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Origins of the Steyn family

  1. Introduction
  2. Founding fathers
  3. Meaning
  4. The name Steijn / Steyn / Stein in places in Europe
  5. German origin
    1. In Germany
    2. In the Cape
  6. Dutch origin

1. Introduction

The descendents of the South African surname Steyn have Dutch and German roots. The surname Steyn has different spellings in historical records. The Dutch surname was commonly spelt Steijn and the German was spelt Stein. It is also possible that the surname Steen was written as Steyn.

There were no common spelling conventions established by Academies as we have today, so spelling variations were common. What contributed to this is the high rate of illiteracy. Official scribes wrote most of the records such as the registration of new citizens.

These scribes often wrote names as they heard them in their own language. For example, at the Cape of Good Hope the French name Couchy was spelt Coetzee by the scribe who entered this name in the records. He thus wrote the name phonetically in his own language.

The same could have happened to the variations of Steyn.

A matter which complicates tracing the origins of surnames is that the use of a surname is a relatively recent social development. In ancient times people with the same names were distinguished by referring to their parents (most often the father) such as Xyz, son of Abc (eg. Isaac, son of John or Jan, which became Johnson, or in Dutch, Janzoon, shortened to Jansen ), or to their place of origen, such as Xyz, from Abc (eg. Maria von Diemer).


2. Founding fathers

1. Douwe Gerbens (1638? - 1700) - Dutch

Much uncertainty casts doubt over the origin of the surname Steyn attributed to Douwe Gerbens from whom the majority of Steyns in South Africa descend.

It seems that the majority of Steyns in South Africa are descendents from the stepson, Jacobus Steijn, of the Dutchman Douwe Gerbens (from Leeuwarden, Netherlands).

2. Johannes Stein/Steyn (1727? - 1791) - German(?)

The second largest group seems to descend from Johannes Stein/Steyn, who perhaps was German, from Darmstadt, or if Dutch, must have fought as mercenary soldier for the Prussians.

3. Johann Michael Stein/Steyn (soldier 1752) - German

Johann Michael Stein/Steyn (from Konigsberg, Germany) left some descendents, but that branch has not been investigated yet. The fact that this German surname, Stein, was written as Steyn at the Cape of Good Hope serves as evidence that Johannes Steyn might have been German.

4. Johann Conrad Stein/Steyn (soldier 1775) - German

Johann Conrad Stein/Steyn (from Oberbreidenbach, Germany) left some descendents, but that branch has not been investigated yet.

5. Arie Steyn (married 1788) - Dutch

Arie Steyn from Aalsmeer (Netherlands) married Anna Elizabeth Paulsen on 1788.02.24 in the Cape of Good Hope, but does not seem to have had male decendents to carry the surname.


3. Meaning of the word "stein"

The meaning of steen (Dutch) and stein (German) is the same as the English stone.


4. The name Steijn / Steyn / Stein in places in Europe

The name is found in the following historical records. The earliest mention is of a certain Erasmus:

Erasmus (born 1466) entered the Augustinian monastery of Steyn.

Towns in the Netherlands

The following towns in the Netherlands have the word steyn (also spelt steijn) in their names:


5 German origin

1 In Germany

The following data comes from the Gemeinde- und Dekanatsverband, Kirchengemeindeamt (Darmstadt, Germany)*.

Note that Stein and Stainern may be related.

Note the similarities in the names Johan Ludwig. The two boys were born about 1 year apart.

Steins in the Darmstaedter Kirchenbuch

* NOTE
Thanks to Nortbert Thiess of Darmstad for this information.

2 In the Cape

J Hoge's Personalia of the Germans at the Cape (1652-1806) lists the following German arrivals at the Cape. These may all be variations of the Steyn surname, and this needs to be investigated further:


6. Dutch origen

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©1999 Jacques Steyn