My grandmother, Sarah Williamson Sussens, came from a long line of what she referred to as “Cape Dutch”. As a child during the Anglo Boer War, she had been held in one of the notorious concentration camps. Her father, Jan Gerrit Bantjes and grandfather had been taken prisoner by the British at Paardeberg, in the same war. Later, he was influential in introducing the Apostoliese Geloofsending (Apostolic Faith Mission) church to the Transvaal Republic. A great uncle, Jan Gerrit Bantjes, is credited with having made the first significant gold reef on the Witwatersrand, two years before the discovery of the main reef in 1886. At least two streets in Johannesburg carry her maiden name – Bantjes Avenue in Discovery, and Bantjes Streeet in Benrose. Earlier, her great-great-grandfather had played a prominent part in the Great Trek.
Among the other lines of her ancestry are numerous other familiar Afrikaans names. Her mother was a Swanepoel,, her grandmother a Kruger. great-grandmothers were a Viljoen and a Nienaber. Earlier still, there had been Venters, Vorsters, Joostens and more. So how did this woman of such clearly Afrikaner stock come to have such a distinctly English name – Sarah Williamson Sussens? The story begins with Emma Williamson (1828 – 1878), a woman who seems to have been remarkably well travelled for the mid-19th century. To get there, I’ll work backwards from my grandmother.
The “Sussens” is easily explained. Sarah Williamson Bantjes married Clarence Sussens, who although born in South Africa had English grandparents. Sarah’s paternal grandmother shared her first names, Sarah Williamson , with the surname Frantz: still not Afrikaans, but also not English. That’s because it was German in origin. Sarah Williamson Frantz got her middle name from her mother, Emma Williamson, who was born in Derbyshire, England, in 1828.
At some stage (assuming my sources are sound, which I cannot yet guarantee), she found herself in the Eastern Cape, and married to Alexander Adam Frantz, whose parents were From Dresden, Germany – a reminder that there was a wave of 19th century German immigration to the Cape in addition the better known and more numerous British waves. Adam Alexander was caught up in the Eastern Cape Eigth Frontier War, the most costly of a long series of conflicts between the European settlers and the indigenous Xhosa people. He died on 19th February1851, according to his death certificate, “killed in battle against Kaffers” in the vicinity of Addo.
,The following year she remarried, to Jules Caesar Franck. Some family trees on Ancestry UK state that she travelled with him to the USA, and later died in Lichtenburg, Bavaria, Germany, If true, this would indicate a remarkable extent of travel for the time: England to the Eastern Cape, later to the USA, and finally to Germany. However, these can all be discounted. Although there does exist a Lichtenberg in Bavaria, the spelling given on these trees is Lichtenburg – which is located in the North West Province, South Africa. There is also another Ancestry tree with what appears to be much more plausible story. This lists, complete with dates and places, the birth of ten children to Emma and Jules – all born in South Africa, initially in the Eastern Cape, later in Rustenburg, North West Province.