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Douwe Gerbens /
Gerbrand Stijn /
Steyn / Steijn / Stein

  1. Introduction
  2. In Leeuwarden, Friesland, The Netherlands
    1. Age Douwe Gerbens
    2. Mason Guild Book
    3. Farms in Friesland
    4. Hollandshce and Friesche Steyns
  3. At the Cape
    1. Symon Gerbrandts
    2. First record in Cape
    3. Mason
    4. Marriage
    5. Friends
    6. Property
    7. Will
  4. Maria Lozee (Douwe Gerbens' second wife)
  5. Jacobus Steijn
  6. Chronology

Born around 1638?. Died 1700. Age: about 62 (?)

It is uncertain when Douwe Gerbens / Gerbrand (Steyn) arrived in Cape -- probably in 1669. By 1672.06.08 he was definitely in the Cape, having signed as witness a document on that date. He died about 30 years later in March or April 1700 in the Cape. His name was most probably Douwe Gerbens, but as he is known in literature as Douwe Gerbrandts Steyn, I will use this name to avoid confusion. Most people bearing the surname Steyn in South Africa today are descendents of Douwe Gerbens Steyn.

Spelling conventions were not as established as they are today, and in the records many variations of names can be found.

1 Introduction

The standard interpretation for the origin of the lineage of the South African Douwe Gerbrands Steyn comes from De Villiers and Pama. This interpretation states that Douwe is the father of the Steyns, that he arrived at the Cape of Good Hope in 1668 (but there is no record of this date) from Leeuwarden, and that he married Maria Lozee on 1685.08.19. But see how the archive record states their marriage:

Douwe gerbrandts van Leeuwaarden en Maria loozee van de caap

the name Steijn does not appear in this record.

The name Steijn also seems to be written in a different style in this undated signature:

Douwe's signature in 1685 - one handwriting for Douwe, another for Gerbrandts Steyn

Note how Douwe is in one style, and Gerbrand Steijn in another. There are thus two different people who signed here. The fancy style of Douwe suggests that the scribe wrote this name, while someone with lesser "letter skills" wrote the other two names.

Compare this with a later signature, which will be explained below.

Signature 31 August 1699
Douwe's signature of 1699 - a third writing style?

The handwriting style of this signature is different to the two styles above - note particularly the "S", the descender in the first signature. Either this was signed by a third person, or the second signer of the first developed a new style.

Based on the evidence provided by the signatures, and other evidence below, the most likely conclusion is that the person known today as Douwe Gerbrandt Steyn was most probably first known as Douwe Gerbens.

There was an existing Steijn surname in Northern Holland, so the surname was not unknown. Douwe was a mason in the Cape and the Dutch for stone is steen or steijn. It seems that Douwe took on the surname Steijn some time in his adult life.

Jacobus Steyn was Douwe's stepson in the Cape. It is not known who Jacobus' father was, but this stepson also used the surname Steyn. The majority of Steyns found today in South Africa are descendents of this Jacobus Steyn. The roots of this family are uncertain. The surname Steyn may be an assumed name. The father of the bearer of this surname is unknown, and the mother was a slave girl of unknown origin.

2 In Leeuwarden, Friesland, The Netherlands

Douwe's marriage record (which does not contain the name Steijn) states that he came form Leeuwarden, situated in Friesland (The Netherlands). According to the archivist of Leeuwarden, Ms R Visscher* no child with the name Steijn was baptised in the Nederlandsche Hervormde Kerk between the dates 1627 and 1667, or even earlier. She speculates that Douwe's "surname" was probably Gerbens. In the Friesch language Gerbrandt often becomes Gerbren or Gerben. Visscher found the following records in the Leeuwarden archives:

A certain Douwe Gerbens bought a house in Leeuwarden in the year 1663 (nine years before the first written record of a person with such a name at the Cape of Good hope), two years after the birth of Aege Douwe Gerbens. This man was married to Ricxt Egberts (compare with Eetske Ritskes above). Variation in the spelling of names was common, and also not as precise as today.

Assuming that baptism always occurred at a very young age, it is unlikely that Aege Douwe Gerbens (baptised 1661) is the child of Douwe Gerbrens and Eetske Ritske, as that would mean he was born 23 years after their wedding (1638), which is highly unlikely.

I suspect that given the similar names, perhaps the Douwe Gerbens of the Cape of Good Hope might have been a son of a Douwe Gerbens of the Leeuwarden area. The Douwe of the Cape married Maria loozee in 1685 and they had a daughter baptised in 1692. The marriage in Leeuwarden took place 47 years earlier in 1638, thus very unlikely that this is the same person.

This almost half a century between the marriages, and the fact that Age was born 23 years after the first wedding, leads me to the conclusion there were two Douwe Gerbens in Leeuwarden, the elder perhaps the father of the younger. If Douwe of the Cape is the son of Douwe of Leeuwarden, and born in 1638 or 1639, he would have been a young man of 22 or 23 when Aege Douwe Gerbens was baptised.

This table summarises the known dates in chronological order. Note the different spellings of Gerbens and Gerbrens.

    Douwe Gerbens Douwe Gerbrens
    Mason Soldier
1638     Married Eetske Ritskes, widow of Tiard Direx.
    Douwe Gerbens perhaps born 1638?  
    Married Ricxt Egberts - date?  
1661 23 years later 1661.10.11
Aege Douwe Gerbens baptised
1663 2 years later
Bought a house in Leeuwarden in the year 1663  
1668 5 years later
Arrived at the Cape of Good Hope in 1668?  
1672 4 years later
Signed as witness  
1683   Jacobus baptised?  
1685 13 years later
Married Maria loozee in 1685  
1685   Jacobus baptised?  
1687 2 years later
Will of 1687: leaves his estate to Age Douwes Stein of Amsterdam  
1700 13 years later
Died 1700.  

1. Aege Douwe Gerbens

On 11 October 1661 Aege Douwe Gerbens was baptised in the Nederlandsche Hervormde Kerk in Leeuwarden. Aege is a variation of Age. Douwe Gerbrand Steyn arrived in the Cape of Good Hope from Leeuwarden some time between 1669 and 1672, so it is very likey that the baptism of Aege Douwe Gerbens refers to a child of Douwe Gerbens Steyn.

In Douwe Gerbrand Steyn's will of 1687 he leaves his estate to his son Age Douwes Stein of Amsterdam. The estate included property in the village Weidom near Leeuwarden.

It seems that the surname Steyn was adopted by both Douwe and Age. Remember that the convention of using surnames was not yet consistent in those days.

2. Mason Guild Book (metselaarsgildeboek)

The Douwe Steijn of the Cape was the baasmetselaar in charge of the rennovations of the fort built during the time of Jan van Riebeeck. In today's terminology, baasmetselaar was probably the main building constructor. In those days certain skills could only be performed if belonging to guilds, and training must have been received from a guild member.

If he arrived at the Cape in this position, he should have been qualified as mason in the Netherlands. However, the name Douwe Gerbrandts or Gerbens does not appear in the Mason Guild Book between 1640 and 1670. This book only contains the names of leerjongens (apprentices) who qualified as masters and the names of the examiners in Leeuwarden, so one cannot conclude much except that if Douwe Steijn was a qualified mason, he either was not examined in Leeuwarden, or perhaps the records are incomplete. Perhaps he qualified somewhere else before he settled in Leeuwarden. Note that the Douwe Gerbrens married to Eetske Ritskes was in the military, and obviously moved around with the troups. It is quite possible that this is how he was licenced as mason, if indeed he was properly qualified.

3. Farms in Friesland (stemhebbende boerhofsteden)

In Douwe Gerbrand Steyn's will of 1687 he leaves his property in Weidum near Leeuwarden to his son Age Douwez Stein (citizen of Amsterdam). There are existing records of farm owners in the Leeuwarden archives. The name Douwe Gerbrandts or Gerbens does not appear in the record of 1640, but then this record only contains voter names and not farm houses or lands which did not have the vote. It is thus possible that Douwe owned land but did not have voting privileges.

4. Hollandsche and Friesche Steyns

The northern part of the present Holland was the Hollandsche province, and the southern part the Friesche province. The surname Steyn seems to have originated in the northern part (Hollandsce province). According to Dutch heraldic history there is a Hollandsche surname Steijn in Haarlem.

No Steyns seem to have come from Friesland (where Leeuwarden is located), and as shown above, Douwe Gerbrands Steyn's surname was most probably Gerbens.

It is of course possible that Douwe Gerbrands Steyn was originally from the north and moved south to Leeuwarden. This seems unlikely as movement was not so easy during those times, but of course not impossible.

3 At the Cape of Good Hope

Records in the Cape do not state when a Douwe Gerbens or Douwe Gerbens Steyn arrived. The following variations on this name are found in the records.

1 Symon Gerbrandts

In the Company's register of 1669 the name Symon Gerbrandts from Sneek (in Friesland) appears as mason. This name also appears in the registers of 1667 (probably) and 1668, but not in 1671 and 1672. As the name Symon is never mentioned in association with Douwe, this might have been another person. It is of course possible though, that this Symon was family to Douwe.

2 First record in Cape

The first record of Douwe Gerbrants Steyn's name at the Cape is as witness in a document dated 1672.06.08. His name also appears in an undated list of church members. The name appears third after governer Goske, who arrived in the Cape 1672.10.02 by which time Douwe must then obviously have been in the Cape. Given this evidence it can be concluded that Douwe was thus definitely at the Cape by 1672, that is twenty years after Jan Van Riebeeck started the outpost.

3 Mason

In the Company's register only three masons are mentioned in 1671, none of which is Douwe. A year later, in the register of 1672, nineteen masons are mentioned, and Douwe as the superintendent. The fort obviously required major maintenance.

4 Marriage

In Holland, Douwe was maried to Ricxt Egberts, and they had a son Aege Douwe Gerbens, who was baptised on 11 October 1661.

In the Cape of Good Hope, Douwe got married for the second time, roughly 24 years later. It is not known what had happened to Ricxt Egberts.

Douwe's marriage record of 1685.08.19 states:

Douwe gerbrandts van Leeuwaarden en Maria loozee van de caap

The marriage between Douwe and Maria Lozee in the Cape resulted in only one child who was baptised 7 years later (1692.08.24), a daughter called Anna. She married Marthinus Prins.

Maria had a son, Jacobus (or Jacob), but different sources give different baptismal dates. He was either baptised 29 August 1683, thus 2 years before their marriage, or 1685, which was the year of their marriage. He was either the son of Douwe's extramarital affair with this slave girl, or Jacobus' father is unknown. It is of course likely that if Jacobus was born in 1685, Douwe married the mother because of her being pregnant with his child.

Douwe had a son, Age Douwez Stein from a previous marriage, but this son remained in Amsterdam. Douwe's Dutch estate was bequeathed to this son. No mention of other children is found in this will. Given the scant evidence it cannot be concluded with absolute certainty that Jacobus was his biological son - some commentators are of the opinion that the son was that of a visiting sailor.

5 Friends

Records from the Cape archives indicate that Douwe had the following acquaintances in the Cape.

6 Property

In February 1683 a farm was assigned to Douwe Gerbrants Steyn in Stellenbosch. After about 4 years in 1687 he sold this farm to Van den Brink. Thirteen years later in 1710 this farm acquired the name Oude Molen. Its location was as follows:

Between 1692 and 1694 Steyn was the owner of Rustenburg, nowadays known as Stellenrust on the way between the present Stellenbosch and Strand.

7 Will

On 1687.05.18 (thirteen years before his death in 1700) Douwe signed his will in the presence of secretary JG de Grevenbroek. Douwe's name is given as Douwe Gerbrandt Stein metzelaar (metzelaar is Dutch for mason). Note that the use of capital letters was inconsistent, and that Stein is Dutch for stone, so the phrase could have referred to Douwe Gerbens who was a stone mason, although the son is called Age Douwez Stein.

Only one heir is mentioned, namely Age Douwez Stein. The will of 1687 reads as follows:

Verschijnd voor mij JG de grevenbroek secretaris deses Commandements Douw Gerbrant Stein metzelaar in dienst der e Comp, hier bescheide, dewelke in tegenwoordigheid der ondergeschreve getuigen verklaarde, getransport:
gecedeerd, en in vollen eigendom overgelaten te hebben, gelijk hij transporteert, cedeerd en in vollen eigendom uijt vaderlijke leivde mist desen overlaat an soon Age Douwez Stein Burger tot Amsterdam, alle sijne so roerende als roerende goederen, egene uitgesonderd, die hem comparant in 't vaderland toebehoren en eigen zijn, en particulierlijk sijn huijsen en erven in 't dorp Weidom bij Leeuwarden in Vriesland gelegen, om daarmee te doen en te handelen als met sijn eigene geacquireerde goederen, en so hijh best te rade werden sal

On 31 August 1699 another will was written. Here is the signature from that will dated. Note that the signature reads DG Steijn, unlike the earlier signature above.

Signature 31 August 1699
Douwe's signature of 1699

4 Maria Lozee

The origin of Maria Lozee (or Lossee) is uncertain. The surname Lozee is unknown. The slave quarters in the Cape was known as the slawe lozee (slave quarters), so it is quite likely that Maria was a slave (see eg HF Heese Kronos 1979 Vol 1). Two presidents (Kruger and Steyn) of the old southern African republics are descendents of this slave girl. In Governor van der Stel's time about half the children born in the slave quarters were of mixed blood, which means that the European settlers frequented the quarters as often as other slaves within the quarters. Whether Douwe Gerbens visited Maria there is not known. It is also not known whether he married her as slave or as free person. It is further not known for certain that Douwe Gerbens was the father of her son Jacobus.

Douwe Gerbrandts Steyn and Maria Lozee married on 1685.08.19. After Douwe's death in 1700 she married Paul Heyns.

Douwe Gerbrandts Steyn and Maria Lozee had one child: Anna, baptised 1692.08.24, who married Marthinus Prins

5 Jacobus Steijn

Douwe Gerbrandt Steijn's stepson (or perhaps biological son), Jacobus (whose mother is Maria Lozee) took on the surname Steijn. Jacobus was baptised in 1683 (according to De Villiers) or 1685 (according to Heese). If he was indeed baptised in 1685, there is a possibility that Douwe was his father and that it was a forced marriage.

Jacobus Steijn married Marrietjie Pottegieter, or Maria Potgieter, or Maria Hermanz Potgieter on 1706.10.04. Douwe probably was her godfather.

Their children were the following. Also see the complete list of descendents of Jacobus Steijn (which follows De Villiers). I obtained this list below in copy format and its origin is unknown.

Some information on this page comes from an article "Steyn: die stamboom van 'n Afrikaner famielie" published by John Muir on 11 December 1931 in Huisgenoot. Thanks to Maureen McCleland for the reference.

©1999 Jacques Steyn