Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Family History – Ancestors – Family Trees – sometimes it is better not to have one!

Whether we like it or not many family trees are male centric, so who our father is our grandfather is or our great grandfather, sounds more important to the inquisitive than the female of each generation! Rightly or wrongly.

Genealogists, love family trees and so it is with ours, on one line in particular that Michael Roberts had commissioned one for the descendants of Charles Henry de Soysa, of which there are over 3,000. The compiler took on the task innocently out of interest, not realizing how fraught it was in getting the required information from each branch of the family.

I think CH de Soysa had 7 sons and 7 daughters and so it was considered easier to divide the responsibility to 14 issue, and get people within each to complete it so then it could be combined. Some information is public, others are private, and some information is so private people do not want to divulge or be made public as they may not want other family members to know.

This can include multiple divorces, unmarried spouses who then beget technically illegitimate children, and more over adopted children and own children sometimes grace the same family, some knowing they are adopted and others not. Some are ashamed, others don’t want people to know their previous liaisons! Others still if divorced with no issue, do not want any reference to a wife in the first place, and would rather be shown as single, or only the wife they would want to recognize.

These are all reasons why the Tree will not be complete, and if others fill it in without the consent of each individual to be named in the Tree, makes it impossible to compile in a rational way, especially as a sociological study.

Don’t forget with the de Soysas I know many who have married within the family, some marrying between different generations as is quite normal as the ages of the 150+ grandchildren of CHdeS would have been at least 50 years apart! I would guess if not 40 for sure.

This is simply an irreconcilable dilemma, and all compilers usually are family members WHO SHOULD NOT be singled out for blame in doing something they honestly believe is for people’s overall benefit in the long run, before it is impossible to compile as soon many in the know, the last of the great grandchildren of CHdeS are no more as now I don’t believe any grandchildren are alive anymore. 

So let us cool down chill out and let the games begin, and let the shit merely fall and lie where it lies, without getting too hot under the collar!

For the record in my personal circumstances, just for the interested parties in such matters, as I am writing this in Genealogical terms, my Four Great Grandfathers are as follows:

Father’s, father’s father!  William Jayatilleke Hulugalle, who lived in Lihinigiriya Wallauwwa near Pothuhera in the Kurunegala district was descended from the Hulugalle’s of Hulugalle near Nickeweratiya and descended from Ratemahattaya’s responsible for administering the Wanni region (edge of the Kandyan Kingdom) The WASAGAMA was Semasinghe Navaratne Wanninayake, and who were supposedly from the Andhra Pradesh in India, having come to the island in the sixteenth century at the same time as the original Portuguese Settlements. The Wallauwwa or ruins are no more, but his grave is still in Lihinigiriya along with his wife Rekawa Kumarihamy.

Father’s mother’s father! Thomas Henry Arthur de Soysa of Regina Walauwwa, which is known now as College House on Thurston Road, is the only remaining family mansion I can see today. That thanks to the University College acquiring it at some point and left it and maintained it in the state almost unchanged to date, as part of the Senate House of the University of Colombo, today. He was one of CHdeS son’s was the first local to start a Bank, but ended up bankrupt. He is buried with his wife, who died at 29, Regina Perera Abeywardene of Closenberg, Galle, at Kanatte in Borella.

Mother’s Father’s father! Mahamarakkala Kurukulasuriya Patebendige Perera of Moratuwa, who ironically is buried three graves from CHdeS in Moratuwa, was a teacher, and father of 11 children.  He however claims descent from the Kuru Caste of India, who fought the Pandyans and were warriors of India, and came in the boat with King Vijaya and his 700 merry men when he was banished by his father in Bengal. They as became sea fairers and that is how the Mahamarakkala name comes and may have been fishermen since that time, converting perhaps to Catholicism when the Portuguese came in the 16th century and then to Anglicanism from the British three centuries later. He is a Calisterite who is descended from the famous Calistoris Fernando.

Mother’s mother’s father! Edmund Clarke de Fonseka, was a wealthy plumbago (graphite merchant) who had his own graphite mines and from the money he earned had thousands of acres of Coconut mainly in the Kurunegala District. My mother was born at home, his home called Arcadia, in 1930, which is now where over 100 homes have been built in Rosmead Place, such was the extent of land he had there. His wife was a friend of Queen Mary, the mother of George the VI, and he donated/built a whole wing at the Star & Garter Home for the Soldiers Sailors and Airmen in Richmond upon Thames in the UK. He is buried with his wife at a family burial plot at Borella Kanatte, but died a bankrupt having lost all his wealth in the Great Depression when the Graphite prices collapsed. So my Grandmother his only daughter, who was promised the biggest dowry of the century at that time, marrying my Grandfather in 1928, gave it all to pay the debts of her father, leaving her destitute as a result.

The point I would like to make is despite all this very illustrious past, my father and my mother inherited nothing. No land no money, and nothing from their respective parents, despite rumors to the contrary. So we don’t owe any of these ancestors anything, except the genes we have inherited for what they are worth!

It is values that their parents who inherited nothing, my father side especially because whatever was due to my Grandfather on my father’s side was denied as he married outside the cast, a Kandyan Govigama from a proud Kandyan Heritage marrying a Karawa Girl, and the aforesaid Karawa Girl was just a teacher at the deaf and blind school in Ratmalana, they had to bring up their 7 children the hard way. As mentioned again my mother’s side, my Grandfather, a London Educated Civil Servant with no wealth suddenly found the dowry he was promised disappear like a mirage and to bring up their 6 children from his income as an honest and diligent Government Servant all his life.  

Charity then was taught as a right of the better off to take care of the less well off, by grandparents who had to build their own lives, with no assistance from theirs, who taught the importance of family unity and togetherness. From this background beget my parents who had the same values, who from the time I can remember have done more than their fair share to help those less well-off to get a leg up in life, with numerous testimony of their generosity and assistance I am learning of even today.  

It is this feeling of empathy with our fellow man, fellow citizen and fellow country-men that drives me to help, those I believe are more deserving of my help, and it is this that has resulted in my disposing of more than half my income in the past three months, and perhaps before also to such people who I believe that rupee could be better spent by!

It is not as if I have any more than a few thousand in my current account and nothing on deposit, but due to the fact that I am at my peak in active life, I feel I have nothing to fear, as somehow the pleasure of giving is something greater than the pleasure of keeping or spending, and one day my personal needs may be somehow managed when that need and time arises, God Willing of course.

It is this sociological essay on life that I would like to impart to the reader of a life that has no regrets, and a true privilege to have had an illustrious ancestry of no VALUE! But parents of immeasurable example, to follow in their footsteps.


Anonymous said...

Life is very irrational, as those with families to be proud of don't care about their past, while those who don't have anything to talk about, want to create a non-existent one to make them sound like somebodies, for example Mahinda Rajapakse. Actually they are the poor relations of the George Rajapakse side of the family, but no one would know that now.

His children don't make any reference to their British ancestry and live a make believe Sinhala Buddhist line, where they are neither Sinhala of Buddhist, and hence are fooling the masses again in their rush to gain legitimacy from illegitimacy of claims.

Anonymous said...

Proof, though self evident of the power of responsible parenting that determines the path a person takes throughout their lives. It is important then to nurture parents first in how they impart values to their offspring.

Values are finally more important than inheritance in ensuring a life well lived, which is what life should all be about.

The brats of new rich parents are proof if ever such is needed of wasted lives, when handed a silver spoon to begin life with.

What better proof if needed on the need for inheritance taxation of wealth in Sri Lanka. Other wise untaxed acquisition of wealth adds to disproportionate gap between rich and poor, but how this wealth is transferred, by better Education, Healthcare and Public Transport is even more important, as the Government just does not do a good job in spending people's money wisely.

That is the dilemma of the present day

Anonymous said...

to say you received nothing of value from your illustrious ancestors is a great slight to them, which unfortunately is the trend of the ungrateful youth of modern day. they gave your life, dear man, through the lives of your parents and great grandparents, all the way to your African ancestors! This is something. In addition, the social standing that people of your "breeding" possessed gave you a leg up in life, despite the fact that material riches were not at your disposal. Did you go to Ananda College or another institution? Have you heard about the "old boys clubs" of elite schools throughout the world that quietly call the shots around the world? Also, from an evolutionary perspective your illustrious ancestors would have had prime choice in mates, and could select the "best of class" genetics that serve you well today (looks, intelligence, stamina). So in conclusion, don't downplay the contributions your ancestors made to your current state of affairs so easily!