Who Were They? Muddled Impressions
On my mom’s side we were Hollanders, or so I believed as a kid. My childhood impressions were that Anneke Lampen’s parents both came to South Africa at the end of the 19th century, so they had little to do with South Africa’s history. The Lampens’ origens were hardly ever spoken about while I grew up on the “very late” tail end of the five kids in the Wentzel/Lampen household in Lyttleton, just south of Pretoria. I did not even know what Ouma Lampen’s maiden name was until three years ago. I once asked my dad if “we were in the Groot Trek?” He said no, the Wentzels were “agtertrekkers”, those who trekked after the Voortrekkers were established in their new republics. So, my impression while growing up as a little Afrikaner kid in the primary school pressures of the 1960’s, was that my family was not really “anybody important in South Africa’s history”. Surely being more Hollander than Afrikaner (in my own estimation then), counted for something important, right? I guess going to Holland at 11 years old with my folks to visit family and even attending a little two-room school in Meliskerke, Zeeland, added quite a bit to this childhood identity. Of course high school and college years during the turbulent 70's in South Africa changed those ideas completely.
With my “big dig” into our history it was rather a shock to find that Ouma Lampen’s grandmother was a Malan girl who, as a little four year old, found herself in the middle of all the historic shakings of the Groot Trek. When Helena Catharina’s father was killed in the Battle of Italeni alongside Piet Uys, her family’s name became part of those spoken with reverance when this history was recalled among the descendents and future in-laws, such as oupa-grootjie Jan Heystek. The more I searched, the more stunning our history revealed itself to be. Actually, there were more than just the Malans in our family that participated in the Groot Trek, and they all have stories of their own. I am sure if we could add all the Lampen in-law ancestors—like Mienie’s family, you Lampens there from Rietondale, or Lettie’s, all the Rustenburg kids, and Gerhard Lampen’s maternal lines, we would come up with a set of the most intriguing family history books. Already the Wentzel stories (my dad’s family) are bulging out of my files. And Pappie was wrong… there were Wentzels on the Groot Trek too.
For our Lampen-Heystek-Erasmus-Malan line the history goes all the way back to the first century A.D., to a peculiar group of Christian believers who lived in Italy. Tracing all the Erasmus-Malan lines back, we have ancestors from Königsberg in Prussia (today’s Kaliningrad, Russia); all over the Netherlands; a host of former feudal states in what is Germany today; France; Timor—Indonesia (talk about shocking findings!); Finland; Angola; Denmark; Belgium; India; Bali in West Africa and Madagascar in East Africa. The lists grows among the Wentzels. There’s the first drunken road rage with two ox wagons in Southern Africa; there is the women who sailed to the Cape dressed as a soldier and whose husbands kept dying; there is a murder next to the Castle walls; there are surgeons and slaves and farmers and magistrates and political refugees and scoundrels and Robben Island did not just house Mandela and there are heroes and one name I just want to cut out of the genealogy altogether, but he existed.
Previously published on: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Lampens/