Southern Africa Jewish Genealogy SA-SIG
Cape Colony Jewish Naturalisation Registers
by Ann Rabinowitz
Editor: Dr Saul Issroff
Copyright © 1999 Saul Issroff, Mike Getz, SAfrica SIG
and Jewishgen Inc.
Revised: 20 December 1999
The Cape Colony Jewish Naturalization Registers are a result of a 1904 request to the Jewish Board of Deputies of the Cape Colony from the Colonial Secretary. He required a report on Jewish applications for naturalizations that had not been available previously. The Board agreed to the request and prepared the Cape Colony Jewish Naturalization Registers that are to be found in the Morris Alexander Papers that are housed at the Kaplan Centre Archives in Cape Town, S.A.
Due to the fact that the registers were prepared as a report rather than a legally binding document, the information contained in these registers may not be a totally accurate representation of all Jewish naturalizations or of information that will be found on the actual naturalization documents. For instance, there are naturalizations listed for 1907, but there are so few that it is apparent that not all naturalizations are included.
For many, there was no great impetus to become naturalized and people waited many years before taking the actual step. There were two persons in the registers who waited the longest period of time to seek naturalization. One was Isaac Edelman who was fifty-four years old in 1904 and had lived in South Africa for twenty-four years before seeking naturalization. The other was Felix Kappe, fifty years old in 1905, who came to South Africa in 1880 and had lived in South Africa for twenty-five years. The person who was the oldest in age to seek naturalization was Abraham Finkelstein, age sixty-four, who was born in 1840 and came to South Africa in 1904.
The registers represent a small proportion of those who were
naturalized during the period of 1903 through 1907. The full range of these records can be
found in the Mormon microfilm and in the South African Archives. Computerization of the
records in the Archives allows direct searching and ordering of the records to take place
in person. There is also the option to request the actual records by mail. Despite the
small number of entries in the registers (there are only 1,253 entries), they do provide a
valuable insight into the origins of what was to become the major force in the South
African Jewish community . . . the Lithuanian immigrants.
The Cape Colony Jewish Naturalization Registers were hand-written by
different individuals and oftentimes were difficult to read. As the registers are very
fragile, the only ones who are allowed to copy them are the staff of the Kaplan Centre
Archives. Approximately, thirty to thirty-six entries are contained on each page and the
more names on the page, the more difficult it is to decipher the entries. There were
thirteen columns in the original registers and the information contained in them has been
entered into a sample database and is described as follows:
Year of Naturalization
In the original registers, the month day and year are provided.
However, only the year is given is to be found in the sample database. Note that a number
of individuals from the same locality may have been naturalized on the same date.
First and Last Name
The names may not conform to those that you know your relative may have
used. This may be seen as a deviation due to variations in spelling, errors of the clerk
and very often the fact that the immigrants did not use a consistent means of spelling
their names. For instance, Reuben Paiken from Vitebsk, Belarus, had other branches of his
family who went to Denmark and spelled their name Paikin and others in America spelled it
Peiken. Some very often changed their name or shortened it to ease its use in business. An
example of this is the case of Karl Rubinstein from Liskove, Latvia, who became Robinson.
Individuals also changed their name to match the name of the family member(s) that brought
them to South Africa as is the case of Hirs Pargament who became Berman. Some even
lengthened their name as in the case of the name Ber which became Berman.
Town and Country of Origin
Much of what you will see, if you sort by town of origin, is not
necessarily the town the person was born in, but the town the person left from or the town
they were last living in. The name of Kovna may actually refer to the Guberniya or
Province and not the town and the same may be true of Lomza and Grodno. The spelling of
the town names is not consistent at all and there are many variations of spelling on the
registers. Most of the names are either the Russian or Yiddish versions . . . the
Lithuanian versions were not used yet. Therefore, you will find Shavli and not Siauliai.
Also, there were a few town names that were not found in any of the commonly utilized
resources such as "Where Once We Walked".
The town and country names to be found in the sample database are the
ones that are currently in use today. For instance, many immigrants stated that they came
from Russia, whereas the town would now be in Byelorussia or Belarus or the Ukraine, etc.
There are a number of entries where the immigrant stated that he came from Kurland when in
fact Kurland is another name for the country of Latvia.
Age and Date of Birth
The age of the individual being naturalized is self-evident and their
approximate date of birth is provided based on their age at time of naturalization and
year of naturalization. The majority of the individuals in the registers were under thirty
years of age and a very minuscule proportion is over fifty.
Years in Country Prior to Naturalization
In many cases, the register gives both the months and years the person
lived in South Africa prior to becoming a citizen. There are a few individuals who lived
in England, Ireland or Scotland prior to the citizenship process and then moved to South
Africa. This time in Great Britain was counted towards their citizenship requirements. The
data in the registers indicates that the residency requirements for naturalization changed
from time to time and that during the period of the registers, it was eighteen months to
two years and then also five to seven years.
Be aware, that the data for occupations was not provided for all the entries.
Residence, Town and Country Address
These columns of data are in the most raw fashion as there has not been
time to cross-check or make sure that all the information is spelled correctly or missing
information is included in this sample. If you see errors, don't panic as these will be
taken care of in the final form of the database. As you will note, the Jews tended to
congregate in certain areas of the towns and villages of Cape Colony such as Albert Road,
Canterbury Street, Commercial Street, Constitution Street, Roeland Street and others.
The miscellaneous information contains references, the name or initials
of the case investigator, various dates relating to stages in the process, the
naturalization number and the name of the lawyer (s) who handled the legal aspects of the
naturalization process for the immigrant. These pieces of data have been excluded from the
sample database due to lack of space.
A sample database in Excel [spreadsheet] format that has approximately 1,000 entries is available for download. Use this sample database as you would any other ... test the data given against other sources of information and use it as a benchmark to guide you in further research of your relatives in South Africa.
NOTE: Professor Aubrey Newman of Leicester University has computerized the entire registers containing 1,253 entries, but they are presently unavailable to the general public. The sample database utilizes the original data obtained from the Kaplan Centre Archives in 1997 and then compiled and analyzed by Ann Rabinowitz, Miami Beach, FL.