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99th Caton Fair

Songshan Lake


Folk Arts
A simple name and an address discover a big family
Latest Updated by2006-09-06 08:37:20

Searching the clansman chart.

The families are chatting with each other

In the birth day party, they are cutting birthday cake, there were around 40 persons attend the party.

Linda, Kim and Hoi Kim were looking the old pictures in Linda¡¯s father¡¯s house.

Linda cry when she was doing ancestor worship.

In the afternoon of August 2, a Canadian lady named Linda Chow Bassil and her niece Kim Chow Morris visited the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, the People¡¯s Government of Guangdong Province (OCAO) and asked for help. They were searching their lost family. Since this is one of the responsibilities of OCAO, they hoped OCAO could provide some useful information, or if it was possible, to arrange the trip for them, such as transportation, accommodation, meals and so on because that was their first trip to China, they knew nothing!

According to Ms Bassil, both of her parents were early immigrants to Canada. Her father was Chinese and her mother was an English woman. Because they did not speak Chinese, it was her father¡¯s job to keep in touch with his family in China. Her father died in 1970, and then they lost contact entirely with their family in China. ¡°My family is small and we often feel isolated in Canada¡±, Ms Bassil said, ¡°We want to contact my family in China but we have no clue at all on how to do it. Recently, my niece found your website. It said that your department provides assistance to overseas Chinese searching their families in China. After reading this information, I was excited! I realized I could search for my family! Most of my family and friends in Canada doubted it would be possible to find one family amongst the billions of people in China.¡± In fact, Ms Bassil was not so confident that they would find her family in China either; she just had a feeling and wanted to try. ¡°If I failed¡±, she said, ¡°I would know that I had at least tried to find them.¡± To minimize the cost, they set a budget and planed to stay in Guangzhou for only 3 - 4 days.

Since they knew how difficult the trip would be, they deposited most of their luggage in the airport in order to make the trip easier when they reached Guangzhou. Although they had a strong will, the outcome was not promising. The information about their family was too sparse and uncertain. Ms Bassil said her father was called Chow Charlie, but his Chinese friends called him ¡°Chow Hoy Yick¡±. Moreover, the name on his entrance visa approved by Canada government in 1918 was ¡°Chow Sew Wee¡±. On the Certificate of Canadian Citizenship, the Place of Birth was ¡°Dong Hing Lee, Hoiping, Kwangtung (Guangdong), China¡±. All the spelling of these names and the birth place were not the standardized Chinese spelling that is commonly used today. They were spelled out by the English phonetic rules according to the Cantonese pronunciation.

Since the time allowed was very limited and the information was not clear, no one dared to say that it might be possible to find their family ¨C it was the most difficult case ever received by OCAO. However, the word ¡°Hoiping¡± gave some useful hint. In Guangdong province, there is a Kaiping city. In Cantonese the pronunciation of these two words matches. As a result, it was better to start the search from Kaiping city.

Then we made a plan ¨C if we found her family, we would arrange the confirmation meeting, family meeting, ancestor worship, and so on. If we failed, we would arrange a tour around Kaiping city, the area from where her father came. The principle was to do our best to avoid upset and give her an indelible memory even if she could not find her family. Before we left for Kaiping city, we contacted our colleagues there and asked them to make some arrangements.

Around lunch time on August 3, we reached Kaiping city and met Mr. Deng who was our colleague in this city. He compared the pronunciation of ¡°Dong Hing Lee¡± with all the Chow-named villages (all the villagers from a same village have the same last name in the ancient China) using Kaiping¡±s local dialect. He found that although there were four villages that met the requirements, Dong Xing village was the most probable one. Quickly, we decided to visit Dong Xing village first before the trying the other three.

After we arrived there, we met a lot of elder persons of the village and gained their assistance. At the beginning, when we mentioned ¡°Chow Hoy Yick¡± and ¡°Chow Sew Wee¡± no one could recognize the names. Then we ask them to show us their ¡°Zok Book¡± which is similar to a Clansman Chart. Unfortunately, the chart ended 95 years ago. In another words, Chow Hoy Yick and his brothers were not listed in the chart.

It looked as if we had reached a dead end when suddenly Ms Bassil recalled that her uncle¡¯s name was ¡°Chow Hoi Gim¡±. This was the turning point of the search. Right after we told the villagers this name, one person told us immediately that his grandfather had this name, but he knew little about his grandfather¡¯s brothers. The villagers then told us that Chow Hoi Gim had been dead for years. His family had moved away from the village, but during festivals they would come back for ancestor worship. Maybe his eldest son Chow Lian Jing would know more about his family¡¯s history.

Chow Lian Jing was in Guangzhou, doing business related to real estate. After comparison and analysis, we found that the background of Chow Hoi Gim¡¯s family, including his father¡¯s age and time frame matched our information, we went to the next step ¨C confirmation. We made an appointment with Mr Chow to have dinner together at 7:00.

That evening, Mr Chow appeared on time. Unexpectedly, he not only could answer all the questions fluently when asked by Ms Bassil, but also told us stories on how Ms Bassil¡¯s parents became acquainted and got married. Before that, only Ms Bassil knew these facts. Mr Chow also told Ms Bassil that ¡°Chow Sew Wee¡± washis father¡¯s call-name and only used before marriage, and that this was an informal name that usually was not be documented. At that time, we all knew that Ms Bassil had found her lost families.

When we were about to arrange the next meeting, Mr Chow¡¯s wife said the next day was her 58 year old birth day, all the family was coming to celebrate. She invited us to join them. That was wonderful and our job seemed to become easier.

In the morning of August 4, we went to Mrs Chow¡¯s birth day party. During the party, they kept talking and talking. Ms Bassil learned a lot of history of her father¡¯s family and also her father’s. In the afternoon, Ms Bassil went back to the village and visit her father’s house for ancestor worship. At that time, Ms Bassil cried. She said, since her family was a multi-cultural family, they suffered from prejudice ¨C her mother¡¯s friends did not like her father and his friends, and her father¡¯s friends did the same to her mother and her friends. When she was young she received sneers from other children, and sometimes she fought with them. As a result, she was strong in character and seldom cried. But when she prayed toward her father in his house, she could not help crying. ¡°It is so magical! Can you believe it? Can my father believe it?¡± she said.

In August 6, Ms Bassil and Miss Morris left Guangzhou. They said this was a wonderful trip and they would tell their friends about it. They were very thankful for all the help that they received from the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, the People¡¯s Government of Guangdong Province.

By:Rocky  Editor:Alessia Source: gocn.southth.com

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