Sunday, September 14, 2008

Roads to Chew Joo Chiat

Chew Joo Chiat

The audience

I traced my family history from the following sources:

1. Family members

My grandmother

My grandma brought me up at Joo Chiat family house. Living togther and being close to her,  I had the opportunity to hear from her about her father-in-law, Chew Joo Chiat. She said Chew came to Singapore at age 20 years. He had a wife and four children (2 male and 2 female) in China. She said that after 30 years in Singapore he sent for his 2 sons and their families to join him in Singapore. By then his eldest son (my grand-father) was married and had a daughter and a son. She only knew of Chew's properties in Joo Chiat, Kg Eunos, a rubber estate in Changi and a bank at Batu Pahat. She believed he had other businesses. In those days, kids were supposed to listen and not asked questions. Even when I was an adult, it did not occur to me find out more about my great grand-father. A few years ago I got interested in the story of my great grand-father and did some research.

2. Family documents

Batu Pahat Bank Pte Ltd noticeof meeting

I found 2 personal documents of Chew Joo Chiat. One was his personal cheque book and the other Batu Pahat Bank Pte Ltd notice of meeting to the shareholders dated 27 March 1925. The documents showed that he was one of the banks' Board of Directors. Therefore, he was a banker and a major shareholder of the bank. His cheque book was with a French bank.

3. Chew Joo Chiat's grave

From the grave of the deceased, his tombstone would show the names of his children and grand-children as in the case of Chew Joo Chiat. The tombstone also indicated the date of death as well as the place his home place in China.

4. Books, Publications and Webpages

A book 'Joo Chiat a living legacy' was published by the Joo Chiat Citizen Consultative Committee in association with the National Archives of Singapore. It is about Joo Chiat area in the early 19th century to the present time. There is also a section onl the story of Chew Joo Chiat.

5 Lee Kong Chiang Referene Library

My final  research was at Lee Kong Chiang Reference Library. There from the micro films I found that in 1898/9 Chew Joo Chiat built 3 shophouses and 3 attap houses at Geylang Road 3 1/2 ms. They were his earliest properties on record. He achieved this after 21 years in Singapore. There is no record of what business he was doing then. But in 1908, he was a ship chandler at No 5 Philip Street as well as a timber trader at Beach Road. There is also no record when he first owned property in Joo Chiat. But, by 1913 he already owned a large portion of land in Joo Chiat area. In 1916 he had 10 acres of land in Thomson Road and a shophouse at No 19 Weld Road.

You can read Chew Joo Chiat's story at:

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

My First Experience

In May 2008, I was invited by the National Library Board to give a talk on 'how I traced my family history'. It was organised to coincide with the launch of the National Library's Singapore Information Research (SIR)- Local History Service. It was scheduled to be held on 30th August 2008 at the National Library. I accepted the invitation without much thought. Then, I realised that it was a mistake. First, I never give a public talk before and therefore, had no experience. Second, I had not enough materials to go on. Third, I need slides to make my presentations. My family members got excited. They were afraid that I'd stammer and tongue tied. I was very calm and started preparing my talk from the middle of July 2008.

For additional materials for the talk, I went to the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library for my research. It has a collection of Singapore newspapers dating from early 1800s and available on microfilm. I spent many days collecting facts and informations about my great-grandfather, Chew Joo Chiat. With the data collected I was able to put my presentation with 22 slides.

In early August 2008, I got a second invitation from the National Library. It was a life talk show with the Media Corp DJ on radio 93.8 FM. The topic was 'Joo Chiat' and was to go 'life' on the morning of 28th August 2008. I gave an affirmative answer and went on the air at the scheduled date and time. Many friends and relatives heard my conversation with the Media Corp DJ over radio 93.8 FM. They congratulated me for talking so clearly and calmly. The success over the radio morning talk show was an encouragement. I also treat it as a trial run for my talk at the National Library two days later.