Potted Japanese red maple with Siyi Genealogy in both Chinese and English



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Albert Kawasi

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Last updated:
Feb 26, 2004

A genealogy journey
íZíZíZšúíZň╝íZíZíZíZ


The Chinese have been known for keeping detail genealogy records. It is generally accepted that the longest continuous Chinese genealogy record belongs to descendants of Confucius. It is not uncommon, however, for families and clans to have genealogy records extend over a thousand years or more. Amazingly enough, many of these invaluable records survived all the countless upheavals and disasters throughout China's history.

All the record keeping would lead one to think that doing Chinese genealogy research is as easy as falling off a log. However, I soon found that it is anything but that. Doing Chinese genealogy research while overseas, in my case, Canada, is a very frustrating process. For years I found no information predating my grandfather and his brothers, only eight characters of the generation poem (Ŕ▒íŔ│óňŞíZíZíZíZíZíZíZňşŞňíZíZňşíZňşíZ).

Then finally in August 1984 on a trip to Ottawa, during lunch with Uncle Paul (íZíZíZňŞíZíZíZíZ), one of the last living members of his generation, I decided to probe him on the family genealogy. My question came as a surprise to him as he didn't expect any interest from the younger generation that grew up in North America. As for me it was hitting the mother lode of information. Suddenly I had information all the way back to my grandfather's great grandfather. It was like a window suddenly pops open and I was looking at people who lived in the late 18th or early 19th century.

A year or two later, I received a copy of the family tree done by cousin Lee Can Tang (íZíZŽŠíZíZ) who lived in New York. It came courtesy of cousin Lee Kwan Lam (šżĄŠíZíZ) from Hong Kong, who updated it with more current information. This document had more detail and fleshed out what Uncle Paul gave me. For the first time I knew the generation that I belong to (íZíZíZ) is the 24th generation. Most importantly I was able to follow the various ancestral shrines or branches within the clan and how know how people are related to each other.

Despite the progress, many blanks remained. How many characters are there in the generation poem? Who was the first ancestor? And what is the family's place of origin? The funny thing is my first exposure to information on the first migration ancestor, Lee Dong (íZíZíZŠúíZ), came from an unexpected source. I was reading a neighbour's copy of Lei-Ow Monthly (ŔúíŔČ│íZíZíZíZíZíZ) issue 5 which had an article on the Lee's of Xinbu (šąíZŠşąŠíZíZŠ░íZ). The article gave their migration history and their generation poem. Within the generation poem were the eight characters that I knew so well. Immediately I knew I had stumbled onto something valuable and decided to keep that particular copy of the monthly.

Then in the early 90's I received more information from cousin Kwan Lam. This time it was a copy of our own generation poem in its entirety. Surprise! Surprise! It was identical to that of the Lee's of Xinbu. As a bonus, I was introduced to a location called Wunbu (íZíZ▓Šşą) which I later found out was a major point in the clan's migration history.

In the Spring of 1997 a group in my village headed by Lee Guang Sheng (íZíZíZíZíZíZ) decided to publish an up-to-date zupu (íZíZíZŔşíZ), clan genealogy record. A little over a year later, I received a copy. It concentrate primarily on the more recent generations rather than the past. Migration history was briefly touched upon. In essence it is the same as the Lei-Ow Monthly article. Information on the ancestors was restricted to the first two migrating ancestors only, Lee Dong (íZíZíZŠúíZ) his eldest son, Lee Hon (íZíZíZńżíZ). There was nothing on the first ancestor who to moved to and settled in the current village.

In the meantime I was online and searching. Not much happened until one day I came across a post in The Chinese Surname Queries. Jack Lee used his own ancestor's migration history as an example in answering a post. Yes, Jack (íZíZíZíZíZíZŔ│íZ) was telling, at least to me, a very familiar story. It was quickly established that we branched off from the second generation. In the ensuing years Jack provided me with much information in my genealogy research.

Things really started to happen in 2001. First I met Chune Lee (íZíZíZíZíZ│ňíZíZ) who belongs to the same branch as Jack. Chune was kind enough to give me a copy of his zupu (íZíZ▒ňíZíZíZíZíZŠ░íZíZíZíZŔşíZ) which answered many questions. Soon afterwards, Simon Lee (íZíZíZíZíZąšąą) wrote me that he is from the same village as Chune. However, he is from the branch of Lee Chun (íZíZíZńżíZ), Lee Dong's third son. Now our little online group has at least one descendant from each of Lee Dong's sons.

In early 2002 Lee Weng Onn from Malaysia wrote to me. It was quickly established that Lee Weng Onn and I belong to the same branch. Weng Onn is in possession of an extremely comprehensive zupu (íZíZ▓ŠşąíZíZíZŠ░íZň«íZŔşíZ), which was published in 1932. It comes in multi-volumes. The total number of pages is a staggering 3,825. From what I've seen it kept track of most, if not all, members of Lee Hon's branch. It even has records of various descendants moving to and settling in different villages.

In mid-November Edward Lee (íZíZíZíZíZíZň«íZ) visited this site and discovered he and Chune are from the same village. The zupu he has is identical to Chune's. They had made contact with each other and followed up on the linkage.

click to see more photos of the meeting In February 2003 another visitor, Edmund Lee of California, wrote to share his genealogy information. Yes, he is another member of Lee Dong's descendants. His branch is that of Lee Yee (íZíZíZńŻíZ) and they had settled at Jiujiang, Xinhui (íZíZ░ŠíZíZń╣íZŠ▒íZ). Since Chune, Edmund, and Simon are all living in the Bay area, a get together was suggested. After many email exchanges the first get together was held in March 27, 2003. Please see photo. Lawrence Jeung attended the meeting because he is researching the Lee genealogy from his grandmother side of the family.

On August 1, 2002, I received an email from David Lee (íZíZíZíZíZíZíZíZíZ) of Hong Kong. He is a descendant of Lee Shi Tao (íZíZíZňŞźÚíZíZ), one of Lee Dong's first cousins. David was very kind in sharing information from his zupu and invaluable information on the life and traves of our ancestors, which is currently sitting on the back burner.

Coincidentally, Daniel Lee (íZíZíZíZíZíZíZíZíZ) from California contacted me on October 4, 2002 to say he is a descendant of Lee Shi Tao and there are similarities between his life and Lee Dong's. Daniel was kind enough to send a copy of his family tree starting with the migrating ancestor to the present, covering over 30 generations and almost 900 years - most impressive.

Both David and Daniel are descend from the same branch and the same village until the 13rd generation when Daniel's ancestor moved to Zhongshan (ńŞşň▒▒).

In 2001 Lawrence Jeung and I were in contact because his grandmother's maiden name is Lee. There wasn't any progress other than finding historical information on his grandmother's uncle Lee Sinan (íZíZíZíZíZ»šíZíZ). It was only after David had provided me with his generation name poem information and Lawrence with his keen observation noticed the same characters in the haos of Lee Sinan and other family members. We are confident Lee Sinan and his family belong to the Lee Shi Tao branch.

Setting up this site is my attempt to link up with the other clan members from my village whom I have never met or haven't seen for years. Now I'm in contact with a much broader clan group!

In mid-June, 2002, I received a call from a friend, Watt Chow (íZíZĘŠĚ╗Š┤íZ), who calls Hong Kong home. His family is from the same village as my wife, Margaret, but I was told by my father-in-law and others that they aren't related. Anyway, he was in town visiting his parents and we agreed to meet after dinner. During the course of the evening the subject of genealogy came up. He said he came across his family's zupu (published in 1909) and managed to secure a couple of copies. He kept one for himself and gave the other to his father, Mr. Frank Chow (íZíZĘŠíZóňíZíZ). Mr. Frank Chow told me their family belong to the branch of the third son, Yu Yin Chow (íZíZĘŠíZíZíZíZíZ), while Margaret's family is from the fifth son, Feng Yin Chow (íZíZĘÚ││íZíZíZ). He was kind enough to look it up in the zupu for me. Best of all, he even let me borrowe it. From the zupu I managed to construct the family tree from present day to the first ancestor, Feng Gang Chow (íZíZĘÚ││ň▓íZ).

In late 2001, Tho May Seto (íZíZŞňíZíZš┤íZň¬íZ) called to say she had came across some genealogy information on the Xie family and wondered whether I would be interested. It was a hand written linear family tree by her father-in-law, Xie Ping An (ŔČíZň╣│ňíZíZ), going all the way back to Nanxiong. (Another item on the back burner.)

In May 2003 Henry Chiu (ŔÂíZŔííZíZíZíZ) of Hong Kong a cache of genealogy information on the Zhao of Fausik or Fushe (ŠÁ«šíZíZ). According to the information they are direct descendants of Sung emperors. In January 2004 I finally got around to have some of the Zhao information online more than half a year after receiving them from Henry. The push come after Katherine Lum of New York contacted me. Her maternal grandfather is a Zhao and from Fausik also. Katherine also provided a treasure chest of information which I can correlate with Henry's.

Just before 2003 came to a close I received an email from Dr. James Chin of California. As it turned out Dr. Chin is born in Fausik but migrated to the USA at an early age. He is a Zhao also but because of the American immigration policy at the time he and his family had to use a paper name which is Chin. Dr. Chin is corresponding with Henry. Hope there are mutual benefits. Wouldn't it really be a blast if they are second or third cousins?

In mid-February Jacky Li of Hong Kong by way of Malaysia posted in the forum regarding Xinhui (íZíZ░ŠíZíZ). Subsequent email established that his family originated from Law Ka Wan, Xinhui (íZíZ░ŠíZíZšżíZň«ÂšíZíZ). A quick check of my records revealed that Lee Duanfu (íZíZíZšź»ňĄź) once settled there. Jacky is or will be checking with his grandfather and father on their generation name poem. He may be the newest addition to the Lee Dong descendants online club.

Some other families we'll be researching are: Mak of Xin Tsun (íZíZ░ň▒▒íZíZŻŠíZíZńŞíZíZíZíZíZíZíZÚ║ąŠíZíZ), and Wong of Baisa (íZíZ░ň▒▒ŠŻ«ňíZíZíZíZŻŠíZíZÚ╗íZŠ░íZ).

Again, thank you for coming by; enjoy your visit and come back really soon. Comments, suggestions and errata are always welcome.


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