Racheltjie de Beer

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Racheltjie de Beer on a ten Ora note

Rachel de Beer ([raˈχelki də ˈbiər], 1831–1843) (sometimes known by the diminutive form, Racheltjie) is an Afrikaner heroine,[1] who gave her life in order to save that of her brother. She was the daughter of George Stephanus de Beer (b. 1794).[2]


In the winter months of 1843 Rachel was part of a trek from the Orange Free State to the south-eastern Transvaal. During one of their nightly stopovers, the members of the trek realised that a calf called Frik, much-beloved by their children, was missing.

A search party was formed, in which Rachel and her six-year-old brother also took part. However, during the gathering dusk Rachel and her brother got separated from the search party and became lost. As the night progressed it got very cold and started snowing.

Realizing that their chances of survival were slim, Rachel found an anthill hollowed out by an aardvark, took off her clothes, put them on her brother and commanded him to get into the hollowed-out anthill. She then lay in front of the opening of the anthill in order to keep out the cold.

The children were found the next morning by the trekking party. Rachel was dead, but her brother had survived.

It is possible that neither of the children existed,[3] however. The history of the period is not well documented. To date no undisputed proof has been presented to substantiate any claims regarding Racheltjie de Beer.

Fiction or not, Rachel de Beer is entrenched in the Afrikaner culture, which is evident by the number of streets and schools named after her.

Genealogical perspective[edit]

In the very comprehensive genealogical work “The De Beer Family – Three centuries in South Africa”[4] several pages are devoted to the Rachel de Beer story, looking at all the possibilities from the available genealogical data.

It turns out that there was a De Beer family that fits the names and ages as mentioned in the original story quite closely. However, they lived 60 years later. If the incident happened in 1903 instead of 1843, this family would fit the facts quite nicely. It would also better explain why there is no mention of this story before the early 1900s.

By the third edition of the work[5] more information has come to light to also eliminate this last possible scenario. The Rachel de Beer in this instance has been confirmed to have lived well into adulthood.

Based on this research it seems unlikely that the story of Rachel de Beer is factual.

Historicity debate[edit]

In October 2012, two Afrikaans journalists published their findings that the story of Racheltjie de Beer bears many similarities to that of the American heroine Hazel Miner. They wrote about it in the tabloid By, a weekly supplement of the three Afrikaans newspapers Die Burger, Beeld, and Volksblad.[6] Interestingly, the very first story about Rachel appeared in print only about a month or three after the North Dakota Children's Home Finder gave Hazel Miner's (true) story the wider publicity that it had deserved. The Afrikaans journalists also posted a more elaborate paper on their findings to the web under the title Die laaste rits bewyse: Racheltjie is bloot 'n afspieëling van Hazel Miner (The last series of evidences: Little Rachel is merely a mirror image of Hazel Miner).[7]


  1. ^ Antonites, Alex (June 2008). "Suid-Afrika na dertien jaar (1994 -2007)". Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe (in Afrikaans). 48 (2): 159, 164. hdl:2263/6057. 
  2. ^ Illustrated at the Fireside, Spearhead 2004, ISBN 0-86486-558-9
  3. ^ Nieuwoudt, Stephanie (2002-10-01). "Racheltjie: ware heldin of versinsel?". Die Burger (in Afrikaans). 
  4. ^ Page 72-77, Die De Beer-Familie – Drie Eeue in Suid-Afrika, First edition, June 2000, Dawid W. de Beer & Jaleen de Beer, ISBN 0-620-26029-7
  5. ^ Page 80-85, Die De Beer-Familie – Drie Eeue in Suid-Afrika, Third edition (CD only), March 2005, Dawid W. de Beer & Jaleen de Beer, ISBN 0-620-33884-9
  6. ^ Was Racheltjie eintlik ’n Amerikaner? http://www.dieburger.com/By/Nuus/Was-Racheltjie-eintlik-n-Amerikaner-20121006
  7. ^ Racheltjie is bloot 'n afspieëling van Hazel Miner http://mysite.mweb.co.za/residents/dugeot/rachel_hazel.html