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Why should we care about our heritage?

My dad recently shared this amazing story of how he recently discovered an amazing family connection as a result of our little family pet project of chronicling our family history.

gomorun2An extract from the family genealogy book being compiled by my recently discovered long-lost grand uncle

On the way to work this morning, I was recounting the story to hubby. I remarked how amazing and mind blowing it was to discover this whole long chain of connections and historical roots.

After listening to me go on and on about it for a while, when I paused for a second to catch my breath, hubby commented, “You know, somehow I don’t think my own father’s side of the family would want to share their family history… in fact I think it might even make them a bit sad to talk about it.

Then hubs went on to say, “Come to think of it, I myself don’t really see what the big deal is… I mean, why is it so important to know all this family history? It’s just information; I can’t do anything with it.

This was the brief conversation that followed that opening remark…

Me: Well, I think it’s important to know our heritage… it’s something I’d like to pass on to our children as well. I think it’s important for them to know where they came from.

Hubs: But what can they DO with the information?

Me: Well, Imagine we traced your family history and discovered that you are connected to a famous emperor in China! Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Hubs: But I don’t get anything out of that knowledge. So what if I told people around me, “Hey, I’m related to such and such emperor!”… It doesn’t make anything around me any different.

Me: I’m not saying that you need to tell other people. It’s just a knowledge you treasure up for yourself. Just knowing who you are inside… where you came from.

Hubs: But I’m very secure in myself already. I don’t need to know who my ancestors are to feel good.

Me: Well I think knowing our history is very important. Our past makes us who we are today. Otherwise we will just be people without a past… just empty and cut-off without being able to see how we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

Hubs: Okay, okay… I know you think you are trying to explain something very deep and profound to me. But honestly, I simply don’t feel the same way as you do.

Me: Ya, I can see that. Look, I tell you what, I’ll have a think about it and come back and tell you my answer.

Hubs: Okay. I’m not guaranteeing that I will agree with you. But you can go and think about it and come back and tell me what you thought about.

So I’m thinking about it.

In the meantime, let me share a few quotes I came across about knowing one’s heritage…

No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place.”
– Maya Angelou

"Do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and your children's children."
– Deuteronomy 4:9

To forget one's ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.
– Chinese Proverb


imageRead more on our little family pet project
to compile our Stories of Long Ago


UPDATE: Further thoughts on why we should care about our heritage.


  1. was speaking to a friend about compiling all these essays into a book. he's a photographer. so could explore taking photos of remains and family members etc. it could be a family project.

    1. That would be pretty awesome. Something really solid to be able to have as a real family keepsake for all of us.

  2. i agree with you Serene.. the stories from you, your mum and suanie have had quite an impact on me. it's hard to put a finger on what it is exactly, but it makes me feel more grounded and reassured somehow. it's been great... please keep them coming!!

    1. Thanks wanwan... the stories are really ones I've heard from my mum and dad. It's been really mind+heart opening to hear all this stories coming out. I'm learning all this stuff as well along with you.

  3. Thanks, MH for asking the question. I'm thinking with you, Serene. =) I agree with everyone else... I looooove these posts about your family history. I was one of those weird students who loved Sejarah in high school (and later in college,... and then in graduate studies) and it has been good for me to think of why I love it so much. haha =)

    1. Wow! You are certainly one of those fortunate ones that blossomed through the terrible cracks of Malaysian education. My mum used to tell how sejarah was always one of her favourite subjects in school. But I never understood it all through sec school. Our history teacher was one of those that just came in, opened the textbook and made us read a paragraph in turn until the end of the period. It was only after leaving school that I discovered the wonder and richness of learning history through non-textbooks.

  4. Dear Irene, if I am not mistaken, you have Dusun roots too. Furthermore, it will be interesting to explore your Indo Chinese roots too.


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