My Ancestry


I was born in South Africa to my British Dad and South African Mom.  Growing up I felt perhaps slightly more English than South African as our family followed more of my Dad’s English traditions and we had far more of his English family around us.  We traveled to England several times from South Africa and got to know my Dad’s relatives there.  My Mom’s family was around as I do have photographs of me with some of them when I was younger but it feels like, at least for me, our English family was more present.  There is quite a large age gap between myself and my two older brothers so it’s quite likely they had a different experience when they were younger.

I have always thought of myself as South African-British as if the two were interchangeable.  Then I moved permanently to the USA and have thrown that in as well!  Can I call myself South African-British-American?

We are a family with roots all over the world and we are raising our families today in many different corners of the world.  We are and always seem to have been, travelers.

On my paternal side:  My Thomas line originates in St. Agnes, Cornwall, England (1731) but being the coal miners they were, they moved wherever work could be found.  From St. Agnes, Cornwall, England to Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire, Wales.  Back for a few years to Killingworth, Northumberland, England and then to County Durham, England where they have been since 1881.  Until my Dad decided that mining was not in the cards for him and he sought out greener pastures in South Africa.

Also on my paternal side:  My Bellas (Bellis) line originates from Holywell, Flintshire, Wales (1735).  Also finally settling in County Durham, England by 1861.  My great great grandfather John Bellas traveled frequently between County Durham and South Africa where he worked in the De Beers mine.

My great-grandmother, Margaret Bruce was born in County Durham, England but her father was, with a last name like Bruce, from Scotland of course!  Also a coal miner by trade.

On my maternal side:  My Davis line originates (so far!) from Brailes, Warwickshire, England (1772).  They were wheelwright’s and carpenters there for many years with the trade being passed from father to son.  The family line moves to Lancashire where my great-grandfather Harry Joshua Davis was born in 1879.  He was a very colorful character and he is my stubborn brick wall.  He ended up in South Africa (we think but are not sure that he came out to fight in the Boer War) as a member of the British South Africa Police force (BSAP) in 1902.  He married my great-grandmother, Adelaide Agnes Maud Hayes in Johannesburg in 1909.  They separated and perhaps divorced (no documents found yet to support the divorce) and the family seems to have lost track of him.  His police employment record shows he was a Detective in Cape Town, South Africa in 1921.  In 1923 the BSAP was disbanded and that was the last time I have found anything in any document relating to Harry Joshua Davis.  I don’t know if he stayed in South Africa, started a plumbing business, or became a baker (theories passed down through various family members) or even whether he returned to England.  I don’t know where he died or where he is buried….but one day I will find that little piece of information that points the way. UPDATE: In 2019, while visiting my parents in South Africa, I found the last piece of this puzzle. Sadly, it was not a happy ending for Harry. You can read more here.

My great-grandmother on my maternal side, Adelaide Agnes Maud Hayes was born in 1886 in Jamaica while her father, John Joseph Hayes was stationed there with the British Army.  John Joseph Hayes was born in Carrickfergus, Antrim County, Ireland.  His military service with the British Army took him and his family to South Africa in 1887.  He remained in South Africa, even after his discharge in 1890.

My Keown line on my maternal side is from Peel, on the Isle of Man where the men were joiners and builders for many generations.  My great grandfather, John Gill Keown left the Isle of Man in the early 1900’s and bought a farm he named ‘Frisco Pokwani’ in the Warrenton District, Cape Province, South Africa.  He farmed there until his death in 1950.  John Gill Keown married his second wife, Christina Elizabeth Eberhard in Kimberley, South Africa in 1913.  Christina Elizabeth Eberhard was the daughter of German immigrant, George Eberhard, who moved to South Africa to work as a mining engineer in the 1870’s and Christina Elizabeth McIntosh, daughter of Scottish parents William McIntosh and Elizabeth Shoolbraid (Schoolbread).

My ancestors seem to collectively be somewhat adventurous and willing to travel to far away places.   A trait that has recurred in my immediate family as we are spread from South Africa to England, Scotland to Canada and the USA to Australia.