DODGES IN AFRICA|
by Craig Dodge
I had often wondered about my ancestry, more
in a vague way than anything
else. As I was
too young to do more than ask
and living in Zimbabwe, a relatively
country, I was ill positioned
to do more.
Even the questions I asked my father did not gain me any insight, as his reply was that he had tried but as his father was an orphan there were no records and it couldn't be done.
This sufficed a growing lad, and as time passed I married and we decided the time had come to leave Zimbabwe for greener pastures. We decided to join my wife's (Les) parents in England temporarily. While there, a month before the birth of our daughter Rachel, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Faced with the prospect of not seeing our little girl grow up, I thought it would be a nice present from her Dad to leave her an idea of her ancestry.
Relying on the truth of my father's pronouncement, I pursued all the other branches I could, including that of Les'. My Dodge ancestry was stuck with my Grandfather's birth in 1898.
As I learnt more about genealogy, I found myself giving more and more thought to the Dodges. Then I realised that just because my Grandfather was an orphan it shouldn't matter too much, as there should still be a birth certificate, and while my Dad said that he had tried to do the research, well, there was no harm in my trying.
I knew that James Matthew Dodge had been born in South Africa and I discovered that his birth was shortly after the start of the introduction of birth certificates. So I applied for a copy of his certificate.
While I waited I wrote to several organisations in Britain to see if they had any info on any lines of my daughters ancestry. One of them didn't reply and the others all came back negative. It 3 or 4 months to get a reply from the South African administration and shortly before I received the reply, I received the outstanding reply to my queries - negative.
A week later however the secretary of that organisation sent me a page from her local newspaper about the Dodge tour of Stockport. Reading the article, the research that the Dodge Family Association had done seemed to be fairly thorough and so trying my luck, I contacted Barbara and asked if she had any information that would be of help. Unfortunately she couldn't help.
Within a week or so, I got the reply from the South African Department of Home Affairs - It had my Grandfathers birth certificate! So now I knew the name of my Great Grandparents. However, now I believed myself to be really stuck. I felt it was reasonable that the Dodges who came to South Africa would have done so with the 1820 settlers and, therefore my Great Grandfather James Housefield Dodge would have been born in South Africa prior to the introduction of birth certificates, and as James Matthew Dodge died before I was born there seemed to be little way of getting further.
Then I thought - how do I know that James Housefield Dodge was born in South Africa? Perhaps he was the first Dodge in South Africa! So I went down to the nearest Mormon Family History Centre and had a look at the IGI. There I found James Horsfield Dodge born to Samuel Dodge and Hannah Horsfield in 1872. The year was in the right period. I felt that the chance of their being 2 people with the name James Hxxxfield Dodge born at the same time, to be too remote. This had to be the same person suffering from a mis-spelling on his son's birth certificate.
Now that I had a connection to England, I again contacted Barbara and this time success! Through the Dodge Family Association I was now able to trace my Dodge ancestry from being stuck in 1898 to c.1550! It was fantastic. From being by far the worst of all the lines I was tracing it was now the best by far.
There was still the nagging doubt that James Horsfield and James Housefield were different people. Looking through the Dodge Family Associations records, I found that James Horsfield had 3 siblings. Of the 4 kids there were records of marriages and dates of death for all except James Horsfield, as this was well after the introduction of the relative certificates - the obvious explanation was that there was none for James because he wasn't in the country!
Now I was almost certain and when another Dodge confirmed that they had traced James Horsfield to South Africa, it eradicated any reasonable doubt. There could not have been 2 people in South Africa at the same time, born at the same time, with such similar names. The likeliest explanation is that he was not the informant of the birth - he asked a friend to do it for him who was unsure of James' middle name.
On my return to the region later this year, I will see if their marriage certificate is available, which should eliminate the last vestige of doubt. I will also try and trace James death certificate which should answer the question of how this survivor of the Jameson Raid died and why his son James Matthew is an orphan in the folklore of my family.
Success! Dodge ancestry from 1999 stretching back 450 years! I couldn't have done it without the Dodge Family Association and the sterling work done by other Dodges.