71 Generations of Genealogy

Five gen of the Foo family in Hainan

Our family was keen on temple and family history since joining the Church in the 1970’s.  We felt unsure where to begin.  We thought our low proficiency in the Chinese language would be an obstacle in looking for family records in China.  We did not have any ancestral record on hand.  Our parents and relatives’ memories were vague and uncertain.  But we had a surprise waiting for us once we began our family search in earnest.

Records in the house

My father, Foo See Fang, left China at age 17. He came and settled in Singapore; he died in 1990.  After his death we found, in a locked drawer, a handwritten list of names, with birthdates, of his immediate family members and relatives in English and in Chinese. The document gave us our family tree, consisting of four generations.  Later, we found a whole set of the Foo family’s genealogy records in the house - something my father had bought but never told us. The set comprised of 11 volumes, containing records that traced our family lineage to the Qin Dynasty (221-220 B.C.).

Who can help to extract names from the records

The task of extracting names of our family members from the genealogy records was a complex and tedious one.  We assigned that task to a sister-in-law who had a high proficiency in the Chinese language.   But we made little progress.  Several months later, we went to the  Foo Association, Singapore for assistance.  There, a surprise awaited us: we found that the Foo’s genealogy records have grown to 38 volumes but there was no one to help us to extract the information we needed for the temple work.

Weeks later, we learned that an old man, who visited the association infrequently, might be able to help. Could he be the answer to our prayers? Our hopes soared. We met him and found out that he knew my father who had served the Foo association for about 20 years.  Without hesitation, he graciously agreed to help. We felt the Lord’s hands in this intervention.

Found 71 Generations of genealogy

When we received the first draft of our family tree, we were elated - there were 71 generations.   After checking and verifying the names and the father-son lineage we had to romanise each Chinese name (hanyu pinyin).  Then, we carefully entered each name into the Church Family Search system.   Next, we began the task of performing temple ordinances for all our ancestors -  we went on numerous temple trips to Hong Kong, Taipei (Taiwan) and Cebu (Philippines). 

We did not have any ancestral record on hand. Our parents and relatives’ memories were vague and uncertain. But we had a surprise waiting for us once we began our family search in earnest.

“Reserved” ordinances

We thought after keying in the names into the Church Family Search System we could proceed to perform the ordinances.  We were wrong.  Because the family Search system allows all persons who are linked to one name to edit the details. Consequently, we discovered that some of our ancestors’ names got corrupted.  We had to sort them out, verify and correct the changes.  Also, if another person with the same ancestors had “reserved” the ordinances, we could not do anything about it. Thus, we could not perform ordinances for 15 generations of our ancestors because their names were “reserved”.  We hope these would be resolved.

Meeting with 98 year-old aunt in Hainan Island

In 2015, our family search took on a different turn – based on information from relatives, we contacted the grandson of an aunt who was 98 years old, living in Hainan Island, China.  We visited her and her whole family. Many of her children, grandchildren and relatives came to meet us – it was a great re-union. We were deeply touched. We visited the Foo’s family ancestral home and saw the house and rooms where my father and grandfather lived in their youth. We also visited the school where my father studied. We got the names and birthdates of our relatives.  We listened intensely as they recalled many interesting family stories of the past. That was a really heart-warming and worthwhile visit.

Sealing of first ancestor of Foo Family in Taipei, Taiwan Temple

In June, 2017 in the Taipei, Taiwan Temple, we witnessed and participated in the sealing ordinance of the very first ancestor of the Foo family, “Fu Ya” (符雅 Fu2Ya3) to his wife. He was the custodian for the royal seal (symbol of authority) of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221 to 210 BC). The Emperor gave him the surname Foo (符 Fu2) because of his work as the minister responsible for the execution of the Emperor’s orders. His original surname was Ji (姬 Ji1).  He was the grandson of Qing Gong (頃公 qing3gong1) the Duke of Lu (鲁 Lu3), the 34th descendent of Zhou Dan (周旦 Zhou1Dan4). 

The ordinance work continues                                                

Bishop Jason Foo of Ang Mo Kio ward is now extending the family search work beyond Fu Ya. Another 16 generations have been added. With the help from the ward Temple and Family History Consultant, our family history work has reached beyond 2,500 years.

Satisfaction from genealogy work

To engage and participate in temple work is a privilege and a blessing.  It is also enriching and satisfying. We experienced a deep sense of identity, belonging, gratitude and appreciation for our forefathers.  We are grateful to all who have helped, participated and or performed ordinances for our ancestors. We encourage all to continue this marvellous work. There is much joy in doing temple and family history work.