South African Passenger Lists

So far as we have been able to establish, complete records of all passengers arriving at South African ports do not exist. But we have decided to try to transcribe those that do.

For the period prior to occupation of the Cape by the British, that is the period of rule by the Dutch East India Company (VOC), 1652-1795, 1803-1806, the TANAP project transcript of the Resolutions of the Council of Policy of Cape of Good Hope has an index to ships' names. Sometimes the skipper of the ship will be mentioned and there are sometimes references to individual passengers, but generally speaking the majority of passengers to and from the Cape have escaped being recorded.

The VOC ships' pay registers survive in great numbers, although some are lost. Since many of those who settled at the Cape during this period originally arrived as employees of the VOC, these are valuable records for South African research. Most of these records have now been transcribed and are available on line on the  Netherlands National Archive site VOC - Opvarenden (VOC - Sea Voyagers) and may be searched here: Search Page

Corney Keller has also obtained and made available, with the permission of the Netherlands National Archive, some of these individual records on the eGGSA web site, in our Document Library section.

Shipping records of the Port Captain and Dock Superintendent, Table Bay (Roeland Street Archives, Cape Town reference PC) cover the period 1806-1913, record the arrival and departure of ships but do not record the passengers.

Passenger lists that do survive in the Cape Archives are of assisted immigrants but are far from complete.

Another source are the shipping lists in contemporary newspapers, some of which specifically list immigrants and advertise for employers, while others are general and usually only list the paying passengers.