Family Tree

by Robert Lee

Long Tao China

Long Tao, GuangZhou, China

Legend has it that our branch of the Lee Family first founded our village Long Tao (Dragon’s Head) in Southern China (Hoi Ping district of GuangZhou Province) some time in the 10th century (the 900’s), when an Emperor granted this territory to General Lee as a token of appreciation for his years of loyal service. The General sent two of his sons to claim and start the village. Today, it’s still a small village in the middle of the countryside that subsists on farming.There are small and large houses all packed together closely for protection. Our Grandfather’s house was large by local standards, with four floors for lots of family. He had gone to Canada in 1906 and – with several partners – accumulated a decent nest egg which he took back to China to live the “rich” life. Sadly, when the Communists took over, all real property became property of the state and our family was literally put out on the street. So Grandfather died poor.

Even today, the children in the village have to travel down a dirt road to the nearby town (10+ miles away) for school and they only recently added a well for their water supply. When I visited Long Tao in 1999, there were probably no more than a couple hundred villagers living there, many of whom were likely relatives of ours. I went there as a side trip with my wife at the time, along with my Uncle Zhou and my youngest brother, Herb. It completely surprised me to be able to both understand and speak the local dialect fluently, after years of never having encountered any other Chinese who were from our district.

By the time Dad passed away in 1990, he had somehow managed to research our family tree back to 900 A.D. The children of our generation represent the 28th generation in this incredible archive. Amazingly, I’ve been told that he was only missing 3 pieces so we’re going to have to try filling them in. After our Thanksgiving fire in 2002, I was elated to find this book still intact in a drawer of a dresser in our master bedroom that was right above the most intense part of the fire! Having almost lost so many of our priceless treasures, I promised myself (and the rest of the family) that I’d get copies of this family tree to everyone. So I managed to scan this small booklet and converted it into an Adobe Acrobat PDF document.

I’ve uploaded the file to Scribd to make it easier to view, print and download. You can enlarge it to Full Screen mode by clicking the Full Screen icon in the lower right corner of the viewing screen (just hit the ESC key to exit Full Screen mode).

When you consider the remarkable task that our Father undertook to gather this information, it makes this labor of love all the more amazing: There were virtually no written records during the span of centuries that this family tree covers. And worse still, most of the few records that might have existed were likely destroyed during the Great Revolution. All of the information was gathered in a time when there was no Internet, no e-mail, no cell phones (let alone any telephone access in China until recently) or video conferencing. This information took Dad most of his life to gather through word-of-mouth and snail mail, one little piece at a time as handed down from one generation to another. We’re hoping that we can find someone with academic Chinese language and genealogy skills who might consider volunteering some time to translate and interpret some of this remarkable project for us. We would be most grateful to have this translated so we can share this piece of history with everyone.

If anyone would be interested in helping out with this project, please feel free to contact us with an e-mail by clicking HERE.

Lee Family Slideshow