Don’t know where to begin in your search for your China relatives?
You want to search for your ancestors in China. You think you know where they came from but you have no relatives or any contact in China. You don’t know where to begin. This was Michael’s Ang situation last year. When he asked his mother about relatives in China, she said she did not know anyone but she had been keeping a letter from China for 45 years. Read about Michael’s breakthrough in his family search.
Where it all began
After organizing a ward temple trip in the Ang Mo Kio Ward four years ago, Michael and Kogen Ang became very interested in family history. Seeing how members got excited about getting names from their family search and performing ordinances in the temple, Michael and Kogen decided they ought to do something for their ancestors. They started to search for family members in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and then China.
Letter kept for 45 years
Michael’s grandfather, Ang Sai Tee, migrated from China to Malaysia in the 1920’s. His father, Ang Tee Heng, was born in Johor and later moved to Singapore. When Michael asked his parents if they had relatives in China, he did not get any direct answer but his mother pulled out a letter that she had kept for 45 years, not knowing what it was all about. It was a letter from Michael’s grand-uncle, Fang (Ang Sai Tee’s elder brother) to his nephew Ang Tee Heng (Michael’s father). Fang was thanking his nephew for sending money to him in China. In that letter was Fang’s address.
Being a Teochew, Michael suspected that his grandfather’s family could be in Swatow where his grandfather came from as a young man.
Miracle in 48 hours
Michael thought of seeking help from a business associate called Frank who was based in Dongguan and Zhongshan, not far from Swatow. He scanned the letter and sent it to Frank, and a miracle happened within 48 hours. Frank took the letter and circulated among his network on the popular China social media, WeChat. The first piece of information that came back was that a school has been built on that property for the last twenty years. One of Frank’s friends was able to locate a woman who was Fang’s daughter, and obtained her phone contact. The missing link was found!
Family surname changed
When the news got to Michael, the whole family was in total surprise to learn that they indeed have living relatives in China. But that was not all. Michael also found that the family name should be Fang and not Ang. Suddenly, the whole family was talking about going to China to meet the relatives or asking them to come over. They also wondered if the second and third generations cousins could get together and share the gospel, and maybe start a branch of the Church in Chaozhou where most of the relatives live.
Michael said, “The speed and progress of our family search was beyond our wildest expectations. Some of our ancestors over the other side of the veil must have been waiting for a long time, and getting impatient. This was indeed a miracle. It proved that the spirit of Elijah was alive. He has indeed turned the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.”
Pleasant surprise: 30 new relatives
Michael and Kogen flew to Shenzhen, and took an express train from Humen to Chaozhou. Frank, Michael’s business associate had arranged for them to meet the relatives at the train station. Not knowing what to expect, they felt awkward and worried.
Michael and Kogen were stunned when they saw five prosperous-looking cousins turning up in two cars to greet them warmly and with great politeness. They spoke in Teochew, Michael’s mother tongue, but with the children, they spoke in Mandarin. From the train station they went to a restaurant where they met more relatives. Michael recalled, “There were 30 of them, and just two of us. We had the best Teochew cuisine for dinner, almost like what my mother used to serve at home.”
Hard life in China but it turned out well
Recalling the old times, Michael learned that his grandfather’s family went through hard times during the Cultural Revolution when all the ancestors’ records were destroyed. His grandfather and father living in Malaysia and Singapore were probably not any better off than their peers in China. His cousins’ parents all worked hard and had a good education. Many became teachers and professionals, and are now very successful. While his father in Malaysia, went to school for only two years. His grandfather as a migrant and had to rely on his maternal uncle to support him. That was why his surname was change from Fang to Ang. He was a manual worker at first but became a transport manager later. However, with little education, the family did not break out of their poverty circle, unlike the family in China.
Farewell but will return for family records from tombstones
After two days of visiting his newfound relatives, Michael left Chaozhou with plans to return and search for his ancestors’ records among the tombstones where his ancestors were buried. He is now included in the Fang family chat group and receives 10-15 messages each day, reminding him that his China relatives are real, warm and interesting people like everyone else. His family search in China has just begun.
Michael’s next step is to visit the graveyard where the ancestors were buried during the Zhong Yuan Jie (festival for worshipping ancestors to gather names from the tombstones.)