South Africa Emigration and Immigration

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The FamilySearch moderator for the South Africa is Daniel Jones.

Online Records[edit | edit source]

Finding the Town of Origin in South Africa[edit | edit source]

If you are using emigration/immigration records to find the name of your ancestors' town in South Africa, see South Africa Finding Town of Origin for additional research strategies.

South Africa Emigration and Immigration[edit | edit source]

"Emigration" means moving out of a country. "Immigration" means moving into a country.
Emigration and immigration sources list the names of people leaving (emigrating) or arriving (immigrating) in the country. These sources may be passenger lists, permissions to emigrate, or records of passports issued. The information in these records may include the emigrants’ names, ages, occupations, destinations, and places of origin or birthplaces. Sometimes they also show family groups.

Immigration[edit | edit source]

  • In the 17th century, the southernmost point of Africa where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet became a desirable half-way haven for the Dutch East India Company which was trading with India. By order of that company in 1652, Jan van Riebeeck arrived with a few other Dutch settlers at the Cape of Good Hope to establish this half-way station so that fresh vegetables and fruits could be provided to prevent scurvy among the Company’s sailors. Emigrants from Holland were then encouraged to settle and colonize, but they were soon joined by settlers from other countries, as the following list shows:
  • 1657-1675: 49 settlers, comprising 34 Dutch, 7 German, 3 Swedes and others.
  • 1675-1700: 152 settlers, comprising 57 Dutch, 38 German, 51 French [Huguenots) and others
  • 1700-1725: 261 settlers, comprising 122 Dutch, 102 German, 22 French and others
  • 1725-1750: 273 settlers, comprising 78 Dutch, 180 German, Scandinavians, and others
  • 1750-1775: 399 settlers, comprising 88 Dutch, 267 German, Scandinavians, and others
  • 1775-1795: 392 settlers, comprising 115 Dutch, 212 German, Scandinavians, and others
  • From 1795 onwards there were a few British residents at the Cape, many of whom were military personnel.
  • Starting in 1814, when Britain gained formal possession of the Cape, British immigration increased. The economic crisis in Britain following the Napoleonic wars made emigration with promise of land and opportunity very attractive.
  • British emigration culminated in the arrival of the 1820 Settlers. The new colonists were induced to settle for a variety of reasons, namely to increase the size of the European workforce.
  • During the early 1800s, many Dutch settlers departed from the Cape Colony, where they had been subjected to British control, in a series of migrant groups who came to be known as Voortrekkers, meaning "pathfinders" or "pioneers". They migrated to the future Natal, Free State, and Transvaal regions. The Boers founded the Boer Republics: the South African Republic (now Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West provinces), the Natalia Republic (KwaZulu-Natal), and the Orange Free State (Free State).
  • The discovery of diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1884 in the interior started the Mineral Revolution and increased economic growth and immigration.[1]

Emigration[edit | edit source]

  • The largest concentrations of South African emigrants are to be found in the United Kingdom, followed by Australia, the United States, New Zealand and Canada.
  • At the time of the 2001 UK Census, some 141,405 South-African-born people were present in the UK. In Australia, there were 145,683 South-African-born people living in the country at the moment of the 2011 Census, having an increase compared with those 78,444 recorded by the 2001 Census. The 2000 United States Census identified 68,290 South-African-born people.
  • According to the most recent data compiled by Statistics South Africa, between 2006 and 2016 the most popular overseas destinations for South African émigrés were: [2]
1. Australia (26.0%)
2. United Kingdom (25.0%)
3. United States (13.4%)
4. New Zealand (9.5%)
5. Germany (6.0%)
6. American Samoa (United States territory) (4.4%)
7. United Arab Emirates (4.2%)
8. Cuba (4.0%)
9. Canada (3.0%)
10. China (2.0%)

Records of South Africa Emigrants in Their Destination Nations[edit | edit source]

Dark thin font green pin Version 4.png One option is to look for records about the ancestor in the country of destination, the country they immigrated into. See links to immigration records for major destination countries below.

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

There are additional sources listed in the FamilySearch Catalog:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "South Africa", in Wikipedia,, accessed 17 June 2021.
  2. "South Africa diaspora", in Wikipedia,, accessed 17 June 2021.