Sailing out of history
New book traces routes of Chinese ancestors
Atteck recently co-wrote a book on Chinese immigration to Trinidad. Stress of Weather documents the sailing of the ships Maggie Miller and Wanata from Hong Kong and Mauritius respectively, and the fates of the 467 Chinese men, women and children who took passage on those voyages.
The 289-page book can effectively be considered two-pronged, as it is both an anecdotal family history and a reproduction of the documents related to the emigration.
"You've got to remember that at one time in the whole world, the Chinese people were excluded by the US, by Canada," he said in an interview last week at the Guardian's office in Port-of-Spain. To illustrate his point, he used the example of the Chinese immigrants who helped build the railroads in California, USA. "The local people shunned them because they thought they were strange people."
It was much the same here, he observed, and so, to become accepted, some Chinese immigrants married into African, European and Indian-descended families. Those who remained of pure Chinese extraction formed themselves into close-knit economic and social groups. "They stick together and they helped each other. They had to."
"Having found the original documents pertaining to the voyage and all the events pertaining to the voyage for my grandfather, we were able to go to the archives and find documents for all 467 people that came on the boat," Atteck said on the eve of the local launch of his book at the Chinese Association in St Ann's.
"We said we can't let the opportunity go by without giving people a chance to trace their heritage. There must be thousands and thousands of descendants who don't know who they are because they lost their true name."
Stress of Weather is already available in bookstores. Anyone interested in finding their Chinese roots, or those who want to use the Attecks' process to find other roots, are welcome to visit the book's website at www.niagara.com/atteck/ or e-mail Philip Atteck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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