My Family Tree explained in detail

“Where do you come from?”

I always hate when people ask me this question. It’s because the answer varies, depends on who is asking.

If the questioner is a westerner, I’d answer that I’m American.

If the questioner is an Indonesian, I’d answer that I’m of a very mixed ancestry (while hoping that I won’t have to elaborate on what ethnicities I belong to, with a reason I’m going to expand further below). If I had to answer in detail, I’m afraid I have to enumerate half the member countries of United Nations!!

If the questioner is a non-Indonesian Asian, I’d answer that I’m Indonesian.

The varied answers above do not imply that I’m lying to any single one of them. Rather, all the answers I’ve given are true to their fullest extent.

By citizenship or by birth, I am an American.

By ancestry, I am 80% Asian, 10% Middle Eastern and 10% European.

You may want to judge my ancestry by my face alone, but perhaps you would give a second thought. Due to my anonymous nature in not revealing my true identity in this blog, I will not display my own picture here. Rather, I’ll quote what people had said about me.

If an Indonesian sees me, he/she would think that I’m half European-half Indonesian, with a kind of “Indonesian but foreign” look on my face.

If a westerner (Caucasian) sees me, he/she would think that I’m a pure Indonesian, without the slightest tinge of being European.

If an Asian non-Indonesian sees me, he/she would think that I’m Malay (some even called me Arab!)

Bewildered? You may say so, but Tiger Woods is another example of a person of very mixed ancestry (while his dad is an African American, his mom is Chinese-Thai!).

Let’s find out the truth (all ancestries I belong to are emboldened in red fonts).

My maternal family is a Muslim one, with a Gayo-Acehnese ancestry on my late grandfather’s side, and Sundanese on my late grandmother’s side. And my grandmother has a trace of Chinese too (though she had never admitted it due to the dogmatism of being “Chinese” brings in Sundanese community). My mother once told me that my grandmother is in the 6th line of descendant from Prince Diponegoro (an Indonesian national hero), though the truth is yet to be verified.

My maternal grandmother had never celebrated Chinese New Year (esp. since it was banned during the Suharto era), and coupled with my face (which does not show in the least any trace of Chinese complexion), one would be excused for not believing that I’m 10% Chinese. My mother doesn’t look Chinese, since she resembles more of my Acehnese grandfather, but you would be forced to believe my Chinese ancestry anyway after you’ve seen my mother’s eldest brother, who does look very Chinese!

My paternal family is a Catholic one, with a Sangihe-Arabic ancestry on my late grandfather’s side and a very mixed Portuguese + Padang + Filipino ancestry on my estranged grandmother’s side. With an Arabic blood, one may wonder why my grandfather was a Catholic. Well, my great grandfather was a Muslim with a very Arabic name indeed, and I presume he converted during his days in Indonesia. My grandmother’s relationship with most of her family members is an estranged one, which is a confidential family matter that is not supposed to be written here. Hence, I do not know what she looks like, nor do I know how “Portuguese” she is, but from family photos, I could see that she looks much more Indonesian than European.

For those who do not know, Padang is an ethnic group that originates from Western Sumatra, while Gayo-Acehnese is a specific ethnic group of Aceh in the northernmost of Sumatra Island. Sangihe is an ethnic group from Northern Sulawesi (the antiques liked to call it CELEBES), and Sundanese is from Western Java.

It kind of honours me (sorry for a bit of boasting here), that I have royal blood running through my veins. My maternal grandfather was the first son of the direct descendant of Gayo king (a kingdom that ceased to exist since Indonesia’s independence) and my maternal grandmother was a grandchild of the Sangihe royalty (another kingdom that no longer exists today). The succession line still continues unbroken today, though the title of “Gayo king” would not be held by me even if it still exists, since the succession goes to my mother’s eldest brother’s son.

I know that tracing back family genealogy is not a common practice among Asians, since it is more of a European custom, but it’s a custom that I like to do anyway (and I seek to inherit to the next generation in my family). There are 131 individuals (both living and deceased) whom I have named in my Family Tree software, and I’m looking forward to linking more of the Portuguese, Chinese, and Filipino names… Who knows, one day I may meet my distant kins there!

PS: By the way, I’m more than proud to declare that I am “mostly Indonesian”, since Indonesia is the country that I love most. (^_^)

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