I’ve tried to crack the nut of my grandparents’ record of marriage. If this were a real nut, it would be a macadamia, an Australian native and the hardest of all nuts. I’ve tried to smash it a few times, but I’m using the wrong tools. All I get is shards.
What I know:
- They married in Johannesburg, Transvaal Province, South Africa.
- They married ‘out of community of property’.
What I am assuming:
- As Jews, they married in a synagogue. I’m on fairly safe ground here because my parents would not have been able to marry in an Orthodox synagogue without both sets of parents having done likewise.
- The window within which they were likely to have married is circa 1904/5 – 1907, dated from the birth of their first child.
- Marrying ‘out of community of property’ assumes that an ante-nuptial contract was drawn up and a copy filed somewhere.
Where I’ve searched:
- Department of Home Affairs, the organisation that holds copies of birth, marriage and death certificates. This has involved one year of wasted effort and money. Now abandoned.
- Johannesburg Beth Din, a Jewish ecclesiastical court that holds records of Jewish Orthodox marriage applications for the Johannesburg area. Unfortunately, they can’t search their records without full date and synagogue of marriage.
- Lions Synagogue, the oldest in Johannesburg. They don’t answer email.
- Latter Day Saints (LDS) Family History records. This recommendation came from another South African researcher who suggested I could do it through a LDS family history centre in Sydney. I’ve discovered that the LDS has extensive South African holdings, but their records for civil registrations (marriages) in Johannesburg stop at 1903. There are records for Pretoria between 1879 and 1966, but none for the period 1903-1905. On the ‘off-chance’, I ordered the film for 1906-09. In my heart I knew that my grandparents’ names were unlikely to be among those on the film. And they weren’t.
- DeedsWeb. This is an online search facility for the South African Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, a repository of registered deeds including ante-nuptial records. To search their records, I need to register as a user and agree to their terms. These include providing a copy of an identity document (no problem), proof of residence (no problem), contacts of two credit references (no problem), registration document in the case of a company (no problem) and copy of bank statement or cancelled cheque (very big problem). They don’t answer email either.
- My Deeds Search: this is a commercial service that offers document searches, including those searchable on DeedsWeb. To get a copy of an ante-nuptial contract, I would need to hand over $40 and give the names of the parties (known), ID numbers (unknown and probably irrelevant 100 years ago) and where the contract was signed (unknown).
As you can see, I’ve not been idle. Another option is trawling through old South African newspapers for a wedding announcement, but there doesn’t seem to be the equivalent of Trove in South Africa. If there is, and I’ve missed it, please let me know.
Other than that, I’m in your hands. Any ideas?