48 awarded prizes for genealogy writing competition

SINGAPORE - It was not until she lived abroad that Singaporean Dawn Marie Lee, a fifth generation Peranakan Chinese, became interested in her family history. The 40-year-old writer spent seven years living in cities like Paris and Chennai, and said she grew more aware of her cultural identity in that time.

After returning to Singapore in 2013, she began researching her family genealogy with the help of her uncle, and entered the Singapore Family History Writing Contest as a tribute to her late father, a lover of history and heritage.

On Thursday, Ms Lee was one of 48 award winners who received a certificate and cash prize at a ceremony at the National Library. The competition, jointly organised by Genealogy Society Singapore and National Library Board with support from the Singapore Memory Project, was launched last November as an SG50 campaign to encourage Singaporeans to be conscious of their roots.

Some 590 participants - the oldest aged 95 - submitted compilations of their family histories, stretching back to the first generation to settle here.

Ms Lee, who is a volunteer guide at the National University of Singapore Baba House, a conservation Peranakan terrace house on Neil Road, traced six generations of her father's genealogy for her entry.

The 160 names on her family tree span from her ancestor Lee Woon Loh, who came to Singapore from Fujian, China, in the mid 1800s, to her six-year-old son Julien.

Her father, a career Army officer who was the second youngest of 12 children, died in 2013 after a four-year battle with cancer.

Said Ms Lee: "My dad always shared memories of his childhood with me, what it was like growing up in a large Baba family. The rich customs and traditions, the quirks, the cuisine."

"I continue to do research into my genealogy. I guess it's my way of remembering my dad because it's something which he valued. I hope that my son will also someday be as intrigued as I am about our family history."

Speaking at the event, Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth Baey Yam Keng said that "projects such as these remind us that even while we look towards our future collectively as a nation, we should never forget our roots".

Prizes for the competition were sponsored by the Lee Foundation, Goh Foundation and the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre.

All entries can be viewed at www.singaporememory.sg.

tiffanyt@sph.com.sg