8    Jul 20146 comments

Our Stories: SmartMatches and a great-grandfather’s bible

Our members have such interesting stories, both personal and genealogical!

Pieter Brink, 74, was born in Johannesburg-West, Transvaal, South Africa, and today lives in Pretoria. He is bilingual in Afrikaans and English, gets along in German and converses in several Bantu languages such as Chinyanya, IsiTshwana, Sesutoe, Tzonga, Zulu and Xhosa – although he says he’s not fluent.

He began as a bank clerk in 1956, worked at several businesses, even at a gold mine, was a Christian missionary in Zambia and later retired as a deputy director of organization and work-study in public service. The new chapter of his life began on April 24, 1994, the same day the New South Africa was born, and he is a missionary and family historian/genealogist.

The Brink family celebrates: (From left) Henry Badenhorst (Pieter's son-in-law) Ansu Badenhorst (Pieter's daughter), Sarie (Pieter's wife), Pieter, and Surita Brink.

When he was 15, his father sent him from Wolmaransstad in the west to live with his grandmother Marja in the east at Belfast, Transvaal, where the family farms are located. That’s where his interest in family history began:

Marja was the family historian and storyteller extraordinaire! She made the old histories come to live. She had an open house and all these wonderful characters came to visit. One story was about her great-grandfather Oupa Koot Louw, commandant of the town of Calvina in the Great Karoo – the dry land, a semi-arid, desert-like wilderness. It was a land of large flocks of sheep, oupa Koot Louw was well-off and owned eight farms.He drove a Spider with a team of six black horses with ostrich feathers on their heads – they were the talk of the town. It was rumored that he was the illegitimate son of Austrian Baron Von Dickstaff. His mother was supposed to have given him to the Louw family to raise along with a wagon-load of riches. I discovered several versions of this story - a family legend - but the question remains: Why did simple farm folk in the Karoo, without schooling, have all these details and names? That started me on an odyssey to discover more.

He learned from an outside source that his South African ancestor - Andries Brink - did not come from Waarde Zeeland, Netherlands but from Varde, Denmark, and arrived in South Africa via the Netherlands. His real name was Andreas Anders Brink, the eldest son of the local miller. At 25, he arrived at the Cape of Good Hope in 1737. Anders, his second name, is a patronymic meaning son of Anders or in Afrikaans or Dutch, son of Andries.

A portrait of Andreas Anders "Andries" Brink, Pieter's Danish ancestor.

When I put the information on MyHeritage, information immediately came up on Danish family trees, and provided ancestral information that goes back centuries.

Pieter shared many surprises he’s learned during his genea-journey:

My great-grandmother, Anna Glaudina Louw, daughter of the Austrian baron above, was married twice, and gave birth to 24 babies - 16 survived and had descendants. That the ancestor of our Brink family in South Africa - Andreas Anders 'Andries' Brink - was not Dutch from Waarde Zeeland, Netherlands, but was a Dane, eldest son of the miller in Varde Zeeland, Denmark, a case of confusion with similar sounding names. I discovered a photo of "the baron" and a colored photo of a painting of our progenitor, Andreas from Denmark. I also discovered the family bible of my maternal great-grandfather Jan Hendrik Van Rooyen, with a complete family tree of his own household. He was a farmer in the Free State and a big game hunter who hunted for ivory in Rhodesia, then went to Lourenco Marques in Mozambique to sell it. I found complete records of him and his family in the Anglo Boer War British Concentration Camps in Aliwal North, Cape Province, as well as that of his future in laws, the family of his son Petrus's future wife, Dina Odendaal. MyHeritage helped make sense of many of these incomplete records. And I could verify the records in Denmark of the Brink family through MyHeritage!

Pieter joined MyHeritage before 2008. Over the years, he has had to re-enter genealogical data into various software programs. The last time was on MyHeritage, which he has updated over the years with no problems.

I like the fantastic user-friendliness and adaptivity of the program. I also found it let me use my common sense and find ways it maybe was never intended for - but those are my secrets. Just stick to very user-friendly!

His family and friends are involved at his site on MyHeritage and on their own sites.

My daughter Ansu now has her Badenhorst site on it, which I helped build. Several family members and friends are now on it with their own sites at my instigation. Like my African friend and spiritual son Adolf Chongo, a Swazi-speaker from Eastern Transvaal. His site is up and running! One of the first black African sites, I believe. There is a huge need for our brothers here in South Africa to preserve their mostly oral family histories. I try to contact, at least one family member for each branch to exchange photos and information. I also use, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and my dear friend, Mr. Google! In this way, I have found many long-lost family members. MyHeritage is the way to cement these contacts forever. I now have relationships with many people and genealogists that enrich my life.

One wonderful coincidence was that his grandfather Danie Brink had a sister Lizzie, one of the many children of Anna Glaudina Louw. When she married Kolie Ras they moved to the opposite part of the country to farm. She died very young - in 1925 - and left one young daughter, Anna Glaudina Ras, with whom, the family lost contact.

Lizzie Brink Ras, the lost sister of Danie Brink, Pieter's grandfather.

After almost 90 years I made contact with the youngest son, Sakkie Nel, of 13 siblings, a son of the only daughter, Anna Glaudina Ras. She married the father of Sakkie Nel. Sakkie Nel, a retired bank manager, who has lived just a few miles away from me in Pretoria for many years, on the other side of the hill behind my house! He is my second cousin,  the son of a first cousin of my father which I never knew I had, and he had another 12 older siblings!

According to Pieter, with the ease of MyHeritage, he can produce reports in a jiffy and publish them on any site in minutes. Among some of his discoveries:

Pieter’s great-grandfather Abraham Justinus Brink married Anna Glaudina Louw (they had 18 children, 11 survived), and he had a brother, Jacob Andries Brink, who had a grandson who had a son, JH “Jack” Brink, a 2nd Lt RAF pilot in World War 1, who died of wounds at the front in France. Diana Hennings - granddaughter of Jack the pilot – discovered her complete family tree. She contacted Pieter and provided information on her mother's side, and thanked Pieter for the Brink tree.

And he's also discovered information on Dina Odendall, his maternal grandmother. The long-lost Odendaal family on his mother's mother side remained a mystery, because the trail stopped on the banks of the great Orange or Ghariep River at Aliwal-North British Concentration Camp in the Northern-Cape in the middle of South Africa.

Recently, however, Pieter was looking at some old smartMatches and the search was on again. He found the family of Francois Odendaal, youngest brother of his maternal grandmother Dina Odendaal. She was nine when she was in the camp, and Francois was born in 1904 after the war.

I found his photo, those of his descendants and all their information on the MyHeritage family site of my half-second cousin Mike Taljaard! It’s all in the family.

Currently, Pieter has more than 16,000 people in his tree, in more than 5,500 families, who live all over the world – even in Japan.

I sometimes bring friends and people in and later find we are related via Smartmatches. Originally there were some 2,000 pioneer families in South Africa and most intermarried. My grandfather Danie Brink married his cousin's daughter. There are many instances of intermarriage in my family tree - too many to mention. That is what makes it so fascinating. I see MyHeritage as a Database first, from which I can produce different family trees.

According to Pieter, SmartMatches are the most powerful tool a family historian can have – and they are worldwide.

I mentioned the Brink family in Denmark – a rich resource on MyHeritage for my research, with which I could verify information. I am housebound, a couch potato, but I have the resources at my finger tips through MyHeritage and the Internet, on my desktop, tablet and smartphone. Thank you, my MyHeritage!

These discoveries have changed Pieter’s life completely.

I could be a lonely old man waiting to go, but now I am alive. I have interests. I work sometimes late into the night. I am busy, busy, busy! I love the contact with the "long-losties" and ask myself: What would Mom have said? What would Dad have said? I pray also for those who are not interested in making contact and I accept that there are many skeletons in many cupboards, which prevent them from contacting me.

Pieter shared a wonderful experience revealed during his research – the day he discovered his great-grandfather’s family bible.

My maternal grandfather - Piet Van Rooyen - was a shaft timberman in the goldmines. He was a keen sportsman, a Springbok rugby player, chosen for Billy Millar's team to tour Great Brittian in 1912. He could not get a leave of absence from the Police, where he was a constable, so he did not make the tour. But as a National cyclist he made his name and, as champion, received many prizes. One was a presentation bible, complete with family tree in full color, and many color plates. One day I phoned a second cousin to see if he had any old documents or photos. He told me about this old bible and that I could borrow it for a few days. What an emotional moment when I realized this bible was one of Granddad Piet's rewards for a cycle race and he gave it to his family. His parents completed the family tree and there were also two photos inside!

We are delighted to share Pieter’s story with you. He had one request that we mention the importance of his oldest brother “Vollie” Danie D.S. Brink.

He played an important role in my life, and he always encouraged my research and drew many family trees and sorted photos in the days before we had computers. He is a professional civil engineer, draughtsman and an artist with a flair for sketching and a master storyteller who supplied many of the family stories in my research database.

He’s also the guy who encouraged me financially, provided me with a PC with all the bells, whistles and programs without which I could never retrieved information from the Internet and published everything on different websites like MyHeritage, Geni, Scribd, and others. He also supplied a smartphone which really opened new doors for me.

He paid my tuition for genealogical courses and annual dues for the GSSA(Genealogical Society of South Africa), as well as also buying several expensive genealogical publications for my research.

I owe a great debt of gratitude to him for encouragement and support, All genealogists need such support, because it is an expensive hobby!

We asked Pieter to share some of his tips for those who are just beginning their research:

• Get all documents and photos you can lay your hands on and talk to the old people while they are still alive.
• Record everything, snap everything.
• Before it is too late, do not fight with family!
• Do not close doors! Cuddle them while you can, bless them and pray for them!

Did you enjoy Pieter’s story? Share your comments with us. Do you have a story to tell? Contact us at stories@myheritage.com.

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Comments (6) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Pieter:

    Enjoyed your story. There are Brinks in my family tree (on my late husband's side), but I believe they were Nederlands...I will have to go back and look. Send me your e-mail address and I will invite you to MY tree.

    Regards,
  2. hello Pieter,
    I really enjoyed your story too, I also have brink in my family , but in the Netherlands my mothers aunty married a brink , you may contact me if you like

    regards

    diana
  3. Pieter,
    Just to say I enjoyed your story very much. I could relate to the fulfilment one receives to find relatives and espescially ancestors.
    Hope your reseach will continue to prosper.

    Regards
    Amanda Stander
  4. How wonderful to read of your rich and varied discoveries, I can relate to your excitement and enjoyment. It is very rewarding to discover one's heritage. I too am South African and my roots are in England, Poland and the Netherlands, which makes for many challenges across continents and languages.
    Thank you for sharing and inspiring others.
  5. Thanks for the story. I didn't know MyHeritage had Danish records til now. Thanks for reminding us to be grateful for the financial support and encouragement that touches so many lives. Your mottos really have focused on the things that are important.
  6. A great tale of families. I have a Ras in my family tree - Maryna Ras. Any relationship. I am also South African from Strydom decent now living in New Zealand. Enjoy your travels around the world. I do agree with your hint!

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