South African woman's
20 year search tracks down family on Merseyside
A Johannesburg woman, who felt "like
an orphan" because she had few living relatives in South Africa, has found a
whole new family on Merseyside, partly thanks to the work of Sam Watkin a
Genealogist with Anglia Research, the Southport based probate genealogy and
legal research company.
Burnadine Potgieter had spent decades looking for her British maternal
Grandfather, Sylvester William Eden. Shortly before her mother's death in 2003 Burnadine promised her mother, Burna that she would try and find him.
Sylvester, who was originally from England moved to South Africa to work as a
merchant marine. There he met and married Burnadine's grandmother Joey and
together they had Burnadine's mother, Burna Evelyn Eden.
The marriage didn't last and after divorcing, Sylvester married Joice who had a
son, believed to be called Ernie or Arnie, from a previous marriage. When
Burnadine's mother was about 8 years' old, Sylvester returned to the UK. He
attempted to bring Burna with him but was stopped in his tracks at the harbour.
Burnadine said:- "Sylvester clearly adored my mother. He wanted to take
her back to Britain, but he knew my gran would never let my mother go with him.
This of course infuriated my gran and she stopped all communication between my
mother and her biological father. He did try to contact her and sent her letters
but everything was destroyed by my gran before it even got to my mother. I wanted to know more about my grandfather Sylvester and what happened to
him, what career path he followed and if he was happy. I believe he may have
died around 1993, but I want to meet any of his surviving family and to see if
there are any family resemblances.
I am really happy and blessed in my life but I have very little family left and
I often wonder about the family I never met. I wonder if my nose is an Eden
family trait because it doesn't look like any other family members' nose!"
Both of Burnadine's parents and her South African grandparents all died within
three years of each other - "I felt like an orphan, and want to be part of
a big family", she said.
Sam, a genealogist who lives and works on Merseyside, came across Burnadine's
quest when an article was published in a local newspaper asking for information
about her family.
Sam contacted Burnadine by email offering Anglia Research's services. "I
was immediately curious about Burnadine's story," she said. "I was
confident that I could trace some of her family using the tools and expertise
available to us at Anglia Research."
She delved into the UK's birth, death and marriages records, the 1901 and 1911
censuses and the 1939 Register, which was only made available online in 2016.
Sam said:- "The 1939 Register is one of the most important documents in
20th century Britain. In December 1938 it was announced that in the event of
war, a National Register would be taken that listed the personal details of
every civilian in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This Register was to be a
critical tool in coordinating the war effort as it would be used to issue
identity cards, organise rationing and more. The information it contained also
was later used in the founding of the NHS. Today it is a great source for
genealogical research as it holds the names, addresses, marital statuses and
other key details of more than 40 million people."
The register showed Sylvester's parents living in St Helens and that Burnadine's
great grandfather, Herbert Eden was a disabled ex-serviceman. From this
research, Sam created a family tree for the Eden family and was able to confirm
the names of Burnadine's great grandparents, their birth and death dates and
their 6 children's names, including Burnadine's grandfather, and their
subsequent children; Sylvester's nieces and nephews.
She was also able to confirm, as Burnadine had initially thought, her
grandfather passed away in 1993. However, some of Sylvester's brothers and
sisters are still alive.
Sam said:- "Burnadine's story was so compelling that we thought it was
something we should do for free, as a gesture of good will in the week running
up to Christmas."
Following Anglia Research's investigations Burnadine's:- "dream has come
true," she now has a new family and has also been reunited with Sylvester's adopted
son, her uncle Ernie, who contacted her directly as a result of the original