Routes to our Roots: a success for Chinese Canadian Historical Society

The stories about Chinese Canadian pioneers is a big part of Canadian history that has been missing for many years.  There is now a group of institutions and individuals who are intent on making it easier to both include and research these stories, said Dr. Edgar Wickberg at the Vancouver Public Library on Friday evening.

Turnout was higher than expected for the inaugural event of the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of BC.  Recently granted society status in May, the group of founding directors had been meeting for about 2 years. 

Friday night featured a panel discussion of 3 prominent Asian Americans from California to discuss the development of the Asian American historical movement: Him Mark Lai, founder of Chinese Historical Society of America; Marjorie Lee, Asian American Studies Library UCLA; Russell Leong, founder of Amerasia Journal.

Dr. Henry Yu, associate professor of Asian Canadian History at the University of British Columbia, moderated a discussion that explored the importance of documenting community histories in B.C. and further afield.  Each of the three speakers explained how they each became interested in Asian American history and how they have helped to facilitate its research.

Saturday’s session featured sessions by Judy Maxwell, speaking about her thesis topic of Chinese Canadian history with a focus on Chinese Canadian veterans of WW1 and WW2.  She also told the stories of veterans Bill Lore, William Chong also known as Agent 50 for his intelligence work with the British Army, and of Roy Mah who was a sergeant for Force 136 – a special commando group created to create havok behind enemy lines in South East Asia.

Gordon Mark explained how computers and software programs make it real easy to create Family Tree histories and Power Point displays.  He demonstrated how he created a history of his mother's family: The Liu Family.

Janet Tompkins of the Vancouver Public Library, History Department, explained how the library can be utilized for geneaological research.  She gave a list of internet links and data sources, explaining how birth and death records, head tax records could be used.

For the Saturday Workshop, I set up a display of my Reverend Chan Family history.  I had pictures of Rev. Chan Yu Tan, Rev. Chan Sing Kai, their sisters, and 6 generations of descendents – all mounted on poster cards.  Additionally I displayed the 7 generations of the Rev. Chan clan Canadian family tree history, and also the Chinese family tree that Rev. Chan Yu Tan wrote himself in 1924, in Chinese.

Attendents of the workshop were very enthusiastic about all the possibilities of creating, researching and documenting family histories of Chinese Canada.  Many people asked me about the Chan clan history and reunion. 

After the workshop, I went for a quick bite at a Japanese restaurant with members of the Der clan, Greg Soone, and presenter Gordon Mark.  We talked about how future workshops could help other families create both family trees and reunions, and especially to find ways to encourage others to share their family stories, such as creating elder workshops, or a pioneer family reunion dinner.

Then… I went down to Foo's Ho Ho restaurant in Chinatown to meet with the CCHS board members and their California guests for more food and conversation.

2 thoughts on “Routes to our Roots: a success for Chinese Canadian Historical Society

  1. Anonymous

    Hi Todd
    I discovered your blog today. In your account of lunch after the workshop, I guess I got lumped in with the Der clan (my wife Lily is a Der). Just for the record, I am with the Soon clan, though my Dad changed Soon to Soone. Anyway, keep up the good work.
    Greg Soone

  2. Anonymous

    Hi Greg.
    Sorry I lumped you in with the Der clan. The entire weekend was a bit overwhelming for me, and I haven't been able to follow up on all my notes and details – But such is life. Either we try to do too much or too little, and I would rather attempt too much than never enough.
    Please contact me at my e-mail address
    or phone me at 604-987-7124
    Cheers, Todd


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