Researching Families of the Philippines
Geni projects are a fantastic tool to collaborate with other genealogists who are working in the same genealogical area. We recently interviewed Geni‘s first Filipino curator Mona Magno-Veluz, who enthusiastically agreed to share with us her experience researching Filipino genealogy and collaborating with others in the Families of the Philippines project.
You are the first Filipino curator on Geni, what do you hope to accomplish with the Families of the Philippines project?
I have been blogging about genealogy research in the Philippines for several years. In my experience, due to inaccessibility of vital records, Filipinos often know of their ancestry exclusively through oral accounts. It is common to not know about one’s direct line; but people would retain info about an obscure connection to a famous or historical person. Organized by surnames and by specialty topics, the Families of the Philippines projects tracks famous Filipino personalities — which become “keystone profiles” to help family history researchers get started.
What are some of the challenges of doing Filipino genealogy?
Aside from CLDS, there are few libraries which have good resources. There are no genealogical associations. Our National Archives is not a researcher-friendly place to visit. And preservation of historical documents is not top-of-mind within the government bureaucracy. All these contribute to genealogy not being a popular pursuit among Filipinos. For the few into genealogy, it is also common to hit a brick wall by around mid-1700 or earlier, because records are few and hard to come by.
Have you had success engaging and connecting with other Geni users?
My on-line interaction with some Geni users have resulted in some very interesting face-to-face meetings. A collaborator on the tree of Emilio Aguinaldo, the first President of the Philippines, turned out to be the curator of the family’s ancestral home. He invited my family and me to visit the home-turned-museum over the summer. Another collaborator on the tree of our national hero Jose Rizal (the country celebrated his 150th birthday this year) invited me to be a resource person on a TV show, which discussed the hero’s ancestry.
Have you found any exciting connections? Have you connected to Geni’s World Family Tree?
Personally I have yet to break the 18th century wall, but I have helped several people get there. My favorite is Dr. Mary Racelis. She is a prominent Filipino sociologist who has written and edited books on early 20th century life in the Philippines. She wrote of her parentage (just one generation) in one of her books, and since her mother was American, I was able to trace her roots to Patrick Henry, who is connected to the world tree. A Filipino-American Historical Association article published in New York picked up on my research via my blog. Dr. Racelis and her very excited family reached out to me recently and we are meeting for breakfast on the Oct-19 so I can share the information. Very gratifying!
My DNA test results tell me my family has strong links to China on all sides. I am looking forward to the day my research can take me there. I hope Geni can help.
How did you first become interested in genealogy?
I created a family book as a Christmas gift for my husband’s extended family in 2000. The 6 months of work that went into it inspired me to research on the rest of my family. Then came the blog. Then came this mad search for vintage photos which now decorate my home. History and genealogy is now a passion — I cannot imagine my day without working on it somehow.
How can those interested get involved?
Collaborating on a project on one’s surname or interest area is the first step. Being involved in the discussion and developing a good working relationship with a curator you feel most comfortable with has done wonders for me. It is also critical that a user, not only takes information provided by others; but contributes his own research and original write-ups to the collective knowledge.