Would you like some rum cake with your eggs?

While researching our family history, we have often found details that don’t seem to jibe with what is expected. Due to external influences, beliefs; languages; foods; and lifestyles are altered. These “clues,” if you will, shed light on why things are and give you a deeper understanding of your history. The following is an example….Check back for more “clues.”

As Christmas is almost here, I’ve been thinking a lot about all the food I’m going to be eating in the next two weeks. The sweets, in particular, the Christmas cake (or black cake or rum cake) as Jamaicans call it, will be in abundance for dessert at my family dinners.

Interestingly enough, my husband’s Scottish-born parents will enjoy a typical Scottish breakfast including, what they call “dumpling.” I have often teased Ian about it…asking him to please pass the rum cake and eggs.

Turns out, I may have been too quick to laugh at his family’s tradition. According to Kwintessential Ltd., a website with different facts about countries, the Jamaican rum cake was derived from the English “plum” pudding and the Scottish dumpling. Brought to the West Indies in the 17th century, it was later altered. The English and the Scots used brandy to flavour the cake, but since Jamaicans didn’t have access to this ingredient, rum was used as a substitute.


Start a storytelling tradition

My two-year-old son Kyle has a book called Squeeze in a Pinch. Based on the children’s television show, Handy Manny, the characters in the story are all illustrated with large round eyes, typical of any children’s book or TV show. There is one character, however, whose eyes are almond shaped and raised on the outside corners (slanted, if you will). I never noticed that this particular character’s eyes were different. My son, however, started pointing to him every time his dad or I read the story. “My,” he would say, as he pointed to his own eyes.

My husband, who has red hair and is of Scottish descent, and I thought it was interesting and wondered if he, in fact, understood the difference and was saying that he looks like the boy in the book. Does he “see” the facial differences in his parents?IMG_2620

When Kyle and his brother, Ronan, grow up, they will inevitably ask about their family history. They will, like all children, be interested in their families’ traditions, culture and stories. How fortunate they are to have two different stories to enjoy!

For this reason, we take the time to ask questions and write down the stories. The stories are precious gems to be passed down to children and grandchildren. They are also food for the spirit. Everyone wants to belong.

I was fortunate to have grown up in a family that has a strong tradition of storytelling – orally and with the printed word. And so it was natural for my brother, my cousins and I to have the desire to ask questions about our ancestors and to be interested in how our families ended up in Canada – the route they took and the decisions they made. Imagine what our lives would be like if we had been born in China? Would we be the same people?

These are the questions that evolve out of studying one’s family history. But where do you start, when you want to find out about your family’s past? What questions do you ask? Who do you speak to, when very little has been written or passed down through the generations? And, when you do find information and photos, how do you preserve them for future generations? These are some of the questions and topics discussed here.

Check back regularly and send in your questions, comments or ideas. You can email us at TracingOurPast [at] gmail.com. We would love to hear from you.

~ C.T.

Keeping up with…Confucius?

Recording and storing your families’ information

I recently read an article in ChinaDaily USA about how Confucius’ Family Tree has been digitized:

Descendants of ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius have digitized books delineating

Thanks to http://etc.usf.edu/clipart for the image!

Thanks to http://etc.usf.edu/clipart for the image!

their family tree, which is believed to be the world’s largest, to make it easier to revise.

The original paper collection of the family tree containing a record of all 83 generations of Confucius’ offspring of over 2 million people is currently 43,000 pages long and takes up 80 books, but it will be able to fit on a thumb drive after being digitized.

What a great idea! The only thing is: who has the time? It’s one of those projects that gets started and never gets done. The key, perhaps, is to realize that it is an ongoing process, break it down into manageable parts and assigned to different members of the family.

Source: http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/culture/2012-11/15/content_15932237.htm

It’s the perfect time to celebrate family

Christmas is a time to celebrate family. So, why not give the gift that is not only about family, but about your own family. Jamaican Chinese Worldwide – One Family or The Red Book, as it has been affectionately called, is the perfect gift to give a parent, your children or a cousin.


Mr. William Chin Len Kow and his family, one of the pioneer settlers, arrived in Jamaica in 1895. He is one of the three people who bought the Chinese cemetery for the community in 1901 and was a founding father of Chee Kung Tong. This is an example of one of the photos you will find in this book.

It is a wonderful reference book detailing the history of the Chinese migration to Jamaica between 1854 and 1884 and the lives lived on the island nation between the 1950s to the 1970s . It is a fantastic record of hundreds of families and it illustrates the amazing fact that we are all somehow related.

Enjoy your Christmas and let the story telling begin!

For more information on how to order your own copy of Jamaican Chinese Worldwide – One Family, please email Loraine Lee at lorainealee@rogers.com.