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Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Joy of Finding Your Roots

CEBU, Philippines - Martin “Sonny” L. Tinio Jr., author of the book Philippine Ancestral Houses, is one of those who are hooked on genealogy. He started tracing the Tinio family tree in 1972. “It was Martial Law and I got bored so I did the family tree,” he said.

But the work was not easy, he said, since he had to go through old records from churches and other government institutions to find information about his ancestors. “The records were so dusty. I think nobody ever opened those books. I was sneezing and even had hay fever. Mainit pa kasi walang aircon,” he recalled. Sonny decided to stop going through old records and do the family tree by interviewing family members. But this method was not also easy breezy! He had to go to the province and interview a long line of people, asking them who their relatives are! Sonny later found out that oral tradition is not reliable. “It was all jumbled up! I realized this when I did the biography of my grandfather, Gen. Manuel Tinio,” he said.

Deciding that church and government records were the most reliable, Sonny and his family hired a historian to research about their family tree. He narrated that the woman they hired had to go to different areas in Nueva Ecija and go through church records in every place. “There was no Family History Center then so the best way to get reliable information is to really go through church records,” he added.

To date, Sonny has 33,000 names in the Tinio family tree and the number is increasing thanks to the LDS Family History Center, which he visited everyday for three years! “I add a hundred names to the list everyday, thanks to the Family History Center, where it is so convenient and so clean. The staff are very accommodating pa,” Sonny said.

Maricel Claudia Alabastro of the Mayo Clan of Lipa, Batangas, is also one of the many who found her ancestors through the Family History Center. “It was February 2006 and Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, a relative, was installed as Cardinal. We have scheduled a reunion in April and we wanted it to be really grand since it was the biggest reunion of the Mayo Clan. So I decided to research on our ancestors. The Mayo Clan already had a family tree but it was not extensive. So I came to the Family History Center to research. I started with the name of the Cardinal,” Maricel said.

Since the LDS has microfilms of government and church records from all over the country, as well as records from other countries, Maricel came to know that her ancestor was a British soldier, Antony Mayo, from the aristocracy of Great Britain and Ireland, who arrived in Lipa, Batangas together with the British forces during the British Expedition to Manila in 1762-1764. Maricel found that Antony Mayo chose to stay in Lipa, fell in love with Dona Feliciana Casilag and had a child, Don Sebastian Mayo, who became the Gobernadorcillo of Lipa in 1797.

Aside from finding out that she had British descent, Maricel also found out that her ancestors were responsible for the coffee boom in Lipa, Batangas.

But the search for her family was not easy, despite the convenience offered by the Family History Center. “You also have to have common sense. You really have to use your brain and know a little history because there were times when our ancestors had to change their family names. I had to read all the microfilms from Lipa,” she said.

Why look for your ancestors? Family pride is one of the reasons why one traces his roots, aside from setting family records straight. But Sonny said that tracing your roots can also be informative in so many ways. “Family traits, vices and mannerisms stay in the family so you will know what to expect,” he said.

Sister Caroline Fitzgerald, one of the persons in charge of the Family History Center in Manila, said that it is really a golden age for genealogy, “The Filipinos are starting to remember their families.” So far, there are 80,000 microfilms from the Philippines that contain church and government records. There is still a lot to do, she said, when it comes to preserving the records of the world but the volunteers of the LDS are patiently microfilming these records so that these will be shared to all.

One of the more recent records that the LDS in the Philippines has microfilmed were the records at the Manila City Hall, said Ms. Pilobello. “Before World War II, all vital records – birth, death, marriage – were transmitted to Manila. The LDS was able to microfilm the records. We were in the process of digitizing the records when Ondoy hit. It flooded the Manila City Hall and destroyed many of the original records. Good thing na naka microfilm na sila! After Ondoy, marami nang lumapit sa amin, asking us to help them put records on microfilm. But still there are also people, organizations, and even countries that do not allow the LDS to microfilm. But the Church hopes that we will be able to microfilm all records in the world. We are not doing this for the LDS, we are doing this for us all,” she concluded.


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About Me

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I am the son of Silvano Fiel, who is the son of Feliciano Fiel, who is the son of Julian Fiel, who is the son of Elias Fiel from Sibonga, Cebu. Elias Fiel has only one brother and his name is Isaac Fiel. My name is taken from my grandparents Feliciano and Marcelina. I am a religious missionary SVD.