THE OTTO FAMILY BRANCHES
Many of our Otto ancestors originally came from Pomerania, located in the north east of present day Germany. I have found 27 Otto individuals who immigrated to South Africa during the last 300 years. About 69% of all Otto"s are descended from Michiel Otto, who arrived at the Cape in 1714. About 19% of all Otto"s are descended from Johann Friedrich Otto. The rest belong to the other 25 Otto patriarchs. The Lakota, an American Indian tribe, have a saying, which really applies to us. After a pipe-smoking ceremony, they say: "Mi taku oyasin", meaning, "We are all related!"
There were 1200 people with Otto surnames recorded on Death Notices, as of the year 1999.
A few generalizations may be made about where and when certain Otto families lived. Otto families left Germany to find opportunities in a new land. Michiel Otto and Johann Friedrich Otto are the only Otto"s whose family were in South Africa prior to the great Trek. Some remained in the Western Cape, but most moved inland, to escape colonial rule by England. Generally, once they made the over land move, the Otto families remained in their new surroundings. The early twentieth century was ushered in by the Industrial Revolution and many moved for economic reasons to the cities. Pretoria became the city of choice for many Otto families, since most were Afrikaners. As we enter the twenty-first century many South Africans are making another Trek. Estimates are that more than one million South Africans have moved abroad. The United States, Canada, England, Australia and New Zealand are popular emigration destinations.
The Otto family is a midsize South African family. In comparisons, according to the 1964 Population Register of the Republic of South Africa the largest families were:
Jacobs = 82500; Botha = 79500; Smith = 76500; Williams = 64500; van Wyk = 63000; van der Merwe = 60000; Nel = 49500; du Plessis and Venter = 48000; Pretorius = 46500; Coetsee / Coetzee = 46500; Fourie = 46500; Louw = 46500;van Rensburg = 46500; Smit = 45000; van Zyl = 43500; Adams= 42000; Hendricks = 40500; du Toit = 39000; Kruger = 39000; van Niekerk = 39000; Meyer = 34500; Abrahams = 34500; le Roux = 31500; Booysens = 31500; Swart = 30000; van Rooyen = 30000; Viljoen = 30000; Steyn = 28500; van der Westhuizen = 28500; Swanepoel = 27000; Muller = 27000; Marais = 27000; Joubert = 27000; Brown = 27000; Potgieter = 25000; du Preez = 25000; Jouberts = 24650; Olivier = 24000; Oosthuizen = 24000; Pienaar = 24000; Bezuidenhout = 24000; Petersen = 22500; Burger = 21750; de Villiers = 21000; de Beers = 21000; van Heerdens = 21000; Barnard = 21000; Isaac = 19500; Prinsloo = 19500 Fortuin = 18750; Thomas = 18000; Grobler = 18000; Vorster = 18000; Visagie = 17250; Lombard = 17250; Scheepers = 16500; Steenkamp = 16500; Theron = 16500; Source: South African Surnames by Eric Rosenthal, 1965
Descendants of Michiel Otto
Michiel OTTO was born on 27 August 1688 in Chemnitz, Saxony, Germany. He died in 1743 in Somerset-West, Western Cape. Michiel"s parents were Johann Heinrich OTTO, born in 1665 and Dorothea MAUERSBERGER, born in 1668. They were married on 5 OCT 1687 in Chemnitz, Saxony, Germany. Michiel Otto came to South Africa 1 April 1714 on board the ship "Rijksdorp" of the Dutch East Indian Company, which sailed from Trondheim, Norway. According to his testament he originally came from Stettin, which was under Sweden at the time. The present day spelling of the city name is in its Slavic form, Szczecin, pronounced "Stettin". This city is a port on the Baltic coast on the East Side of the Oder River in Poland. Michiel was the first of twenty-six Otto patriarchs who came to South Africa. Twenty of those Otto families came from the eastern part of Germany.
Michiel was a sailor in 1714. Michiel was made superintendent of the Woodcutters, behind the Steenbergen Mountains of the Western Cape and was released from contractual service responsibilities to the Dutch East Indian Company in 1719. Upon completing the obligatory five years of service, he married Barbara CONTERMAN on 19 November 1719. No children were born from this marriage. Through his second marriage to Anna Margaretha SIEK on 1 March 1723, widow of Barend Gildenhuyzen, he became the owner of one-fourth of the "Vergelegen" farm, on which the house and buildings stood. This farm originally belonged to Governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel and is a South African heritage site. The estate is located about half a mile beyond the eastern extremity of the urban area of Somerset-West, Western Cape.
Presently, the estate is one of Western Cape"s tourist attractions, with a Cape Dutch style house, restaurant and wine cellars built into the hillside. Vergelegen has been called "The Versailles of Southern Africa", with its octagonal gardens and 300 year old majestic Camphor"s. The old oak trees are reputed to have been planted by Adriaan van der Stel. Michiel also owned the farm Kleine Zwarte River till 1727 and then lived on the farm Kromme River, near Elgin in 1730. Michiel"s Testament and Will indicate he was a relatively rich man at his time of death. Michiel"s wealth was most likely acquired through his marriage to the widow of the wealthy man, Barend Gildenhuyzen. In the book, "Cape of Good Hope" published in 1787, there are serious allegations made against Michiel, in the extract from O. F. Mentzel. He writes, "In my time, a farmer named Michael Otto (commonly known as Michel Ox) owned the best farm in Hottentots Holland, noted for viticulture; but he was a savage, tyrannical to his slaves. Consequently he lost through desertion many of his slaves who fell into the hands of the Fiscal and the law. Flogging seemed to him far too mild a punishment for the smallest offence. Generally in summer he used to bind slaves who had committed some offence naked to a tree or pole in the sun, had their entire bodies smeared with honey and thus they were tortured unbearable for hours by flies, wasps, bumble-bees and other pests, especially by the African blind flies, called "Mosquitoes" in India. But after he had suffered great loss of slaves and also been severely punished several times by the Government on account of his inhuman conduct, he became annoyed, left his wife to farm alone on the estate and bought himself a house in the city; there sold his own wine at retail and what he could not sell he drank himself being never quite sober. When any farmer had a disobedient slave, the mere threat to sell or give him to Michael Otto unless he improved, was often more effective than other punishments would have been since every slave was afraid of this man."
Michiel"s self-destructive drinking, abuse of himself and those around him proved too much for his marriage. Michiel tormented by his demons, left the farm. Michiel and Anna were divorced in 1741 and Anna was left to manage the farm and family. He died in 1743 in Somerset-West, Western Cape. Anna Margaretha SIEK, Michiel"s wife was the daughter of Johann SIEK and Geertruyd HELM. Anna was christened on 13 Mar 1685 in Cape Town, Western Cape.
Vince Otto: Genealogies of Otto Families
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