Welcome to the Venter Community on the Web...

The South African Venter Community Portal...
 The Venter Clan In South Africa

 Where the South African Venters came from, or who their ancestors were, are not as clear cut as many would think. Firstly, nobody could up to now, find Hendrik, the original (South African) Venter on any VOC (Dutch) ship. There is no record of a Hendrik Venter on any ship, in any logbook, no boarding record, no off boarding record... nothing.

 The Venter history is very similar to that of the "coloured" people in the Cape. The ancestors of these people were slaves, brought to the Cape from various places, visited and occupied by the VOC. They cannot trace their ancestry except where the European ancestors are listed. Similarly, the Venter family cannot trace their ancestry to before arriving in the Cape, except for Hendrik Venter's wife, who was the daughter of Francois Villion (Viljoen) and his ancestry is somewhat documented. We think that DNA profiling will eventually direct us (the Venters) to where we have originated from. (And we don't mean 10 000 years ago)

 In the official records in the Cape (1680's - 1690's), Hendrik Venter was recorded several times as being from Hamel. This simple statement was the beginning of the confusion around the origins of the Venter family. Researchers and authors such as Pama, Heese, Hoge, de Villiers, and many more came to the conclusion that the Dutch officials in the Cape heard and wrote it wrong, and that it should be Hameln, referring to the town in Germany. As luck would have it, there was a man by the name of Heinrich Conrad von Dempter, who lived in Hameln at the time and who "mysteriously" disappeared. They then drew the conclusion that Heinrich joined the VOC and came to the Cape, where his name became Hendrik and the surname Venter. However, even for Heinrich, there is no record anywhere that he joined the VOC, became a soldier and arrived at the Cape.

 The von Dempter family was a well known family in Hameln, Germany, and their history is well documented. See the Dempterhaus (the house of Tobias von Dempter) and Hameln archives  as examples at Dempterhaus Internet Archive and you will also note that the original von Dempter surname was Koopmann-Eggers. Not von Dempter! : “Tobias Dempter war der Sohn eines Hildesheimer Kaufmanns Heinrich Koopmann-Eggers. Dieser war mit seiner Frau aus Deventer in den Niederlanden ausgewandert. Er nannte sich nun nach seiner Heimatstadt „v. Deventer“ (v. Dembter, v. Dempter).” These records go back as far as 1583, more than 400 years ago. We cannot want to rewrite history after more than 428 years.

 In fact, the town Hamel was recorded numerous times, not only for Hendrik Venter, but several other people as well, always pointing to Hamel in France. When the town Hameln in Germany was meant, it was recorded as such (Hamele, Hamelen or Hamelin). (See Cape Town Archives, References C4 (Barent Hendicx), C51 (Jan Cok) and C77 (Engelbrecht Fredrik Foestman) as examples) Jan Cok was also recorded as being from Hamelen in the muster rolls of 1686, p76, as Jan Cock. You can visit the official Hamel website here. (Use Google Translate if you don't understand French)

 There is no record anywhere that Hendrik had an alias of Heinrich, nor has he ever used the name Heinrich, or named anyone of his children after anyone in the von Dempter family. And his children did not do so either. Hendrik named all of his children either after his own family or those of his in-laws (the Villions), in other words, they've had French names. Up to about 1698, he used "true" French names. Thereafter he used the Dutch derivatives of the French names (as became general practice at the time. - Also refer to the names of the first generation Villions in the Cape and other French settlers or Huguenots).

 In addition, to demonstrate how unlikely it was for Hendrik to be the same person as Heinrich, one would need to consider the following:

  It is recorded that Hendrik came to the Cape as a soldier (see arrival in the Cape). If Hendrik was from Germany, he would have had to pay "soul sellers" to get a job, which meant he would have entered into a very large debt, and as per below, be a "second class" citizen. Hendrik was a wealthy man. He owned several properties, and after his death, and after his estate repaid large sums of debt, the surviving children all received large payouts. (See Founding Venters)

  There was a rivalry between the Dutch and the Germans (even true today) and they referred (derogatory) to the Germans as "mof": Jaar in jaar uit trok een gestage stroom van Duitse handwerkslieden, geschoolde arbeiders en seizoenwerkers naar de Republiek. Ze hadden een slechte naam en die negatieve beeldvorming werd in stand gehouden door talloze populaire blijspelen waarin zij figureerden. In deze ‘moffenkluchten’, vooral spelend in Amsterdam, komen zij naar voren als domme, lompe klaplopers, bedelaars, kwakzalvers en snoevende bedriegers, praalhansen en opsnijders die beweerden van hoge komaf te zijn. Doorgaans werden ze aangeduid als ‘Poepen’, ‘Knoeten’ en ‘moffen.  Basically, the Germans were viewed as "useless".

  Hendrik was able to buy a property, as soon as he became a free citizen. So he did not have the kind of debt that a person would have had, if joining the VOC via a "soul seller". (Hendrik had the rank of adelborst, and therefore would have earned only 10 Gulden per month. ( Scheepssoldijboeken) - We think that Hendrik was always a free citizen, and a Company man and politically "connected". His financial means certainly indicates this. After his death, and after his estate paid large amounts of debt, there was still enough money to distribute significant sums of money to the surviving children.

  Hendrik's first wife was Johanna Mostert, who was of Dutch descent.

  Hendrik settled amongst the French speaking citizens. (map, French Refugees at the Cape, CG Botha, 1921)

  His second wife was of French descent (Anna Villion).

  He named his first son "Bonifacius", a recognised French name.

  He named his second son "Francoijs", after Francois Villion, his father in law (from France).

  He named his first daughter "Anna Sabina", after her mother and a recognised French name.

  There is not a single person who can prove and tie Hendrik Venter to Heinrich von Dempter. However, if you are convinced that Heinrich von Dempter was your ancestor, then we have his info here...

 So why can't we find any record of Hendrik Venter in the Netherlands (archive) and why don't we know when he arrived at the Cape and on which ship? The answer lies in linguistics and because everybody is looking for an entry stating "Hendrik Venter", "Hendrick Venter", "Hendrik Fenter" etc. and of course, Heinrich von Dempter. Also see "arrival in the Cape" section. We know for sure that Hendrik was in the Cape by 1682 already (and a free citizen). We have at least two records proving this. (ARA VOC 4018 Cassaboek of 1682/3 and tax returns J183 of 1692) We know that VOC staff (soldiers) had to work for three years to become "free" and therefore Hendrik would have had to join the VOC late 1678, early 1679. Therefore, if the entries and dates in the archives are correct, then Hendrik could only have arrived in the Cape on the "Vrije Zee".

As for the name "Hendrik Venter", one would need to understand the history of the time. As we have indicated above, Hendrik was recorded as being from Hamel. The logical conclusion to this is that it is a reference to Hamel in France. (In support of this, he married a French woman, named his first child Bonifacius, a French name, and he settled amongst the French) He also named his second son "Francois" after his father in law Francois Viljoen and his third son "Pijeter" (in terms of linguistics - Pierre), probably named after Pieter (Pierre) Filjon (Viljoen) who was a witness when he was baptised. People who have settled in the Cape, who were not of Dutch descent, adopted Dutch names, or derivatives of the original names. It was quite common, for example, to change the name "Hieronimus" to "Hendrik". There are several examples of this. Most notably, Hendrik Swellengrebel (after which Swellendam was named). He was commonly recorded as Hendrik, but when he had to sign official documents, he put his "full" name on the document, namely "Hieronimus".

Therefore, to find the "real" Hendrik Venter, one would have to look a bit more progressively. If you have an open mind, you will find that Hendrik has been recorded : Vrije Zee: General Ledger and journal, 1679 (1679 Part I/I.2.b.4) Scheepssoldijboeken (5219) and journal maintained on the ship Vrije Zee 1677 – 1678 Part I/I.1.o Scheepsjournalen (5057). You may want to search for Jean Henri Fender. (Jan Hendrik Venter)

The South African Venter progenitor, Hendrik Venter, was not originally known as such, and we're not really related to any other Venter ancestor of the time, outside of South Africa. DNA has proven this.

 Who are the South African Venters?

  They were one of the first families to settle in the Cape, after Van Riebeeck, about 12 October 1679. Not Huguenots or Settlers at all. (At least, not by definition)
  Their progenitor, Hendrik, was from Hamel (probably Hamel in France, and NOT Hameln in Germany) and he was not the same person as Heinrich Conrad von Dempter (Hendrik was never recorded as being from Hameln).
  They took part in the Great Trek, towards the North.
  There are four Venter "tribes" (excluding other anecdotal references):

  Riem Venters - Tall and thin and settled North (This link, supplied by Nicolaas Bester)
  Blikoor Venters - They settled in the Free State / far Northern Cape
  Kalbas Venters - "balding/podgy" Venters
  Muishond Venters - Small / short Venters

 All Hendrik's sons and his grandsons received a rifle, 2 pistols, a sword and a horse when they became adults (at age 18). This is recorded as such in the tax returns at the time.


© Venter Community 2017. All rights reserved. - http://www.venter.co
If you think you own the copyright on something within this Site, please contact us.
Last updated on Sunday, 08 April 2018.
Site creation date: 1 August 2010.