Who is That Monte Cristo?

Saigonese Confucian scholars attending Ho Chi Minh City Family Annals Research Center are carrying out an interesting task of historians. They are collecting, researching and re-creating the family annals of famous clans.

Family annals help with new discoveries

Mr. Vo Van So and the Nguyen family annals (Photo: Tuoi Tre)

Southerners do not have the practice of having their family annals done. The histories of families in the south were related to the migration and expansion of the territory to the South in the time of the Nguyen Lords. Family annals researchers have found out that southern families usually know only seven preceding generations. The earlier generations originated from the north or the middle of the country.

The center has more than 30 members, of whom, Mr. Vo Van So and Mr. Huynh Van Nam are very good at Chinese and ancient Vietnamese script. Most of the data about the families recorded in the old family annals and the, god stories, ancestral tablets and epitaphs needed for making family annals are written in those scripts.
The task of collecting information to restore the family annals needs the knowledge of these scripts from those Confucian scholars. Mr. Vo Van So related that he once corrected a mistake on the sex of the ancestor of the Truong family in the southern province of Tra Vinh. For many years, the tomb of the founding ancestor had been believed to be of a woman, according to a family member.

Nobody in the family could read the Chinese written on the headstone, which said that the dead person was a man.

Early this March, the annals of the Nguyen family in the southern province of Long An was completed, in which the family annals researchers determined that the family originated from the central province of Quang Ngai by making field trips and discovering an original family annals written in Vietnamese ancient script stored in Quang Ngai. After hundreds of  years, the migrating branch was reunited with their original family.

After hearing the news of the Nguyen family annals, another branch of this family, also living in Long An, came to recognize the long lost clan members. The Center is currently planning a meeting of those family members.

The movement of restoring family annals was started by an enthusiast, Mr. Vo Ngoc An, Director of Ho Chi Minh City Family annals Research Center. It was him who found the ancient family annals of Truong Minh Giang (1)’s family, stored in Ha Noi national Library. 

HCMC Family Annals Research Center
Address: 4 Bad Hoyden Than Quant St, Dist.3, HCM City,
Tel: (08) 9305440.
- Help restore the study of family annals in Viet Nam.
- Restore the family annals based on a scientific structure and inter-related knowledge.
- Help with the promotion of cultural households and families, advising on the orientation and management of the family and the family annals.

Mr. So translated the record into the modern Vietnamese language and restored it to complete family annals. He then gave it to Truong Minh Giang’s descendants, who are still living in Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh City. He said, “It was a very good thing that we could find and return to them their long lost family.

Family annals help with new historical data

While researching for the records of Ho family, the maternal side of playwright Nguyen Ho, Mr. Huynh Van Nam found the trace of the tomb and the worship place of founding meritorious officials in the time of King Gia Long, starting with Mr. Ho Van migrating to the south from the now province of Ha Tinh.

Mr. Ho Van Van’s child was Ho Van Boy (a.k.a. Vui), who was in turn father of Ho Thi Hoa, main wife of King Gia Long. Boi himself was King Gia Long’s confidential courtier, since the King started his career in the south. Boi was awarded the high title of Duke. To date, all that remains of the family’s forefather graves was Ho Van Van’s in Tieu Chau graveyard in Binh Phuoc Province.
The graves and worship place for Ho Van Boi and his wife Huynh Thi Lanh became ruins, mixing into the residence area in Thu Duc district, Ho Chi Minh City.

Mr. Huynh Van Nam is collecting information at home (Photo: Tuoi Tre)

However, Mr. Nam found that the linh vi (the tablet on which the name of the dead was written) of Ho Van Van and his wife and Ho Van Boi and his wife were worshipped in Linh Chieu Temple in Thu Duc district. Currently, Ho Anh Dung, descendant of the family, is looking after the worship of the family’s ancestors.

The restoration of Truong family in Duc Hoa district, Long An province revealed some interesting historical data. Old people in the family said that they originated from the central province of Ha Tinh.

Mr. Huynh Van Nam and his staff went on a field trip to Ha Tinh, on the advice that in Duc Hoa Village, Duc Tho district of Ha Tinh Province, there was a Truong family. In this trip, they found an old Truong family annals in this village.

In the annals, there is an entry saying that a family member went to Gia Dinh (now Ho Chi Minh City) and had no more contacts. In addition to the comparison with the first ancestor of the Truong family, the family annals experts also estimated that the people migrating from Ha Tinh estimated that the people migrating from Ha Tinh named the new land after their village Duc Hoa. Such interesting information on the origin of place names has not been recorded in Gia Dinh Thanh Thong Chi (The complete book of Gia Dinh City).

In addition, Huynh Van Nam said that he found traces of the descendants of Admiral Tuyet and Admiral Long, two brave generals of King Quang Trung. It is surprising to know that Admiral Tuyet’s descendants are living in Ho Chi Minh City, of whom there were people conferred titles in the time of Tay Son Dynasty and even under its rival, Nguyen Dynasty. Mr. Nam said, “If they request, I will continue the restoration of family annals for the two famous Tay Son generals.” 

 Truong Minh Giang, (-1841): Born in Gia Dinh (now Ho Chi Minh City). He was the first meritorious official, who rendered outstanding service in the Nguyen Dynasty. (Source: www.vdict.com)

By Lam Dien (Tuoi Tre Newspaper) – Translated by Le Thao

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