Fri, Nov 16, 2007 - Page 2 News List

FEATURE: Family tree project gives students ties to their roots

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chingshin Elementary School student Jasmine Hsu shows a photo collage she made of her family tree in Taipei on Sunday.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Jasmine Hsu (許絜忞), a second grader at Chingshin Elementary School in Taipei, did not realize how ethnically diverse her family was until she started doing research on her ancestors as part of a family tree project earlier this year.

After asking her grandfather and other relatives about her family history, Hsu found that her great grandfather came from Spain, her grandfather on her father's side was from the Philippines, while her grandfather on her mother's side was a descendant of the Uyghur.

"It feels like my great grandparents and grandparents were destined to marry each other and form our family because thousands of kilometers separated them, but they still found each other," Hsu said during an exhibition at the Taipei Cultural Center on Sunday.

The discovery of her roots inspired Hsu to use maps to represent the ethnic diversity of her family members and the detailed illustration of her family tree won her an award in the "Seeking Roots Creative Family Trees" competition held by the Taipei City Archives.

Wu Chao-ming (吳昭明), a section chief at the Taipei City Archives, said the competition aimed to encourage students to join their parents in learning the history of their own family and making a family tree in a creative way.

"Learning the heritage and stories of their ancestors will help students bond with their family members. Hopefully, making a family tree together will bring families closer and make them appreciate each other more," Wu said.

Making the family tree not only gave Hsu an opportunity to learn about her family history, but her mother, Sun Li (孫理), also gained a better understanding of her own roots as she helped Hsu with the research.

"When I asked my father about his father and other ancestors, he scolded me for not having been curious about our family history earlier. Then he couldn't stop sharing stories with me," Sun said.

James Brady, a fifth grader at Taipei Municipal Zhongshan Elementary School, was also inspired by the competition to dig deeper into his family tree with his parents.

While doing research, James learned about the differences between his father and mother's families and came upon some interesting anecdotes about his ancestors, such as the fact that his father's uncle was the shortest soldier to have fought in World War I.

Brady's father's family was originally from Ireland and his grandfather was a college professor, while Brady's mother came from a traditional farmer's family in Taiwan.

"It's a very diverse family tree ... We hope he will pick up the good things from the two families," his father, Peter Brady, said.

Making a family tree even gave Lin Yi-chen (林奕忱), another second grader at Chingshin School, a chance to see what her grandparents looked like, as they passed away before she was born.

Lin said she was happy to see her grandparents in the picture her parents found so she could put it in the family tree, adding that she would create a more vivid family tree next year by putting pictures of her family members on bamboo to illustrate her family's background as bamboo farmers in Nantou County.

Ninety-four family trees created by elementary school students will be on exhibition at the Taipei Cultural Center until Nov. 29.

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