Notice of Meeting

Date: Thursday, May 18, 2017

Time: 7:30 pm

Place: Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC Campus, 515 West Hastings Street (between Seymour and Richards Streets) in the Diamond Lounge

Speaker: Anne-Marie Samarasinghe

Topic: Peculiarities of Doing Genealogical Research in a Post-Colonial Country, Specifically, Ceylon/Sri Lanka


Most people were given names like Perera, De Silva, Corea when they were converted to Christianity by one of the three colonizers of Ceylon/Sri Lanka. Ethnic name system with its historical and lineage importance was often lost.

Certain jobs were only given to converts. Each colonizer had their own Christian religion [Catholicism, Dutch Reformed, or Anglican] and when colonizers changed, people were forced to change their religious affiliations. Documents were kept by the colonizers in Portuguese, Dutch, or in the case of the 3rd colonizer British: in English or native language. Each colonizer was in Ceylon for approximately 150 years or more. This poses great challenges for anyone doing any historical research. Also in many instances ‘natives’ were not so important that their names would be documented when Europeans rulers were writing about them to their superiors in their original country.

Even regarding Christian clergy, missionaries, and church attendees, many records are surviving for white folk, but not for most of the ‘natives’. Racism greatly survived even in churches at that time – where methodical records were kept. Only white folk [or very few natives] were allowed to go to the white folk churches. Eventually native convert Pastors like my great- great grandfather collected money to build small churches for Ceylon people.

Caste and financial position had much to do with records as well. So far, it is only in the British Ceylon era that I find records for every caste regarding Ceylon folk. Dutch kept land, school, and head tombu. So if you had land or attended school or had an important job to the colonizer economy – like head of cinnamon peelers – it is possible to find records….but hard otherwise. Even in these land and school tombu in Dutch language it is often hard to figure out which family the records are for unless people had a high native job with them.

The Portuguese burnt all their records before capitulating to the Dutch in mid 1600’s. Fortunately the Dutch left their records for the British in 1796/8.

There are many other such challenges to face in order to glean information. Thankfully genetic genealogy – that Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and others revealed to us through tv shows – is disclosing things documents have not.

[Ordinarily, I make no editorial changes all to what our speakers put forward, but for sake of clarity, I am led to believe “tombu” deals with the dutch method of record keeping. –Mark Dwor]

Brief Biography:

Anne-Marie has a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of British Columbia. She is an author, advocate, Christian social justice missionary, event organizer, researcher, genealogist, and much more. She left Sri Lanka at age 13 and much of her life has been spent in North America. Her passion is seeing justice restored where injustice has thrived.

She has spent 15+ years doing research into the history of Ceylon and colonization….specializing in genealogy.

Last Meeting: April 27, 2017

Bong-Hwan Kim gave a remarkably interesting presentation based on research that he had done for his PhD dissertation in Manitoba and a comparison to research that he did in the Lower Mainland where the population of Korean immigrants is 12 times as high as it was in Winnipeg. Every member of the audience asked questions and it was a satisfying educational night for us all.


This is the last meeting until October 19, 2017. The past two meetings and the October meeting are presented by grant recipients. For those who see some pattern in the topics, ie. Korea, and Sri Lanka, you’ll be happy to know that the next topic deals with Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii, specifically, Susan Musgrave.

If you have any questions, please contact Mark Dwor…604-662-3908…