Background to the KOTZEE / KOTZÉ Family origins



The First record of the Kotze family is dated the year 1234. In the century that followed, a Hermann Kotze attained the privilege of knighthood and became the owner of valuable estates inclusive of the fortified castle at Ammendorf.  By the fifteenth century, his grandson, Hans Kotze, was possessed of huge tracts of land; was lord of several manors and seignories, including the castle of Gross Germersleben, near Magdeburg. This he acquired in the year 1489 and  it became the chief seat of the head of the house of Kotze.


The representatives of this family occupied various positions of trust and importance, mostly in the military profession, as befitted the gentlemen of those days.  We read of no less than four

sons of another Hans Kotze, a descendant of the Hans above-mentioned, valiantly fighting under Conde against Alva in France and the Netherlands and eventually falling on the field of honour in 1567-8.

The family is first well documented when living in Saxony.


The name of Kotze is not derived from any place or locality; and this may explain, as the "Urkunden Regesten" suggests, why the preposition "von" was not at first prefixed to the family name.


Until the early part of the 18th century, the name was written without the preposition “von” [“Urkunden Regesten der Herren v Kotze”, Magdenburg, 1866; 1-2].


The name Kotze(e) appears to be a contraction or abbreviation of KOTSASSE, that is “a small brother”.


The original signification of the word "Kotze" is a woollen covering such as a blanket or an overcoat or covering mantle.  Hence the shield of the family coat of arms contains the full figure of a man, dressed in a long black woollen coat.


The coat of arms bears a man with arms outstretched (in silver) in official attire. On the helmet carries a sitting Greyhound. The motto is “Fortiter en Fideliter”.


A member of this family, Jan Kotze of Königstein, Saxony, settled at Buyksloot near Amsterdam, where he was a burgher and merchant. He is the Founding Father of the Kotzee family in South Africa.


He was married four times, variously to:

§ Catharina Henneke (1677)

§ Anna Wichman

§ Hillegonda Boone (1690)

§ Henrina van Hoeting, 16 January 1704


On the 1st January, 1690 he married Hildegonda Boone (b 23 November 1662 d 22 August 1702), daughter of Dirk Boone, minister of the Church at Rotterdam, and of Beletje van Galen, sister to the famous Dutch admiral, Jan van Galen, who destroyed an English squadron in 1653 off Livorno.  Some time after this marriage, Jan Kotze left with his wife for the Cape in the ship "Pampas", and reached Table Bay on the 13th May, 1691.  In the following year their son Dirk was born. 


Jan Kotze went back to Europe in 1698, settled his affairs and returned to the Cape in 1701. In August of the following year his wife died, and in January, 1704, he remarried, his second wife being Hendrika van Hoeting.  Out of this marriage two sons, Hendrik and Jan, were born.


This second marriage of Jan Kotze in January, 1704, is recorded as the first marriage that took place in the newly built and first Dutch Church in Adderley Street, Cape Town, to become known later when re-built simply as “Die Groote Kerk”.


The family line of Victor Serrurier Kotzé was to disperse slowly from Winburg, Orange Free State from the 1970’s onwards, having arrived in Winburg over generations via the Swartland (Stellenbosch), Graaff-Reinet, Colesberg, Fauresmith, Smaldeel (Theunissen) and thence Winburg. They had lived in the Winburg district for approximately 150 years. Before the South African Anglo-Boer War (1898-1902), they appear to have been quite affluent farmers both when considering their own estates and those of their near relatives, the Erasmus Family.


Thus far, it is not clear as to the activities of Johannes Albertus Kotzee (V S Kotzé’s grandfather) during the South African Anglo-Boer War (1898-1902) that it is likely that he was “on commando”. Various cousins Erasmus are known to have participated in the fighting on the side of the Oranje Vrij Staat Commandos. However, only Lourens Daniel Erasmus (a younger brother of J A Kotzee’s wife, Johanna Aletta Erasmus) received as acknowledgement of his influential membership of the Winburg Commando, the Dekoratie voor Trouwe Dienst - DTD. I suspect that a number of family members had died by the time the DTD, the Oranje Vrijstaat Oorlogsmedalje and Lint voor Verwonding  opgegaan gedurende de Anglo-Boeroorlog was promulgated (21st December 1920), and that the rest didn't bother or, less likely (but, as was the case with many people), were unaware of the existence of the decorations.


Lourens Daniel Erasmus fought under General C R de Wet and was considered extremely courageous. Gerhardus Cornelius Erasmus was less so, being nicknamed “Kommandovoël”, being shrill of voice and talkative by temperament.


In researching the family Kotzee (Kotzé), the importance of the family Salomon Jacobus Petrus Erasmus (Death Notice [E 771]) of “Allermanskraal” (and several other farms) and the effects of the South African War (1899-1902) on the family fortunes cannot be over emphasised.


There were forty (40) first-and second-generation descendants resulting from his marriage. One of his daughters, Johanna Aletta Kotzee (neé Erasmus) married J A Kotzee. With S J P Erasmus’s death, a substantial estate was distributed amongst an extensive family. From the perspective of this historical research, this had several consequences:


1) The descendants alive at the time of his death were catalogued in the estate. This assisted in building up the Erasmus, and through them, the Kotzee, family trees

2) In order to legally claim on the estate, it became important that the deaths which took place during the Anglo-Boer War be officially acknowledged through registration. This was accomplished in a dogged fashion over a great many years, firstly by J A Kotzee, and later by S J P Kotzé, his son. Over this period, we see the spelling of the family name change from Kotzee (used for two centuries) to Kotzé.

3) Further, following devastating losses in human life through disease and famine and the immense and systematic destruction of fixed property and livestock, draconian taxes and an often petty, certainly inefficient, bureaucracy complicated people’s lives and impeded the rehabilitation of rural Afrikaans and Black communities. All these aspects are perceived in the history of the Kotzees of Winburg.


Gerhardus Petrus Kotzee originally of Graaff-Reinet was the founding father of the several branches of the Kotzé family found in the Hoopstad and Winburg districts. Married to Hester Sophia Nieman(d), he settled on “Kareeboomfontein” in about 1840 and died there in 1875. The couple produced 14 children, most being born in Colesberg.


His sixth son, Pieter Jacobus Kotzee, born in Colesberg, married a Sara Jonanna Louw (Ockert) of Fauresmith. He was given as living on “Kareeboomfontein” in 1901 when he was interned in the Brandfort Camp for Women, together with other family members (his younger female children - the siblings of J A Kotzee, and some of his grandchildren - the children of J A Kotzee).


Prior to the 7 October 1901, Salmon Jacobus Petrus Kotzé had seen his mother buried on the 6 May 1900 “the day the British arrived” (they first took occupation on the 3 May 1900). This tragic event was to be followed by the death of four (4) of his siblings between October 1900 and December 1901.


One of the greatest difficulties experienced in this research has been related to Johannes Albertus Kotzee, married to J A Erasmus and father of S J P Kotzé. The State Archives Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Pretoria and the self-same Master’s Offices, thus far have found no records whatsoever of his existence except for documents relating to an insolvent estate [K81]. They may well have been destroyed, for after 10 years this is routine in some centres in the case of “rehabilitated insolvents”. So, despite our knowing that he ran a guest house in Ficksburg, died in 1937 and that his grave is in the Memorium Cemetery, Bloemfontein, no death notice has been unearthed as yet.


Ones intuition suggests that J A Kotzee was a spendthrift or maladroit at managing money; and as a result serial difficulties arose around the settling of the estates of his mother (of whose estate he was executor), father (from whose estate he was excluded, but from which he raised loans), grandfather (Erasmus, from whose estate he was excluded together with a cousin, Solomon Jacobus Petrus Erasmus) and his daughters (who died during the war intestate).


The tales of him as warm. He is described as “an adventurer”, as being remembered “walking about the farm (Taaibosch) in black suit with collar and tie and magnifying glasses making ‘discoveries’ as he went”; as “taking part in various mineral schemes”; as having “discovered the Free State Goldfields”; as having detected a “diamond-bearing fissure on Taaibosch, near the homestead” ~ the probable origin of some of the diamonds in the possession of the family to this day.


And what of the family name? The spelling of the family name changes from Kotzee as reflected last in 1912 (in the document Master of the Supreme Court re: Johannes Albertus Kotzee) to finally Kotzé in 1916 (in the hand of Salmon Jacobus Petrus Kotzé).