Archive tours - Report back

Participants are encouraged to share their impressions by means of some comments after each tour. Feedback /reports on some of the completed archive tours. tes
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Western Cape
The tour to and in the Western Cape eventually took place in May 2022. Lots of effort was put into the preparations as it was postponed several times due to the corona pandemic and various lockdowns. It also asked for patience, not only on my side but also of the participants. But what a fabulous result! The six days in the various research centres were not only very successful but also fun. Fun we had after hours with shop talk and getting to know each other better at meals and excursions.
This tour now seems to be a favourite amongst GSSA members and most probably will be repeated in 2022. For me as organiser the Corona lock down still restrained me a bit and we could only be ten participants whic h seems to be the norm until the pandemic is gone for good.
This was a major success - despite the various challenges caused by the Corona lock down and protocol!
 Participants living or visiting in the Gauteng area gathered from Monday to Friday morning at ca. 08:00 at the various research facilities.  Until 16:00, everybody did his/her own research, with the tour leader helping where she could.  In-between they had a picnic lunch or, when available, a light lunch at the canteen/kiosk in situ.
 Western Cape
Tours are usually fully booked, but only a maximum number of 15 is manageable, i.e. the number of persons to fit in the various reading rooms etc.
 Free State
This tour started by minibus in Pretoria, a great icebreaker.


Participant comments

“David Engela (Treasurer), Annemarie Dreyer (Vice-Chairman) and I, along with a few other GGSA members from our branch and from all over the country, took a week off during September to participate in Ellen Harmse's Gauteng Archive Crawl. Why? Well, I can’t speak on behalf of the other participants, but I had two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Why are participants always so pleased with Ellen's tours? More about this later. My second reason was without a doubt much more selfish. I wanted to allow myself the absolute luxury of a week of research, without any work pressure or other interruptions. There is a well-known English saying that nature abhors a vacuum; an empty space must simply be filled. Well, I must confess: a genealogist cannot live with an empty space in his or her family picture. So, I simply had to dedicate myself full time to filling in some of the remaining blanks in my family puzzle (I'm sure you know what I'm talking about ...).
In this regard, Ellen's archive tour exceeded all my expectations. I could do research based mostly on primary sources to my heart's delight, without anyone interrupting me. Thanks for that Ellen! I now feel myself fully empowered to utilise all the places and sources we have visited on my own and without assistance. Now back to my first consideration. After my own personal experience I now know for certain why Ellen's tours are so popular: Ellen Harmse knows how to arrange an archive tour. Believe me, she is an absolute expert. Whether you are a beginner or a more advanced researcher, there is room for you on each of Ellen's tours. She knows how to approach you and your specific needs, and she makes sure that there are no outsiders to the group. One and all is assisted. Ellen even serves you lunch, with plenty of dessert, either under a dusty zinc canopy at the National Archives, or in the LDS Church's lovely leafy gardens in Parktown. That's why I highly recommend Ellen's archive tours to any member of the Northern Transvaal Branch. This is an incredible benefit of membership. So, feel free to spoil yourself, you will not regret it. On top of that, it's dirt cheap. I may just be going again next year!”
Dr Wilhelm Bernhardt (GSSA NTvl-branch Chairman) Gauteng Archive Crawl, The Genealogist, Oct 2021[translated]
"The Research Tour of Ellen Harmse with 15 other members was a great joy. Her very thorough information on all aspects of the archives, GISA and Huguenot museum, was great!
The best part was being able to use your new knowledge of the archive and get the entries from your parents, uncles and aunts in the baptismal registers at GISA! Definitely a tour to recommend and with great praise to Ellen as a tour guide! ”
Annita Visagé (North West branch) 2015 Western Cape Tour [translated]
"I had absolute goose bumps when I was able to hold the 113-year-old original document in my hands. Telling stories is fantastic, but to see this document and its story in front of you is indescribable.”
Danie Joubert (West Gauteng branch) 2020 Gauteng Archive Crawl [translated]
"It was with only a single death notice that I was able to hold in my hands in the Bloemfontein archives, that I was able to follow in the footsteps of the entire Lategan family line of my maternal grandparents. For years it was the elusive connection I could not make and there it falls into place with only the names of parents and children on a single death notice. It makes the tour to the Bloemfontein archive worthwhile for me for two reasons, because you can share that moment there with others who are there with you and because the information was just there to give you new impetus for so much more! The War Museum is touchingly striking and a must for anyone whose families have been affected in some way by the Anglo-Boer War. I can recommend these archive tours anytime - it just makes research that much more personal and interesting and the tour allows you to talk to each other in 'genealogy'. The archive tours are always an experience and definitely worth it! Hope it can contribute to advertising for the archive tours and if I could, I would love to go every time! ”
Elmarie Cronjé (Northern Transvaal branch) 2016 Free State Tour [translated]
"I am grateful for the opportunity that was created during which I was able to focus on my personal research over five days. I was able to revisit documents, which I had consulted years ago, to record finer detail. I was also able to get to know fellow researchers better during sociable picnics, which Ellen prepared with effort for us. Thank you very much!"
Isabel Groesbeek (Northern Transvaal branch) 2020 Gauteng Archive Crawl [translated]
“Sitting in the CAPE ARCHIVE for days and collecting data is one of the most mind-expanding events one can experience! Especially if it takes place with well-informed tour members who walk, eat and talk Genealogy. This experience happened to me as a totally uninformed aspiring genealogist when I was able to follow in my ancestors' footsteps in the Mother City from 12 to 17 August.”  
Johanna Viljoen (Northern Transvaal branch) 2018 Western Cape Tour [translated]
"In genealogy giving up is not an option! After more than six years of searching for a great-grandfather's date of birth, I found it on the last day in the archives! And the nice thing about it, was that I could share it with fellow researchers who know what such a fund means.”
Linda Lombard (Northern Transvaal branch) 2018 Western Cape Tour [translated]
 “The tour to the Western Cape during August 2017 was very successful for me as I found what I went to search for. The accompanying tour members were special and very helpful as they were quite willing to share and assist with tips and advice. There was much excitement as the members discovered and found what they had been searching for and we all shared in their excitement and joy!”
Mike Hendriks (eGSSA branch & Southern Family History Society) 2017 Western Cape Tour
“The learning experience with the pre-homework prepared me well to search for new data. One of the big surprises was a new spelling of our surname that I came across at the National Archives.
At the same time, I came across quite a few documents that now require further follow-up work - enough research until the new year. ”
Nico Doman (Northern Transvaal branch) 2020 Gauteng Archive Crawl  [translated]
“I was able to find out more about my great-grandmother, abandoned on the Diamond Fields in the 1880s by her husband who disappeared, and also began to piece together my maternal grandmother's siblings.  There is still plenty more research that I need to do.”
Pat Bauer (Free State & eGSSA branch) 2017 Western Cape Tour
"The highlight of my visit was when I saw the names of my great-grandmother, Isabella E Beukes, as well as those of my grandmother (my father's mother), Catharina (the English wrote it incorrectly Catrina) in the Heilbron Concentration Camp Register. Johan from the ABO Museum informed me that they were later transferred to the Kabusie Concentration Camp at Sutterheim. At the ABO Museum, I also received confirmation that my great-grandfather Beukes and his eldest son had been sent to exile in Umballa, India. Another important discovery was my great-grandmother's mother, Elizabeth Margaretha Heymans' death entry in the Casualty Register of the Heilbron Concentration Camp. She was 79 years old. I also found her name on the honour roll of ABO deceased. ”
Rina Steenkamp (eGSSA branch) 2016 Free State Tour [translated]
"The discovery of a sought-after farm, and being able to locate it, the information to make better use of Family Search and the willing helpers in the Library made the tour very meaningful to me. Big praise to Ellen for the thorough preparation to get our research fit and also her great arrangements for every day all week. Well done Ellen.”
Rina van Wyk (Northern Transvaal branch) 2020 Gauteng Archive Crawl [translated]
“There is a lot of genealogical information on the Internet, if you are lucky you can get a death notice of the person you are researching, even more so if you find the distribution account as well, this research could take you ages.  In the National Archives you will find this information, quite quickly (if available) as well as numerous other titbits that will enhance your family's history and give an insight into their lives.
In my case some of the information that I was able to find was a beautiful picture of the boat my grandfather served on as a boy, a picture of the Midland Railway construction (Graaff-Reinet) with a steam engine in the background, (my paternal great grandfather was a steam engine driver) and a receipt from the convent in King Williams Town for the repair of a window that either my grandmother or her sister broke.
But best of all you are touching and seeing the original wills, death notices and other items that were actually written by your ancestors.  We are really thankful to the care that Cape Town Archivists take of our documents and their assistance.”
Robert Bush (Johannesburg branch) 2017 Western Cape Tour

GSSA’s Western Cape tour eventually took place from 22 to 27 May 2022 after it was postponed for two years because of the Corona pandemic. We stayed in a hotel in the centre of Cape Town with good service and an excellent restaurant.

For two years every Thursday Ellen Harmse sent emails with information to introduce participants to research methodics in the various archives.

Sandra Hughes (Northern Transvaal branch) 2022 Western Cape Tour [translated]