National Heritage Month

historical documents

We all share a common South African heritage from the day we’re born in our country. During September we celebrate Heritage Month, which includes our individual cultures as well as our commonalities.

Heritage Day, which is celebrated on 24 September allows us the opportunity to reflect on and preserve our heritage for future generations. Have you ever wondered about your own heritage, or that of your great grandparents? Heritage Month is the perfect time to explore your family’s own history.

Exploring your family history can be exciting and very rewarding. Have a look at our own iconic statesman, Nelson Mandela's genealogy for inspiration. 

Your heritage is what makes you unique. Everyday we live with traditions that were passed on from the previous generation, and will hopefully continue to be passed on to future generations.

Tracing your family history (genealogy) isn’t only an exciting opportunity to know more about the past, it can also help you access estate papers that are issued after death. These papers include wills and death notices. If you’re curious about your family’s past, you can:

  • find out about your family’s origins - slave descendants can also use the slavery era records to learn more,
  • gain useful information about your family’s medical history and causes of death, this can help you determine your risk of getting a disease,
  • use these records for research and academic purposes, and
  • determine the truth about land claims by using estate papers and wills.

Archival records

Cape Town Archives

Our Archives Service gives you the opportunity to view historical documents. Whether you need to know more about your family history or access documents for research, our archives is the place to go.

Situated in Roeland Street in Cape Town, they store some of the oldest documents in our country that date back to 1651.
Records are available and classified as:

  • printed paper
  • written manuscripts
  • maps and plans
  • photographic images
  • sound and electronic data

Visit the archives

If you’re interested in using this service you can visit the archives at:

72 Roeland Street
Cape Town
South Africa

Office hours:

Mondays to Fridays: 8am to 4pm
Thursdays: 8am to 7pm (reading room)
First Saturday of each month: 9am to 1pm (reading room)

Archive search documents

What you need to know before visiting

  • If you need access to records that are 20 years old or older you’ll need to ask for permission from the provincial archivist. Applications for permission should be made in writing to the Head of the Repository.
  • Visits are free. All you need to do is sign a register before you go to the reading room where you can view the archives.
  • You will need to pay if you want to make photocopies. Please note, the archives only provide A4 copies.
  • You can have high-resolution photos and images transferred to your flash drive at a cost. (Charges are per image).
  • You can arrange group visits and school tours for free.

Never researched your family tree before? Read up on some useful information for beginners.

Who can help me research my family history?

•    Genealogical Institute of South Africa (GISA)
Tel: +27 (0)21 887 5070
Fax +27 (0)86 723 7745
Postal address: PO Box 3033, Matieland, 7602
•    Genealogical Society of South Africa
This society supports amateur family researchers.
•    National Archives of South Africa
Genealogical research forms a substantial part of the research conducted in archives. Each of the repositories which house archival groups that contain genealogical information have prepared guides to genealogical research which enable you to find the information you require.
•    South African Genealogy
This website provides information on how to research your genealogy and family history in South Africa.

The content on this page was last updated on 4 September 2017