Cape inhabitants

This guide was last updated in 2010

From 1815, a list of principal inhabitants of the Cape was included in the African court calendars.

As the city grew and the population increased, more names were listed. It must be noted that generally only heads of households were named.

The details that can be found on the lists include individuals’ titles, first names, surnames, initials, occupations and addresses.

Initially, only people in the city centre were included, but over time the surrounding suburbs – as far away as Stellenbosch and Simon’s Town – were added.

Full addresses were not always listed and sometimes it was uncertain whether the addresses given were that of the abode or the place of work. In later editions, such as 1849, inhabitants of Port Elizabeth were included. Over 30 years of residents from 1813 until 1908 have been transcribed.

Using these lists is a wonderful resource for tracking down those illusive relatives for whom there is no other documentary evidence of their existence. If you browse several years’-worth of these records, you can see the migration patterns in the city and how and where these people lived.

For example, if a Mr Smith appears in four of the Almanacs and in the fifth year a widow named Smith appears at the last known address – we can then establish that Mr Smith had died since the last year’s book was recorded

TOP TIP: South Africa's National Archives and National Library house old newspapers, which can help you trace births, marriages and deaths if you don't know where the event took place.

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