Inventories of the Orphan Chamber
of the Cape of Good Hope

Searches in the Inventories

The search function is one of the main advantages of a digital publication. The first 40 volumes of the MOOC8 series of inventories contain between 2,5 and 3 million words! By means of Free search the researcher can look for all the words, terms, names etc. he or she needs.

It should be kept in mind that there were no regular spelling conventions to adhere to during the VOC period. Therefore letters such as C/c and K/k, F/f and V/v, S/s and Z/z, T/t and D/d, I/i and J/j, and EI/ei, Y/y and IJ/ij were used interchangeably, and it happened frequently that in one sentence the same word was spelt with a uij or ui, eij or ij, etc. In order to trace all the spelling variations of a particular word the researcher must identify its most essential element or ‘stem’ and then conduct a search. It may happen that even after a search for a number of letter combinations all the possibilities have not yet been covered. To a certain extent the same problem arises in the inventories written in English, because Dutch spelling and grammar rules were sometimes applied to the text, for example three pair trousers instead of three pairs of trousers.

In order to simplify the search, the names of persons (deceased and/or spouse; unnamed persons), names of ships and geographical references were coded as separate groups. Since the spelling of the names was not normalised in the text, similar inconsistencies apply in these categories. For example, the name of a particular person, place name or ship could be spelt in different ways.

The names of two groups of people were regarded as important, namely (1) the deceased, or in the case of a mutual estate, the deceased together with his or her spouse, sometimes even a partner in a company, and (b) slaves: men, women and children. In principle slaves were not registered by the VOC according to their family/surname but were called by his or her first name followed by the place or country of origin, for example Apollo van Mozambicque, Rosa van de Caap and Badjoe van Bougies, where the place name served as a surname. Where possible, these place names were standardized according to the spelling rules applicable to Afrikaans and Dutch. No other names of persons were coded, because of the very large number, diversity of references and spelling variations. Normalisation would have been too time-consuming and costly, but with the aid of the Free search option it is possible to conduct a successful search for personal names as well.

As far as geographical references are concerned, the researcher has to bear in mind that the most frequently used place names, such as Cabo de Goede Hoop, were not coded, since coding these geographical references would only have resulted in numerous unnecessary and unwanted repetitions. When referring to the VOC Chambers the place names Amsterdam, Middelburg, Hoorn, Enkhuizen, Delft and Rotterdam were not coded. Terms or words with an apparent geographical reference were not coded, for example Mardyker (free Christian); nor were language names, i.e. Duijtsch or adjectives referring to place names, for example Chinase in Chinase porcelijn (Chinese porcelain) coded.

One may also search for the year (18 March 1750/17500318) and inventory number (MOOC8/1 to MOOC8/40). In this way all the MOOCs from one particular year or all the MOOCs collected in one archival volume may be found.

In the Introduction continual reference is made to the archival volumes from MOOC8/1 to MOOC8/40. These references can be traced in the search module under the search option reference number. The acronym MOOC refers to Master of the Orphan Chamber, the archives of the Master of the Orphan Chamber, with the TEPC Inventories being part thereof.

All the archival records of the VOC are described in inventories. The word ‘inventory’ is used to refer to lists or catalogues of records in the archives in general, but it may also refer to specific documents that list possessions, as is the case with the inventories listed under the Orphan Chamber. As far as the Cape Town Archival Repository is concerned, the MOOCs form part of the inventory series number 1/3.

The VOC inventories from South Africa as well as those from the Netherlands, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia and the United Kingdom can be consulted on the Internet. There are even more detailed descriptions available on the Internet of many volumes containing VOC archival records, where a large amount of information regarding the Cape of Good Hope can also be found.



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