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Re: Nell Family late 1800's in South Africa?
Posted by: Greg mellish (ID *****5780) Date: May 16, 2007 at 14:11:16
In Reply to: Nell Family late 1800's in South Africa? by Charlene Nell of 212

From the Amsterdam County Office (Gemmentenarchief): Guillaume Nie'l was a protestant refugee from Normandy and fled to Amsterdam after the Edict of Nantes was declared by Loius 14th. He arrived in Amsterdam in the late 1680s and lived in Bethaniensteeg (today's red light district) in Amsterdam and was a tailor. He met Jeanne de la Batte (of Tulouse) who was also a refugee. She lived in De Pijlsteeg (the original house demolished in 1937 was occupied at the end by a man called Jan Bats). They met and married and had two children (8 more later in SA), but neither one spoke French much and Jeanne Nel soon became Jan Nel. Both children (a boy and a girl) were born in Amsterdam, but in the spring of 1689 they all boarded the VOC vessle "de Berg China" and left for the Cape of Good Hope. They got 80 (Rijksdaalders) guilders from the Dutch East India Company (VOC) to settle at the Cape and lived in Groot Drakenstein and are thought to have started a farm there.

The South African Nel family (of some 50 000) is a large one, but none of them made the Great Trek of 1837 and mostly settled on the south coast, especially Port Elizabeth. THe Nels who did move to Johannesburg did so just after the Gold Rush of the 1880s. The original Guillame Niel is thought to have had a brother but he did not show up in the Cape at all and it is thought that some of the Nels emigrated to the American colonies. The Mormon church in Amsterdam were also very helpful.

Jan Nel, one of the 10 brothers and sisters moved to the Klein Karoo and lived on the farm Vergelegen for many years ( The farm is still in the Nel family). He in turn had a few children. One of them Jan Nel moved away and settled on the Farm Brandrivier (Its also one of the smallest towns in SA) close to Barrydale.

Jan Nel, was a peace judge in the Klein Karoo and also fought on the side of the English during the Boer war. Apparently the Cape rebels burnt down his farm for refusing to join their cause.

One of his Brothers Willem Adriaan Nel (Guillaume means William in Gaelic I believe), was the guy who went and got the rebels from the cave during the SlagtersNek rebellion (remember that little peace of history)

Jan Nel had a son Willem Adriaan who inherited Brandrivier. I have no idea how many other children he had. He in turn had two sons, Attie and Marius Louis. Attie had three sons, George, Jacobus and Willem Adriaan.Marius had three sons:, Stevanus, Willem Adriaan, and Marius Louis The family still lives on the farm and I believe the original farmstead have been restored to its former glory. Inside the house is pictures of almost all the great uncles and aunts.

While studying in the UK during the fifties Marius Louis Nel paid some family tree specialist to trace the family prior to them coming to SA. There is no documentation to back this up but apparently the Nel family can be traced back to around 1100. The Nel family have roots in Ireland 1100. The Irish family was known as the O'niell clan. They resided at Tara. Apparently round 1300 after some regional unrest amongst the serfs and slaves the family was forced to flee Ireland. Some of them left Tara and settled in Lyon, France where they dropped the o from O'Niell. During the years in France they also dropped the extra L and ended up with Niel. This got changed to Nel.

A Nel clan travelled to what is known today as Adelaide on the Koonap river in the Eastern Cape. Those who wanted to farm applied to the Governor General for a fairly larhe tract of land. They started farming and the grant became official in 1871. The area was called Glen Lynden. (Copy held at the land surveyor generals office in Cape Town)

Gert Jeremiah Cornelius Nel born circa 1853 married Louiza Nel (maiden name not known.

They had 5 children, the first being Louis Hendrik Josephus, born in 1876. He married Ellen Vorster (born 1873) from Bedford in Glen Lynden in 1898

Soon after that, they trekked inland to Venterstad and set up a farm called "Hilton" They had 5 children namely Joan, Gerald, Louis (1909) Emma and Gilbert. Louis married Edna Strydom, also from Venterstad and a farm called Cheviotdale in 1936.

Because of the great drought, they sold the farm and moved to Cape Town. They had 3 children
Louis (1947)
Carine (1948)
Stephanus (1950)

One final thing. One of the Nels (Hendrik Cornelius) married Margaret McGillvary who naged him till he changed his name to Henry Nell (note the double L)

Obviously linking into all this are many NEL & NELL trees and I have 1000 or records and still building.....


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