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Repotting My Family Tree


October 22, 2013 by Pierre the Author

Repot-a-TreeFor the past 14 years I have worked on my Family Tree. It is a favourite pastime enjoyed by many people these days. It is fascinating but very time-consuming to dig through online archives, searching for that elusive fact about an ancestor’s military service or employment history, even more so if you visit the archive personally. It is very much the proverbial “needle in a haystack”, and you’re sometimes not sure if there is a needle to find, or if you even have the right haystack!

But it is also an intriguing hobby, because it draws you past the rather dry bare facts of the family tree – the dates and places – and into the real stories of the people who populate your family tree. This is where it gets really interesting, and really challenging, because you uncover the successes and failures, the terrible mistakes and the joyful achievements that make up the average human life.

I pieced together the story of my original ancestor, the high drama that accompanied their flight from Napoleonic Holland, the subsequent events that devastated their careful plans, the unexpected turns of fortune due to chance encounters along the way, the toll that it all took on their health and their family. I was astounded at the depth and drama of the story I uncovered.

As I assembled the story of the succeeding generations, I came across accounts of valour in battle, dishonourable discharges from the military, shocking experiences in British concentration camps during the Boer War, involvement in key national events, families struggling to survive in the face of economic depression and national strife.

I came to two key realisations –

* this was an astonishing story of courage and hope

* this story was not unique to my family, but was shared by most South African families

In 2012, I decided that the story must be told, that it was a story worth telling, that the courageous struggles of ordinary people of every colour and political persuasion in the history of South Africa must be told. I discussed the idea with a local publisher who encouraged me with the words, “There aren’t enough South African authors who are writing the stories of the ordinary people of South Africa.”

It was then that I decided that my family tree needed to be repotted as a series of novels that follow the story of this family through the tumultuous colonial, political and social history of Southern Africa.

The first book, “The Dream Chasers”, explores the horrors and uncertainties of Napoleonic Europe and the dreams for a better, more secure future that lead the hero, Pieter van Scheer, to leave the land of his birth with his family. His challenge is to hold fast to the dream in spite of obstacles raised by events and people beyond his control.

But following a dream can have unexpected results, and there are always consequences that you have to live with. It was no different for Pieter van Scheer, and he could not have imagined the final outcome of his strivings. This is a story that has been repeated many times in the history of a troubled country, and is no different for us who have also left the land of our birth, following a dream of a better future.


Go to The Dream Chasers main page for a full synopsis of the novel


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