Beginnings and Childhood
Willem was the fourth child of Alleta van der Merwe and Claas Jansz: van Rensburg. They had seven children as well as two other children from Alleta's first marriage to Marthinus van Staden. The closest congregation to the 'Land van Waveren', also known as Roodezand Kloof (modern day Tulbagh valley) where the family lived, was Drakenstein (modern day Paarl). Willem was baptised on the 21 November 1717 (28k), more likely at the house of the pastor, Petrus van Aken, since the old church was in disuse due to damage by wind and rain. The congregation also met in the pastor's house. Willem would have been baptised in a washing bowl, since the church did not yet have a baptismal font(1). When Willem was eleven years old his father passed away. His mother died when he was twelve according to Inventaris (49k), it also gives the ages of the other children. At this time young Willem owned seven head of cattle, two horses and thirteen sheep, according to the inventory (30k)(2) dated 1729. It was customary for the children to be given animals and thus prepare them for their own independent life as a farmer. His portion of the inheritance, 'boedelrekening'(3) (Estate Account) (46k), was 633: :8 gulden after his mother passed away. The records of the orphan chamber (4) states that Willem and his brother was to be raised by their older brother Johannes (32k) whereas the other children were to be raised by their half-sister Maria van Staden and her husband Frans Smit. Willem must have lived with his eldest eldest brother Johannes, evidence suggests on the farms Twee Kuilen on the Valse River(5) since Johannes obtained them as loan farms.
Marriage to Anna Sophia Burger, and Four Children
Willem did not follow his other brothers who moved to the district of Swellendam but instead went in the direction of his sisters who got married to farmers in the Cold Bokkeveld, (Elsie married 1731 to P van der Merwe, and Cecilia married 1732 to Izaak van der Merwe). Thus establishing the Cold Bokkeveld branch of van Rensburg. Willem must have moved back to live in the Drakenstein area before 1736 since he is mentioned in census roll(5) 1736 under Drakenstein. His possessions include one firearm and a dagger. In 1738 he became a member of the Drakenstein church (2k) (6). At the age of 23 Willem and the 17 year old Anna Sophia Burger got married in the Drakenstein church (13k) on 2 July 1740(7). She was(b2 c4) the daughter of Willem Burger and Elsie van der Merwe, they were both cousins of Willem. There were four children born to this couple, according to baptismal record. The first two were baptised at Drakenstein and the other two at Tulbagh churches. The Tulbagh Church was only established in 1743, this was the 3rd congregation in the Cape.
c1 Willem = 2 July 1741 married 18 April 1762 Hester Burger
c2 Nicolaas = 23 November 1742, X 23 Oct 1763 Hester Helena Burger X 23 Oct 1763
c3 Aletta = 24 December 1744 died 22 Aug 1768
c4 Elsie = 1 October 1746 married Schalk Willem van der Merwe died 15 November 1776(8)
the end of April 1741 there was a census (opgaafrol)(9) return
for him :
for a young man who was not even married a year, it is unusual that he had already three slaves in 1741. Due to lack of grazing space the farmers in the Tulbagh area started to move across the Witzenberg mountains to the Bokkeveld (present day Ceres area).
Death: 21 July 1746 Every man had to be part of the commando system. We have record(11) that Willem served between 1744-1746 as a "dragoner under Captain Johannes Louw Jacobsz". Willem died on 21 July 1746 at the age of 29 in the 'Bokkevelt' according to records of the Tulbagh church (35k)(10). The cause of his death is unknown. His wife got married again on the 4 January 1750 to Johannes Pienaar. They made a will on 14 April 1772(12) (there was an earlier will, 6 April 1769 but it has not been able to be located), her signature is found on this document and mention is made only of children Willem, Nicolaas and Elsie. This will was presented to the 'weeskamer'(13) on 13 September 1783, this could indicate the approximate date for her or his death. The other date that one of them died was 1801. The descendants of Willem continued to live in the Bokkeveld area.
1. Pieter Coertzen Die Hugenote van Suid-Afrika 1688-1988 p 125,129 Cape Town 1988
2. Inventaris(Inventory):MOOC 8/5 No24
3. Estate Account: MOOC 13/1/2 p56
4. 21 November 1729MOOC 1/6
5. RLR 38 p225,
6. Opgaafrol(Census Roll):
7. NG Church Cape Archives, Drakenstein Church records
8. NG Church Cape Archives, Drakenstein Church records
9. NG Curch archives CapeG4 11/1
10. Opgaafrol(Census Roll): 1741 -?; 1742 -J194; 1744 -J195; 1746 -J195; 1747 -J195, the census for this last year also is made in the name of the widow, this confirms the death of Willem
11. NG Church Cape Archives, Tulbagh Church record. Some authors have suggested that he died at the hand of Bushman, I have found no primary source that supports this claim.
12. General Monsterroll: J 195
13. CJ 2671 No 10
14. MOOC 7/1/29