My name is Robert Molteno. I was born in Cape Town in 1943. I am a greatgrandson of Sir John Charles Molteno who emigrated to the Cape Colony in 1831 and who is the ancestor of all Moltenos alive today who have South African roots – as well as many Andersons, Murrays, Stanfords and other ‘clans’ of the family in Africa and Britain.
Through John Charles, we are also descended from his grandfather, George Anthony Molteno, who moved to England from his native Milan in northern Italy long before the unified country of Italy was founded. Anthony Molteno, as he was known, opened his first printselling business in Pall Mall in the heart of London in 1783. From him come several other branches of our family in addition to those of us who are related to each other via John Charles Molteno. These include other Moltenos (although the name had largely disappeared in Britain by the end of the 19th century), as well as Bristows, Lees and Parkers who married Molteno women. Some of these non-South African branches of the family stayed in England throughout the 19th century. Others moved, for a time or permanently, to the Channel Islands, the Caribbean, parts of Asia, the Australian colonies of New South Wales and Victoria, Hawaii in the Pacific, and the United States. One branch (descended from John Charles Molteno’s son, Percy Molteno) became rooted in Scotland at the beginning of the 20th century and still thrive there. And another relative (descended from John Charles’ daughter, Maria, who married Thomas Anderson) now lives permanently in Italy again – a lovely instance, perhaps, of history turning full circle.
There has always been a strong sense of family among Moltenos and their related clans. We have always been conscious of our distinctive origins, including our having come from the tiny village of Molteno which nestles below the Alps just south of Lake Como. But as the generations have passed, many relatives have inevitably lost touch with one another. The purpose of this website is to make available to all of us the stories and pictures that give us a sense of our far-flung, but distinctive, family.
Many of our forebears were remarkable people by way of personality or in what they achieved. They include generations of farmers in South Africa, Kenya and England, entrepreneurs, sailors in the Royal Navy, soldiers (professional and volunteer) who fought in the First and Second World Wars, professional people of all kinds, a handful of artistically and musically talented individuals, as well as some courageous political leaders and campaigners.
We are fortunate that a great deal is known about them because members of the family often stayed in touch with one another by letter, or kept diaries, or wrote down their recollections. And a lot of this material from the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries has survived.
Features of this Website
- Timeline: This is organised by date so that you can see many of the important happenings in the family’s history. It already contains about 3,000 events. But it needs expanding to give a better balance of what happened in different branches of the family.
- Family Tree: This shows all George Anthony Molteno’s descendants, so far as I have been able to trace them. It already has some 1,400 relatives.
- The Picture Gallery: This contains photos, paintings, coats of arms, maps and other visuals relevant to the history of the family. Photos of individual family members appear at appropriate places throughout the website, but you can also see all of them in one of the picture galleries here.
- People & Places: Here I intend to put up short accounts of the lives of selected members of the family. In a few cases, longer biographies exist, and you will also find them here. Lastly this section will also contain descriptions of those farms and houses which were particular centres where the wider family often used to gather. For example, Nelspoort and Kamferskraal in the Karoo where Sir John Molteno began farming in the early 1840s, and Claremont House which became his home in Cape Town from the 1860s.
- Stories & History: Even more interesting – and great fun for me to select or write myself — is this section. This is where I am gathering many recollections by particular members of the family and stories about the things that happened to them.
- Diaries & Reminiscences: To get a fuller sense of the times members of the family lived through, and their experiences, this section reproduces unpublished writings – diaries, reminiscences and extracts from letters — of members of the family, including notably Caroline Murray (nee Molteno)’s recollections of family life in the 1850s and ’60s.
- Books & Writings: This last section of the website lists the small number of publications which have been written by Moltenos. It also provides you with links to the handful of their books that are now available free on the Web.