My mixed-race family

Embarking on a journey to discover my own ethnically diverse background.

Mixed-race people, like me, are now the largest and fastest growing ethnic minority in the UK. My own immediate family is a perfect example of the growing trend. My Mother is Chinese, born in Malaysia, and my Father was a mix between Irish and Roma travellers.

My parents and I

My Mother and Father on their wedding day

My parents didn’t go through the same challenges in marrying into a different ethnicity as many others did, including the BBC’s George Alagiah for example. In fact, for my Mother growing up as the only Chinese girl in her class, shortly after coming over from Malaysia, she luckily didn’t experience any racial discrimination. “I never thought why is he [my step-Father] white and why am I Chinese? We didn’t even think about race then,” she said.

This is quite a world apart from the England I grew up in – Folkestone, Kent in the 1990s. I had never thought of myself differently until I became of a conscious age, when people started pulling the corner of their eyes back in an attempt to imitate Chinese eyes. I got called ‘chinky’ and my Mother, Grandmother and I have all been told to ‘go back to your own country.’ Have times gotten worse?

After some time trying to reason that it is easier to live just saying I’m British, I was reminded by a lovely lady from a clinic in Folkestone today, that I should be proud of who I am. Because if I ignore it, the heritage of my parents and their parents will be lost forever.

Starting the search…

For me, the journey starts when my parents met in Pullman wine bar in Folkestone, Kent in 1987. My Mum must have been one of the few ethnic minorities that were in Folkestone at that time. Nowadays, it is far more diverse.

My parents and I in the 1990s

Admittedly, I don’t know as much about either of my ethnic backgrounds as I would like to know. All I have to remind me of it are the stories my Father told me of his Roma mother and Irish traveler Father, a few photos of my Mother’s childhood days in Malaysia, and my own face when I look in the mirror every morning, reminding me that I am different.

A huge, decrepit old Bible from the 1800s has my Mother’s step-Father’s family history written neatly in the front page. But there is nothing of this sort for my Mother or Father’s families. So it’s up to me to put the puzzle together.

My Grandmother and John’s families come together

The Malaysian-Chinese side

Though you wouldn’t be able to tell from her southern British accent, my Mother was born in Melaka in Malaysia. My Grandmother didn’t want my Mother or Aunt to know their Father after they divorced. His identity, along with my Mother’s long-lost brother, remain a mystery to us all. The remnants of an old photo of my Mother’s real Father, with his head cut off, lay in the cupboard.

My Grandmother later married an English man called John Hunter. He was an electrician and brought my Grandmother, mother and Aunt to England in the 1960s. Since a young age my Mother and Aunt then began to only speak English. This explains why none of us can speak Chinese very well. From what she and my Mother say, they were very happy with him. He was a real English gentleman – tall, well-dressed, and with pipe in hand.

My Grandmother and her English husband John.

Following clues

After my Grandmother passed away, we found a pile of photographs of our Malaysian and Singaporean family members. Most of them have also passed by now too. But one photo baffled me most. A family is posing for a typical family portrait shot. Their ethnic background is hard to work out. The Father, maybe Malay, is adorned fully in Islamic dress, even topped with a fez-like hat. His wife seems Chinese, and their children seem of mixed ethnicity. But who they are is a mystery to me. Maybe my family has been practicing mixed ethnic relations for longer than I had thought.

A photo found in my Grandmother’s cupboard

We also found an old-fashioned, yellowing photo of my Mother’s anonymous brother, smiling at the camera with a sweet innocence. Hand-written on the back reads “Your son, Ah Hong…Birthday: 9th September 1959.” But everything else about this man is a blur to her. The stamp from the printing company tells us it was printed in Malaysia.

Mum’s brother, Ah Hong

In another photo, the Chinese calendar on the wall says ‘1980’. A red and gold ancestral worship shrine is in the background. The people in the photo seem to be my Uncle (my Mother’s second cousin), his Mother and some nameless family members crowding around my Great-Grandfather for his birthday. He is a spit and image of my Grandmother. Every year, the Chinese side of my family, who now live in Singapore, still visit his shrine in Malaysia.

The more I look at that photo, the more a young man wearing Ray-ban sunglasses begins to look like a man I met in Singapore 3 years ago. He said we were related in some distant way, but I didn’t think to ask anything further.

The Irish and Traveller side

My Grandfather from my Father’s side, who I never knew, was originally from Kilkenny in the Republic of Ireland. He was an Irish traveller, not that many people in the family know that. That is, the family who still speak to us. My Father’s Mother was also Irish, but was half Irish and half Roma traveller. This explains the wanderlust I must have inherited.

My Father and I

Although he was born in Essex, my Father was still never content with being called English. He had a typical Irish pride. How we came to have the name ‘Castle’ as Irish descendents still puzzles me though. Years back, I stared for hours at a map of Ireland that marked every area by the name of the descendents of each village or town. But ‘Castle’ was nowhere to be seen.

Unfortunately, when my Father sadly passed away, all the memories of his childhood and background went along with him. Of course I remember many of the things he told me about. But sadly, memory fades. And the generations of my Father’s family who came after him seem to know nothing about their real heritage. It’s not exactly viewed as something to shout about these days.

Just the beginning

The gaps in my knowledge are troubling me. After all, if I don’t make an effort to search for the answers to my questions, who will teach my future children how interesting their ancestry is.

I owe this to my parents and my Aunt and Uncle alike, who set a beautiful example through their love, that it doesn’t matter where you are from or what you look like.

This is just the beginning of my search.

My Auntie Maggie and Uncle Kevin

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195 comments

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  3. Hey there, I am half Irish traveler half Singaporean. my father was born in Singapore, a lot of his side in Malaysia with anglo indian origin though. my mother is irish traveler with some romany blood too coming through my grandmothers lineage. I grew up with the traveler side of family but unlike my cousins I went to school and was fortunate to get to see life on both sides of the fence. I neer really fitted in though hence I left uk when I was 23 and moved to Australia to create my own life. now with an Australian partner and two young daughters. I want my children to know my heritage. I was ashamed of my heritage on both sides of my family for most of my child hood and only til I turned 18 I learned to accept it. my sister is in her 30’s and is still ashamed of anyone finding out we are travellers.
    since I came over this side I have connected with my family in Malaysia and Singapore and got to learn more about my heritage on that side which has been insightful.
    let me know if you need to know anything about irish travllers as I may be able to answer questions you might have. I have never heard of castle’s but you’ll find traveler families mainly marry into the same familys generally and a lot of families wont mix with any old travller. they keep their circles tight. let me know if you have any questions,
    regards,
    patrick

  4. A very interesting blog post, unfortunately I have only just come across the post in 2014, however I am also from Kent in Royal Tunbridge Wells and was raised in a White family, I am of Nigerian heritage but British born and was fostered through private agency that matched my birth parents to an English family in Kent, so I was growing up in Kent about the same time as you or maybe a little before, I have always found myself in mixed relationships and I am now in a relationship with a Cantonese Hong Kong Chinese lady, however the problem will always be what to tell our eventual children about their heritage, from my own parents side, I do not talk to them anymore, however before this I was able to trace a little family history, such as my grandfather was from Northern Nigeria, hence when I visited Lagos in 2007 I noticed I did not really look like the people there, a bit like an African American in Africa, because the North of the country is more mixed ethnically, and on my girlfriends side, much family history is lost because of the cultural revolution, and the family being uprooted to Taiwan and Hong Kong, of which the great grandmother was of Spanish European heritage, which information and photos have been lost.

    Good luck with the search for information about your family.

  5. Mixed parentage happen a lot amongs malays(malays are in ethnoreligious race , a combination of blood and religion)…..thats why u cant describe a malay by their look but always can describe a malay by their custom an religion……Malay is describing an indigenous (orang asli) people that is muslim. Because the are muslim so they easily expose to interracial marriage exspecially in big cities like melaka , name it arab, middle eastern, indian, pakistan ,european, japanese and chinese…they grab it all…..

  6. just i have a question ? u said that u have yemnei ansectry ! so how that happend ? i mean do u have any information about that ?

    1. Uhm, if your comment is to me, I’m not sure that you might have misinterpreted something. I don’t have any Yemeni ancestry.

      1. OMG! i m mix raced and almost like urs!! my mum is British(scottish-german) and my dad is malaysian chinese 🙂 but i guess i was fortunate enough to not have to go through the racial stereotypes that you went through

  7. This is an excellent example of superior writing. . I found this highly interesting, with excellent usage of better words and some fantastic points. You have made a good impression on me with your interesting content.

  8. My daughter will be turning two next month. I’m Filipino and her father is British. Your post was definitely an eye-opener for me, especially since I often wonder/worry about what it will be like for her to grow up as a mixed-race kid. I love what that woman said about being proud of who you are. I do hope when my daughter is old enough, she-like-you will be proud of who she is.

  9. My daughter is turning 2 next month. I’m Filipino and her father is British and I sometimes worry about what it will be like for her growing-up as a mixed race kid. Your blog post is an eye-opener for me. I love what that woman who said “be proud of who you are…” and I do hope when my daughter is old enough, like you, she’ll also be proud of who she is.

    1. Hi, I’m a Filipino & married to a British & have 3 wonderful children. our youngest is in her last yr at the University. The best thing we did was to keep them in contact with my family regularly and always visit when we can so they get to know their other relatives.
      We stayed a year with my family in the Philippines to give them time to know thier close relatives & experience what is like to live there. They embrace it and love every moment of it..

      I’m sure your daughter will be proud to know who she is… if you guide her through it. 🙂

      1. Thanks for your comment! I’m in close contact too with my family back home (we always visit when we can) and they come too for visits 🙂 I also Skype with my mom and sister almost everyday and even as a 3-year-old, she already knows that she’s Filipino too 🙂

  10. Being mixed race is a benefit that you can learn first hand of different cultures…at the same time though , namely when I was growing up, their is a bit of identity crisis because kids in my school tended to migrate towards people of their own ethnicity…a mixed race child can sometimes face the dilemma of deciding where they fit in the best (but I suppose “fitting in” is always a part of childhood regardless of ethnicity)

  11. Really interesting read! At the moment, I’m actually hoping to preserve some of my grandmothers’ memories through compiling some of their memories in a book. I hope you’re able to dig up more about your family heritage; I’m sure there’s much to appreciate!

  12. This was really really interesting. I recently have been curious about my own family. My grandfather left Ireland for New Zealand as a young adult but that’s all I know about my paternal side. Speaking with my maternal grandmother I have just found out that her parents actually moved to Malaysia from Thailand and Burma– not from China, like I had assumed! Lovely to look back and gain a clearer picture of an integral (if not subconscious) part of your being.

  13. Fantastic post! I too am from a mixed heritage of a Malays/Chinese mother and an English father. Glad to know I wasn’t the only one feeling a little lost culturally. 🙂 X

  14. great post!
    i totally understand where you’re coming from, i’m very mixed aswell, and i find it fascinating!
    my mom is quarter turkish, 3 quarters egyptian, my dad is half swiss half italian- melting pot? i think so 🙂

  15. Great post, and I can totally relate. My father is African-American with a mixed race background, my mother is Puerto Rican, my brother’s wife is Caucasian, and my cousin’s wife is Mexican. Our holidays and family get-togethers would probably look pretty confusing to an outsider looking in!

  16. I recently started to piece together where I come from, but it has been difficult since there are next to no records to be found. I’m also mixed, half Mexican and half Vietnamese, and all I have been able to gather are stories from what my parents remember. I love this quote in your article “…I should be proud of who I am. Because if I ignore it, the heritage of my parents and their parents will be lost forever.”

    I love it.

    1. Wow, your mix is quite unusual! Sometimes I wonder how on earth people get to meet, but it’s a part of the wonderful ever-global society we live in. Have you visited your parents countries? You might find a lot there. Thanks for your support 🙂

      1. I get that a lot, but I love it (it makes for a great icebreaker!) They met in the US. Anyways, I have been blessed to have visited both countries, Mexico many many times, and VietNam –twice, with plans on returning early next year. Thanks for the reply! 🙂 I loved your article.

  17. Being bi-racial myself there was always an identify crisis growing up. Factor in that my step-father was african american really added to our diverse family. Check out my about page @ jentendesigns.net…. I embrace my beauty!

  18. Great blog. My Chinese wife and I are having our first child. You live in a curious yet unique space – one I think is grand, and I was very happy to read your post. Thank you.

      1. Haha. A question that often pops up…well, my best friends are from Bangladesh and Nepal, and so I got into Bollywood, Hindi songs etc a long time ago. And due to my love and curiosity for other cultures, I learned a lot about India, and fell in love with it.

      2. Wow,you’re one of those rare people who’s open to different people,movies and music. I usually come across narrow minded assholes who think the stuff they’re into is the coolest so was extremely refreshing reading your blog posts 🙂

      3. I was wondering the same thing. How do you know Aamir Khan? Then I remembered I had a Malaysian friend in college who used to watch Bollywood movies all the time. Thanks for the explanation below.

        Great post. Keep on researching your family. I find the US, UK and Australia big melting pots, where students come from all over the world to study, meet, fall in love, marry and have mixed-race children.

        But even before that, if you look at the Indian Subcontinent, it is already mixed-race. For instance, my family is a mixture of Mongolian/Turkish, Yemeni, Portuguese and of course Indian roots dating back a few decades to a few centuries. And these are only the roots we know about. God knows how mixed the sub-continent became with the Greeks (Alexander the Great), Arabs, Mongolians, Turks, British and Portuguese passing through.

  19. A great read. I used to rummage through old stuff at my ancestral house when we visited it during school holidays. Often I found old pictures (yellowing and mouldy sometimes) and I used to collect them as a hoby.

  20. a great read, I remember rummaging through old stuff at my ancestral house during summer holidays. They were like treasure hunts which often resulted in finding pictures (often yellowing and moulding). I used to keep them as a hobby. Congrats on bein gfresh pressed

  21. I think you are approximately the same age as my eldest chinese-caucasian son. I remember how excited I was at the prospect of having mixed-race kids back then. It was a great experience – they are lovely. Now it seems, at least in Toronto, Canada where we live, it is not at all uncommon. Even though you are missing some of the family background details, you actually have a lot more information than we do about my children’s chinese roots. Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  22. This is a well-written entry. I’ve always been interested in learning about culture, heritage, roots. I grew up without my mom, so I am constantly finding out her roots. My mom is hispanic with aboriginal heritage. My mom had dark hair, dark eyes, with dark skin. She was beautiful. I am Cajun, aboriginal, Spanish, Italian, Polish, irhs, and so on.
    My uncle married Joanne (who is Jamaican). I am married to a Taiwanese man. My family has its fair share of interracial relationships.

    1. It’s amazing to hear just how multicultural people can be. You are by far one of the most amazing 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  23. What an interesting post. I love looking back at old family photos and asking my parents and grandparents about them as well. I hope that you find out what you’re searching for!

  24. mixed rain children are always more beautiful because they inherit different genes.. and it is so obvious in u’re case… u r really pretty 🙂 … and good post !!

  25. this is extremely good post for readers searching for people who also have mixed race family tree

  26. hen they tifddint ath the bagpipe doesnt have much of a use beyond what can bemade up in really bad wedding ceremonies nobody gets married anhynore anyway thats what conrad black wants peope to do so he can get his VAT tax from them and them throw away the rest like maradona.

  27. Can I just say — what a delight to stumble on your site today. I’m a cultural mutt, too, and I spend a lot of time pondering identity issues. It’s always a comfort to find other people who are willing to go there.

  28. great post!!! I am too a Malaysian but i live in Ireland and it is only until i started university i got to know a lot of other Asians, before that i was just one asian looking girl mixed in with a bunch of irish XD

  29. Great post. I’ve noticed an abundance of mixed race families and couples these days in Vancouver… especially Caucasian male and Asian female pairings in particular…

  30. Well done and keep up the curiosity! I am of mixed decent also (English-American) but married a Russian/Tatar from Siberia, making my children even more mixed up than me. And it doesn’t help that we’ve lived all over the world, including now in Singapore. Actually, it probably does help. Our daughter just had a child with an African-American, so our first granddaughter is on her way to following in your footsteps!

  31. Thanks for sharing your personal story. I too married an asian woman and had an Eurasian child. There were lots of Eurasian kids in Vietnam for obvious reasons and they were always beautiful. There is something to be said for mixing the gene pool!

  32. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I’m not mixed, but I have gone to my own moments of confusion regarding self-identity so I always like reading about other people’s stories. To elaborate a bit more but in a condensed fashion, my grandparents were born in China, my parents were born in Vietnam, and my generation was born in the States. Now, I’m just happy with being an odd mix of Chinese, Vietnamese, and American. The plus is that it makes me multilingual. 🙂

    I wish you luck on your search!

  33. Beautiful! I’m an almost identical mix to you (except my mother is from a neighbouring Asian country) and have a lot of pride for my background. It’s heart warming to read something like this. Best of luck in your search for your family history
    xx

  34. Amazing. (Sorry I didn’t read the forest of comments so don’t know if I’m reiterating something.)
    Add “stunningly beautiful” to that list.
    Yes, times are definitely getting worse. In the 90’s and even early “Naughties” (2000+) there was a growing feeling of interracial tolerance. This has been carefully made to go away via our dearest politicians, and now lowbrows start throwing stones (as is predictable every time politicians direct the trend like that). Possibly here in SA we’re on the sharp end of this as our politicians make statements such as “kill all whites” and call whites, by definition, racists.
    Vanessa Mae is, if I recall, of Chinese and Irish descent. I’d say yours is a lot more complex than that :). Especially the Roma connection. The Roma have been in Europe for nearly 1000 years now and still nobody can say with real certainty where their ethnic origins lie (after 1000 years, still not Europe?). Very interesting.

    1. I have read a fair bit about the origins of the Roma, and nobody is certain. But it seems most researchers say it is India or the Middle East. Thanks for your interest and support. 🙂

      1. Many, many words in the Romani dialects would be recognisable to Indians and Pakistanis hailing from the Punjab and Rajasthan. So, obviously the Romas went from here. Infact, I think Romas now formally acknowledge north-western India as their homeland.

      2. Yes I think it has been accepted that the Roma people originated in India. It would be interesting to know what % of the Romani language originates from Indian languages too.

  35. HI!! I’m really impressed with your family background! You really should be proud of that! In your blood you’ve got a mix of many ethnicities, and that’s fantastic!! Be proud, and good luck with your research!!
    Greetings!
    Laura

    1. I’m sad to hear that you are having a bad time lately. I hope whatever it is gets cleared up soon 🙂 So glad my post could cheer you up a bit, even if only momentarily.

  36. I truly love your article. i belong to a mixed race too. my mother is a filipino and my dad is a pakistani(indian/pakistani) wish i could write about my family like u did but unfortunately i don’t have much info to share.. i’m going through a very bad situation but your writing really gave me a smile.:) thank u

  37. I think it is so important to know where you come from. Knowing where one come from adds a certain fire to life. Amazing post.

  38. So much love for this post, which was beautifully written. My brother’s wife is Ecuadorian, my other brother’s wife is Chinese, and my cousin’s wife is Japanese. So, definitely yay for diversity! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  39. What an interesting back story your family has! I am not of mixed race, but of mixed “nationality.” My parents met while my mother studied abroad in France; my dad was her French host brother! So my father is from France and my mother has a mostly Irish-American background (with some English and German thrown in). I guess I’m half American/half French (I don’t consider myself Irish at all and feel no connection to the culture). I speak French as well (along with Spanish so I’m trilingual).

    My family seems to like international relationships. 🙂 One of my father’s sisters married a man from Laos who immigrated to France when he was very young. So I have some half-Asian cousins. Both my father and his other brother married American girls. Another cousin (one of the half Laotian ones) married a French-Moroccan girl. Another is dating a Colombian. And yet another is dating a Chinese girl. (Oh and my sister is dating a Canadian but I don’t know if that really counts). Yay for diversity!

  40. Interesting post! I’ve always planned on retracing my own ancestry and eventually make a complete family tree for family members, near and distant relatives to look at and use as guide, but I’m far from realizing that goal. I admire the enthusiasm you put on this! You’ve just ignited the fire in me to continue what I dream to achieve. Thanks!

  41. I loved reading this. My husband’s dad is Chinese – also from Malaysia. Our nephew and niece are a mix of Chinese, English, Irish and Korean! 🙂

  42. This is so well written and very heartwarming. I was born in Jamaica, but see myself as Canadian as I lived there from 2 months old. In Canada I have never gotten the ‘go back to where you came from’ as any Canadian with any sense recognises the country was built on immigration. If anyone needs to go back home it would be everyone who is not Aboriginal. I am in a mixed race relationship and if I have kids they will have a varied background as yourself. This post interests me the most though not because of race but because of the family history aspect. I am trying to put together my family tree and as my only living grandparent (my gran) is turning 84 this year I need to do it fast. Racially I think there is some mixture (possibly british and indian) way back in our family tree but I don’t know. It boggles the mind that people are so ignorant though, growing up in Canada and in mostly white suburbia I think I have lived a relatively sheltered existance when it comes to racism. I’ve never experienced overt racism. That is until coming to this country. I will probably reblog this post and add my comments about race in modern Britain.

    1. Yes, definitely try to complete the family tree asap. I lost a lot of stories and knowledge when I lost my Grandmother and Father. Good luck with it 🙂 and thanks for sharing your story.

  43. What a wonderful article! I myself is a Japanese and have no mixed-race history. However, my parents have experienced the WWII, which should be a history to be told to my children.
    Thank you for sharing your story.

  44. Very nice post and thank you for sharing your family photos, aren’t they just so mysterious?

    You reminded me of my friend who is from London; her father is white and her mother is Chinese-Malay. My friend married a black man and now their daughter is thoroughly and beautifully mixed.

    Good luck.

  45. Beautiful writing and amazing pictures of you and your family. Thank you.
    I’m a woman of African-Caribbean descent who was born in Hampshire (England) and adopted by a white British couple in the late 1960s. I grew up in an “all-white” village in West Sussex in the south of England. As a result of being adopted by a white British couple I think of myself as mixed race even though technically I’m Black!!
    I really relate to what you said about people telling you to “go back to where you came from”. It wasn’t until I moved to New York City when I was 27 that I began to think positively about being black and feel proud of my heritage. A few years ago I moved back to Sussex to re-visit my childhood and to claim myself as a black British person. I feel blessed and deeply thankful for the journey that I’ve chosen.

  46. Thanks for this post. I am half Italian (mom)-half German (father) and was born in Italy but moved to Germany two years ago. My husband, whom I met in Italy, is African. Our son is therefore Afro-Italian-German! My uncle, i.e. my father’s brother, married a Dutch lady, whose brother now lives in Canada, some 40 years ago. They had two children: the youngest still lives in Germany and the oldest moved to Holland 10 years ago. One of my sisters now lives in Australia where she married an Australian guy. They moved there after living for some years in the UK. Another sister (the twin sister of the above mentioned one) lives in London with her British boyfriend. The fourth sister still lives in Italy with her Italian boyfriend and their daughter. However the Italian boyfriend lived in Spain for many years long ago. Is that enough of multi-cultural, multi-national family? Hope you haven’t lost track of the whole story! 😉 You have inspired my next post though. Thank you so much! Eireen

  47. wonderful post!! this just shows that the world is fastly becoming one big mixed race.. some may say we are moving into a new age of one race….. 😀

  48. Fascinating story. I’m Caucasian and my better half is Chinese/Okinawan. We live in Hawaii, so the entire racial thing seems a bit bizarre. Hawaii’s population integrated quite early during the Hawaiian Kingdom days and it hasn’t stopped since. Living here has been a genuine cultural experience. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one must judge one on the strength of his/her character and not by the color of his/her skin. In time I’m sure you will find the missing pieces of your family history. This will be an interesting search. You are already a complete individual–all the search will do is fill in some of the missing pieces. Good luck. Aloha, Russ Roberts

  49. This is a great story ! My two youngest kids are Chinese/Burmese-English, Irish,Swedish and German. Both have been to China…my youngest daughter, Ally just got back from a three week visit there and met many of her relatives on her Grandfather’s side in a small village in Southern China. She even met the woman who helped arrange her Grandparents marriage. I hope you have an opportunity to discover more about your whole ancestry…it tells us who we are !!!

    Tim Barker

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  51. My ex is Vietnamese, and both by kids are obviously mixed race. Race for them never played a big part in their development, they just sort of created themselves as individuals as they grew up.

    My daughter married a Caucasian, while my son married a beautiful Indonesian girl. Their kids are well on their way to being just like their parents, with the attitude to match. Sort of a “I am who I am…wanna make something of it?”

    I’ve been blessed with a remarkable family.

  52. I really like how much knowledge you have found. I have been working on tracing my ancestors from where they come from. Thank you for sharing.

    WR

  53. Good for you. I’ve found that knowing who you are and where you come from gives you a sense of empowerment and pride like nothing else. I’ve been searching my roots too. Man, it’s harder than I thought but I’m enjoying it all the same. Good work.

  54. Reblogged this on inkfilledsky and commented:
    A fascinating look at being mixed race and tracing family history. I’m of Sri Lankan and Australian background, but I don’t really know much about my culture, sadly. This is inspiring, and I’ll have to ask my grandparents about their culture and traditions more.

  55. Both my late parents were Malaysian Chinese from Sabah, and I was born in England. After living in Europe and the U.S. all my life I now live for the 1st time in Sabah, in my late 40s. Meeting people with my mother’s mindset – so frustrating to a young Westernized girl – brings perspective, understanding and humility. The latter being the best gain from travelling. Good luck on your quest, your life will be rich for it.

  56. I hope that you can find out more about your family 😉
    The Malaysian side seems very interesting (Im Malaysian too)! I think it is common in Melaka to have mixed marriages among the chinese and Malays, especially in the past. Sadly, Malaysia is getting so much more conservative now…

  57. This sounds so interesting! It must be so troubling to know there were many paths your family travelled through, but not being able to really trace each one. Good luck with your search, it definitely is a really important one

  58. What an awesome essay!!! The United States has publicly prided itself in its tolerance of diversity, but the treatment of the 1st non-Anglo-American president has been disgusting & shameful! Here is proof that in this world, love, NOT fear, invites people into the realm of not only broadened thinking & vision, but an expanded spirit, which goes a long way in undoing past, present & potentially future damage to the human race, of which Atmospheric Climate Change is the greatest trauma being exacted on all forms of Earth life, but the planets natural systems as well…

  59. Very lovely article! I loved all the photos–it’s like a gateway to your past, yet everything is still a mystery. Very cool :] Thanks for sharing!

  60. I’m a Malaysian Chinese in England. Regarding the striking image from your grandmother’s cupboard, you may like to read about the culture of Baba-Nyonya (also known as Peranakan or Straits Chinese).

  61. I totally understand what you mean. While I’m ethnically 100% Dominican, my family is racially European from Spain, and African via the African slave trade into the Caribbean. I’m embarking on a journey back to the Dominican Republic to get in touch with my Dominican side as well as to give back to the community by volunteering.

    I’m just starting out but check it out if you get a chance:

    http://tothenativeland.wordpress.com

  62. Great article! Thanks for sharing this and congrats on FP. I am in a mixed marriage too. I’m Hmong (an ethnicity originally from east Asia) and my husband is Caucasian (Dutch American). I never saw the color line, nor did/does my husband. We have two kids and they don’t see color as well, except my oldest was exposed to racism. Her preschool classmates told her she’s Chinese and did the slanty-eye thinging. She still is bullied this way in grade-school but not as often, which is heartbreaking, but the kids do it so secretly that it’s hard to do anything about. My youngest doesn’t have this problem because she looks more “white” than my oldest. Plus, she had some classmates who were 100% oriental and she knows that she does not look like them. When she talks about her oriental friends, even though they are not all Chinese, she calls them her Chinese friends. It could just be that, that word is easier to say then Korean or Vietnamese?

    BTW, I was bullied (mostly racist) all my childhood and the scars will always be there. Strangely, the bullying was never by Caucasians, but then again, I was raised in a mostly minority neighborhood.

    And, sadly, the Hmong community does not favor mixed couples, thus, I don’t associate much with them. I’m raising my kids up to love all cultures and appreciate who they are. I would love to expose them to the Hmong culture (and Dutch) too but not when they are throwing eggs at us (not literally). Maybe some day, they will search for the “culture” within them but that will be up to them.

    1. You have a very interesting mix. I don’t know if it’s the same ethnicity but I met a lot of Hmong people in Vietnam. Lovely people. But I guess they want to preserve their unique ways but not marrying out.

      Sad to hear you were bullied, and hope you have found some peace now times are changing a bit 🙂
      Thanks for sharing!!

  63. hey, this is pretty awesome and welcome to the fp club!! i’m gonna follow you. i think this mixed ethnic experience is quite different in britain. in the u.s. or at least in ny, EVERYONE is xx-american. in other words, something-american. if you’re just ‘white’ it’s considered kinda boring these days. he, he. anyway, great post. all the best, sweet mother

  64. Wonderful family.My back ground is, Arabic,Armenian,,and Turkish.But we are the same people, even though we are different as nations.Jalal Michael.Regards.

  65. I come from a mixed race family, and share some of your geneology woes. My father’s family; most of whom came from Scotland three to four hundred years ago was easy to trace back; I think there are ancestors we’ve pinned down to the thirteen hundreds. My mother’s family was taken from West Africa though; bound on tall ships and never to return home. As slaves, no family tree was considered neceessary; they took their name (and some DNA) from an Irish slaveowner. Later my great grandmother married a Cherokee, which limits my ability to grow facial hair and leaves my skin slightly more reddish brown after the summer than its normal caramel color. Growing up, I endured quite a bit of racism, from both whites and blacks who didn’t understand what would possess one to love another despite having friends of many races in my diverse neighborhood. This background colors my perception of the world; it taught me to fight, to love equality and justice, and to take care of the weak and defenseless. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  66. I love reading of your blog. And of course, I am Filipino. Somehow I found my family roots in only a year or less a year. I’m in the mixed race as well. My family roots in my father’s side was a Portuguese and my mother’s side was a Chinese as well. Being growing up as a Filipino, I realized I’ve had inherited their interests as well. As I found out my trace from Portugal, I have asked my relatives as well. They have a larger clan around in the world knowing we have the same descendant name as well. Somehow, I’m more interested in family roots than before just being I am adult already.

  67. What a wonderful read! First of all, hello to you, fellow Kentish girl! I’m from Gravesend, in the North of Kent. Secondly, it’s lovely to see you embracing your colourful roots and backgrounds, and it’s just so sad to know that there are gaps you have yet to been able to fill. Thirdly, I encourage you to keep trying to unearth more in any way you can; discovering our family history is one of the most interesting and exciting things around, plus we can learn so much more about ourselves as individuals, too. Finally, I just want to say how beautiful and poignant your post was. One of the most enlightening reads I’ve found on WordPress in quite a while! Please do keep it up!

    Rae

    1. Greetings fellow Kentian 🙂 Thanks for your support! Comments like this are what drives me to write more 🙂

  68. This is such a heartwarming post, and my heart goes out to you when I read about how you were made fun of. I hope times have changed though, because it’d be such a pity that children of mixed ethnicity like yours will be ashamed instead of embracing the rich heritage that they have in them. I’m Malaysian as well, and studying in England and I’ve only met lovely kind English people who have been nothing but welcoming to me 🙂 That gives me hope that kindness will always transcend racism 🙂

  69. This is a heartwarming post. I’m Malaysian and studying in England, and my heart goes out to you when I read about how hard things were for you in school. I hope schools have come a long way since then because it’s such a pity that people with such rich ethnicity like yours is made fun of instead of being appreciated. I’m so glad that in university I’ve only met lovely English people who have been nothing but welcoming towards me 🙂 Good luck in more discoveries about your heritage!

  70. Great post. I’m black, (American of African descent probably). My parents are black, their parents were black, my ex-husband’s is black, his parents and grandparents black. But so many people think my children and I are mixed because we are fair. Racism is kind of like high blood pressure. The silent killer. No warning, but it can knock you on your butt. There are many mixed marriages in my extended family though. I have two siblings. The only one of us who is still married is the one who married white. We call him, “Last Man Standing” — ha!

  71. This is such a beautiful story. I’m glad to hear your family did not experience the harsh turmoil of racism growing up. Such an inspiring story.

  72. I’m happy you wrote this article. And I’m almost envious of your acceptance. Almost. I’m sure you know the term invisible stigma, and being mixed is mine. White mother, Hispanic father. But because my paternal grandmother is mestizo (Anglo-Irish last name, light skin) my brother and I are white and Caucasian featured. I only know my father’s family through photos, and vague stories of poverty, abuse, addiction, and mental illness. Sadly he couldn’t escape the last, and my parents divorced. We speak no Spanish. His decision. And a wise one.

    I can’t take an optimistic liberal attitude because we’ve been marginalized not just by whites (including Mom’s family) but by Hispanics and blacks as well. Blatant racism and patronizing throughout the years is all I will say. For the friends that we have (of all backgrounds) are very honest with us, and we appreciate it, but for the most part they think that our name changing is for the better. I’m a history and anthropology buff, and the one thing I’ve learned is that European colonization and slavery have a ripple effect 6 centuries later. Living in the Caribbean, Central, and South Americas today isn’t easy. And it’s no laughing matter when your eye and skin color (or shading) determines your social and economic background as well.

    Good luck with your search.

  73. “Have times gotten worse?”
    I think that firmly depends on where you came from. In London and croydon in the 60’s and 70’s there were huge divides. ‘No Blacks allowed’ in lots of pubs and discos, one man my parents knew got a Chelsea smile for having a white girlfriend.
    To me, racism and xenophobia are things that absolutely baffle me!
    If you want any help researching your family in the UK, let me know, I’m a self taught genealogist 🙂

      1. Hello – I’ve been off wordpress for ages so have only just seen this! Yes, it started out as my tree, but I found I have a knack for finding ‘difficult’/mysterious ancestors other people are struggling with, and have found out a lot about my boyfriend’s female lines (His male line is minor nobility so that’s all anyone ever researched, but I found some great ‘characters’ in his other lines. I know it’s been a while but the offer still stands if you’d like me to look into anything for you. 🙂

  74. I am in a mixed marriage and I worry as to my daughters feelings being from two different worlds.I hope she, like you, manages to find balance and has an appreciation for both of the cultures she has descended from.

  75. I went to a small high school in South Dakota. There was one girl who joined out class in our last year, who look Chinese. Some people called her “Chink”. She was never accepted well by the class. When the school annual came out, hers was the most beautiful picture in the entire class. On the last day of school, everyone suddenly realized what a mistake we had made not being a better friend to her. But it was too late.

    I am now an expert on China. I read and write the language, know the culture, find the faces of China quite familiar and beautiful. Funny how a girl who is not even Chinese sparked my interest in and love of a people on the opposite end of the world.

    I hope you can find your family. But, if you don’t, I hope you will see family all around you and build a happy future. No matter what your ethnic origins, you are a beautiful human, and that’s all the matters.

  76. I loved your article! Interracial families are amazing, the dynamic of them is like nothing else!

  77. Good luck on your search. I’m a black but born and raised in London. Never been “back home”. Although would love to go there one day just to see my grandparents places etc. Have you been to both places (of your mother and father)?

  78. Now that my siblings are all married we have some mixed race in our family and I love it! I love watching my niece and nephew grow up using spanish and english. I’m glad that you’re family has had a positive journey most of the way. That certainly isn’t always the case.

    Best of luck to you on your journey into ancestry! I hope you get to travel to both country homes someday and really experience the culture!

  79. Amazing post! Beautiful pictures! What a lovely story. You seem to know a lot already! 🙂 I am of Cuban, Puerto Rican and Corsican descent, so I definitely like finding out information about the culture of my grandparents and especially my great grandparents. It’s sad how many of their stories stay with them. I’ve asked my grandparents questions and lots of times they don’t know or simply don’t feel like sharing it…maybe because it makes their country look bad or poor or perhaps because it never interested them as much as it interests me. It’s still my dream to go to Corsica and meet my family. Thank you so much for posting! Isn’t it great being mixed? So many fun cultures in one! Also, no disrespect, but you are BEAUTIFUL!!!

  80. Great article. I have to admit I’m 100% Polish, but I grew up in the States. When I went back to Poland last year, it was, in part, a journey to discover my distant relatives whom I had never met.

    I was lucky though. I have a great aunt on my mom’s side that kept a record dating back to her childhood. It was incredible seeing pictures of family members in Warsaw and in Poland whom I’d never even heard of.

    I’m sorry your mom and grandma didn’t want to bring the past with them. I hope you are able to discover your long lost uncle and others.

  81. Hi Jody-Lan,
    Thumbs up! I am also mixed(Irish,Danish & Japanese) and grew up in one of the most ethinically mixed places in the world- Hawaii. Though, I no longer live there.

    Everything you have said about being mixed or “hapa” as we call it in Hawaii, everyone there has felt it. I felt sad for the ignorance of the people around you when you grew up. In Hawaii, people mix and mingle so freely that this name calling would happen much less often. Everyone is mixed something!
    Being the “parts of a whole” for example and feeling blessed by by this diversity. We hapas are special people.
    I loved your family story and your photos.

    Cheers!

  82. I come from English, Irish, French, Austrailian, German, Swiss, Cherokee stock. Diversity is great! We learn to draw from the strengths, grow through the weaknesses, and become a unique individual capable of seeing the good in others around us. May you find peace in your journey of discovery.

  83. loved the photos. half of me is irish-ish-american, other half Lao. reminds me of my own family photo albums, but yours have a bit more intrigue. =)

  84. One part of your post stuck out to me. You wrote about times becoming worse. It is sad that in harder economic times, seemingly kind and religious people increasingly turn their blame towards minorities of their countries.

    Beyond that, good story! I think it is common to have a few family mysteries and dead ends when you one is trying to trace their ancestry. I hope you solve yours!

    1. “It is sad that in harder economic times, seemingly kind and religious people increasingly turn their blame towards minorities of their countries.”

      Whether we like it or not we are by design territorial animals at the basic level and in times of scarcity (economic hardship) it is instinctive to ‘blame’, which in the deepest terms means wish to remove, that which is perceived to be a threat to the members of the ‘territory’. The more that the veneer of civilisation is removed the greater the chance of the basal nature showing through. I have no doubt I will get some stick for this from the “we are modern civilised humans” crowd but the layer of civilisation is very thin. Remember that as times get worse for many will NOT be able to overcome the basal instincts.

      Forget psychology and forget political correctness. Learn about us at the animal level and you will have a better understanding of how things may go.

      At the end of the day we are all mixed race in some way, and there is no reason why we can’t all get on together, but that is not the way we are designed.

  85. Miss Castle,
    I really enjoyed your post. Your search for your family ties is similar to what I’ve encountered recently. I read your blog off the “recommend section” and I’m glad I did. Looking forward to reading future posts.
    Peace!

    1. There will be many posts to come my friend. Especially because people like you have shown such support 🙂

  86. Lovely post! I am part Filipino: my grandfather is from the Philippines, and my grandmother is white American. That makes my dad half and half, and my mother is white, which dilutes me to a quarter Filipino- I don’t look like it at all. It makes for fun conversation when I have to explain how I have my last name. Good luck with your search! It’s so admirable and inspiring.

  87. I’m Filipino, and we’re a mixed lot, whether we like it or not. Me, I see it as a wonderful blessing to have a little of each race that make up who I am. From what I see in the mirror and in my relatives, I know that I have Chinese, Indian, Malay and some Spanish blood, too that all just makes me feel extra-special!

    Loved what you shared, great post!

  88. Mixed breeds are awesome, I have British, Scottish, Irish, Thai and Indian blood. My husband has French, Indian and Chinese. Growing up I suck out like a sore thumb even in Singapore but slowly mix breeds are taking over 🙂

  89. Such a lovely post! My grandson was born about 3 months ago and as we were anticipating his birth, I wanted to get flag patches from each country/nation that includes some ethnicity of his. By the time I finished making the list, the flag patches made something big enough to be a nearly full-sized blanket! He is mostly Korean, Choctaw, Irish, and German. You would think that with the two former ethnicities he would be dark with dark hair and eyes – but no, he got white Irish skin and blonde German hair – and blue eyes! I don’t know if we will ever “see” the Korean and Choctaw physically but thank goodness I and his other grandmother (she is from South Korea and I am from the Choctaw tribe) he will know his heritage(s) and pass them on to his grandchildren. Good luck on your search!

  90. Great post 🙂 I’m half Japanese, half German and my husband is full Vietnamese. Our kids will be 1/4 Japanese, 1/4 German, and half Vietnamese. The world is becoming a wonderful mix 🙂

  91. I was so touched by your personal story and thought of all the ingredients that make up our own family recipe. How wonderful to kindle such inspiration! Congrats on your willingness to share. Thank you for sharing such wonderful family photos!

  92. I think that is among the such a lot important info for me. And i’m satisfied reading your article. But want to remark on some general issues, The website style is great, the articles is in reality excellent : D. Good task , cheers

  93. truly lovely post, thanx for sharing! i’m also from malaysia, married to a british indian, and my own parents were of mixed-marriage too. i can certainly relate to your wonderful piece of writing.

  94. “Race” is a false construct to begin with. God endowed us with a genetic code that allows for many variations and adaptive abilities. We were all pretty much the same color to begin with. Through geographical separation and selective breeding, you ended up with the predictable physical features and the so-called “races” you see today. Pretty much like the “pure breed” dogs of today–with all the genetic diseases that results for limited genetic variation. We are simply going back to our beginnings by no longer being limited genetically as selectively bred domesticated dogs are.

  95. Epic. Well-written, Jody-Lan! This resonates with me, and helps it sink in that a mixed-race family comes with an added responsibility; embracing all cultures within and exploring a knowledge of them as much as you can, not just for yourself, but for the offpsring. Timely, as my mixed-race offspring are sure to arrive soon! 🙂

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