Family Stories #1: Setting the Scene

The following articles have been written up as part of this series on Family Stories:

  1. Setting the Scene (this article)
  2. Lee Yew Beng, published 17 January 2015
  3. Chan Saw Kooi, published 24 January 2015
  4. Lim Seng Kim, published 31 January 2015
  5. Lee Swee Guan, published 7 February 2015
  6. Lee Swee Hin, published 14 February 2015
  7. Khoo Family Ancestors, published 21 February 2015
  8. Lim Family Ancestors, published 28 February 2015
  9. Chew Sim Ann, published 7 March 2015
  10. Lee Swee Lee, published 26 August 2016

Introduction

Stories hold a rich heritage. This is my attempt to record the stories told within my family in order to ensure preservation of my history. Family tree genealogy has been an interest of mine since a young age when I lost my mother. This loss has only made it that much more clear for me to make the effort to know my roots.

Lee Yew Beng is the earliest patriarch of my dad’s family – my great-grandfather – whereas Chew Sim Ann is my great-grandfather from my mum’s family. Naturally, there will be a common story told for a married couple and family; each story version will focus on the individual’s perspective as much as possible, but the duplication of some content is unavoidable. To pre-empt this, it is better to consider these articles as chapters within a book, building upon each other. The vast majority of these stories appearing here online will in fact be the same script of what will end up becoming a single collection retelling and preserving the stories of ancestors.

I have grouped individuals by generation, with a relational reference to indicate how the person is connected to myself. Greater emphasis is given also to individuals from previous generations who are no longer living. Whilst a lot of stories will be sourced from the viewpoint of various sources and will thus be second-hand reports, a key objective is to record historical facts which, where possible, have been verified and confirmed as accurate.

Motivation & Dedication

As mentioned briefly my motivation and interest in all things genealogy stems from the fact that at an early age, I lost my mother. As it turns out, I share this interest with her. Over the years, I have slowly been shown artefacts – her 5-year diary from the early 1980s, photographs preserved and notes recorded which give evidence of her passion. It is quite possible that the same event – her sickness and eventual death – was the common trigger for both of us pursuing and mapping out the vast family that we are part of. Her sickness extended over a moderate period of time, so she would have had ample opportunities to prepare herself and record the precious knowledge she possessed. It was an explicit request of my mother that my father carry on her legacy of being connected to family so that I would not lose what I will coin the “Khoo Connection” – being connected to my cousins, aunts and uncles from her side of the family.

Over the years, it has emerged that my mother was indeed a bridge between the extended family – she pioneered and helped to build the relationship between her first cousins which is a legacy I not just inherited but have benefited from over the years. Her first cousins, and my second cousins all remember my mother with great fondness, in part too because of my grandfather’s hospitality for them – his nieces and nephews. So, in this way, I too continue and champion the connection between the wider extended family, helping to ensure us second cousins remain connected.

Therefore, this collection of stories is dedicated to my mother Khoo Kim Sim.

Tools & Approach

Over the years, the information on family genealogy has transitioned from various formats and systems to the current platform – a software package called Reunion and developed by a company called Leister Productions. In the 1990s I began documenting the family tree relationships and individual profile details in HTML pages as part of my then HTML-based website. Each profile page followed a standard structure and all information was text-based. Even in those first days of research, I had already taken to writing up core stories pertaining to the individual, which formed a starting position for these posts. In 2008, as part of migrating from PC to Mac, I embarked upon a software review of genealogy programs and settled on Reunion, which only exists on the Mac platform. Reunion was selected because of the simple graphical user interface and reporting capabilities on offer. When the iPhone was launched its usefulness was expanded to an iOS app such that I could now maintain and update information via an iPhone or iPad and later synchronise the data back to the main Macbook. In early 2014, to share the stable family tree information with family overseas, I used the Reunion export function to generate the HTML web pages and uploaded them to NICLEE.com.au, ensuring appropriate security was in place to protect the information privacy.

  1. Reunion (iOS / Mac platforms): Highly interactive user interface, feature rich; primary family tree information source. [Private]
  2. XBOP Family Tree website: Web-based report version of Reunion; limited functionality and interactivity. [Private]
  3. XBOP Family Stories: Articles posted that focus on specific individuals within the family tree; typically from previous generations of the family. [Public]
  4. XBOP Family Records: A future private online collection of digitised records. [Private]

 

Information Sources

The majority of information on the family tree and profiles of individuals is based on oral narratives. Over my life, starting from childhood, I have been a keen observer and audience/recipient of many stories shared by senior members of the family. This is the basis for much of the articles and profiles written above; they are predominantly my attempt to document and create a common understanding for family members of the past.

To help improve the quality of information, where possible, I have sought written records. Over the years, I have managed to collect various items of official nature – death certificates, citizenship papers, etc… In addition to these documents the family also has photographs; the collection expanded significantly in 2014 during Chinese New Year when my cousin brought over a box full of old Khoo family photographs dating back into the 1950s and 1960s. Amongst this collection of photos I finally saw the earliest photos of my mum from when she was a child. The most significant artefacts acquired during this period included the original marriage certificate of my grandparents plus the Family Clansman record sheet retrieved from my visit to the Khoo Kongsi in Penang.

These written records all provide a means of verification and substantiation to the skeleton oral traditions, thus providing credibility to what becomes fact. Visits to tombstones and digitisation of records all helps to create this repository of family history. I am not the only person in the family championing the cause of genealogy – my mother’s cousin in Singapore has for many years been a fountain of knowledge, given his Chinese scholars education. Lim Family Ancestors supplements his official genealogical research. In this way, two publications offer an authoritative record which this family tree can draw upon as key sources of information:

  1. Genealogy of the Lims, authored by Lim Ho Hup, 2005 [Information source for the Khoo & Lim family]
  2. A Gallery of Chinese Kapitans, authored by Wong Choon San, 1963 [Information source for Lee family]

In recent years, as the family tree branches have stabilised, I have also shifted focus from identifying individuals and plugging existing gaps to performing more in-depth research to locate supporting artefacts such as marriage certificates, newspaper articles and equivalent. As an example, over Christmas 2014 family stories and discussions led me to searching the Internet for my Dad’s first wife which resulted in the front page article from The Straits Times of 18 April 1962. Complete with photo, this was the first time my dad and brothers had seen and read this 52 years on.

This project is going to be a life long one and my documentation efforts are not the first written record. Over time, as part of improving the delivery and presentation of family tree information here. In part, XBOP Family Records, as described above, is a future private collection of digitised records which will become a single source of truth for all genealogical records.

2016 Update

In August 2016, a family gathering took place in Kuching, Malaysia where two branches of the Lee family were able to finally meet. As part of the five days spent in Kuching, I was able to achieve and collect invaluable information. A showcase of the family tree for the family present was incorporated into a 90th Birthday celebration and this activity saw a concentrated effort to update details along with profile photos. A number of key achievements worth mentioning here include:

  1. A first-ever sighting of a photo of our patriarch Lee Yew Beng
  2. Definitive details with concrete evidence (tombstones) on son Lee Swee Hock, paving the way for his inclusion in the Family Stories set of write-ups
  3. Substantial documentation of the Lee Swee Hock branch of the family tree