Wednesday, 12 September 2007


  • QUESTION: I was looking on the SA Archives and found a divorce for James Matthew KOTZE (mother, Jacoba Johanna CHURCH x Kenneth van Breda KOTZE) and Gesina Cornelia. The instruction says "file destroyed by regulation 64 of the Supreme Court". Could someone possibly explain the meaning of this? -- Dorothy via Buitenposten.
  • ANSWER: I have found these remarks on quite a few divorce files whilst working through all the SCOTT and Mc DONALD divorces in the Pretoria Archives. When a party sues his/her spouse for a divorce the first step by the Court is to issue an order for "Restitution of Conjugal Rights" -- that is, return to your spouse and continue with the marital relationship before a given date. If that order is not complied with, the court can then grant a final divorce order. If the matter is amicably settled somewhere along the line before either an "Order for Restitution of Conjugal Rights" or a "Final Divorce Order" is granted by the court, the parties might agree to withdraw the matter from court and could apply that the records be destroyed in terms of Regulation 64. Then no one will know the "gory" details of the divorce action and the declarations made by the respective parties. -- Dennis Pretorius, Krugersdorp, Executive Member of GSSA, Owner of SAGenealogy e-mail list, via Buitenposten and SAGen.
In an ensuing debate the following was said:
  • I had a look at my grandparents' divorce of 1919. My dad was quite young then. It gave me an insight into a lot of what went on in our family. I think it is a good thing if these documents are destroyed. I'm sure my grandparents would be horrified that their private lives are accessible to view to later generations. – Fay Lea.
  • The danger is what one person calls "part of their private lives". Others would see it as deserving public display. For example, many might see a Baptism record as part of their private life, especially some of the early entries in the St Paul's Register which talks of "the illegitimate son of ..." or "so-and-so is the reputed father", but if we destroyed those records where would we be? – Derek Pratt.
  • Why be ashamed of the past. It adds flesh to the bones that we find. My gg-parents were married Wilson and when they came to SA, Wilson-Buchanan. By so doing I haven’t been able to find his birth date or why the name change. And so what if there is a love child or two? Does not this still happen in our lives today. -- Mary Shearar.
  • You are quite right, Derek, in the case of information that concerned others. I was really referring to the acrimonious infighting part of the document, which does not really give any info about anyone else. (And wow was there some!) There was no useful information there, but then again who is to be the judge? Certainly not if one is in any way emotionally involved. – Fay Lea.
  • Back in 1876 a very ugly divorce between my g-grandparents was reported in the newspaper and a cutting came with all the other court papers. The newspaper was very enlightening and gave an account of the cross examination. He was a regular ... (words fail me) who deserted wife and family, embezzled and defrauded his employer, skipped the country and landed in an Australian jail for four years. After nine years he came back and accused her of adultery. The judge's final verdict was that her plea of cruelty and desertion was not enough of a defence and he granted the divorce to my g-grandpa. Now how could I have learned all that but for the file? I might have gone on believing a quite different picture of the man his granddaughter said was a "charming ne'er do well". Newspapers now no longer print the details of a divorce. And if files are destroyed, one can miss so much of the story. That's the real flesh and blood. -- Patricia.
  • Thankfully these files do exist and many secrets do get uncovered. I know from scratching in my families past there are all sorts of "histories" handed down that were twisted and changed from the truth. Not sure why ... maybe to fit with the times and politics. I know my grandmother would never discuss her divorce as it was supposedly "a big shame" and so a big chunk of her life was a secret. If it wasn't for the files in the archives I wouldn't have been able to trace aunts. --Lynn

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