Brothers on quest to find long-lost sibling who was given away for adoption in 1950

(From left) Brothers Tan Sin Min, Tan Thiam Peng, Tan Thiam Soon and Tan Sin Kian. Their mother, Madam Lin Cheow Tee, was devastated after her mother-in-law gave her baby, named Tan Xin Zheng and born in 1950, away for adoption without her consent. T
(From left) Brothers Tan Sin Min, Tan Thiam Peng, Tan Thiam Soon and Tan Sin Kian. Their mother, Madam Lin Cheow Tee, was devastated after her mother-in-law gave her baby, named Tan Xin Zheng and born in 1950, away for adoption without her consent. The search started in 2012, when Madam Lin fell ill and made a dying wish to see her son.PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE TAN FAMILY

As yet another Chinese New Year approaches, one family have a simple wish: to be reunited with their long-lost brother.

In a search that is now entering its ninth year, the Tan family have not lost hope in finding one of their own who was given away for adoption in 1950.

The search started in 2012, when the Tan family matriarch, Madam Lin Cheow Tee, fell ill and her final wish was to see her son, who was given away when he was just a few days old by her mother-in-law without her consent as the family were too poor. Even though she died in October that year, the family have not stopped looking.

Mr Tan Ying Tsao, 41, who is Madam Lin's grandson and lending a hand in the search, told The Straits Times: "It might help us find some closure; by finally giving her a voice and righting the wrong for her."

While the narrative is shrouded in uncertainty because Madam Lin's mother-in-law did not want her looking for the baby, the family know that the son was named Tan Xin Zheng, and he was born in 1950, the Year of the Tiger.

While Madam Lin was alive, she said the family lived at 263 Geylang Road and the baby was given away at the CHIJ in Bras Basah while she was recovering from the birth in hospital. The family have reached out to CHIJ, which once stood where Chijmes is, only to hit a dead end as they were told such information could not be shared.

More recently, Mr Tan has leveraged technology and social media in a bid to widen the search.

The e-bicycle shop owner took to Reddit and Facebook to appeal to the public by telling the family's story and posting a picture of his father and uncles with his grandparents.

While the Reddit post has received some 378 votes, he has not had any luck finding his uncle.

 
 
 

"We have managed our expectations because Singapore in the 1950s was a very different place and it has been a long time," said Mr Tan.

Madam Wong Poh Sieng, Madam Lin's daughter-in-law, told The Straits Times in Mandarin that Madam Lin's mother-in-law was a formidable woman, and nobody dared to disagree with her.

Furthermore, Madam Lin had always been ill and could not care for her children without help, so she could not risk going against her mother-in-law, and brought up the lost son only after her mother-in-law died. "Although Madam Lin has passed away, this was her final wish, and it has now become our wish," said Madam Wong.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2020, with the headline 'A family's quest to find their long-lost brother'. Print Edition | Subscribe