Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.
A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

Dr. Cornelis Pama

Die grootste Suid-Afrikaanse heraldikus

Ferreira — Bezuidenhout — Swanepoel

THE GRANDPAPA OF South African heraldry studies is undoutedly Dr. Cornelis Pama, a heraldist, genealogist, author, and editor of great importance in the field. Pama was one of the original members of the State Heraldry Council when it was founded in 1963 and refined the genealogical numbering system invented by Christoffel Coetzee de Villiers in the nineteenth century and which is now known as the de Villiers/Pama system in recognition of his contribution.

When I resume acquisitioning for my personal library, a whole slew of Pama’s works are on the ‘works sought’ list. Foremost among them is the excellent Lions and virgins: Heraldic state symbols, coats-of-arms, flags, seals and other symbols of authority in South Africa, 1487-1962 which I frequently made use of in the Stellenbosch university library.

Pama also wrote Heraldiek ABC (1980), Heraldiek in Suid-Afrika (1956), Simbole van die Unie (1960), British Families in South Africa: Their Surnames and Origins (1992), The Wine Estates of South Africa (1979), Vintage Cape Town: Historic Houses and Families In and Around the Old Cape (1973), and a history of the South African Library (the Cape Town institution which has since been foolishly merged with the Staatsbiblioteek in Pretoria to form the National Library of South Africa). The S.A.L. received his important private collection of over 800 genealogical and heraldic books and other works after Dr. Pama’s death in 1994.

The above illustration is from Die Groot Afrikaanse Familienaamboek (1983) and was sent in to the Cheshire Heraldry blog by one of its readers. While the book was written by Dr. Pama, the style of the renderings betrays them as the work of the Bureau of Heraldry in Pretoria. Some of his own more stylistic work in rendering coats of arms can be found at the top and bottom of this post.

Dr. Pama was born in the Netherlands and was known simply as “Cor” to his friends. For simplicity’s sake, a good number of his books list the author’s name simple as “C. Pama”, which adds a certain air of mystery to his work.

This post was published on Tuesday, May 4th, 2010 8:02 pm. It has been categorised under Heraldry South Africa and been tagged under , .
John Jessop
20 Dec 2010 5:23 am

In about 1943, about twelve years before he even thought of moving to South Africa,Cornelis Pama produced a typescript history of his family. In it he refers to himself as Cornelis.

I have not seen any early official document that would show whether or not his name was ever spelt Cornelius. I do have an identity card from the war years, but only the first part of his name is legible.

Any connection between his moving to South Africa and a change in spelling is certainly not true. Can you possibly give me the source of the information that he was originally Cornelius?

john stables
9 Mar 2013 12:30 am

I corresponded with Dr.Pama,and met him in Cape Town in 1969. He lectured on South African heraldry and was a guest at the World Conference on Records in Salt Lake City. He always used the name of Cornelis.

Andrew Cusack
9 Mar 2013 1:40 pm

Thank you Mr Stables; it’s good to know that.

B T van Nostrand
10 Mar 2013 11:03 pm

Cornelius is in any case not normally seen in the Netherlands as a variant of Cornelis; I have in fact never seen it.

Louis de Villiers
23 Nov 2013 4:33 am

Hi…I am the great grandson of Christoffel Coetzee De Villiers. Can anyone inform me if there is any family members of Dr Pama still residing in South Africa? Thank you

John Jessop
21 Oct 2014 6:10 am

Yes, C. Pama does still have a family member in South Africa – in fact his second wife (his first wife, my mother-in-law died many years ago) died a week ago in Cape Town. He also has family in the Netherlands, U.K. and Australia.

Susanna Carla pama
19 Oct 2017 6:33 pm

Very interesting and informative I have three of his books Lions and virgins vintage Cape Town wagon Road to Wineberg I wonder how many books are are published by my uncle and would love to see the family tree that he had done

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