Four Genealogical Perspectives from DHHS

Posted on April 22, 2024

Four members of the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies (DHHS) at the University of Pretoria (UP) took a trip down to the Cape this past weekend for the South African Society for Cultural History’s (SASCH) 2024 National Congress. Held at the Erfurthuis in Stellenbosch, the Congress consisted of a day and a half of papers presented by academics and genealogists from across the country. The theme for this year’s Congress was, “The Role of Genealogy in Historical Research”.

The head of the DHHS, Professor Karen L. Harris, presented a paper titled, “Chinese Exclusion Act – glimpses of genealogy?” in which she considered the Act’s implications for family history research and in particular how it corroborates the research of both genealogists and geneticists over the past half century regarding Asian admixture to South African ancestry. History PhD candidate, Alta Jamison, provided a new and exciting approach to the historical discipline with her paper titled, ‘Genetic genealogy: An alternate historical archive?’ focusing on tracing the potential of a hypothetical case of Joseph Lis from Professor Charles van Onselen’s  Fox and the Flies fame.  Wendy Cox presented an intriguing facet of her ongoing History PhD research with her paper titled, ‘A doctor, a disease, and an archivist: tracing family histories in South Africa, 1950-1963’ which honed in on the research work of Dr Geoffrey Dean and Archivist Marie Kathleen Jeffreys on porphyria variegata. Robyn Schnell, another History PhD candidate, presented her paper titled, ‘Till death us do part: concluding a biography’, which outlined her own extensive genealogical research journey that she undertook during her History Master’s degree on the inimitable Mendel Levin of apartheid infamy. All four papers were very well received and the participants did DHHS proud!

Thank you to the SASCH for hosting us and well done to our HOD and three doctoral candidates for presenting fascinating papers on their research!

- Author Robyn Schnell

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