About the Project

In 2010 Shelagh Spencer was awarded an Honorary PHD by the University of KwaZulu-Natal

Dr Spencer presented the Graduation Address at the Arts and Social Science Graduation in Pietermaritzburg on the 17th of April 2010.

Read the motivation for the award by Emeritus Professor Jeff Guy.

Since the 1960s historian Shelagh O’Byrne Spencer has been compiling biographies of the first wave of British settlers (the term ‘British’ encompasses English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh).

Her project covers the approximately 2800 settlers that came to Natal, South Africa between 1824 and 1857.

The reason why the research stops at 1857 is that a new wave of immigration began in that year and 1857 functions as a cut off point between the original settlers and the next group to arrive.

Today Dr Spencer has published seven volumes of these biographies in the critically acclaimed series known as ‘British Settlers in Natal 1824 – 1857: a Biographical Register’.
At present the register is published as a series of volumes organised alphabetically – ‘Abbot to Ayres’, ‘Babbs to Bolton’ and so forth. The most recent volume to be published is volume 7: Gadney to Guy.

Dr Spencer looks at who the settlers were, where they came from, why they chose to emigrate, who they married and who their children were. Each entry consists of a biography of the head of the household (male or female) or persons emigrating alone.

This is followed, where applicable, by a list of children, with brief details of their careers, their dates and places of birth, marriage and death and the places of birth and death of their spouses. Finally, there is a source list for each entry.

To date 1057 biographies have been published.

Every volume after the first contains an Addenda and Corrigenda section where additions or corrections to biographies already published are included.