After a lunchtime conversation today, I realized a certain dilemma in my history. For anyone of European descent, a search for their family origins would be relatively simple, based on records and surnames. MyHeritage.com would never be useful to me, as someone of Vietnamese descent.
PBS is running a “Faces of America” special right now, featuring Colbert, Kristi Yamaguchi, Meryl Streep and other famous figures and showing how their family lines appeared in America. It’s really amazing how they are able to trace the paths of the immigrants.
Unfortunately, Vietnam’s wartorn past ruined a lot of the official records. Even with other countries in southeast Asia undergoing revolutions and warfare, the more traditionally imperial countries seemed to have successfully instilled the value of safeguarded records and blood history in individual families. Many Chinese and Japanese households retain some sort of history book depicting the family tree.
It is perhaps a result of both my maternal and paternal line being rooted in an agrarian society, which never really emphasized documentation and such trivial matters. My family has a history of displacement. My grandfathers were from southern China and from very large families. With all these factors contributing to the confusion, I have little hope of finding anything beyond my grandfather’s generation. It fills me with a mild regret.
That is why I am driven to document what I can now. I’ve lived so many years in awe of my parents and the hardships they encountered during their immigration. I want to start an official record for future generations in my line. I want them to wonder and appreciate who they are, as a result of the phenomenal effects of history, determination and fortune.