Gopher Genealogy by Susan LeBlanc provides information about research, lectures, published articles and book reviews, and Serendipity Moments that are the results of searching for ancestors both personally and for clients. The objective of the blog is for others to receive insight and inspiration in doing their family history research. It is an evolving method of communication and input from reviewers is welcome.
(Note:For the most part, the Romanization and pronunciation of Chinese names used below are in Mandarin Chinese.On occasion, it is more relevant to the story to use the Cantonese spelling and pronunciation.It is noted when Cantonese is used.)
In 1885, my paternal grandfather Wan Sam Jow (Cantonese pronunciation of 温三就) and his cousin, Wan Sing Jow (Cantonese pronunciation of 温聖就) immigrated to Portland, Oregon.Following the pattern of his older brother, Wan Yun Jow (温润就) who immigrated ten years earlier in 1875, they took the last character of their given names and transformed it into their new American surname, Jower.Thus the three became known as:
Wan Jower (the older brother)
Sam Jower (my grandfather)
Sing Jower (the cousin)
Note:After Sam Jower established a dry goods/tailoring business, he added the surname “King” for business purposes.
The Sing Jower Manuscript
To understand all that went into finding the village of my grandfather, Sam Jower King, I need to begin with his cousin, Sing Jower.In about 1896, Sing Jower returned to China to research our family history.He knew we were descended from a prominent ancestor, Wen Wenning (温文寕), who lived in the 1200’s during the Song Dynasty and was a high government official.In 1898, as a result of his research, he wrote a short biography of Wen Wenning and gave a description of the location of his tomb.He also recorded 20 generations of our family tree, from Wen Wenning down to his own generation.He returned to the U.S. with a copy of his handwritten genealogy.In the late, 1970’s, one of my father’s cousins, a son of Wan Jower, sent my father a copy of this manuscript.My father then sent me a copy.I subsequently learned that it was the granddaughter of Wan Jower, Marilyn Korenaga, who found the copy of the Sing Jower manuscript as she was going through the belongings of her grandmother (wife of Wan Jower) following her death in 1973.Her uncle, James Jower, made copies and sent them to close relatives.
Visit to the Tomb and Ancestral Hall of Wen Wenning
In November 2011, my wife, Susan, and I had the opportunity to travel to southern China and to visit the tomb of Wen Wenning.Earlier, I had contacted a Mr. Tan of the Xinhui (新會) District Foreign & Overseas Chinese Affairs Bureau.Knowing the tomb was located in an area of GuangdongProvince called Yamen (崖門), which is in his district, I sent him the pages of the Sing Jower manuscript that talks about Wen Wenning and describes the location of the tomb.He was able to locate the tomb and to escort us there for a visit.Following the visit to the tomb, he took us to a village south of the city of Xinhui.The name of the village is the Sha Lu Village (沙路村), in an area known as Wang Jing Tou (王井頭).In the Sha Lu Village, the descendents of Wen Wenning have erected an ancestral hall in his honor.At this village, we obtained booklets that give historical data on the Wen Family Clan, focused on Wen Wenning, who is considered the first ancestor of the entire Wen Clan living in southern China.Within these booklets, it gives the lineage of Wen Wenning back to prominent historical figures who lived in the Zhou Dynasty, dating back to about 100 B.C.From the Grand History of China written by Si Ma Qian, we are able trace this lineage back even further to the Yellow Emperor who lived in 2700 B.C.
The Discrepancy between Records
I returned from that trip thinking that the Sha Lu Village was perhaps my ancestral village, the ancestral village of my grandfather.However, as I studied the materials I had received from that village and compared the family pedigree charts contained therein with the pedigree chart in the Sing Jower manuscript, I found a major discrepancy.In comparing the two records, of course both generations start out the same, with Wen Wenning as the first ancestor, representing the First Generation.The Second Generation is also the same, showing the five sons of Wen Wenning (actually the records from Xinhui show six sons and I have since learned there was a seventh son).Starting with the Third Generation, even though both records continue to descend from the same son, the third son, Wen Zhongfu (温中孚), the names contained in the two records are completely different.Here are the two records compared (the surname Wen is omitted for simplicity):
To reiterate, from the Third Generation on, the names in the record differ completely.
The Law On Village
Another discovery led me to conclude the Sha Lu Village was not our ancestral village.In August 2012, my wife and I traveled to the Pacific Northwest.While there, we visited the National Archives in Seattle to search for documents on our ancestors.One document gives the record of testimony of my grandfather, Sam Jower King, given on February 13, 1919, as he was preparing to leave the U.S. to travel to Canada to marry my grandmother.In that testimony, he mentions he was born in the Law On Village in Sunning District (village and district names are in Cantonese as recorded in the testimony).Sunning (Xinning in Mandarin) is the old name for Toisan (Taishan in Mandarin).Taishan is the neighboring district to the west of Xinhui.With this bit of information, I began to search for the Law On Village and to search for the reason for the discrepancy of the two records.I began to search for further information and clues.
In order to search for the Law On Village, I had to first try to determine what Chinese characters were represented by “Law On”.Consulting with a Cantonese friend, we made the best guess of 羅安村 (Luo An Cun in Mandarin).I later confirmed this by examining a document I recently discovered held by the Oregon State University Multicultural Archives.In the Sing Jower Manuscript, someone (later discovered it was Violet Ho Jower, wife of Wan Jower) made a later entry recording the death date of Sing Jower (January 2, 1919) and his burial plot in the Mount Scott (now Lincoln Memorial Park) Cemetery in Portland.During our visit to the Pacific Northwest, we visited the cemetery and discovered the cemetery records indicated his remains were removed for shipment in 1928.As was often the practice with early Chinese pioneer immigrants, they wished to return to their homeland, or if they died, they wished to be buried in their homeland.In 1928, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in Portland organized the disinterment of remains of over 600 Chinese men.Disinterment documents were recently discovered and one of them was the Roster of the 1928 Shipment of Remains.I obtained a digital copy of this document from the Oregon State University Multicultural Archives.There on the roster, under the first section of names of remains going to Taishan, I found Sing Jower’s Chinese name with the destination designated as 羅安 (Law On).
Another clue came on a postmark on a letter sent to Wan Jower from his sister in China in 1929.This letter (in the possession of Marilyn Korenaga) gave a location of the originating post office from which the letter was mailed -- 廣東 (GuangdongProvince) 台山 (Taishan District) 上澤塘 (Shangze Tang or the Shangze Pond).I began to search maps for the Law On Village (羅安村) or the Shangze Tang (上澤塘) but was not successful.I wrote to the Taishan District Foreign & Overseas Chinese Affairs Bureau to ask them if they could locate the Law On Village.I gave them the Chinese names of Wan Jower: my grandfather, Sam Jower King; their father, Wen Daochu (温道楚); and Sing Jower to see if they could verify the village if they found one.They responded that they could not find the village I was looking for.
I decided to research through the internet, going to the Chinese Roots Wiki for help.This wiki was established to help people of Chinese heritage discover their ancestral roots.I posted on the wiki’s Chinese Genealogy Forum that I was searching for a Wen (温) village named Law On Village (羅安村) in Taishan (台山).A response was posted that the village I am searching for might be the LuoDongVillage (羅洞村).The person responding explained that in Taishanese, the “d” in dong is often silent, so the name is said “Law Ong” in Taishanese.The Chinese Roots Wiki maintains a data base of villages in the Pearl River region sorted by surname.Looking in the database, there is a Wen (温) village by the name of 羅洞 (Luo Dong).I wrote again to the Taishan District Foreign & Overseas Chinese Affairs Bureau and asked them to check with the LuoDongVillage (羅洞村) to see if that was my grandfather’s village.They did so, but found that the village checked their records and did not find any of the names I gave them.
Meeting with Wen Huazhan
A short time after we returned home to the U.S. from our trip to China in late 2011, I received a telephone call from Mr. Tan of the Xinhui District Foreign & Overseas Chinese Affairs Bureau.He was nice enough to make a call from Xinhui to the U.S. to give me the telephone number of a person with whom I might be interested to chat with.His name is Wen Huazhan (温華湛).As I examined the booklets I received from the ancestral hall of Wen Wenning, I noticed the main editor of these materials was Wen Huazhan.After pondering the discrepancy between the Sing Jower manuscript and the records I received at the Sha Lu Village, I decided the person who might best be able to shed light on this was Wen Huazhan.I arrange to make a phone call to him with the help of a Cantonese speaking friend.During the call, he said he was happy to hear of a person from the U.S. who had such interest in the Wen family history and genealogy.However, he said he could not address the issue of the discrepancy without seeing the other record.He asked me to send it to him, or better yet, to come and visit with him.In the Spring of 2013, my wife and I had the occasion to take another trip to Asia.We decided to include a trip to Xinhui to see Wen Huazhan.We contacted him to let him know we would be arriving in Guangzhou on June 5, 2013.He was happy to hear we were coming and scheduled an appointment with us for the very next day, June 6.
At 8:00 AM on June 6, we traveled by bus from Guangzhou to Xinhui.Wen Huazhan met us at the bus station.Upon meeting us, he asked our plans for the day, asking if perhaps we wanted to tour some sites in Xinhui.I told him my priority was to just sit and discuss the matters about the Wen family history with him.We decided just to sit together at a restaurant there at the bus station.It turns out that Wen Huazhan is a former school principal and a scholar.After his retirement, he was commissioned to write the history of Xinhui.He also complied and wrote from many sources the material on the Wen clan included in the booklets I received during our last visit.
As we sat, I showed him the Sing Jower manuscript and showed him the discrepancy between that record and the record he had published in the booklets, starting with the Third Generation from Wen Wenning.He explained that the descendents of Wen Wenning dispersed to many different locations.He said the record he had published represents only the Wen family tree in the area of Xinhui.He went on to tell me that my record, the Sing Jower record, is very likely a true and for the most part accurate record as well, but that it shows a branch of the Wen family from Taishan.As I focused his attention on the discrepancy of the differing Third Generation names descending from Wen Wenning’s third son, Wen Zhongfu (温中孚), he said there was a missing generation in the Sing Jower record.He said the brothers Laifu (來福) and Laifeng (來鳳) represented the Fourth Generation or perhaps even the Fifth, suggesting the possibility of two missing generations.When I asked how he knew there was a missing generation, he said it was because from his research, he was confident that Wen Zhongfu had five sons as follows:
Youde (有德) Youliang (有亮)
Wen Huazhan said what I needed to do was to go the LuoDongVillage (羅洞村) to see if their genealogy reveals which of the fives sons of Wen Zhongfu are the progenitors of Laifu (來福) and Laifeng (來鳳).
Visiting the LuoDongVillage in Taishan
That afternoon, we took a bus to Taishan and met that evening with representatives of the Taishan District Foreign & Overseas Chinese Affairs Bureau.I explained that even though they had check previously with the LuoDongVillage only to discover that my more immediate ancestors did not come from that village, that I wanted to go there and show them my genealogy to see if there were any names in common with their family tree.They were nice enough to arrange for a van with driver, and interpreter to meet us the next morning.
Following the advice of Wen Huazhan, we started the next morning with a visit to the LuoDongVillage (羅洞村). Our driver, a Mr. Chee (朱), took us to the main village office and asked to see the village elder who might have their village family book, their village genealogy.After a few minutes, an elderly man arrived with their village record. When we compared our two family books, we immediately found in the Luo Dong record, the two brothers Laifu (來福) and Laifeng (來鳳) that my chart shows as the third generation. Then we discovered, just as Wen Huazhan had said, my chart had a missing generation between Wen Zhongfu (温中孚) and the two brothers Laifu and Laifeng. That generation was of course, the five sons of Wen Zhongfu. The Luo Dong family book shows that Laifu and Laifeng are descended from the oldest son, Youde (有德).
So now that we knew that Laifu and Laifeng are really the Fourth Generation, we continued to compare our family pedigree charts.
The son of Laifu is Ningfu (寕輔), representing the Fifth Generation.(Laifeng had no descendents.)
The five sons of Ningfu (representing the Sixth Generation) are:
From here, our family trees are different. Those from the LuoDongVillage descend from the first son, Yitong (以通). Those from the Sing Jower manuscript descend from the second son, Yijiao (以教). Their record shows that the descendents of the Yitong remained in the LuoDongVillage, but that Yijiao went to a place called Dun Zhai (墩寨). At that point, our driver said he knew where Dun Zhai was located. He said it is in the southern part of Taishan over an hour away.He immediately said, “Let’s go.”So in a flash, we got in the van and left for Dun Zhai.
Visiting Dun Zhai and Finding the Law On Village
We drove through Taishan over mostly small roads, ending up along the #36 County Road that led us to Dun Zhai.When we finally got to Dun Zhai, we found a 温 family village called Long An Li (龍安里) or the Dragon Peace Neighborhood, which is the third village to the west of Dun Zhai. When we saw the name Long An Li on the entrance gate, we all thought maybe this is the Law On or Luo An Village (羅安村) because is sounds similar. We drove into the village and parked just inside the front gate.It is a small village of less than 50 homes.We found a laborer and explained we were looking for one of the elders of the village who could talk about their village genealogy.We were led down one of the alleyways between the homes and taken into one home.Of course, no one was expecting us.They took us into the main living area of this small home and had us sit down.It was about 11:00 AM and the mother was cooking a meal.They asked us to wait as the elder of the village was away and they had to call him. While we were waiting, I took out my record and explained to some of the people there what we were searching for.I also took out the copy of the 1929 letter from my grandfather’s sister written to Wan Jower, postmarked from Shangze Tang (上澤塘).They looked at the postmark and said this area was part of the Shangze Shi (上澤市) or ShangzeTown.So we knew we were close.
After about 20 minutes, a man in his mid-to-late 60s appeared.I began by showing him the Sing Jower record, turning to the page with my grandfather and his three brothers.The old man pointed to the name of my great grandfather, Wen Daochu (温道楚), and said he knew this name.This led to a confusing discussion as the old man seemed to say, that he was descended from Wen Daochu.We asked, if that was the case, then which of the four sons he is descended from.He said none of them.We were puzzled.Was there a son we did not know of? I began to think, this was not the village we have been searching for, that perhaps the Wen Daochu that the old man knew was someone else other than my great grandfather.This discussion went on for ten minutes or so.
Finally, one of the villagers came into the house and showed us his family book.It was a very old book with pages that were old, brown, and deteriorating.But once we opened the book and examined it, we knew in a second, we had found the right village. Their record was the same as the Sing Jower manuscript, written in the same handwriting with the same format.We opened it to a familiar page and there was the name of my grandfather, his older brother Wan Jower, and their cousin Sing Jower.They mentioned that they had heard part of their family had gone to America years ago, but no one had heard from them since.I asked if they knew where either Wen Daochu or Sing Jower (whose remains were shipped back in 1928) was buried.They replied no one knows because they died so long ago that their deaths preceded the date of birth of the village elder.The burial sites back then were not in one location but were determined through fengshui and could be anywhere in the surround area of the village.We spent time with the family and others of the village.They said each family has one of these family books.The ones we had viewed were missing the first few pages, so we went back to the town of Dun Zhai and found a shop to copy their missing pages.I also wrote out for them the Chinese names of my family tree as it descends from my grandfather, including my father, my generation, that of my sons, and finally their children.During the course of our conversation, the village elder told us the village has been called both the Long An Village (龍安村) and the Law On Village (羅安村).
It has been a long journey since the late 1970’s when I first received a copy of the Sing Jower manuscript until we finally found the village of my ancestors.It is difficult to describe the feelings and emotions that come from this experience.They are feelings of closeness to family and those ancestors who have gone on before, also of joy and satisfaction for being able to make this discovery.I also have a deep sense of gratitude for my Great Uncle Sing, who had the determination years ago to make the same trip to his homeland from the U.S., under what were much more trying and difficult circumstances, to record our family history and to honor his ancestors.I was not able to find the exact location of the remains of Uncle Sing, which were likely returned to the village in about 1928 or 1929.However, as I stood in his village, I felt I was able to pay my respects to him just the same.