham Auret, b. 1791, Simonstown, South Africa, d. about 1865, Cape Town, South Africa
The eldest of the 8 children, again called Jeremias Auret, had 9 children, of whom the second, Willem Petrus Auret, born 1806, had 5 children of his own. One his his off-spring lived and died in Namaqualand about the same time as Hendrik Andries Auret, my ancestor, born 1861. The second child and first-born son of the 5 children of Willem Petrus Auret, also called Willem Petrus Auret, was born 25 March 1836 in Simonstown, and died in September 1928, in Namaqualand. The third child and second son of Willem Petrus Auret (senior), Abraham Auret, born 1840, had four children, one born 1875, called endrik Andries Geldenhuys Auret. After this I could establish no further link, by marriage or birth, between the two lines of descent other than the surname, first names – already ubiquitous – and the location. TOP OF PAGE
2.4 Andries Gous Auret
Andries Gous was the eldest son and the third of the 12 children, and he married Huibrecht. When he was old and grey, he retired to Wallekraal, and the children called him “Ou Blouwolhaar” (Old Blue-Woolly-Hair). Marina le Roux, nèe Schreuder, the main source for this narrative, and the children of her generation, always spoke of “Uncle” and “Aunt” [or the diminutive “Aunty”], or of the elderly as “Grandpa” and”Grandma”, even if they were not family. Uncle Andries and Aunty Huibrecht farmed on Strandfontein, a farm at the coast, adjoining the farm Duine that belonged to AJC (Compion) Schreuder, the father of LGS (Lambert) Schreuder. The Auret and Engelbrecht families were therefore connected not only through marriage, but also through their adjacent farm lands.
Uncle Andries and Auuty Huibrecht often visited Duine, or alternatively the Schreuder family would visit them at Strandfontein, with its lovely perennial fresh water fountains right by the sea and the blowholes through which the waves would explode. Sometimes Uncle Andries would come to chat to Grandpa Compion by himself, riding on his faithful old horse “Wit Jêk” (White Jack) that was as tame as a lamb. The Schreuder children ostensibly had to cool him down after the ride through the dunes, but that was an excuse for getting to ride him themselves. Grandpa Lambert later had an old white donkey with the same name, as tame and as good to ride.
The daughter of Uncle Andries and Aunt Huibrecht, also called Huibrecht, nicknamed Babie, later married Pietjie Mulder, a watchmaker from Brackenfell in the Cape. Babie wrote short stories of Namaqualand for a women’s forum on radio, called “Skitterklippies in die Vêrte” [Shining pebbles in the distance]. Babie’s short stories were published in a collection entitled “This was Yesterday and Before Yesterday” (1970), which has unfortunately been out of print for a long time. Strandfontein was a big farm. but as the family expanded, the farm was subdivided into Rooivlei and Kalkvlei. Marina grew up convinced that Kalkvlei was haunted. In the 1950s when her prospective husband, Jan le Roux, visited Kransvlei for the first time, they drove with wagon and mules over Kalkvlei and Duine, to go camping for fourteen days by the sea at Strandfontein. At the ruin of the house at Kalkvlei, they stopped and found an old rotten wall cabinet in which there was a ragged old family Bible that they later restored. As was the habit in those days, the family records were written by hand into the Bible. This was good since in this way it was preserved for future generations.TOP OF PAGE
GETTING BY ON HORSEBACK
Pior to 1910, a trip from Namaqualand to Cape Town – which would take about an hour these days – was seldom undertaken. Even farmers that lived relatively close to the city would not visit it more than once per year. The deeper the farm lands extended into the hinterland, the less frequent the visits. Usually people went to Cape Town only once in their lifetimes; to get married. The reasons were numerous, firstly there were hardly any roads, and by 1800 there was not a single bridge over the rivers and travellers had to wait until the rivers ran dry before they could cross them.
The mountain ranges made things more difficult. The Cape Fold Belt stretches from Cape Town in the west and the Cederberg Mountains in the northwest to Port Elizabeth in the east. It includes the Cedarberg and Piketberg mountain ranges, and runs along the west coast, forming a barrier to entry into Cape Town, and splitting the farms inland from those on the coast. With an ox wagon as transport, only 24 to 29 km could be traveled per day. In 1876 the copper-mining interests in the region built a 2-ft-gauge railway from O’Okiep to Port Nolloth, a distance of 175 km. Traction was initially by mules. This line was lifted in 1944. In 1925, the railway from Cape Town was extended to Bitterfontein,180 km south of Springbok. But even if they could get there, farmers were put off by the unsympathetic government and bureaucracy. TOP OF PAGE
2.5 Floris Johannes Jacobus Auret
Rooivlei was the farm adjacent to Kransvlei, where the Schreuder-family lived, and Ruitersvlei. Note all the associations with water in the farm names of this arid region. Here Uncle Floors, Martha Magdalena Auret’s youngest brother, the tenth child, farmed. Uncle Floors – Grandpa Lambert always referred to him in a kindly way as his friend “Old Florie” – was married to Aunty Kowa (Jacoba – ), an amiable woman who was a good friend of Grandma Martha. Uncle Floors was good at singing bass in the “wrinklies” choir of senior of the little church at Wallekraal.
KALKVLEI, ROOIVLEI, RUITERSVLEI AND WATER-CONNOTATIONS IN FARM NAMES
An important cause of the low population of Namaqualand at this time was the wide-spread farms. Rainfall was low and since the farmers only made use of natural grazing, the farms had to be large to accommodate the cattle, mostly sheep. The rainfall in Namaqualand, and area of 47 962 sq km (18 518 sq miles) is mostly below 250 mm and even as low as 50 mm a year. There is little surface run-off, and lack of water for human and stock consumption is a major problem. Storage dams are of little use and most supplies are obtained from springs and boreholes. As can be expected from the meagre rainfall, the vegetation is sparse and stunted. As a result of the geography and climate, farms with arable water sources such as a natural spring (“vallei”), fountain (“fontein”) or river (“rivier”), or located in a fertile valley (“vallei”) or a secluded site like a corrall (“kraal”), had these references in their names. And if they had no water, they were named such in the hope of water being found. Farm name like Duine, meaning dunes, and Ghaams, a Nama word, are atypical of the region’s Afrikaner farms and distinctly less prosaic than normal.
FAMILY BIBLES WITH HAND-WRITTEN FAMILY RECORDS
A notable aspect of the patriarchal families of those days was their strong faith. Great distances, low population density, poor roads and slow transport was the norm for rural Afrikaners in the 18th and 19th centuries, which meant that they did not often get to towns and churches. Despite all this, families were almost uniformly Calvinist and went to extraordinary lengths to attend communion in the nearest church or – if a travelling preacher (“dominee”) were available – farmhouse. Every night everyone on the farm attended the family prayer meeting (“boekevat”), even the servants. Not surprisingly, with the dominance of Calvinism and the only readily available reading matter being the Bible, Afrikaners often compared themselves to Israelites under the yoke of the Egyptians.
As the most important religious object in the house, the family Bible was used to record births, deaths and marriages in the family, not the local government office. All of this had the benefit that illiteracy amongst the farmers was greatly reduced, according to P.W. Grobbelaar. So it is not surprising that the great-grandparents would be speaking Dutch, quoting poetry and lining the lid of their hope chest with pages from an English fashion magazine. Being self-reliant also applied to education – parents passed their “reading, writing and arithmetic” knowledge on to their children, using the Bible. If they could, they sent them to the small farm schools or employed travelling teachers (‘meesters”), mostly itinerant soldiers, sailors or clerks. TOP OF PAGE
ADDENDUM 1 Notice of the death of Hendrik Andries Auret, 1945
ADDENDUM 2 Notice of the death of Jacobus de Villiers Auret, 1917
ADDENDUM 3 The family register of Hendrik Andries Auret and Martha Magdalena Brand
ADDENDUM 4 References to early Aurets from the Holistoun genealogical register
ADDENDUM 5 “Skitterklippies in die Vêrte”