Inventories of the Orphan Chamber
of the Cape of Good Hope

Inventories of the Orphan Chamber at the Cape of Good Hope

The Orphan Chamber was set up in 1673 and functioned throughout the VOC period and into the British period.

The inventories of the Orphan Chamber are invaluable sources for researchers interested in the life and times of people at the Cape from 1652 till 1834. The inventories list all the possessions in a deceased estate, including livestock and slaves.

At present the Archives of the Master of the Supreme Court (Cape of Good Hope) is housed in the Cape Town Archives Repository, Roeland Street, Cape Town. It includes:

Volumes Description Dates
MOOC 7/1/1-140 Wills and Appraisals 1688-1835
MOOC 8/1-48 Inventories 1673-1834
MOOC 8/49-74 Inventories and Appraisals 1780-1834
MOOC 8/75 Unbound Inventories 1673-1825
MOOC 8/76-77 Index to Inventories 1692-1834

There are household inventories filed elsewhere in the Archives, for instance in the 1/STB (Stellenbosch) series. The papers of the Council of Justice and the Master of Insolvent Estates also include inventories of people’s possessions. Inventories spanning the 18th and 19th centuries are therefore to be found in other places.

Before you start browsing for information that could be of interest to you as a geneticist, genealogist, social historian, architectural historian, linguist, curator of a period museum, TV crew filming a historical documentary, tourism bureau planning a route to a historical site, heritage authority, economist, archaeologist, collector of artifacts or some other specialist, you may want to look at an example of a MOOC inventory and an explanation of the structure of a MOOC inventory. If you want to have a look at examples of some interesting inventories, you will be able to visit four households: two from the VOC period and two from the British period. Read more about the role played by slaves in the inventories. The language of the inventories is also discussed. Should you come across unfamiliar words in the 17th and 18th century Dutch texts you can consult the bilingual list [in Dutch and English].

By transcribing and thus digitising the inventories their content can be made accessible and available in digital format and on the Internet. Read more about the transcription and editing rules that were followed during the transcription process.

If you wish to do further research on the Orphan Chamber at the Cape of Good Hope you may also consult the source guide.



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