Sometimes it seems that tracing your ancestors is like picking your way through a minefield populated by explosive cans of worms. When you know there are people out there still believing outdated and disproved relationships, it’s hard to keep track of what’s right and any help you get has to be weaned off the error-strewn trees of others. You try so very hard to accept the basic facts you have without further embellishment, trying not to care that you don’t know the exact date of someone’s death, or even birth, but you can’t. You have to pull at the thread.

So it was when once again I turned to the yawning gap in the family tree; my only incomplete great grandparents, Philip Joseph Robinson and Louisa Johanna Anderson. Pick, pick, pick. I know one day that Philip’s death record will come to light as it must have happened in the latter third of the twentieth century, and also that sooner or later someone will find and digitise his baptism record if it still exists. But, regardless, we know the basics. He was born in Kimberley in 1878 to Andrew Joseph Robinson and Sarah Vercuil, married Louisa Anderson in Harrismith in 1903 and had six children before she died in 1920. Despite the odd missing document, the Robinson line is there.

Louisa on the other hand, remains a mystery. We know from her death notice that her parents were Ralph and Pauline and from her marriage that she was born around October 1884 in Harrismith. And that’s about it. Widening the search proves fruitless. There are no Ralph and Pauline Andersons to be found anywhere, no sibling Andersons with the same or similar sounding parents, no baptismal record for Louisa.

The trouble is, in searching for Louisa again, other long-forgotten leads are brought once more into the light. And these snippets of information, however vague, can set off those worm bombs. For instance there is a report of a Will that in one version indicates a bequest from Philip to son Philip and Louisa and also to grandson Philip Benjamin – South Africa records seem plagued by inconsistent record-keeping, bad handwriting and poor transcriptions so I suspect mistakes and assumptions have been made and that this applies to a different Philip altogether, but the actual Will now needs checking. And the worms are loose.

Then, just to get things clear in my head once again, I summarise the knowns and discover that Andrew Joseph, having only recently become a person of interest (see this page), does not appear on either of his parent’s death notices. Panic ensues for several hours until I realise that he pre-deceased both of them and that only live offspring are listed. However, it does shine a light on the missing detail of a birth record for Andrew. More worms. What if this carefully constructed edifice is nothing more than a house of cards?


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