South African Letters


We can provide access to the transcriptions of the letters and an introduction to the main characters. 

We have made copies of the original letters and have scanned them in along with the transcriptions - but the resulting 3 files are each too big to be loaded on to this free site.  We have already passed these files on to the Cape Town Family Historical Society via a USB stick in the post.  We can send USBs to other interested libraries or local historical societies, or if you live in South Africa maybe just make a time to see the Cape Town Family Historical Society.

We remain keen to find any images of the people mentioned in these letters and also any corrections for place names or people's names so that we may add them for better sharing. 

These letters begin in 1850 and taper off in the 1870's finishing in 1888.

There are so many people listed in these letters that it would be worth a search by any family historian who had 'English' relatives living in the Cape Town, Prince Albert, Beaufort West, Port Elizabeth/Algoa Bay areas.  There are many references to the Findlay and Meyer families, and anyone who is related to these two large families may find some interesting news to flesh out the dry bones of Births Deaths and Marriages records.
 
The people in these letters were related to the 'Dyason Party' who came out to South Africa  from Kent, England in 1820, but they were not part of that first group. 

The State Library of Victoria (Australia) has a  full set of diaries written by Isaac on the Gold Diggings in manuscript form from 1851/1852 and then 1858 until Isaac's death in 1915.  These are available for turning into pdf format files for about Australian $15 for 50 pages.  You can find contact details on their site.  I mention this because within these millions of words Isaac wrote his secrets in a kind of Pidgin Cape Dutch as it was then.  Isaac lived in shared tents and huts and committed his amorous escapades to the diary in Pidgin Dutch to keep them private.  An idea of the size of the task is that his diary for 1858 alone runs to some 230 pages of close handwriting.  For the decipherment of the Pidgin Dutch we have found a wonderful person who has helped decode his secrets.  I must own to feeling a bit prurient about doing this - but at the same time it is in the diaries and it is part of the record of a life and a time.

The 'language' is a kind of phonetically spelled school kid's Dutch.  A daunting task where Isaac writes the same word in a number of different ways because he never learnt the 'proper' way.  A similar problem with transcription presented itself to the author of this site when he transcribed the 'Love Letters' (see the link on this site), which were written by an intelligent lady who had not had the benefit of schooling.  Mind you - we cannot be too smug about this: I understand that there are four instances of Shakespeare's signature, all spelled differently - and none of which correspond to the 'correct' version above... 


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Angus Pearson,
27 Jun 2014, 02:06
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