Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cheah 谢 Family History Part 2



When my facebook cover changed to the above, it reflected that I've gained momentum from feeling the spirit of Family History Work to actually continuing to do the data-mining work that is required to join the dots so to speak, to obtain the desired information of our ancestry. I've even created a special page in facebook entitled. "Family History and Relationships" to help others who have similar interest in family history. Relationships was an added component as my good facebook guru friend Carlos E. Jean-Gilles suggested and as I have also felt appropriate because only when you are happy with your current relationships will you have a desire to record your own current history before advancing to data-mining work for more information of your ancestral history. Does that make sense?

From the Family History Part 1 post, I had revealed that much have been discovered about my father's Zhang 张 ancestral line. At the time of writing, reference was made to the Ghost month of the Chinese ancestral beliefs and I referred to some similar Christian beliefs in the Holy Ghost or what is the less scary alternate name of Holy Spirit. I had also touched upon other spirits like Elijah who was a well known prophet of the old testament  as explained in a prelude post on how I felt inspired to continue the work after the Mom of our family, Geok Lee, passed away. She was an integral part of our family history work and not being superstitious, I must reveal that after she had gone physically, I have felt her spirit at times where when I wake up, a time when my mind should always be clear but instead an impression of her is felt in my mind, always a smiling face. I also had similar experience with my father recently, who passed away at 88 a few years ago and the impressions I receive combined with a series of events that occurred within a short span of time, confirms to me a clear message is being sent to me. Maybe my wife is in contact with my father. So strong is my impression of her in doing family history work that I am making this post a continuation from the last post of her never ending story found here,  I really feel she is still actively involved in our family history work today, working on the other side of the thin veil that separate us!

I have been by nature since young, one who is interested in facts and logic. I would often ask the what, how and why questions. I found that family members were more frustrated to answer my "why" questions. In later life I became philosophical and spiritual to find meaningful answers to my "why" questions. I have observed life both closely with a microscope as well as seeing the long range view of it with a telescope from far to derive my unique perception of life. This has been shared in My Heart and Mind website using original technology of PCs and the internet before smart phones came about. Indeed I've become a writer of a variety of favorite topics of daily life as my experiences indeed has spanned over a vast area with great depth at times. I believe I have covered geographical, technological, entrepreneurial, operational, relational, biological, psychological, philosophical, artistic and spiritual ground. Have I left out any?

Man's time is always limited and from my early decision to be an active player of life, to be fully engaged into it, puts me into situations where I always needed to be self-disciplined to optimize my time to achieve the goal of self-mastery. This was necessary to fulfill all the responsibilities I believe was expected from me. I have always been appreciative of the help I get from many people, which includes my friends and family members in my social network as well as from the usefulness of technology and modern day gadgets created by smart people to build my information network!

Coming to Penang had been planned as a mini mission to follow up with the family history work of my mothers side, the Cheah family ancestral line. A few years ago, I made a trip to Penang and I was introduced to the Chairman of the association, Mr Cheah Jin Teong by my cousin Allan Cheah Cheng Leng, son of the oldest brother of my mother, Cheah Hong Inn(photo below) who before he passed away, was a former chairman of the Cheah Kongsi. I had thought with all the credentials of my uncle and his son Allan whom I later found out was a named trustee in the Association, I should easily be able to trace the roots for my Mom's side. Unfortunately I was informed by the Chairman that they did not have any organized genealogical library of the Cheah clan! Disappointed, my hope was rekindled again when he told me that he had just returned from an overseas trip where he had acquired boxes of the Cheah genearlogical records from China!

I immediately requested to have access to it but he explained that I couldn't as they had to review the books themselves first. He confessed that he himself could not read Mandarin and therefore could not tell which of all the books was the right one for me to make a copy of as I had requested it. I appealed to let me make just one copy of any of the books chosen at random so that I could do my own research back in Kuala Lumpur(KL) and this he allowed. I got too busy when I returned back to KL to follow up and thought if  I allowed time for the Chairman and the Association to sort out all the books, I could return later to have an easier time with their assistance to find the right relevant book for my mother's line.

On this inspired trip, I am to follow up on my first visit and is my report :

On arrival about noon time after leaving early Monday morning with a break in Ipoh, I aimed to get to Armenian street on my google map. This is where the Cheah Kongsi or Cheah family clan or association office is located. The Cheah surname or family name is common in Penang like the Zhang in China. 

I had the office number contact and had called in earlier to check if the Chairman would be in town. I was informed that they now had a new Chairman and his name was Mr Cheah Swee Huat but he would be always busy but he was in town. When I arrived it was lunch time and a man who picked up the phone said he was out for lunch and would be back.  When I arrived the man said he had gone out with a team of people to check on some property matters and might be back later. Determined to catch the Chairman, I decided to spend my afternoon there and that is when I discovered that Armenian street or Lebuh Aremenian in Malay where the Cheah Kongsi is located is quite an attraction for tourists.

Here are some sample photos of the many shots I took on Armenian St that I found has become a tourist attraction :
This is the side entrance from Amenian St to the Cheah Kongsi

A narrow road leads inside showing that cars were not commonly used at the time the Institution was founded where no record could be traced as to which year it was except for what appears to be the first landed property acquired on 15th March, 1820. So the Cheah Kongsi must have been founded before 1820 but no exact date can be established as no records could be found!

This is the view of the Cheah Kongsi Temple from the front

They have started renovations to the site with the front walls and a nice wide gate completed now. They are working on the interiors of the temple and another meeting hall as well.

I found that Armenian St has some tourist attractions that make it interesting to visit like the wall mural of the Cheah Kongsi wall with an old bike to be a fun photo spot for passers by!

There is history of famous men on the street too. The wall poster reads, "One year before the China republican revolution of 1911, the revolutionary leader Dr Sun Yat Sen moved his headquarters to Penang, where he organised the Penang Conference and planned the Second Guangzhou Uprising. History was made at 120 Armenian Street, base of the Nanyang Tongmenghui and birth-place of the newspaper Kwong Wah Yit Poh." When I read it, I just felt Wow! Never knew about this fact at all!

There were art related shops on the street...

... including antique arts and crafts from historical times


This explains the streams of tourists on becas going through the street

Guess I had become a tourist too. Click my facebook album to see all the photos I had taken!

After spending some time exploring the street, the new Chairman Mr Cheah Swee Huat did come back from his other meetings and I caught his time just for a few minutes. I could see that others were already waiting for him to attend to them and in the few brief minutes, I could explain my purpose being there and that is to trace the family tree of my mother and her brother who was a former chairman of the institution. I also expressed to him that I knew a Danny Chin in Hong Kong, a genealogy research expert whom I had volunteered to assist in family history work in the Penang area when I met him again recently in the Singapore national library exhibition and talks on Tracing Family Histories. Mr Cheah looked interested but explained that he was busy and was kind enough to give me his personal cell phone number to call him back to arrange another time to meet him.

When I asked him about the books that the previous Chairman had brought back, he knew about them and explained that he had died. The boxes of books were with him kept in his home and after his death, they were all burnt away by fire by the family as part of clearing his belongings exercise! I was shocked to hear that but consoled myself by the fact that they were not sorted out and their relevance for tracing my mother's family tree was never established. Furthermore more, the boxes of books he had purchased can still be sourced from China as they were modern copies published and not old original paper records that he had brought back.  After this brief introductory meeting, we parted and he continued with his next meeting.

I headed off in the late afternoon to my oldest sister's home who have helped me before put together a family tree of my mother and her siblings. My mother Kooi Sim, a Cheah 谢 was the youngest of 7 children with only one other sister, Kooi Ean. So she was in a family of 5 boys and 2 girls which is exactly how her own family with my father became! That's why when I married my wife and we were both the youngest of 7 children, it was a nice coincidence but she decided to stop at 6 when we had  4 boys and 2 girls and understandably so as it is not easy to care for so many children especially if we want them to have what all the other kids have! 


This is my oldest sister, Chong Moon Lean, though in her 70s but very alert and know the names of many relatives, ancestors and I'm writing down all the information she gives me on paper kept in my family history folder or file. This photo was taken in Feb 2008.


This photo of my mother's oldest brother,Cheah Hong Inn 谢鸿恩  , in a wheel chair taken in May 1994.  He has passed away.  In the photo is my wife with our 2 boys and girls in our family visit to his home. He was the oldest of 7 and I have on this visit come with the mission to complete the family tree starting from his parents to him and all his 6 siblings, the siblings' children including his own. He was also a former chairman of the Cheah Kongsi.

In the night I paid a visit to my cousin Helen Khoo, who lived in the Tanjong Tokong area with her sister Juliet, who was willing to help me update the family tree of her parents. Her mother, Kooi Ean, is my Mom's only and older sister who have the most children among her siblings, a total of 9 comprising of 7 boys and 2 girls. Her mother or my aunt had also passed away and so Helen was the best person to give me details of their branch of the family tree. With the names sheet I had created from conversations my oldest sister, I could now get a validated names list of members of her family tree that had passed away as well as updating the living ones as well.

Most of the information she gave me checked with my sister's list except for one unidentified woman and her two sons who apparently appeared in the funeral of one of my mother's brother. My sister and her differed as to which brother's funeral did this woman appear in, claiming to be a wife with his two sons! Both brothers already had a polygamous family with more than one wife and this woman claimed to be the additional unknown wife to the surprise of all! It was finally confirmed that in both separate funerals of the two brothers of my mother, there appeared a different woman with 2 sons! The confusion came about as both women were unidentifiable and they both happened to appear with 2 sons!  Yes, doing family history can bring out some incidences that family members would rather not bring up. In the history of the bible, Abraham, David and others did have more than one wife or had a polygamous family including Muslims today who choose to as not all would want to have more than one wife, but they are allowed in their religion and their laws so it is not really something taboo to them. I am not so sure about same sex marriages occurring today though the Church of England, I've come to learn of from a recent discussion with some of their members, agree on 'unions' of the same sex but are opposed to 'marriages' of the same sex, which is a legal technical difference. I will write only what I know today about marriage and relationships and in the future, one of my descendants may refer to my post and add their own comments about what is taboo or not in their time!

Definitely in the old world, having more than one wife had been practiced especially in the days of pioneer Chinese men who left China to seek better fortunes overseas and had a village wife in China and another in the new country where they lived and built up a legacy. Modern laws have fashioned after the western standard today of one man one wife. A man must divorce his wife, unless she passed away, in order to marry another.  Sadly in countries like US, the rate of divorce is one in two and the number of children born out of wedlock will soon exceed those from married couples.

With the information gathered above, our family tree has been updated with more Cheah members from my mother's side as can be viewed below. You can move the chart by moving the mouse to touch the chart, then left click permanently and move the mouse to slide the chart to the direction of my mother, Cheah Kooi Sim, Removing the left click will release the mouse from moving the chart and pressing left click will again move the chart.  All the other Cheah  names are to the right of my mother, the first being her oldest brother Cheah Hong Inn :

Click the above link, "View more of Sun Fu's tree" to see a bigger family tree chart.

It was a Monday afternoon when I met the current Chairman of the Cheah Kongsi. On Tuesday I tried to call him and left messages at the office but there was no response. Tuesday was a very wet day in Penang, pouring rain all day long!

I spent the time indoors updating our family tree and my journals including facebook!

 As always, the support gadgets and their batteries needed to be recharged.

First thing on Wednesday morning I called him again and he returned call to me setting up 10.30am to meet him at the office of the Cheah Kongsi. He could spend much more time with me and I learnt that that he was a dynamic change agent chairman of the Cheah Kongsi. He did express that the Cheah Kongsi  did not keep their records well since it was founded and he had plans to set up proper genealogical  resource for the institution. Renovations of the buildings on the property of the institution such as the temple and meeting hall were already proceeding under his leadership and we were meeting at his office that was just completed a couple of weeks ago with computers and key phones that they never had before. I told him it was so timely that I came to meet with him on this trip and I reminded him of Danny Chin in Hong Kong whom I had mentioned earlier in our brief introductory meeting. Danny as the genealogy expert working with me as a volunteer could help speed up the establishment of a family search unit for the Cheah Kongsi with other interested volunteers. He had highlighted that many people from the region had visited the center asking him for ancestral records of their Cheah ancestry. He also mentioned that other associations have come to him also to ask for solutions for similar needs in their association or institution. I had a chance to show him how I personally handled my current family history with my website www.familylane.info and showed him the genealogy chart of my ancestral family in the same website similar to the chart found above. He was above 60 in age and was adept in using computers and smart phones with apps like skype, Whatsapp etc We parted with a higher sounding note that we can now follow up with more meetings later to further the suport of family history search in the Cheah Kongsi. 


We took a memorable photo of our meeting outside the new office on Armenian Street

The Chairman soon got busy again to welcome a group of priests from Korea where one of the priest in the front on the right was also a Cheah and his father was a former chairman of the Cheah Kongsi. The Cheah descendants indeed seem to be coming to Penang to find their roots and I felt my presence there was timely.

After the meeting on this new day, instead of a Beca ride, I would ride my own bike to explore the other clan associations in the vicinity equipped with my iPad map and my pouch of gadgets and my camera.

There is a Lim Kongsi in the vicinity

A Yap temple...

... located on Armenian Street too

We have the Khoo Kongsi in Cannon Square

A brief write up on the Khoo Kongsi founded in 1835

 Han Jiang Ancestral Temple owned by the Penang Teochew Association

 A map of where the Teochew people live, in the Teochew district in Guangzhou China

More write up about the temple built in 1870

I spent the next day, being Thursday of the week already, to review what I have gathered so far and continued to work on this post. I was planning to head back to KL on the same day as I've been on the island for 4 days already and was quite pleased with what I had achieved so far! Something told me I had to stay till Friday. I called my cousin Helen Khoo again in the evening as well as my oldest sister as I had in mind to maybe visit the grave site of some of our relatives who had passed away. Helen suggested that I meet with the son of my 3rd Uncle Cheah Hong Bee named Cheah Ee Choon. She arranged it and called me back to give me his house phone and told me he was expecting my call. He was looking forward to see me and we fixed it that I would pick him up from a bus stop just past the walk bridge after passing the big TESCO building close by the next morning at 9.30am. 

When I met him for the first time, I found him very friendly and he suggested that we go to his older brother's home, ie Ee Peng, nearby to discuss more as he was also very knowledgeable on family tree matters. I ended up spending most of the  morning there as when I got out the names sheet drafted from my oldest sister's help and later validated and added by my cousin Helen, I now got more clarifications and names for more living relatives down the tree that live in KL and also Singapore that I can follow up with for more information.

The two brothers, Ee Peng on the left with his wife in the middle and Ee Choon or the right


Both the brothers were educated in Mandarin too and they could give me the exact Chinese names of several of the deceased Cheah ancestors in my names sheet which is useful for tracing them in the genealogy records from China.

My cousin Ee Choon who had already had been so very helpful with validating further my draft sheet of all the Cheah family names including writing their Chinese names for some key family members did a remarkable thing. He flipped through the stack of photo-copied papers that came from one of the books that the previous Chairman of the Kongsi had allowed me to photocopy and pulled out 3 sheets that contained Generation 11 to 26 of the Cheah ancestral line that was relevant to my mother's line that I have been searching for. 

Photo shows 2 of the 3 sheets that were pulled out

Too bad that the other books were now all destroyed as mentioned earlier in my meeting with the current Chairman for if not, we could research the other books  to find Generation 1 to 10 Cheah names that we are now missing and follow-up with the search of Generation 27 onwards to come down the tree close to my mother's father Cheah Keat Seang.

As I had mentioned earlier, the books can be acquired again as they were copies purchased by the former Cheah Kongsi chairman where the source can be found. Indeed my cousin Ee Choon pointed out that in Penang there were two Cheah kongsi institutions. The difference was the other Cheah Kongsi represented Cheah family names that came from different parts of China with mixed dialects of Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien etc whereas the Cheah Kongsi on Armenian Street is purely from one specific village or province. This would therefore make tracing the roots of whoever belonged to this Cheah Kongsi easier as all would have come only from one village or province and therefore locating records from this place should be straight forward.

He pointed out that Seh Tek is the village where this Cheah Kongsi covers and wrote the Chinese Character for it.

He further gave me the most important direction in following-up with the search of my roots by turning to a page in the Cheah Kongsi booklet as shown above to point out that my mother and his father and our grand father would be decendants of  the Techeng Kow 前清 line as marked in the page. There were 2 brothers marked 1 延禧 and 2 日昆 on the page and our family ancestral line came from the brother on the left marked no 1.

Ee Choon my cousin from the 4th uncle was truly God sent and he is very knowledgeable due to his membership and involvement with this Cheah Kongsi otherwise known as 'Seh Cheah Kongsi' since his youth and still active today. After I dropped him back from his brothers home, I went to visit another cousin from my 1st uncle named Allan Cheah Cheng Leng. He was an older cousin that came down to KL in his youth to live in my parents home for a season when I was little and after having lost touch with one another over the years, it was nice to spend some time with him and would be one of the rare older relative of mine that can now be easily connected via facebook!

Was happy to spend some time with Allan Cheah and his wife too

Then there is the younger generation of my nephew John Lim I could visit who is also on facebook....

....with the rest of his family, wife and children all on facebook too that I am connected with.

I was satisfied by Friday that week that I had accomplished enough on this mission trip to Penang to trace the roots of the Cheah families of my mother and visit some relatives before returning home.

A stop-over in KL for a few days got me to get out the old suit case, completely made of cardboard with metal only for its lock and hinges but no plastics, probably used by my father when he won a scholarship to the UK when he was young! I had used it to keep old stuff. I started gathering all the old photos and then I struck gold!

I found many old Black and White photos and decided to scan them all before I returned to Spore and the precious photo and words was found on the bottom right section of the above photo scan.

My father had written in his own hand writing, " My grandmother Goh Siew Hong" for this old small photo. Wow I remember my Mom reciting names of ancestors when I was young and the name Goh Siew Hong rang a bell and now I know who she really is. This is the only photo of her and no where else is she mentioned. I immediately added her name to our family tree chart found above as the mother of my grandmother of my father's side, Cheah Suan Kee.


I drove home through the middle of the night feeling grateful for my wife Geok Lee for her inspiration on Family History work in my life. Her facebook timeline is still alive as I hold a modern belief while most Chinese people hang on to mainly ancient beliefs, that she probably has some kind of facebook connection to us here still on earth so look out for her next post of her Never Ending Story here.

Meanwhile, there seems to be a connection with our oldest boy Han serving in the Manchester Chinese Mission as this was what he wrote at the end of his Week 64 mail sent on Monday 16 Sep 2013  :

During my exchange with Elder Bytheway last week, we taught a lesson with a Chinese mother. At the beginning of the lesson, she seemed really distant, and we felt as if something was bothering her. We read through some verses from the Book of Mormon, and asked a few questions as the Spirit directed us, and discovered that she was simplybored by the monotony of staying home and caring for her two young children every day. We were prompted to introduce her to Family History, which quickly launched into a lively discussion about her family history and mine (many thanks to Dad for doing plenty of research both in the past and in the present and sending me all the information!). 

Eventually, we were able to talk about going to the Temple as a goal, and that marriage and baptism would fall into place when she has the goal of going to the Temple some day. To our astonishment, on Sunday when the Chinese mother and her partner attended church, all of the sacrament meeting talks were focused on temples and family history. What a miracle!

I know that Heavenly Father is guiding Elder Hare and I in the work that we've been called to do. I hope that everyone can catch the excitement for Family History as we have too!

Looking forward to hearing from you all next week!

Much Love,
Elder Chong

Post development pics from a follow up trip on Oct 2014 :

The following pics are all cousins of different children of our common grandfather named Cheat Keat Seang (deceased 1961-2) whose wife, our grandmother is Ang Beng Gaik (deceased 1951-2)
They had the following children in the following order :
M - Cheah Hong Inn 
M - Cheah Hong Ee
M - Cheah Hong Gim
F - Cheah Kooi Ean
M - Cheah Hong Bee
M - Cheah Hong Lim
F - Cheah Kooi Sim 

The above photo is of my sister Moon Lean and our cousin Ee Choon.  My sister and I are children of Cheah Kooi Sim. Ee Choon is the son of Cheah Hong Bee

Ee Choon and I got another cousin, Helen Khoo, who is the daughter of Cheah Kooi Ean to meet up with Allan Cheah who is the son of Cheah Hong Inn.

We talked about family and the notable changes in our culture over time. Most of us were preoccupied with our own families and responsibilities that didn't allow us to get together often and appreciated that the four cousins could enjoy some moments together on this day. Our cousin Allan Cheah took some instant photos of our get together and immediately posted them on facebook found here.

8 May 2015


Saw the above notification of a Cheah ancestry from Taiping posted on my oldest brother's facebook timeline by his friend found here. Some brief information of Cheah Cheang Lim and his family history can be read here.

14 Dec 2015

Brothers Sun Fu and Sun Yit (right) with cousin Cheah Ee Choon (centre)


Click here for Family History Part 3 on the search of the Tjong Yong Hian heritage who is my great grand father in Medan. Tjong is how the 'Chong' in Malaysia is spelled in Indonesia from the same 

(For those who came to this post following Mom's never ending story, please follow the instruction of the last line below to continue the story. Note that the story first started from the blog post here. The last post before this one for the story is found here.

Click here to continue to the next post of Mom's never ending story.)

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