An Early Event in a Short Life

Like her siblings, Grand Aunt Linda (Linda Wilhelmina Nelson) was baptised in the Church of the Holy Trinity, King Williams Town. That was 103 years ago today, on Thursday, 26 January 1911, in a ceremony performed by the assistant curate, H.G. Wright, and witnessed by a Linda Williams, an Annie De Lacey and Grand Aunt Linda’s dad, George Albert Nelson.

Mom Nelson’s Middle Name
Her mom is recorded as being “Augustina Wilhelmina”, so Linda shared her mother’s middle name. “Augustina Wilhelmina” also aligns pretty closely with family memory, as recalled at a family lunch held a number of years ago (and alluded to here).

Questions and Sadness
I do find it curious that Linda was only baptised three months after her birth, whereas her siblings were baptised at about a month old, and I wonder what the reasons for this may have been. Her story is still a mystery to me, although, by all accounts, it’s a relatively short story, with a sad ending.

According to those present at that family lunch I mentioned, Linda burnt to death as a toddler. I have yet to find confirmation of this, and obviously have no details, but the horror and anguish of it sits sickeningly, heavily in the pit of my stomach. And I wrestle with why it had to happen; why Grand Aunt Linda didn’t see adulthood or children of her own.

Sobering Searches
Images of civil death records for the Cape Province between 1895 (when they became compulsory in the Cape) and 1972 are available on However, as they have not yet been indexed, searching them is an arduous process which involves selecting the year in which you think the death may have been registered, then selecting the municipality in which you think the death may have been registered and, finally, paging through hundreds and thousands of images in an attempt to find the death you think ought to have been registered.

It is a sobering activity, too, seeing deaths due to teething, influenza, and a multitude of other conditions that today present very little danger to us. And it is glaringly obvious that death is no respecter of persons: from convicts to community leaders, babies to the elderly, none can escape it – a reminder that we better make getting right with our Maker a priority, for we do not know when we will be called to stand before Him.

In 2,432 images over three and a bit years of King Williams Town deaths, I still haven’t found any sign of Linda’s death being registered. It could, of course, have been registered in a different municipality, but since all her siblings were baptised in King Williams Town, this would seem unlikely, but not altogether unfeasible. It is also possible that in the monotonous paging through image after image, I’ve missed her death record.

These are some of the reasons I decided to start indexing a while ago, and now try to index at least one batch every day. It’s not much, but it all adds up, and “giving back” in this way benefits me, too. I am, in fact, currently indexing the very records I’m searching for Grand Aunt Linda’s death, so perhaps I’ll soon be able to search by her name – hasten the day!

While a death record will never be able to answer the weightier questions, it should provide a clearer picture of what happened, when and where. From other finds, I know I may need to brace myself for the emotions this could stir up. It is peculiar that one can be so affected by the events in the lives of family members one has never met, and the amazing grace that reaches down through the generations, through pain, through joy, to speak still today…