Saints in SA


Due to the economic depression on St Helena and the demand for labour in SA (from thr article Settlers and Slaves) led to the emigration of more than 2000 St Helenians to the Cape and Natal.

Dr A. Schulenburg wrote “a large emigration took place in 1871, 1872 & 1873 consequent on the change and reductions which followed on the opening of the Suez Canal. Emigrant vessels were dispatched to the Island from the Cape & Natal, inviting emigrants and offering good employment in those Colonies to anyone who were disposed to avail themselves of it.”

The St Helenians settled in the Bo-Kaap, District Six, Athlone, Constantia, Rondebosch – Claremont area (Harfield Road), Paarl, Wellington, PE and East London, Port Nolloth and Natal. They brought with them their social security net and established several benifit societies for example The Independent Friendly Society (the building still stands in Wellington dated 1885), and the Odd Fellows.

Unfortunately member lists of these societies cannot be found. Church records will be the best place to start. Surnames: Adams, Andersen, Andrews, Bailey, Benjamin, Chapman, Combrinck, Daniels, Davids, Davis, Fisher, Harris, Hector, Isaacs, Knipe, Martin, Meyer, Peters, Petersen, Reed, Richards, Robinson, Smith, Thomas, Ward, Watson, Williams tec..etc..were common.

Prior to the 1948 Race Classification laws the Saints were proud to be British subjects and tried to keep their ‘British identity’. The next generation dissolved into the South African society and so did the history of 2000 Saints.What a pity!!! Unfortunately many old cemetaries are abused and neglected so hardly no info can be fetched there. Let us honour our grandparents and greatgrand parents for their contribution to the economy of South Africa [webmaster comments: After travelling internationally I am always very embarrassed to recommend a ‘cemetary visit’ to someone from overseas! Maybe we should all start protesting to authorities. By emplying a small team for each cemetary we will show respect for out ancestors and provide employment for more south africans – just a thought].
by: June Nielsen-Ferreira

Written for and on behalf of St Helena Island Descendants living in South
Africa (Saints in SA). Saints in SA is an organization which promotes
Ancestral Heritage Awareness.

Our mission is to get historians interested in writing about the St Helena link to SA history and to update school history lessons. Our motto is “We do know our roots”. Our ancestors came from St Helena dating back to 1830’s. Ask your grandparents and elders whether their is any St Helena links in your family.

If you know that you are a descendant we invite you to register on our database. Tell us who you are, where you live and what you are doing. Contact Merle Martin, 021-7018422,, or post a letter to 4 Easson Road, Kirstenhof, 7945. We welcome any comments or queries.

Merle Martin