Inventories of the Orphan Chamber
of the Cape of Good Hope

This is your entry to the Inventories of the Orphan Chamber at the Cape of Good Hope. The Orphan Chamber, which was established in 1673 under VOC rule, continued during the British period under the jurisdiction of the High Court.

You can search the inventories by date, person, geographical name, ship name, the reference number of the document, or by using free search on every word of interest to you.

In Transcribing the Inventories – a personal experience the members of the TEPC team of transcribers and editors give their impressions about the contents of the Inventories and how they experience the material with which they work.

A bilingual list in Dutch and English helps you to understand the 17th and 18th century Dutch words and expressions.

The Introduction in English describes the background of the Inventories of the Orphan Chamber, offers a sketch of the Orphan Chamber and its position in the management structure at the Cape and explains how to use the search facilities to get the best results.

Maps provided by the Cape Town Archives Repository offer you more information regarding Cape Town and its surroundings, as well as the various districts of the Colony. The following four maps show the development of Cape Town in 1660, 1760, 1785 and 1786:

’ Fort de Goede Hoop, huizen en tuinen van vrij luiden, etc. Naar de Kaart No. 824,
aanwezig in het Alg. Rijksarchief (now Nationaal Archief).

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Map of Cabo de Goede Hoop in the 18th century (4.AANW 1420, Nationaal Archief)

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Cape of Good Hope, showing Table Bay, the Castle, streets, blocks, etc., 1760 (M1/338, C.A.P.)

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A map of Cape Town in 1785 indicating the blocks/erven as well as the family name of the owners (with the courtesy of the Nationaal Archief in The Hague, where a large collection of maps of the Cape of Good Hope is kept)

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“Geschiedkundige Atlas van Nederland”, showing the “Ontwikkeling van de Nederzetting aan de Tafelbaai”, 1786

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The TEPC Transcription Project

The acronym TEPC stands for Transcription of Estate Papers at the Cape of Good Hope. It is a joint project of the Universities of the Western Cape and Cape Town in partnership with the Cape Town Archives Repository and the National Archives at The Hague with the overall goal of equitable access to significant archival resources associated with the history of the Cape.

Ms Ellen Berends, Netherlands Consul General in Cape Town until mid-2005, initiated the project. A historian herself, she enthusiastically endorsed the proposal and ensured that a budget of over R1,5 million was forthcoming. The first phase of the project lasted 15 months, from 1 October 2004 to 31 December 2005.

Due to the success of the project, the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Pretoria has generously approved an application for a second phase, running from 1 February to the end of December 2006.

The goal is to make a complete transcription of certain papers from deceased estates administered by the Orphan Chamber at the Cape between about 1690 and 1840, and a catalogue of associated documents. A joint UWC and UCT research group identified the estate papers as the most appropriate series for transcription. This group also participates as advisors to the project and participated in various events, such as seminars and public workshops.

A team of editors and transcribers worked at the Cape Town Archives Repository and specialist computer consultants [Sentrum] customised the computer software, collected specialist resources, and transformed hand-written Dutch into a digital database.

The transcription team consists of three editors (Dr Helena Liebenberg, Ms Erika van As and Mrs Illona Meyer) and four transcribers (Ms Fiona Clayton, Mrs Maureen Rall, Mr Kobus Faasen and Mrs Annemarie Krzesinski).

The TEPC transcription team in the Reading Room, 2005

TEPC transcription team
From left to right: Fiona Clayton, Kobus Faasen, Erika van As, Helena Liebenberg, Annemarie Krzesinski and Illona Meyer. Front: Maureen Rall

The project is in the joint name of UWC and UCT because members of both universities are involved in the planning of the project, and materials will be used by students from both universities. The project is headed by Prof Nigel Worden, Department of Historical Studies, UCT, supported by Dr Sue Newton-King, Department of History, UWC and is under the supervision of a project manager, Dr Antonia Malan, Historical Archaeology Research Group, UCT.

In 2005 a series of public workshops showed what these fascinating documents contain and explored how they can be used and developed by different groups. Participants contributed towards a guidebook for researchers, “Household Inventories at the Cape: A Guidebook for Beginner Researchers”.

The transcription process is closely associated with a collaborative transfer of skills and capacity-building project for interested parties in the public sphere.


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