Our Volunteers: Gerry van Eeden of South Africa

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Gerald (Gerry) Dixon van Eeden, 68, is an Afrikaans translator for MyHeritage. He was born in Cradock, South Africa; grew up in Oudtshoorn, and has lived for the past three decades in Port Elizabeth.

Gerald (Gerry) Dixon van Eeden

Following Technical High School (Oudtshoorn), he qualified as a teacher at the Teachers College. He also holds a BEd (1968) from the University of Port Elizabeth and a BA (1974) from the University of Stellenbosch.

Gerry was a primary school teacher for 34 years and retired in 2009 as deputy principal of the Tjaart van der Walt Primary School in Port Elizabeth.

He became interested in family history after realizing that he did not know his own family members very well, and some of them not at all.

It was always very embarrassing when my family talked about a family member and I didn’t even know who they were talking about.

After he retired in 2009, the first thing he did was to start his family tree.

I tried two or three other programs before I discovered MyHeritage. It is easy to use, can do everything I want it to do, is fantastic for research and is really user-friendly.

Gerry traced his ancestors back to Jan Janse van Eeden (born 1637) who came to South Africa from Germany in 1662.

I decided to concentrate on the descendants of my grandfather, Frederick Jacobus van Eeden (born 1861), the seventh generation of van Eedens in South Africa. He married Rachel Magrita Petronella Radema (born 1867) and they had 11 children (six sons and five daughters). I began with the family members I knew and asked them to add more relatives. So I learned more about my family and our history. Later I began using Smart Matches and Record Matches and discovered even more family members I did not know.

 

Gerry’s grandfather Oupa Frikkie (center) and his six sons. (From left) Gideon Jacobus (Giel) b1901, Cornelius Jansen (Kerneels) b1894, Daniël Johannes (Dan) b1910, Frederick Jacobus (Oupa Frikkie) b1861, Frederick Jacobus (Kowie) b1892, Gert Christiaan b1898, and Petrus Jacobus (Pieter) b1899.

He later added his mother’s ancestors and descendants to his family tree. Gerry’s father, Daniel Johannes van Eeden married Grace Geraldine Dixon in 1943, and they had two sons and three daughters. Gerry’s mother’s father, Gerald Thomas Dixon (born 1889), came from Ireland and lived in Garies and Springbok in western South Africa. He married Maria Johanna Weich (born 1888), and they had one son and two daughters. Today, Gerry has 460 people in his family tree; 314 are living. Some 88% live in South Africa, with the rest in Denmark, Great Britain, Netherlands, Canada and the USA.

Most of his family know about his new passion for family history. When they get together, they now ask him about family members that they don’t know. Everyone receives notifications about birthdays and anniversaries, so they learn more about each other. They are more frequently in contact and have more family history to discuss.

I find our family is now much closer and we make more frequent contact to congratulate someone on his or her birthday or anniversary. This has improved our relationships and communications with our family. I am so enthusiastic about my family history that I inspired six family members and friends to build their own family trees, using MyHeritage .

The 2002 Van Eeden Family Reunion, held in Swellendam, South Africa.

When Gerry began using MyHeritage, he saw that it was available in 36 (today, 42) languages, but that his mother tongue, Afrikaans, was not one of them. He learned about our volunteer translators and decided that was something he could do for his fellow Afrikaans users.

After translating the first few items, I was hooked. Today it is my hobby and part of my daily routine. I find it both stimulating and challenging, to translate the program, newsletters, the user’s guide, frequently asked questions and other correspondence. I appreciate the thank you letters from the translation team.

One of Gerry’s most exciting family history discoveries with MyHeritage has been when he discovered a cousin who emigrated from South Africa 40 years ago to live in England.

We had lost contact back then, but now I have suddenly discovered many family members I did not know. It is so nice to discuss family history with them. I also found the descendants of my father’s oldest brother whom I did not know.

Would you like to join our Global Translator Community and help other speakers of your language discover, preserve and share their family history? Read more about how you can get involved: http://translations.myheritage.com/

 

 

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