Introduction to the Boshoff family | Boshoff Genealogy

The name Boshoff

A measure of uncertainty has crept into the popular belief among historians and Boshoff descendants that the Boshoff family was originally of French extraction. Doubt now exists that the name of the forefather in South Africa was Henri Guillaume Bossau who came from Bayonne in the South of France. It was originally thought that he came as a French Huguenot, but the date of 1741 is late for the arrival of the Huguenots and he is not listed amongst the names which appear in the registers at "The Huguenot Memorial Museum" in Franschhoek.

In the book "French Speakers at the Cape" by M. Boucher, no new information appears on the name Boshoff. In 1985 I corresponded with "Bibliotheque Municipale Bayonne" (Bayonne Municipal Library) asking if they could give me any information from their records relating to the name Bossau or Boshoff. The reply stated that neither name appeared the parish registers for Bayonne between 1680 and the 1720's. They also informed me that Bayonne was a very active centre at that time for the manufacture of firearms.

There is thus evidence to dispute the French origin and to maintain that the Boshoffs are in fact of Dutch origin. Boshoff is a Dutch surname, and we find Boshoff families living in Holland today. There is a Boshoff Road in that country dating back to the 16th century, and the Boshoff coat of arms being sold to us today is Dutch. In his book "South African Surnames" Eric Rosenthal states that Boshoff is a place name in the province of Limburg, Holland, and in the register of the ship on which the ancestor of the South African Boshoffs arrived at the Cape, the name was listed as Willem Hendrik Boshoff ("van Bayonne") and not Henri Guillaume Bossau.

The Boshoffs of Coldenhove

Mr Theo Boshoff of Amstelveen, Holland, has contributed notes on the early Boshoffs of Holland, including the history of the Castle of Coldenhove, and the paper mills on the brook Coldenhove. These notes clearly indicate that Boshoffs were living in Holland during the early sixteenth century.

The estate of Coldenhove was from the earliest times part of the territory of the Dukes Van Gelre (the area now known as the province of Gelderland), and was used by them as a hunting ground. On the estate there was a hunting lodge, surrounded by a moat in which the water level was regulated by a water mill fed by the brook of Coldenhove. This brook had its source in the ground waters of the Hoge Veluwe, and found its way via Eertbeeck to the river Oude Ijssel. From 1300 the claims on the running water of the Veluwe belonged to the special rights of the Counts and Dukes Van Gelre. These claims, as well as the mills, belonged to the Counts, and later to the Dukes, and were leased to favoured persons. In 1410/1411 Duke Arnold leased the water mill of Wenum to Gijsbert Van Mekern for 40 pounds a year.

From a deed in the archives of the Dukes dated 5.7.1470 it is evident that Count Adolph let the estate Coldenhove on long lease to a Gijsbert Van Mekern, possibly a son of the aforesaid Gijsbert, who like his father, occupied himself with the mill trade which was most rewarding in those days. In a deed from the archives of the House Roosendael it can be seen that Willem Van Scherpenzeel, bailiff of the Veluwe, on account of outstanding merits was given the House Roosendael on loan and was entitled to buy the castle and the estate Coldenhove from Duke Karel. Willem Van Scherpenzeel restored both castles and spent considerable amounts of money on ponds, forests and hunting grounds. According to the deed from the archives Roosendael dated 1536; Duke Karel gave the House Roosendael in its entirety to Van Scherpenzeel in exchange for the restored estate of Coldenhove. In 1538 Karel Van Gelre died, having no legal descendants. He had however two natural sons with Anna Van Roderloo, namely Karel Van Gelre tot Coldenhove who inherited the estate of that name, and Karel Van Gelre tot Spankeren.

The family Boshoff settled on the Veluwe at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Herman Van Boshoff, who married Jutte Isern, was at the time of his marriage, churchwarden of St. Walburgis' Church in Zutphen. According to information of the Audit Office, Herman Boshoff bought a piece of ground on the fringe of the Veluwe in1503, as well as a castle from Duke Karel Van Gelre. Herman Boshoff died on 26.11.1504 and his son Gerrit married Christina Berck. The children of this marriage were Henrick, who married Sophia Goltstein and who inherited Suderas at Vierakker, Herman who married Maria Momm, and Aleid who married Wijnand Van Hackfort who was the mayor of Arnhem and in 1557 occupied the House Terhorst. (These Hackforts are described in R. Hardonk's book "Papeirmaeckers" with regard to their activities concerning paper mills in the vicinity of Loenen and on the estate of Terhorst.)

In 1611 a grandson of Gerrit Boshoff and Christina Berck became the owner of the estate and castle of Coldenhove. According to the Judicial Archives of the Veluwe, one of the descendants of Karel Van Gelre tot Coldenhove, the Squire Christoffel Van Gelre and his mother Gertruit Van Steenbergen, sold the estate and castle of Coldenhove, its mill as well as its claims in the Commons of Dieren, Eerbeek, Loenen, Roosendael and Zuyren as well as the castle Gijsdbertsslach, to the Squire Henrick Van Boshoff and his wife Margaretha Van Leeffdael. With the purchase of Coldenhove and its claims on the running water, and also as a result of their connections with the Hackforts, the Boshoffs started building and letting mills.

In 1637 Rogier, a son of Henrick Boshoff and Margaretha Van Leeffdael inherited the castle Coldenhove. He was married to Agnes Van Raesfelt and died in 1639. His wife died in 1646. The couple left three children, all under age; Henrick, Rogier and Johanna. Rudolf, a brother of Rogier senior, became the owner of Coldenhove and guardian of the three children.

On a map of 1642 by Nicolaas Van Geelkerken, a Boshoff mill is already marked on the brook of Coldenhove, close to the Eertbeecker Enck, between Coldenhove and Eerbeek. In 1648 the Boshoff mill was leased to Johannes Schoonman who was a well known paper maker at the time. On 11.5.1657 Schoonman applied to the Audit Office for permission to build a paper mill on a plot alongside the brook of Coldenhove, although it is not clear whether he built the mill or not.

Rudolf Boshoff inherited the estate Wierssche from his cousin Rudolf Van Raesfelt. On this estate, besides the House Wierssche, there was the brook of Vorden. On Rudolf's death the estate of Coldenhove passed to the eldest son of Rudolf's late brother Rogier. This Henrick Boshoff was appointed the ruler of the Commons Grounds on 28.6.1680 and in 1681 Master of Hounds on the Veluwe. Until his death in 1683, he was churchwarden of the church in Hall and was succeeded by Johannes Schoonman.

After the death of Henrick Boshoff, his sister Johanna became the owner of Coldenhove. In 1681 she had married her cousin Hendrik Van Boshoff, a son of Herman Van Boshoff and Cornelia Van Wees. In 1691 times were difficult. Coldenhove was heavily mortgaged and on 27.9.1700 it was sold by the Boshoff family to the Rev. Johannes Henricus Lulofs of Steenderen who was the local minister. Probably the Rev. Lulofs acted on the instructions of the King of England for according to the Records and Charters of the Loo dated 27.9.1700, the conditions and purchase of the premises of Coldenhove for the sum of 17000 guilders were accompanied by a certificate from His Majesty of Great Britain instructing the bailiff, by name Sluyter, to conclude the deal. This was carried out on 18.10.1700, the receipt being dated 15.12.1700.

Originally it was planned to make Coldenhove into a pleasure garden. A garden design with ponds, fountains and parks can still be found in the Algemeen Rijksarchief in The Hague, but this scheme was never realised as Coldenhove appears to have burnt down. A road leading up to the area where Coldenhove Castle once stood is known as the "Boshoff Weg". This road stands as a reminder of bygone days when the Boshoffs owned a good deal of land in that area, including the castle of Coldenhove.

During further research conducted by Mr Theo Boshoff of Holland, he came across the office-chain of the Citizen Soldiery in the village of Vierakker which is on display in the Council House of Warnsveld.

Attached to a heavy chain is a bird which is resting on a small tree trunk and under the trunk is a branch with stylized leaves. From this a round medal is suspended. On the one side of the medal appears the coat of arms of the Boshoff family, surrounded by a laurel-wreath. On the other side are the words


On the breast of the bird is a coat of arms indicating the alliance of the Boshoff and the Goldsdtein families. The Goldstein family has already been mentioned in the story of Coldenhove. On the left hand side of the breast of the bird is the coat of arms of the Boshoff family which depicts an uprooted tree held in a bear's paw, and on the right side is the coat of arms of the Goldstein family which consists of four crossed beams. Underneath the coat of arms is written in Roman Capitals:


The date near the collar of the bird is 1571. It is strange that Hendrick Boshoff had died in 1563, and yet his name appears against the date of 1571. This is explained however by the fact that he had a son of the same name who had the little shield fitted with his parents' coats of arms.

Every year on the second of September a fair was held near the tavern in Vierakker, where people shot at a wooden bird. The one who managed to shoot away the last piece of the bird became "king," and wore the chain for the day as a sign of honour. In 1911 this fair was held for the last time in Vierakker and the Citizen Soldiers planned to sell the chain and share the profits.

The Mayor of Warnsveld at that time, Baron Van Nagell, suggested that the chain be donated to the Municipality of Warnsveld and be kept as a reminder of the fair. Thus through the good offices of the Baron, the silver chain was kept for Warnsveld and posterity.

The early Boshoff family at the Cape

Willem Hendrik Boshoff (Henri Guillaume Bossau) ancestor of the South African Boshoffs arrived at the Cape on 18.3.1741. He had served as a member of the Crew on the Dutch ship Ruyven. An entry on page 58 of the ship's register lists the name Willem Hendrik Boshoff van Bayonne. The "Ruyven" under the command of Bernardus Heymans had left Texel, Holland, on 27.10.1740 bound for Batavia. It had proved a difficult voyage, and on arrival at the Cape 63 had already died, and 28 were ill. It was necessary for the sick to disembark at the Cape as the Captain refused to take them on to Batavia. We can only presume that W.H. Boshoff was amongst them.

Once in the Cape, Willem Hendrik Boshoff was taken into the employ of the Dutch East India Company, where he served as blacksmith, locksmith and gunsmith. Shortly after his arrival he sent for a testimonial from the Church which he had attended in Europe. This document was received and does not refer to Bayonne, but merely states that he "came from France amongst us". The testimonial came from the consistory of the French Church of Hamburg which assembled at Altona on the 25th April 1742 and stated that he had left the congregation two years before, having lived with them for nearly four years.

The document was originally written in French and later translated into Dutch and English. The names Henri Guillaume Bossau on the testimonial were possibly the names by which the French referred to the man. Bearing in mind that the authorities at the Cape knew only of a Willem Hendrik Boshoff he must have given a satisfactory explanation of this discrepancy in names to both the State and Church authorities.

A likely explanation could be that he went to Bayonne to further his trade. Bayonne was, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a fairly well known centre for the manufacture of small arms. The definition of the word bayonet in the Oxford Concise Dictionary states "perhaps from Bayonne as made or first used there." In my research I have not come across any documentary proof of a change in the name from Bossau to Boshof(f).

In the Ned. Geref. Church Archives, an early baptismal register for Cape Town has two interesting entries. The first one is dated 28th March 1745 and it is for a boy namely, Willem Lodewyk. The father is given as Willem Hendrik Boshof and the mother is listed as Cornelia Cokkie (it does state in the register that the child is illegitimate.) The second entry is for a girl named Sophia Margarita and dated 21st January 1748. The parents here are listed as Willem Hendrik Boshof (presumed father) and the mother is Cornelia Cockzaaya. There were a number of employees of the Dutch East India Company who had children by slaves at the Cape at that time, as appears from the early registers.

In 1749 Boshoff was discharged from the Dutch East India Company at his own not claim any land belonging to the Company as his own, and that he agreed to the Company taking him back into service at any time subject to the previous terms, should he be required, or if his conduct was not satisfactory. The Act of Discharge was signed by the Governor Hendrik Swellengrebel at the Castle in Cape Town on 7.8.1749. This original document was deposited document in the Cape State Archives for safe keeping. Willem Hendrik's name appears for the first time on the Free Burghers Roll drawn up in Swel1endam on the 16th, 17th and 18th March 1750.

Three important documents in his life refer to him as Willem Hendrik Boshof(f) "van Bayonne", firstly the register of the vessel "Ruyven," in which he sailed to the Cape, secondly the Act of Discharge of 7.8.1749 and lastly the marriage register of Tulbagh entry No.12 which reads:- "15.10.1752 Willem Hendrik Boshof, van Bayonne, burger aan Swellendam, Jongman, met Martha Maria Cortje van Cabo de Goede Hoop, jonge dogter." The name Boshoff is sometimes spelt with one F and sometimes with two. On the Certificate of Discharge of the original man it has two, and two are also used in the list of the crew "Ruyven". In the Register of the Tulbagh Church where his marriage is recorded the name is entered with one F.

Willem Hendrik's wife, Martha Maria Cortjie (Cordier) was of French extraction, her grandparents being Louis Cordier and Francoise Martinet who came from France in 1688. Willem and Martha had a family of ten children and nine of these children had Dutch names. Only one had a French name Louis after his mother's grandfather. If the father had been French, surely more of the children would have received French names?

From the photocopy of the baptismal certificate of the first son of Willem Hendrik and Martha Maria Boshoff, the witnesses listed prove interesting. The first witness Cortjie is a relation of the mother, Martha Maria, but the name of the second witness, Margaretha Wendelina Boshof, presents a problem. We find no other Boshoff families listed in the registers at the Cape at this time, and one can only presume that some person was asked at the baptism to stand proxy. This was a practice often carried out during those years. Possibly the mother or the sister of Willem Hendrik Boshoff was the Margaretha Wendelina whose name appears as the second witness. It is important to note that the surname given is Boshof and not Bossau, which is a further indication of Dutch origin. Also in notes by Mr Theo Boshoff of Holland, mention is made of a certain Hendrik Boshoff who married Johanna Eleonora Van Eck on 27.12.1669. One of their children was named Hendrik, and the other Wendelina, and possibly the South African forbear Willem Hendrik was descended from this family, although there is no documentary proof of this.

Very little information is available on the original family at the Cape with the exception of early documents of the Dutch East India Company, early Church registers (which include baptisms, marriages and burials) and a few permits which were granted. Two permits can be found in the Cape Government Archives dated 1785 and 1790. Both these permits were granted to Jacobus Nicolaas Boshoff, the son of the original man, allowing him grazing rights for his cattle on two separate farms. The first permit, granted on 7.4.1785 was for the farm "Rady". The second permit was granted on 20.3.1790 and was for the farm "Duinzicht" which was situated on the Gouritz River in the Mossel Bay area. This permit states that the widow of Willem Hendrik Boshof senior was still on the farm and it would appear therefore that Willem Hendrik Boshoff senior must have been dead by this time. A very early death notice in the Government Archives in Cape Town, gives us the death of a Willem Boshoff on 26.7.1786 in the Waveren district in the Cape, a large area at that time which included among other towns, both Tulbagh and Swellendam. An entry in the Tulbagh Death Book in the N.G.K. Archives in Cape Town states:

Anno 1786 July ----: Willem Boshoff de Oude

Presumably this was Willem Hendrik Boshoff, the forefather at the Cape.