Stories and History

Written records in the family date back to the 1860s, although a handful of letters older than that have also survived. Particularly, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, John Charles Molteno’s numerous offspring – children and grandchildren, the women in particular, wrote great numbers of letters to one another.  John Charles’s elder daughters, Betty and Caroline, kept diaries at various points in their lives. Caroline had a superb memory and sharp descriptive eye when she wrote her recollections of growing up on the Karoo in the 1850s and 60s.

For seven years, 1913-1920, several of the cousins decided to keep the increasingly far-flung family in  touch with one another by publishing a journal called Chronicle of the Family.  Caroline Molteno and Dr C F K Murray’s elder daughter, May Murray, got together with her cousin, Effie Anderson, the daughter of Caroline’s sister, Maria Molteno, to make the project happen.  Every four months, they collected news, extracts from letters, reminiscences and so on, and got it all typeset and printed.  They were soon joined by another cousin, Brenda Molteno, who was one of Frank and Ella’s daughters. And in April 1915, Kathleen Murray took over as Editor when her sister, May, left the Cape to get married and live in Britain.  Many members of the family contributed – Caroline Murray in Cape Town, Jarvis and Lenox Murray in East Africa, Betty Molteno (who was in South Africa during the early years of the Chronicle, but then moved to London), Tom Anderson and his son Ernest, Kenah Murray and many others. The result is the Chronicle totals several hundred double-columned printed pages that relate countless experiences and happenings in the family — joyous and tragic, past and contemporary.  And of even greater interest and a real contribution to social history, their letters and recollections portray the very different world of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  This website now makes available many of the fascinating stories they told.

Where these stories do not already exist, and it has been possible to find out what happened, I have begun to write them myself. I am paying particular attention to those branches of the Molteno family who did not land up in Southern or Eastern Africa.  This is because much less is known about them, and indeed there are far fewer sources of information. But I do want to relate at least some stories about what happened to the Moltenos in London right from the time when George Anthony Molteno opened his printselling business in Pall Mall in the 1780s. I also want to tell at least something of what happened to those Moltenos who emigrated to the Caribbean, or Australia, or Hawaii, as well as those who stayed on in London and made their lives there. This collection of stories will grow as I write more and more of them.  One day, hopefully, they will comprise a book which will do justice to the history of the Molteno and its related families.

Making sense of Who’s Who and Where’s Where
Most of us today will find it difficult to make sense of who some of the individuals featuring in these stories are, or the places they are referring to.  If you need help, go to one of the following, and look for the particular person or place you want to know more about:

List of the Stories and History
Here is a List of Stories already posted on this website. As time goes by, more and more of stories will be mounted.

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