Locating farm land in South Africa

In the 1880s my great grandfather, John Gill Keown, left the Isle of Man for South Africa. He worked as a carpenter for the De Beers Mining Company in Kimberly. A little later in his life, he bought land in the Northern Cape and named his farm, Frisco Pokwani. That farm name was key to being able to locate the land on a map today.

Begin by visiting the website of South Africa’s Chief Surveyor-General and enter the province and the farm name as below:

The search is limited in scope. For example, a search for ‘Frisco Pokwani’ had no result. However, a search for ‘Frisco’ resulted in the documentation I was looking for. So try different variations of your farm name. Also remember that provincial boundaries have shifted over the years so if the land you’re looking for is close to a border, search in both provinces.

Below is the result of my search, giving me the region the farm was in (Vryburg) and the parcel number (857). Click on the Search where the red arrow points.

The resulting information will focus on any documentation the Surveyor-General’s office has for the farm Frisco. In this case, there were two results. After studying both, they appear to be the same document.

Clicking on the TIF file provides the Surveyor’s drawing of the farm. It shows the geographical coordinates of the land, lists the lot number and the division the land is located in, and at the bottom, names John Keown as the owner.

To locate the land on a map of South Africa, go to the Chief Surveyor’s Cadastral Spatial Data Viewer, and click on the first icon on the left of the screen, as below:

Enter the Province and Farm Name again in the search box:

Now you can see the land plotted on a map!  You can zoom in and out to see the surrounding area. On the Layer List (found on the top menu) you can add or remove overlays to see variations in how the map data is displayed.

A quick look at Google Maps shows that the land remains rural and uncultivated today.

John Keown lived on his farm, Frisco Pokwani, until his death in January 1950.

Have you had any luck locating your ancestor’s land in South Africa?

Shout out to Ivan Meyer on the South African Genealogy Facebook page for pointing out this incredible resource!

5 thoughts on “Locating farm land in South Africa

  1. Hi Sue. I am Anne Keown Anderson (nee Keown). My mom (Frances) was married to William James(Bill) Keown (John’s son). It was Bill’s second marriage. Bill adopted me and I grew up with Frisco as my home but spent most of my growing up in Kimberley Girls High and left for Durban in 1959.
    Bill owned the farm and it was also ‘attached’ to Mimosa and Merrivale – all owned by Bill. He sold there in 1963 and moved to Howick.
    Question: How and where do you fit into the Keown family?
    Feel free to contact me on anneand99@gmail.com


  2. Hi… Thanks for this, I didn’t know this resource existed and will be very helpful!

    My family rents Frisco from the current owners for cattle farming, so even wonderful to read about Frisco itself!

    Do you perhaps have any other info on Mr Keown and the farm?


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Arnie! I am so excited to read your comment that you currently rent Frisco for cattle farming! John Keown was from the Isle of Man. He left there in 1886 and worked in Kimberley for De Beers. According to the mortgage bond which I have, John Keown bought Frisco in 1904 for £446. He lived on the farm with his family until his death at the age of 90 in 1950. I believe Frisco was sold as part of his estate and the proceeds divided up amongst his children.
      So at some point there was a house on the land. From Google photos, it doesn’t look like it exists anymore. Do you perhaps have any photos of the land? I would love to see what it looks like today! My email is sue.mcnelly@gmail.com if you’d like to get in touch that way.


    2. Hi Arnie. I was brought up on Frisco and in 1963 my father, William James Keown known as Bill sold the farms. He also owned Mimosa and Maryvale. He and my motherFrances then retired to Howick in Natal. There used to be an old farm house and a shop on the farm. Wonder if it is still there. There was also a graveyard on the farm where dads family were buried. At one time Bill’s brother Fred and his wife also lived there and moved to Kimberly for a while when I was about seven years old.
      I would so love to visit the farm. Do you know the map coordinates for the farm?
      Anne Keown Anderson


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