The farm Kraaifontein in the Stormberg mountains

To reconstruct the history of our ancestors, who lived hundreds of years ago, is often a time consuming, but enjoyable task. Some particulars are easy to get. Others have to be searched for. Some times there are particulars which lay before you, but cannot be linked to a specific person. Unfortunately there are often particulars which will never be found, due to the fact that it was never noted down or recorded in a place where nobody would search for it.

The history of the second generation Hennings (children of the progenitor Peter Henrich — and Elizabeth Catharina Henning) were difficult to reconstruct, due to the fact that they lived far from civilization and very little were noted down. Fortunately the history of Gert Frans Henning (seventh child of Peter Henrich — and Elizabeth Catharina Henning) could have been reconstructed reasonably well. He grew up on his parents farm, Elandskraal in the Graaff Reinet district. Unlike his brothers and sisters who left home as soon as they got married, he and his youngest brother, Daniël Stephanus remained on Elandskraal and took over the farming activities when their father became to old to farm himself anymore. With the death of their father in 1823, the farm was divided between the two of them. The first few years of the 1820 decade were very dry years and farming became very difficult. From the tax returns and other archival sources for Graaff Reinet we could reconstruct their activities quite well. All this can be read in Chapter 8 of the Henning Family Cronicle.

In 1824 Gert Frans decided to leave Elandskraal. We trace him in the tax returns for the ward Brakrivier, where he settled on the farm De Keur. This farm can be found 43 kilometres East South-East from the town of Middelburg, Eastern Cape. For many years we could not found out how long Gert Frans and his family lived here.

Gert Frans Henning and his family's tracks are picked up in 1841 when he laid out his new farm, which he baptised Damfontein, in the Kramberg mountain range, 33 kilometres South of the (later) town of Aliwal North. He, his wife and many of their descendants lived on this farm for more than 110 years. Many anecdotes from this time and his family were preserved. Most of the artefacts exhibited in the Henning exhibition in the Church Square museum comes from Damfontein and Gert Frans Henning and his descendants.

Twenty years ago we reported in Newsletter 37 of 1994 on news which came to our attention of a mr Mike La Grange of Aliwal North, who was an amateur researcher of the bushman culture. He did a lot of work in the Barnardtspruit region, behind "Groot Stormberg" and Molteno. It is general knowledge that the region from

Damfontein to Magatjan is Henning world. Many caves and "holkranse" (hollow rocky ridges) can be found in these mountains.

While looking for Bushman paintings, mnr La Grange found a hide-out under a rocky ridge on the farm Kraaifontein, near Witkop. The surname Henning, with unreadable initials was scratched out on the rock, with below the clear date 27 July 1837. There was also rows of stripes, grouped together, to indicate course of time — approximately three years.

During 1835 the authorities declared the Stormbergspruit as the North-Eastern boundary of the Cape Colony. Environmental factors made the region on the other side of the shoot unsuitable for human habitability. In the winter is was very cold (it is known that the five lowest temperatures ever measured in South Africa, was at the farm Buffelsfontein in this region. During the first week of July 2013 the record was broken at Buffelsfontein with a temperature of minus 20.4°Celsius). Firewood and water are very scarse. The region is plagued by regular droughts and is very mountainous. Even the black tribes avoided the region. Only the Bushmen (San) could survive in the caves. When the Governer of the Cape Colony offered it to Mapassa (the big trouble maker under the black tribes), not even he wanted the region.

In spite of all these negative factors a few Trek farmers took their cattle during the first three decades of the nineteenth Century to graze for short periods in this region, before returning to the Colony. These farmers lived in their wagons.

In Newsletter 37 of 1994 we speculated who the Henning could be who sheltered in the hollow rocky ridge mr La Grange discovered. Without substantial evidence we could and would not point out anybody, although we suspected that it could be Gert Frans Henning.

In 2013 one of our members, Pieter Emile Henning visited the farm De Keur in the Middelburg district. The present owners — Fred and Rosemarie Jordaan — could confirm that the title deed of their farm point out that Gert Frans Henning moved away during 1837 or 1838. In all probability due to the fact that a huge drought was again raging through the region. We reported on Pieter Emile's visit to the farm in Newsletter 114 of May 2013.

Now, twenty years later, after we could confirm that Gert Frans moved away from De Keur during 1837, we are sure that it is he and his family who stayed for three years in this hollow rocky ridge. No other Henning fit into this picture. The date 27 July 1837, scratched out at their hide out correspond with the date they moved away from De Keur. The number of stripes — approximately three years — take us to 1841, when they moved to Damfontein. From De Keur in the Brakriver Ward to Kraaifontein and from there to Damfontein follow a logical route. If it was not Gert Frans himself who scratched out every day's stripe, it was in all probability one of his children. In all probability b7.c2 Marthinus Christoffel *10-4-1820 (17 years), b7.c3 Elizabeth Catharina *3-10-1822 (15 years) or b7.c4 Hester Magdalena *17-4-1825 (13 years)

Gert Frans's oldest son, Pieter Hendrik (26), was already married and lived on the farm Sterkfontein near the later town of Jamestown. The other children were to young for such a responsible task. We refer to b7.c5 Gert Frans *30-5-1827 (10 years); b7.c6 Hester Gerbrechta Maria *29-8-1829 (8 years); b7.c7 Philippus Arnoldus *22-5-1831 (6 years); b7.c8 Olivier Johannes *1-12-1834 (3 years). The other children were only born after 1838. Marthinus Christoffel, as a boy of 17 years, is in our opinion the most likely person to perform such a task.

We can accept that the years between 1837 and 1841 were just as cold as it is today and this Henning family survived under these inaccessible conditions in a hollow rocky ridge or in their waggon-hood. During this three years Gert Frans most probably explored the whole region, until he decided that the best place to lay out his next farm was the Damfontein area. Here he could build a huge dam (and give this name to his farm). A dam which pulled them through the most severe droughts and a dam which is used up until today.

The Waterval Hennings

When we started researching the family tree of the Henning families of South Africa, several people supplied us with photographs of their ancestors. One of the descendants of b7.c7.d6 Jan Jacobus Henning *2-7-1867 of the farm Waterval, in the Aliwal North district, sent us a photo of their grandfather and his wife Catharina Helena (born Potgieter) and since then we used this photo in the different versions of the Henning Family Cronicle.

Jan Jacobus Henning was the son of b7.c7 Philippus Arnoldus Henning *22-5-1831 (read the preceding article about the farm Kraaifontein). Philippus Arnoldus laid out the farm Waterfal and was the first owner of this farm.

Recently we made contact with b7.c7.d10.e1.f3 Philippus Arnoldus (Philip) Henning *27-10-1943 of Pretoria, to talk to him about his father b7.c7.d10.e1 Philippus Dempsey Henning *8-9-1905, who was the first Chairman of the Board for Agricultural Credit. Philip filled us in on the history of his father and supplied a few photographs of his parents and grand parents.

He also informed us that the photograph of Jan Jacobus Henning and his wife, was in fact a photo of Jan's father and mother, b7.c7 Philippus Arnoldus Henning *22-5-1831 and his wife Petronella Christina (born Dempsey). He own the original photograph due to the Dempsey connection.

We made the necessary corrections in our master records, which will be displayed on all future CD's with the Henning Family Cronicle.

Philip's father, Dr Philippus Dempsey Henning *8-9-1905 made a huge impact on the way the government handled agricultural matters in South Africa. After his studies at the University of Stellenbosch, where he obtained a doctors degree in Agricultural Science, he was appointed as a lecturer in agricultural science at the same univerity. After this he was appointed at the Department of Agriculture, where he progressed to the Director of the Winter Rainfall Region. In 1953 he was transferred to Headquarters in Pretoria and appointed as Director of Soil Preservation and Extention. Hereafter he was promoted to Chief Director Policy, followed by the appointment as first chairman of the Board for Agricultural Credit. He filled this position until his retirement in 1970.

We are also aware of the fact that Dr Philippus Dempsey Henning in 1957 delivered an important paper at the council meeting of the Afrikaner Brotherhood on the theme "Agriculture as bastion for Afrikaners" to point out the indispensable role of Afrikaners in agriculture in South Africa.

Money Matters

Thank you very much again to our three members, Jan Andries Henning of Leraatsfontein, Witbank, Jan Hendrik Henning of Glenstantia, Pretoria and Past Antonie Henning of Rietfontein, Pretoria, who continue to contribute by means of a monthly debit order. The value of this is priceless for the family league. Also thank you to all our members who sent contributions over the past three months. We mention gladly the names of those who contribute amounts of R300.00 or more: GS (Gerhard) Henning and his wife Deirdré of Royldene, Kimberley — R500.00
Bernard Henning and his wife Hester of Strand, Deputy Chairman of the Family League — R500.00
Frank Henning and his wife Anette of Barberton — R360.00
Dr PA (Philip) Henning and his wife Anna of Stellenberg, Durbanville — R300.00
JSM (Jan) Henning and his wife Maria of Lyttelton Manor, Centurion — R300.00
Mrs RT (Runa) van Straaten (born Henning) and her husband Sauer of Doringkloof, Centurion — R300.00
WF (Willie) Henning and his wife Gerda of Leeufontein, Burgersdorp — R300.00
Mrs SD (Sylvia) Grobler (born Henning) and her husband Gert of Randpark Ridge, Randburg — R300.00

Somebody deposited on 15 December 2014 an amount of R300.00 in the bank account of the family league without mentioning his name or member number. One of the numerous JA Henning's deposited on 20 December 2104 an amount of R350.00 without giving his member number or other leads to trace him. Many thanks also to these two members.

We again appeal to our members to send their contributions for 2015 as soon as possible. The account particulars of the family league are as follows: ABSA Bank Villiersdorp (branch 334 612); Account name — Henning Familiebond; Account number — 2890 610 423


It is with regret we learnt of the death of the following Hennings over the past three months:

b5.c5.d7.e3.f4.g1 Cornelia Maria Henning (born Lombard) *26-4-1927 of Bloemfontein. She died on 29 October 2014 in the age of 87 years and six months. She was the widow of Johannes Lodewyk Henning, who died in 1990 and the mother of Willem Johannes (Willie) Henning of Heuwelsig, Bloemfontein. Unfortunately we could not obtain a photograph of Cornelia.

b6.c1.d3.e5.f2.g4.h1 Margaretha Johanna Henning (born Joubert) *30-4-1938 died in the Parklands Hospital in Springs on 27 October 2014. She was the widow of Barend Jacobus Henning who died in 2000. Both her sons, Barend Jacobus *1969 and Petrus Francois Joubert (Pieter) *1972 have Doctors degrees in Mechanical Engineering.

Henning Souvenirs

We still have several souvenirs available which would make lovely birthday presents or can be bought as souvenirs. Orders can be placed telephonically (028 840 0113 or cel 082 355 3801) or E Mail ( Unfortunately we must add postage which will differ due to the weight of the parcel. Due to this payment can only be made after we calculated the postage. Account particulars at the Money Matters article above.

1. Teaspoons — R50.00 each (Lovely as a set of 6 [or more] with a sugerspoon.)
2. Sugerspoons — R54.00 each
3. Collar Badges — R30.00 each
4. CuffLinks — R100.00 set (Really lovely! Can be worn with pride or displayed in a showcase)
5. Writing pads (50 pages) — R30.00 each
6. Henning CD — R125.00 each
7. Henning Family Cronicle — two volumes — R450.00 (only 6 sets available)

We also have available an Index of the content of all 120 Newsletters from 1985 to 2014 (30 years). The Index fills 40 pages - R10.00

Jannetta Steyn webmaster of the Henning family

Jannetta Steyn (50) is the daughter of b7.c8.d8.e3.f1. Leonetta (Leonie) Steyn (born Henning). Jannetta and her mother were of the founding members of the Family League on July 21, 1984. Since then, even despite the fact that she was never a Henning, Jannetta has always been involved in the activities of the family league. Jannetta established the Henning web pages at her own expense and is still maintaining the site. Currently she is busy with a PhD in Computing Science at the University of Newcastle in England. Since we could never quite understand what it is she is studying, we asked her to tell us more about her studies and her research. We sincerely hope that her interesting research will inspire young Henning family members to investigate this field of study themselves.

"The league secretary Olivier Henning, my uncle, asked me to write something about what I do in the hope that the newsletter readers might find it interesting. I think he was only trying to determine whether I was loafing because I am always taking forever to bring the Henning website up to date!

For the last 17 years I have been living in Durham, a beautiful city in the north of England. Durham has a cathedral that is more than 900 years old as well as one of the oldest universities in England. About four years ago I decided to quit working as a software engineer and go back to university to study fulltime. I started with a Masters degree in Bioinformatics and after completion, at the beginning of 2011, I started with a PhD in Computational Neuroscience (or you can also call it Neuroinformatics). [Remark by the Editor: Jannetta passed her Masters degree with distinction!]

It sounds terribly complex but all it really means is that I am creating a computer model of nerve cells. Nerve cells are special in that they can send messages to one another. That is how our brains control our bodies. These nerve cells form a network of cells that communicate with one another to send messages from the brain to different parts of our bodies.

Mammals (which include human beings) are very complex and that is why scientists often use "model organisms" which are much simpler but allow us to discover some basic principles. And that is how I ended up working with crabs — the type you can eat. That's not a bad situation to be in at all because I dissect the crabs and then I keep the claws. When I have collected a few claws I can have crab meat for a meal. At one stage I even kept the carcasses and made some lovely crab stock which I used for paella and crab risotto!

The part of the crab nervous system that I work with is called the stomatogastric nervous system and it is wrapped around the stomach of the crab. In the middle of the stomatogastric nervous system there is a small group of neurons. Such a group of neurons is called a ganglion and this specific ganglion is known as the stomatogastric ganglion. In the ganglion there are about 25 to 30 neurons. The interesting thing about these neurons is that they work together to create two "central pattern generators". Such central pattern generators are also found in humans where they are responsible for generating rhythmical patterns that control repetitive and rhythmical movements of the body such as blinking, walking, chewing etc. In the case of the crab and neurons that I am interested in, the pyloric central pattern generator, controls two groups of muscles that work together to form a filtering system in the stomach.

To try and make an already long story short, I can summarise my research by saying that I am creating a computer model of the pyloric constrictor neurons under the influence of neuromodulators. Neuromodulators are molecules that can change the activity of neurons. Research such as this is important because we can learn more about conditions such as Parkinson's disease.

Well, that sounds pretty complex doesn't it? Since it is always very difficult to explain such scientific facts to the non-scientists, universities are always trying to find ways to explain science to the general public. That is how I got involved with "Spikerboxes". The Spikerbox is an amplifier which can be used to detect neural impulses in your muscles. There are special electrodes which you stick to your skin (like a band-aid) and then the electrodes are connected to an amplifier with wires. The Spikerbox plugs into the earphone socket of your mobile phone and then there is a special little "app" which, like an oscilloscope, shows the neural activity. There is also a little speaker in the Spikerbox to allow one to listen to the neural activity.

On my blog there is a video of one of these Spikerboxes that has been connected to a little motor. The electrodes are placed over a muscle and when the muscle is moved, the motor will move. Instead of the motor one can connect an LED (a little light) to the Spikerbox and then the light will switch on and off.

Figure 2: The green light switches on every time I move my thumb.

Figure 3: Instead of the light I connected a motor to the Spikerbox and every time I move my thumb the motor moves

To make it even more interesting one can connect the Spikerbox to a tens machine. The tens machine has electrodes which are placed on a second person. When the person connected to the Spikerbox moves his/her muscle, the second person's muscles are stimulated to move with a light electrical shock. This way, one person can control another person! During my demonstration we have had hours of fun with this human-to-human interface.

Figure 4: Ben (left) and Dale (right) are two first year students that help me with some of my demonstrations. Here Dale uses his thumb to control Ben's forearm, which causes Ben's fingers to move.

Figure 5: The orange Spikerbox is used to study insects. In this experiment a grasshopper leg is used.

Figure 6: a, b and c: The first lot of Spikerboxes that I built for my outreach activities.

Do have a look at my website at I visit schools, libraries, universities or just about anybody willing to listen."

Figure 7: Me, visiting my children's school's Science club

Anybody who would like to communicate with Jannetta Steyn about her research, can write to her using her email at

Lenélle Henning represent SA

In the previous newsletter we reported on Lenélle Henning (16) who was selected member of one of the teams to represent South Africa at the World Championships for Aerobic Fitness sport in Prague, Czech Republic. Lenélle is the daughter of b7.c8.d8.e3.f4.g2 Leonard Henning and his wife Chantélle of Van Riebeechshof, Bellville. We promised to report on their team's performance.

One must remember that this is still a new sport in South Africa, while countries like the USA, Australia, Russia, East European countries have already competed for many years and reached advanced levels of coaching and professionalism.

Lenélle's team survived the first round and was only excluded in the second round. The experience they gained, however, was of utmost importance.

Xander Henning and Madiba

Many people commemorated in December 2014 the death of mr Nelson Mandela a year earlier. b7.c8.d8.e1.f2.g3 Alexander Henning *5-5-1964 sent us a photograph of him and Madiba. The photo was taken in 2001 when Xander was a crew member on a military aircraft transporting Madiba.