Family Stories #9: Chew Sim Ann


Chew Sim Ann was my great-grandfather from my maternal grandmother’s side of the father – her father. For this branch of my family he is the most senior patriarch, or earliest known ancestor.

Family Tree Position & Generational Analysis

According to the Family tree descendent report, Chew Sim Ann’s blood has run through 240 individuals:

  • 1st generation (1904 – 1927)
    • 5 sons
    • 6 daughters
  • 2nd generation (1923 – 1957)
    • 26 grandsons
    • 40 granddaughters
  • 3rd generation (1957 – 1986)
    • 47 great-grandsons
    • 48 great-granddaughters
    • 21 great-grandchildren (unknown gender)
  • 4th generation (1974 – current)
    • 26 great-great-grandsons
    • 20 great-great-granddaughters
    • 3 great-great-grandchildren (unknown gender)

Whilst the sheer number of descendants cannot compete with Lee Yew Beng‘s 357, what is equally if not more impressive is that this family tree is incredibly wide – meaning that from 11 children, having 66 grandchildren is very expansive. I am but one of 116 great-grandchildren of Chew Sim Ann! There are countless family members who I am only aware of by name based on the family tree records, but have never met.

Chew and Khoo: Family Ties

One of the interesting things recorded in the Khoo Kongsi clansman record shown in the Khoo Family Ancestors article is that Khoo Bok Chwee’s father is recorded as Khoo Sim Ean. Ignoring the family name, “Sim Ean” and “Sim Ann” are very close from an anglicised written form of the name. Case in point, I anglicise my grandfather’s name as “Bok Chwee” instead of what is recorded on that same document – “Bok Chooi”. Now, I believe my Khoo great-grandfather’s name is more accurately recorded in that same article in my mother’s hand-writing: Khoo Sin Yong.

The reason for bringing this up is because one family story that has persisted over the years was that Khoo Bok Chwee and Chew Joo Ee were distantly related. Chew Sim Ann is believed to have been born in 1882. Why 1882? This is an estimation based on the years of birth for his children, beginning with my grandmother in 1904. A number of theories have been discussed as how the two Chew and Khoo families connect:

  1. Khoo Sin Yong was a cousin of Goh Eng Neoh (wife of Chew Sim Ann)
  2. Quah Juan Kim (wife of Khoo Sin Yong) was a cousin of Goh Eng Neoh
  3. Quah Juan Kim married twice – once to Khoo Sin Yong, and at another point in time – to Chew Sim Ann…

Chew Sim Ann operated, amongst his various interests and holdings, a factory/office based in Medan. As part of helping his ?nephew? out (Khoo Bok Chwee), he hired Bok Chwee and had him work in the office. It is was through this work that Khoo Bok Chwee came into the vicinity of the Chew family and eventually married Chew Joo Ee.

According to one grandson/my uncle, Chew Sim Ann was appointed a Kapitan Cina by the Dutch government by virtue of his education – being able to speak both Dutch and English – as well as his business ties. As part of the business, trading goods between Penang and Medan saw Chew Sim Ann shuttle back and forth between the two towns. The appointment to post of Kapitan Cina was specific to an area called “IDE”, on the then outskirts of Medan. According to my uncle, the responsibilities of his grandfather were to act as registrar, recording births, deaths, marriages and business registrations. Having the multi-language skills, Chew Sim Ann would have been ideally equipped to help the Dutch government maintain control over areas such as Medan.

Whilst I do not have concrete dates, an extensive Googling of the keywords above suggests Chew Sim Ann would have been a contemporary of the Tjong A Fie – who held a similar role. Indeed, according to this document The Pao An Tiu in Medan, it refers on Page 14, to the last “Major of the Chinese” as holding the office of Kapitan over the period 1922 – 1942 – one Khoe Tjin Tek. Chew Sim Ann did leave Medan, around the same time that World War II came to Malaya/Indonesia and returned to either Penang or Kuala Lumpur. The following photo is one of the few taken of the entire Chew family with patriarch Chew Sim Ann and 40 individuals that made up the three generations at the time.

Chew family photo

Chew Sim Ann is easily identifiable as the sole man wearing a black suit. Both my grandparents are seated – my grandmother holding one of her children, whilst my grandfather sits second from the end.