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Surnames D to G

ELS Johannes Martin and Anna Maria Pieterse



The Els progenitor in South Africa, Johann Martin Öltz/Oeltz/Eltz, known in South Africa as Johannes Martin Els (also recorded as Jan and sometimes Marthinus) was born in Stendal, Prussia on 4 June 1724. His parents were Johann Martin Öltze(n)/Oeltzen (called Martin) from Jürgen, Kossät in Farchant, district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany, born 1672, died 22 June 1751 in Stendal and Gertrud Gronemayer, baptised 5 March 1685/86, daughter of Matthias Gronemaier and Ilse Limpermanß from Stendal, Germany. The parents, Johann and Gertrud married on 2 January 1708/09.

Johannes Martin was baptised in the Jakobikirche (St. James Lutheran Church) in Stendal on 7 June 1724 and was confirmed as a member of the church in 1738 when he was 14 years old. He gains citizenship of Maagdeburg on 10 November 1746 when he was 22.

Stendal is situated on the Uchte, a tributary of the Elbe River, approximately 100 km west of Berlin and 55 km north of Maagdeburg, presently in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.

Germany was not united until 1871. In the 1600’s and 1700’s the Germany of today consisted of 1 789 kingdoms, principalities, grand duchies, dukedoms, electorates, free cities and small personal estates. In 1700 Stendal was in the kingdom of Prussia, in the province of Sakse, generally referred to as Prussian-Sakse to distinguish it from the electoral princedom of Sakse.

Although Stendal is situated in a fertile agricultural region with mining and manufacturing activities, during the 1600’s and 1700’s the German states, in particular Prussia, were ravaged by wars and conflicts. Furthermore, the German princes led a life of ease and luxury at the expense of their impoverished subjects by imposing burdensome taxation.

Low productivity, the high taxes and rents as well as the requisitioned labour service, caused the majority of the people to fall heavily in debt. The crops were just not adequate to pay for the taxes and rents required by the princes. Thousands from all parts were compelled to sell what little property they had. They paid their debts, took their remaining possessions and went looking for a new life elsewhere.

During this period the “Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie” (V.O.C) was a major employer of maritime labour and was recruiting sailors and solders for the ships of their trading fleet with the East and for their colonies at the Cape of Good Hope, Batavia and elsewhere in the East. The V.O.C. preferred recruiting sailors from abroad and younger persons who were still unmarried. The young job seekers from the German areas were ideal candidates. The Netherlands, in contrast to the German states at the time, was a neutral country that benefited and prospered during the times of war elsewhere. Many Germans, including Johannes Martin Els, went to the Netherlands in search of a better future.

Els joins the service of V.O.C. as a soldier on 8 January 1749 at the age of  24 ½ years. He is recorded as Johan Martien Ulsen. He leaves from Texel, the V.O.C. anchorage at this island of North Holland, on the maiden voyage of the ship “Elswoud” on 8 January 1749 and arrives in False Bay on 2 June 1749 when he was 25 years old. He went ashore on 15th June 1749. The Elswoud leaves False Bay again for Batavia on 3 July 1749.

After serving the VOC for seven years, inter alia in the “Buitenposten” at Rivier Sonder End, he leaves the service of the V.O.C. and becomes a Free Burger on 16 March 1756. He Marries Anna Maria Pieterse on 8 May 1763 at the age of 39 years. On 14 January 1774 the loan farm “Jagersrivier”, situated east of Oudtshoorn between the Groot Swartberge and the Kammanassieberge on the Olifants River, between De Rust and Barandas in the Klein Karoo, was allotted to Els as grazing land. He had to pay a leasehold of 24 Rixdollars per annum to the magistrate in Swellendam and was also obliged to deliver free to the Castle in Cape Town 10% of his wheat-harvest and deliver the receipt therefore to the magistrate. By 7 April 1787 he had abandoned the farm as grazing rights on the farm was granted on this date to fellow farmer Douwe Gerbrand Stein.

Els fell in arrears with the payment of his debt on the land. He was in arrears for a period of 12 years and 3 months. D.G. Stein was also in arrears for a period of 6 years on payments on a previous farm, before he was granted grazing rights on Jagersrivier. This was recorded in the "Resolutions of the Council of Policy of Cape of Good Hope" on 24 July 1788. First Clerk Horak was found guilty of misconduct and negligence for having recorded these (and other) debts as paid and having issued receipts in respect thereof while the debts were in fact not paid. The commission that investigated the actions of Horak also recommended that farmers be prohibited from leaving their farms and letting it to others.

(See: “Johannes Martin Els – The progenitor of the Els Family in South Africa” by Charlie Els; Familia 48 (1) 2011)


His wife, Anna Maria Pieterse (baptized 17 December 1747 in Stellenbosch, died before 22 May 1779) is the illegitimate daughter of Willem Hendrikse by Elsje Gerrits ("Personalia of the Germans at the Cape, 1652-1806"; J. Hoge). Anna carried the surname of her stepfather, Johannes (Jantje) Peters, who probably brought her up from the age of about 1 or 2 years, following his marriage to her mother, Elsje.

Willem's descend is unknown. From J. A. Heese's "Die Herkoms van die Afrikaner, 1971" it can be deducted that he is probably Dutch.

There is strong circumstantial evidence that Elsje Gerrits is in fact the same person as Anna Elizabeth Weyers, daughter of Heinrich Weyers from Epe in the Netherlands. Like her mother, Anna Elizabeth Gerrits - who was known as Elsje Gerrits - she seems to have also been called Elsje Gerrits. (See “Die herkoms van Elsje Gerrits, moeder van die Els-stammoeder -  Anna Maria Pieterse” by Charlie Els; Familia  47(3) 2010).

Anna Elizabeth Gerrits was the daughter of Caspar Gerrits of Nijmegen in the Netherlands and Elsje Speldenberg, daughter of Hendrik Speldenberg, also of Nijmegen, by Arriaantje van Cathryn, the daughter of Catharina van Malabar, an Indian ex-slave of Cape Commander Cornelis van Quaelberg. Catharina was baptised in 1673, set free in 1676 and married Cornelis Claessen (Kees de Boer) on 15 March 1676 when Arriaantje was approximately twelve years old.

With the exception of one child, where the relatives of the father, Jantje Peters, were the witnesses, the witnesses at the baptisms of all the other children of Elsje Gerrits were relatives of Anna Elizabeth Weyers, including Elsje Speldenberg, who (if the baptism entry is correct), together with Jantje Peters, brought Elsje Gerrits’s last child, Marthinus Pieterse, for baptism on 4 June 1763 in Stellenbosch. Elsje Gerrits could have died before the baptism and Elsje Speldenberg (the grandmother of Anna Elizabeth Weyers), seems to have stood in as “doopmoeder”.


Johannes Martin Els and Anna Maria Pieterse had six children; five sons and a daughter:

1. Johannes Marthinus, born 20 December 1763, baptised Stellenbosch 9 September 1764, died 9 September 1844, Klipplaatdrif in the Winterberg, district  Albany, married 16 Nov 1783, Johanna Catharina van Tonder, baptised 12 November 1769, Olifants River, Cape Province, died 30 May 1846, Caledon.

2. Nicolaas Jacobus, baptised Cape Town,  7 June 1772, died before 18 August 1830, married Swellendam, 1 March 1795, Hester Botha, baptised  18 February 1781, died  between 1811 and 1817. His second marriage: about 1818, Maria Albertha Joubert.

3. Johannes Christoffel, baptised Cape Town 19 January 1775, married Graaff-Reinet 30 Oct 1803, Elizabeth Sophia van der Merwe, died before 6 February 1839.

4. Christiaan (twin brother of Frederik), baptised Drakenstein 27 April 1777, died probably before 22 May 1779.

5. Frederik Nicolaas (twin brother of Christiaan), baptised Drakenstein 27 Apr 1777, married 20 November 1803, Susanna Cornelia de Bruyn, baptised Cape Town, 20 May 1787.

6. Anna Maria, baptised Drakenstein 18 April 1779, married 2 August 1795 Jan Willem Minnie, baptised Tulbagh, 25 December 1772.

While the birth dates of the last 5 children are spaced the usual two to three years apart, the first two children were born almost nine years apart, which is unusual. A possible explanation could be that there were additional children, who did not survive, born between the birth dates of the first two children.


The majority of South Africans with the surname Els (and at least one known third generation branch who changed the surname to Else) are descendants of one of the four sons, Johannes Marthinus, Nicolaas Jacobus, Johannes Christoffel and Frederik Nicolaas Els, although there could be some Elses who are descendants of the Irish progenitor Patrick Henry Ellis from Dublin Ireland, who married an Afrikaans woman, Margaretha Magdalena Joubert, in Drakenstein on 14 August 1803. On the baptism entries of their children in the Swellendam and George baptismal registers, they were simply entered with the Afrikaans spelling Els in stead of Ellis. The children also all married Afrikaans spouses and many of the families probably became Afrikaans.

There is also a John Arthur Ells from Godalming, Surrey, Engeland who married an Afrikaans woman, Elsje Sophia Pansegrouw, born in Agter-Sneeuberg, Cradock 24 April 1858, in the Methodist Church, Kroonstad on 12 December 1882. Most of his children also had Afrikaans names. Whether any of his descendants adopted the surname Els is not known.

June 2011
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