Talk sheds light on researching our roots

Jolene Joshua, founder of Find Your Roots South Africa, held a talk at Southfield library about researching family history. Picture: supplied

Those interested in finding the missing pieces of their family trees attended a genealogy talk at Southfield library last week.

The talk, on Monday September 18, was given in the run-up to Heritage Day by Jolene Joshua, the founder of Find Your Roots South Africa, an organisation dedicated to helping people explore their ancestral heritage.

“Many South Africans face challenges when exploring their roots due to the histories of erasure that have characterised their stories. This erasure has often left certain groups invisible and excluded from the larger narrative, as seen in the country’s national archive,” said Ms Joshua.

Find Your Roots South Africa emphasises the importance of acknowledging the historical context in which people were born and how that history has shaped the stories of individuals and their families.

History is more than just a collection of dates, it influences how people perceive themselves and others, said Ms Joshua.

“We recognise that this process often involves dismantling unhelpful legacies inherited from the past and celebrating attributes within families that may not have been previously acknowledged, such as the colour of one’s skin,” said Ms Joshua.

Senior librarian Layla Swart said the talk had brought back painful memories of the past for some but also “laughter at similar life experiences and fond memories of relatives”.

Southfield resident Moira Volkwyn said her family had been working on a family tree and the talk had made her more appreciative of her cousin who had done all the research and continued to do more digging.

Plumstead resident Mary Anne Ameerodie said: “Finding one’s roots, especially in the Cape area, can be quite a daunting task. The information provided will make the task so much easier for us.”

Another person at the talk, who didn’t want to be named, said family history was seldom discussed openly, at least not in front of children, and family scandals were closely guarded, all of which made research quite difficult.

To contact Find Your Roots South Africa, e-mail