Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Genealogy Project

How many of us care about our family roots? As I stand in this moment in time, thinking of the past 2 generations I knew and 2 generations I bore, I am privileged to be in the middle of a 5 generations family history. When I started blogging I wrote of my grandparents, my parents, then of myself, my children and of late more and more of my grandchildren. They are those who matter now as the past has served their purposes.

With the birth of Joshua, the coming birth of my 6th grandchild next month, as well as marriages of the children of the siblings of my and my wife's side, there is much action this year which prompted me to write a family genealogy. Many years ago I tried a bigger project which extended to the uncles and aunties, the in-laws and their children but I abandoned it as too massive and likely to be unsuccessful effort. I abandoned it also the reason that these extended genealogy is unlikely to stir any interest. But my present project would, and should. It only cover the immediate uncles and aunties, their children and the grandchildren. This genealogy serves a central purpose, to keep the family members from my side and my wife's side knowledgeable of who their immediate relatives are so they will make conscious efforts to stay connected.

Today most young couples are disinterested in knowing who their relatives are and instead prefer cultivating their friendship on Facebook, their workplaces and elsewhere. This trend will create a separation among siblings and their children. Although this problem is not yet an issue in the current generation it will worsen unless efforts are now taken to draw them together and the genealogy project is one binding factor. From the charts any family member can identify who are related, their English and Chinese names, including birthdays. Admittedly the project was driven by the fact that many of us Chinese who were English educated don't know how to write their Chinese names, or have forgotten how to, especially with the simplification of strokes, and also cannot read other Chinese names. Sadly we mostly know just the surnames and the Christian names, if any, or the given names. We don't know their full names and over time become too embarrassed to ask, and when children ask years later the names of their grandparents, granduncles and aunties as well as their cousins, their parents cannot offer answers and leaving it at that, the linkages among family members are gradually broken until one day they become total strangers.

In the recent Chinese New Year I met the only son of my uncle after over 40 years when he and his family visited my mother. I distantly remembered his name but I wouldn't recognize him anywhere else without an introduction and background check. Likewise I won't recognize my nephews and nieces who have grown, some married and have children. The dispersion of families in search of livelihoods have resulted in breakdown of communication and relationship. Efforts are being made in social media like Facebook to connect families which is laudable as families are essential foundation stones in building strong and trusting networks in our world that is increasingly filled with strangers.

My genealogy project is a trigger, hopefully to encourage the younger families of the Yew and Chan clans, and even the Tans, the Khoos, the Lings, the Lees and others to continue among their own lineage. My generation is passing, the baby boomers who gave rise to generation X, my kids, and generation Y, my grandkids, who in years to come, become parents of the generation Z. By then will they recognize their roots? At least 4 generations before them, who their ancestors were, what legacies they left behind, what characterize the values of their families?

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