Finding Hidden Treasures In the Used Book World !

Elusive Aunty Agatha ! – South African Genealogy/ Family History Look-ups offered via Bidorbuy November 8, 2014


While considering the ultimate question, “How can I combine another of my passions with my business” it suddenly occurred to me that there is a way!

I have been collecting books for many years now especially those that may contain info on South African family history and/or genealogy. My bookshelves are now bulging with various editions of the Who’s Who of Southern Africa with the earliest being 1912, The Cape Civil Service lists for 1900 and 1908. Women of South Africa, more than 50 editions of Africana Notes and News, and BSAP Men Who made Rhodesia amongst many, many ,other  scarce and relevant titles.

I love nothing more than trying to help people find out more about their family history. The excitement that an interesting snippet of information hidden away in a dusty old tome can bring to someone who is building their family tree, and the story that goes with it, is always a joy.

Hence I have decided to offer look ups via my seller listings on Bidorbuy.  If you are wondering if you can trust me with your hard earned cash, as you can see, if you hit the Bob button on the right of this blog I have been selling books on Bidorbuy since 2008 and am a verified seller with more than 1000, 100% positive ratings, from my customers.

I am excited to get going on this new adventure and hope you are too! J

Best wishes


How will this work and what will it cost?

1.)  Simply make an enquiry via this blogs comments section giving me details of name, area, dates etc relating to a specific person, or just a surname if you are collecting information on a particular family name ( This would obviously result in a lot more info) . ( Please do not leave details of living individuals out of respect for their privacy).

2.) I will search through my books and should I find relevant information will answer your enquiry with  a quote based on the amount of information I would need to type up ( at a rate of 20c per word and R5 per scanned photo).

3.) Should the quote be agreeable to you I will then make a personal listing for you on Bidorbuy for the agreed amount and tell you where to find it there. All you will have to do then is hit the Buy Now button!

I can accepts payments via Bobpay EFT or Paypal

How will I receive the information?

Once you have placed your order on Bidorbuy and paid the agreed amount, I will type up the relevant information and send it to your email address as an attached Word document and/or photo attachment. I will endeavour to get the information to you as quickly as possible. The time it will take me is obviously related to the amount of information I have found.

An example below, with a scan of the relevant head and shoulders photo ( see above), would cost you R17

Extract From 1912 South African Who’s Who

“DE SMIDT, John Pascal Larkins, Magistrate, Rhodesian Civil Service; b. 8th Feb., 1871, at Clanwilliam, C.C.; s. of the late Wm. De Smidt, M.L.A. Educ. Diocesan College, Rondebosch; m. 11th Sept. 1900, Henrietta Eliza Foster; 3 sons. Joined Cape Colony Civil Service Jan., 1890. Transferred to Rhodesia Nov., 1897. Mem. Bulawayo Club. Add., Bulawayo Rhodesia.”



Not Old Prunes …..but Prunitians June 5, 2014

IMG_6370 IMG_6372 IMG_6374 IMG_6376

Now here is another of my treasures that I have had stashed away for a while now and am reluctantly adding to my auction listings. (Excuse the noise, it is my family giving me a round of applause !)

BUT before I do let me share a little!

Garnered on a particularly fruitful book buying expedition ( pardon the pun!!) , this book is another of those unprepossessing looking  tomes that holds  a wealth of history of days gone by, between its covers.  I chuckled to myself when I saw the title as I immediately wondered if Old boys from this Rhodesian school were known as Old Prunes but I have since educated myself via friend Google and established that they are in fact known by the far more flattering title of Old Prunitians.

The book is written ( and SIGNED I might add!) by  J.B. Clarke who was the headmaster of the school at the time of publication ( 1978). From my cyber- investigations  I gather it is a pretty scarce volume which contains, amongst other delights, especially from a genealogists point of view, a Roll of Honour and wonderful name lists for various sports, heads, etc.

I particularly love the entry for “ Attendance Record”

“ H.B. ( Chookie) Watson started school at the tender age of 4 years and 4 days. When he left in May 1932 he had been at Plumtree for 14 years, 8 months and 19 days. Joey Rackham is the runner-up with 13 years and 5 months.”

And in the beginning……. The first school was conducted in a Rondavel  in the garden of a Mr Smith  before it moved to the Dining room of The Plumtree Hotel which was managed at the time by a Mr. Barclay. It then moved, along with a dozen or so pupils who included children from the  , Clark, Van Rooyen, Lees , Roods, Smith and Webster families among them, to the Customs House.

According to an old account book, the school, on its present site, was built in 1902 on Stands 8 and 9 of Plumtree Trading Lots.

The book relates Edgar Lloyd’s description of the building operations he was tasked with!

“  We determined to begin by building huts, and some five huts were planned to be built in a half circle to serve as a nucleus for a school and a chapel for boarders. At first these were to have been quite humble huts. Somehow they grew bigger and finer and proved a more onerous and costly business than we had anticipated. The BSA Co in the person of Mr. Marshall Hole gave permission for us to cut great numbers of poles. These were transported by the wagon of Mr. “Bulala” Taylor, who gave us a good deal of help in those days. We were cast pretty much on our own resources though I got many hints about building from well-wishers and especially from members of the B.S.A.P stationed at Tegwani. John Hallward the Railway Chaplain ( he had succeeded Mr. Foggarty) would appear from time to time in the course of his perigrinations up and down the line……..I can see him in my mind’s eye at this distance of time with his big bulk on a skeleton roof, hammering in nails, which as often as not refused to enter the hard Mopani wood. Then someone told us of the advantages of bit and brace.  We finished off speedily all our bits the first day. I can still recall our exasperation and consternation when this calamity happened. I was eager, impatient and impetuous …..(but) big John would say “ This is just part of our day’s work, don’t let us have the lust of finishing it upon us”. He was a big man in more ways than one. He took long views and had the strength that comes from repose and a disciplined spirit…. His wisdom often stood me in good stead.

“We learnt by experience, the right kind of cross pieces wherewith to thread our roofs. The first roof got riddled with borers, the result of the lack of knowledge …..Very early in the work the thatcher took himself off, and I had to thatch for myself as well as train certain raw Barotse……..  I can still see myself at the very apex of one hut…….sewing and beating up the grass…..One learned how to clean grass, tie it in bundles and lay it rightly…….We saw ourselves laying the rude foundations of a great school.”

I never cease to be amazed at the resilience of people living Africa in those early days.  We may be grateful that  these days, parent’s efforts toward assisting schools, seldom  means getting involved in the actual building operations , thatching, plastering with mud or the removal of  anthills!!

BUT …. then again, there is something magical about those days and starting things from scratch don’t you think?

Keep reading!

Nikki  🙂


Perusing Pages Pertaining to…..South African Prisoners of War ! May 29, 2014

IMG_6013 IMG_6016 IMG_6017 IMG_6018

I guess that you all know by now that I grow rather attached to some of the books that I find. This one was a very well hidden little gold mine. Its black cover with nothing on it to reveal it’s hidden depths had obviously fooled less pedantic perusers of the shop which was guarding it. Until my  particularly probing proboscis arrived to sniff it out that is!

As my eye’s fell upon its pages, my mind did a little victory dance. Inside it had been bound five 1945 issues of a small magazine entitled  “Our  Prisoners of War” or “ Ons Krygsdevangenes” in Afrikaans.

These publications, produced by The South African Prisoners-of-War Association, were issued to next-of –kin, free of charge. The text is in both English and Afrikaans.

As the granddaughter of a man who was held as an English POW in Oflag VIIB I found the contents of these magazines both heart-wrenching and exciting. Exciting in that they hold details of the circumstances of so many brave men that would be lost forever had publications such as these not been produced. They contain extracts from letters from the camps, photos of missing men, small details that the history books containing only cold hard facts do not provide.

They talk of camp rugby games, friendships formed in camps and give interesting explanations of how the prisoners passed their time.

One  heart-warming extract from these magazines was extracted from a letter written by a Pvt.  C.D. Humphry , who had taken the time to write and reassure a Mrs. R.V. Dawson of Toise River Cape Province about the safety of her husband.

His letter was dated Dec 11th 1944

“  I am afraid that this letter will be a great surprise and a very welcome one. Perhaps I had better identify myself before continuing. I’m an ex PoW, and only reached home yesterday, after escaping and crossing the German line last month. I have been with your husband Leslie since our day of capture until 23rd October this year. On that date he was safe, well fed, well housed and absolutely fit, and I am certain that you need have no fear of his wellbeing since then.

He, George Acton ( from your district), two other friends and myself found refuge after the capitulation of Italy with some very fine Italians and remained there till the time I set out to try and reach our Forces. Les and the others decided to wait for our Armies and you need have no fear as to their safety.

I met Leslie and George at our first camp in Italy and formed a friendship then. There were four from my regiment, Leslie, George, Bunny Broster and Ralph Galpin and we slept together and kept together through every camp till we went working in April ’43 when Ralph and Bunny were separated from us. Leslie, George and myself worked on one farm for four months. When Italy surrendered, our sentries fled, some just walked out. Fourteen of us hid on a farm, but when it became obvious that our forces would be a long time in reaching us, we decided to split. Leslie, George and myself returned to our original farm, and the remaining two of the “famous five” took refuge nearby; after the area being raided by Jerry we moved, all five, to a very wealthy family.

We were housed on the third floor of the house, had beds and a stove installed. As regards Christmas, we had every imaginable luxury last year, and equal to any Christmas dinner I’ve had, and I am sure this Christmas will see them equally well provided for.

Security regulations forbid me giving you the exact location but when our Forces near them you can expect good news: till then you will have to continue being patient. I can only assure you that Leslie is in comparative safety, perfect health and amply housed for the winter, and when I left him and the others on 23rd October 1944, he was cheerful and naturally very anxious to send all his love to you and his parents”

One can only imagine the scene when Mrs Dawson received this letter. The relief, after a time of not knowing what had happened to her husband. How kind and thoughtful it was of the writer to take the time to send her re-assurance.

I have had a look to see if I can find out any more information regarding the people mentioned in this extract but have so far been unsuccessful. I hope that sometime members of their families will stumble upon my blog and therefore find this wonderful story to add to their family history album.

If you have arrived here and by chance these are your family please leave me a comment.

I will endeavour as time allows to blog around more of the stories/ letters in this book. I can’t help feeling that they need to be recorded for future generations of their families to find.

Keep reading


Update 1 June 2014



Since this post was uploaded Ralph Galpin’s son has left a very interesting comment ( see comments section below this post). He mentioned that his Dad is recorded as having been interned in Stalag IXC. I have therefore added two pics from the book of a group from this camp. The picture above is captioned

“Sent in by  Mr. J.C. Smit, PO Box Grootvlei, Transvaal. Group from Stalag IXC. Pte W.A. Smit, third from left. ( standing)


This one is captioned “Group from Stalag IXC Standing fourth from left, Pte Louwrens. Sent in by Ms C.F. Louwrens, Lower Cross Street, Mossel bay

Unfortunately the other men in the photos are not named but I am secretly hoping that Ralph Galpin is among them. Wouldn’t that be amazing!! – Nikki




A Scrapbook and a Scarce Piece of Rhodesiana ! May 21, 2014

IMG_5991 IMG_5984 IMG_5980IMG_5978

Sometimes little treasures can appear on the outside to be a tad scruffy. See my previous blog post “ Never Judge a book by its cover” ! I , however, am never discouraged from investigating where others fear to touch. It was due to my experience in the fact that the older or more interesting the book, the more the wear and tear and general grubbiness may put less intrepid treasure hunters off, thereby leaving little gems waiting for me to spot them in dusty corners.
The little scrapbook mentioned in the title of this post is just such a find. To all intents and purposes it looked like a rather battered school exercise book but I couldn’t resist a browse through its yellowed and somewhat wavy pages. What an absolute delight. Pasted onto its pages are more than 120 newspaper cuttings from circa 1938 all recording various events that occurred during the Voortrekker Centenary celebrations that took place that year. Ladies in Bonnets, men on wagons, gatherings at monuments and Voortrekker, Free State and Transvaal flags flying in the wind. All situated in various towns and cities around South Africa. I can only imagine the excitement that the young hand which pasted in these cuttings must have felt at being able to be part of such a grand piece of South African history.
I have listed this little gem on my auction listings ( click on Bob link top right of my Blog page if you would like to see more) along with another scarce title related to Rhodesia.
Having pounced upon and purchased this book entitled “A Mirror over Rhodesia”, I set about trying to find out more about it. That was easier said than done, The ONLY other copy I could find on the net had been sold some 4 years ago which I think qualifies my use of the word scarce! This weighty tome of more than 800 pages was written by Rowland Fothergill and printed for private circulation by The Argus Printing and Publishing Company in Johannesburg. It is subtitled The Rhodesian Press 1962-1980 and covers such topics as The Rhodesian Front, Politics, The War etc. It was the previous property of a Rhys Meier an editor of a number of Rhodesian newspapers, including the Herald, whose name/signature appears on the inside front cover.
As you know the bibliophile in me always competes with my genealogical leanings so it would be remiss of me not to give you a little background to the previous gentleman owner who retired from the post of Editor of the Herald in 1974.
“ Meier was born in South Africa and began his working life as a farmer. After a long and severe illness he went to Rhodesia in 1937 as assistant on a tobacco farm at Macheke. That lasted six months. He then decided to try journalism instead ( his father’s profession), and in January 1938, returned to East London as a reporter on the staff of the Daily Dispatch. He was with the daily Dispatch for two and a half years before being transferred to the Daily Representative at Queenstown. After two and a half years there he joined the Johannesburg office of the South African Press Association and was later made news editor. …….Another northward migration took him in 1953 to Lusaka as the editor and manager of the Astonian Press and Central African Post. From there he joined the Company as assistant editor of the Northern News at Ndola, being transferred to the Herald as assistant editor in 1956. His next appointment was as editor of the Sunday Mail and then as editor of the Evening Standard simultaneously. In 1967 he became editor of the Chronicle, reaching Salisbury on his final assignment with the Company at the end of 1970.”
The author of the book Rowland Fothergill succeeded Meier as editor of the Herald.

I have held on to this book for a some time, kind of hugging it to myself and occasionally taking it out to pat myself on the back for tracking down such a scarce and wonderful treasure. But if I tell you that my daughter is getting married in a couple of months time you will understand my need, no matter how reluctantly, to add it to my auction listings!!!

Keep reading – Nikki 


Africana and a little Hokey Cokey! May 5, 2014

Yes, I need to get to this blog more often, so many books and so little time!
Hunting out the little gems can provide quite a workout, especially when it involves digging in the deep recesses of those dusty long forgotten shelves at the back of bookshops. As I get older it is becoming harder to remain looking ladylike while getting down, to investigate the bottom shelves, not to mention the manoeuvring involved in getting back up again!
Needs must however and so I valiantly soldier on, fighting off other book enthusiasts who may have spotted an interesting find only seconds after I have prostrated myself along the shelf in question to ensure that I ward off any attempts to snatch it from my grasp. Don’t get me wrong, I do have sympathy for their plight as I too have been known to hang around trying to look nonchalant whilst another customer slowly pages through what I suspect to be a rare piece of Africana, all the while secretly hoping that they will return it to the shelf. If by some good fortune they do not add it to their “pile for purchase” I then have to steel myself to leave an appropriate number of seconds before lunging forward to establish my claim. Too fast a move and there is a danger of being accused of common assault and too slow can result in a wavering mind being suddenly made up. We all know about that, if you are not sure whether you want something the fact that somebody else shows an interest immediately confirms that you actually can’t live without it! It is then that I have to remind myself to smile sweetly and not let out a frustrated growl!
How does all this book-hunting relate to the Hokey Cokey?
Well …………. they both include, “Knees bend, arms stretch, Rah, Rah, Rah” or perhaps “Grrr, Grrrr. Grrr” depending on one’s level of success!
I thought perhaps a list of some of the more interesting newly found titles that I will be adding to my sales listings on Bidorbuy during the course of the next few days may be useful or interesting to some.
So here they are, ( click on the link to Bidorbuy on the right hand side of this page to get you to my sales page, should one catch you eye)
Cape Country Furniture Second revised edition – Michael Baraitser & Anton Obholzer
First Steps In Civilizing Rhodesia – Jean M. Boggie 1940
A Genealogical Record of The Turton Family – Andrew Turton 2004
Kenya Mountain – E.A.T. Dutton with an introduction by Hilaire Belloc 1929
March Hare The Autobiography of Elsa Smithers 1939 (South African interest)
Oppenheimer and Son – Anthony Hocking
The Rise and Fall of The Zulu Nation – John Laband 1997
White Soldiers in Black Africa – Hans Germani 1967
Cabora Bassa Engineering and Politics in Southern Africa – Keith Middlemas 1975
Keep reading! 


A Fascination For The Jumbo! February 20, 2014

Filed under: Books,Uncategorized — alnic2013 @ 8:03 am
Tags: , , , ,


Having just read Gareth Patterson’s book The Secret Elephants in which he describes his experiences in the Knysna Forest searching for the elusive forest elephants that live there, my fascination for these giant creatures was rekindled.
Having grown up in Africa I have had the good fortune to meet, sometimes a little too close for comfort, a number of these lumbering giants. Trips to game parks with my parents in both Zambia and Zimbabwe and later holidays on houseboats in Kariba offered many opportunities to meet them in their natural environment.
On one particularly memorable occasion we were staying in the lodges at Mana Pools in Zimbabwe. My brother-in-law was one of the first, in our family, to own a video camera and had brought it with him, determined to get some exciting wildlife footage. We were sitting on the patio outside the lodge when a herd of elephant decided they would like to investigate the Marula tree which was providing our shade. Not being the bravest or most intrepid African adventurer, I, along with most of the rest of the party made a quick getaway into the lodge and watched proceedings from a safer vantage point though the windows! Have you ever seen an elephant’s eyelashes? They are VERY long!
My brother-in-law however was braver, and very keen to get some exciting footage to take back to South Africa as a memento of his trip into the wilds of Zimbabwe. Consequently we do have a little footage of the elephants as they explored the tree and gracefully moved around the patio carefully avoiding the furniture BUT quite a bit more of the underside of our Land-rover where he eventually took cover! 
Another encounter with elephants that I will never forget occurred, when we visited an elephant sanctuary near Plettenburg Bay. Here I took the “bull by the horns”, so to speak, and had one of those, “yes you CAN do it” conversations with myself. On this occasion, I must have been unbelievably convincing, as I somehow managed to transform myself into a “Big Brave Mouse” who was prepared to walk with elephants! What an experience. The phrase Gentle Giants couldn’t have rung more true. I must also share that the gentleman who welcomed us to the sanctuary was a real character, he greeted the men in the party first and then explained to us why. He had found in the past that this was the safest way of introducing himself in order not to rile any husbands or boyfriends. We understood when he greeted the men with………..

………. “ Hi, I’m Delicious” !!

Keep reading!


A Diamond in the Rough ! January 30, 2014

Filed under: Books,Uncategorized — alnic2013 @ 8:43 am
Tags: , , , ,



This one caught my eye straight away with its title A Garden of South African Flowers by K.C. Stanford. It looked like a good prospect (a bit of a pun here, you will understand as you read on!) to add to my listings of Africana books on our local auction site. Imagine my surprise when I opened it up to inspect its condition and found a bookplate for Sir Alfred Lane Beit pasted to the inside front cover. How did a book from his library end up in one of our local charity shops? Now I know that he is closely associated with Africa as my husband went to an Alfred Beit School in Zimbabwe but that is a few libraries away from Sedgefield . I decided to investigate Alfred Lane further. Apparently he was the nephew of Alfred Beit, diamond magnate and the founder of The British South Africa Company. Unfortunately, although I did check, there was not even the tiniest trace of anything sparkly tucked inside the book!!
I will just have to be content with the fact that whilst discussing my “career” in book-selling I will be able to drop into the conversation that I have held in my hand a book that has also been, at some time, held by the honourable nephew of the diamond magnate who financed the founding of De Beers for Cecil John Rhodes!!
All these” claims to fame” I am gathering along with the books I buy do not however seem to impress my family in the way that they should. No Wows or “ooh aaghs “emanate from their lips as I eagerly share the excitement of my new finds!
Yes, the cover is a bit tatty, with some foxing here and there, but I really wish they would learn to appreciate how good I am at unearthing “ Diamonds in the Rough”. ! 
Keep Reading