‘The Cho Family Rediscovered’ by Norman Cho

“I never had been fortunate to meet my paternal grandfather, Cho Kim Leong as he died just after the Japanese Occupation of Singapore in 1945.

Almost a good three decades after I was born. The only image that I had of him was of his wedding portrait, taken in 1934 when he was 32 years old. It was his second marriage but my grandmother’s first. His first wife had died a year before.

While searching for my roots, I discovered that his father, Cho Boon Poo (Cho Poo), a Malaccan Peranakan, was a wealthy plantation owner with 5,000 acres or more land across Seremban, Malacca and Johore. Grandfather managed his father’s rubber estate in Johore.

It was indeed a blessing when a relative whom I had never known emailed to me a family portrait of my great grandfather, Cho Poo, to me in March 2013. In it were the images of my great grandparents whom I saw for the very first time and my grandfather in the prime of his youth at 20 (standing in western suit, second from right) while his first wife at 16 (standing second from left). This portrait was taken in 1922 at their family home in 84 Heeren Street, Malacca. So many years had passed that if it was not for my auntie, Rose Cho, who was the eldest daughter, we would not have been able to identify the people in the portrait.

Front row: Cho Kim Choon (1st son), unidentified girl, Kong Moey Yean (1st Mrs Cho Poo, my great grandmother), Cho Jolly (son of Kim Choon), Cho Poo (great grandfather), 2nd Mrs Cho Poo (there was a 3rd wife, not featured), Cho Kim Hock (5th son), unidentified man. Back row: Mrs Cho Kim Choon & baby Mary Cho, Mrs Cho Kim Leong, Mrs Cho Keow Teng and baby, Cho Keow Teng (2nd son), Cho Kim Leong, 3rd son, my grandfather), Cho Kim Tian (4th son).

Front row: Cho Kim Choon (1st son), unidentified girl, Kong Moey Yean (1st Mrs Cho Poo, my great grandmother), Cho Jolly (son of Kim Choon), Cho Poo (great grandfather), 2nd Mrs Cho Poo (there was a 3rd wife, not featured), Cho Kim Hock (5th son), unidentified man.
Back row: Mrs Cho Kim Choon & baby Mary Cho, Mrs Cho Kim Leong, Mrs Cho Keow Teng and baby, Cho Keow Teng (2nd son), Cho Kim Leong, 3rd son, my grandfather), Cho Kim Tian (4th son).

Authors Note: To read more about Norman’s search for his  family tree which began with the discovery of his late paternal grandfather’s (Cho Kim Leong) grave at Bukit Brown Cemetery in Nov 2011, do visit the Bukit Brown Heritage page. Many prominent members of the Peranakan society who were pivotal in the formation of Singapore’s infrastructure and other influential peoplewere buried in Bukit Brown Cemetery. It is now being exhumed  as the authorities have decided to build an underground train route that cannot be built without the removal of Bukit Brown. This has caused an uproar amongst many Singaporeans. To read more about this controversy, click here. 

The Peranakan Association of Singapore organises frequent guided tours, entitled ‘The Peranakan Trail’, a walking tour that visits the various tombs of prominent Peranakans. 

Rojak Librarian is a rich treasure trove of information about Bukit Brown. The author painstakingly documents the family stories and people buried at Bukit Brown. Each entry is meticulously researched and referenced. I highly recommend this rich repository to anyone interested in heritage and ancestry.

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