Your Stories: From Friends to Family

Posted June 21, 2017 by Amanda | One Comment

Geni’s World Family Tree aims to connect people from all parts of the world. With an international user base, we love to hear the diverse stories from our users as they research their family histories.

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Sharmalan (right) with his mother Elaveni, his grandmother Visalatchy, his wife Vasuge and his daughter Vaishnavi

Sharmalan Thevar was born in 1984 in Malaysia. A colorful nation made up of many different cultures and ethnicities, it’s not surprising for Malaysians to find their family trees stretching to many other places in the world. Sharmalan’s grandparents immigrated to Malaysia from India many years ago.

Your Stories: From Friends to Family

Sharmalan’s maternal grandfather Swaminathan Kandapillai

“Genealogy is not a popular hobby in Malaysia. However, many are now showing interest to pick it up as a hobby.”

Sharmalan first became interested in his family history during his 20s. Since getting started, he has recorded 5-7 generations of his family.

“I felt that there is a need to record our family details so that it can be passed on to the future generations. I have been researching for close to 10 years now.”

Your Stories: From Friends to Family

Sharmalan and his father, Dorairaj Thevar in 1993

He first came across Geni in 2013 and found it very easy to use to build his family tree. His father is also actively involved in the family’s genealogical research.

“My father’s family are descendants of a chieftain called Malaiyttayya Thevar who lived many centuries ago.”

Your Stories: From Friends to Family

Pichaiammal Thevar

His father’s eldest sister, Pichaiammal Thevar, is among the last generation of ladies to practice the unique tradition of earlobe stretching. She currently lives in the family’s paternal ancestral village called Kadampakudi in Ramnad.

“The people of this village migrated from Thanjavur during the 10th century AD under the rule of Rajaraja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola.”

Sharmalan’s genealogy research has brought him a few surprises as well as a member of the Klang Valley Mukkulathor Association in Malaysia. The Mukkulathor community from Tamil Nadu, India is comprised of three clans, the Kallar, Maravar, and Agamudayar. “Mukkulathor” literary means “People of Three Clans.” During the British colonial period in the 19th century, many of the Mukkulathor people of India migrated to Malaya (now known as Malaysia).

Through the association, Sharmalan has been able to find some new connections, including one to a friend.

Your Stories: From Friends to Family

Nessamanie Kandiyar and Sharmalan

“My friend Nessamanie Kandiyar is also interested in genealogical research. Both him and me are from the Klang Valley Mukkulathor Association (KVMA), an association for the Tamil speaking community known as Mukkulathor. We have approximately 1,135 surnames and around 62 have been identified by KVMA in Malaysia. KVMA has played an important role in bringing long lost Mukkulathor relatives together.”

Nessamanie shares the same surname as some of Sharmalan’s parallel cousins, the surname Kandiyar. The two friends decided to see if they could trace a common connection in their family trees.

“We found out that both Nessamanie and my maternal grandmother Visalatchy (wife of Swaminathan Kandapillai and daughter of Ganaphathipillai @ Muthiah Kandiyar) descended from the same ancestors in the village known as Ayyampettai, in Thanjavur, India.

Our research showed that Nessamanie’s great grandmother Sampoornam was actually born in the ancestral home of my maternal grandfather in the village known as Sooliyakottai, also in Thanjavur.

Your Stories: From Friends to Family

Sharmalan’s great grandmother Mariayi Chittachiyar, wife of Nagamuthu Kandapillai

“Further research revealed that our great grandparents were cousins and there were marital ties between the people of Ayyampettai and Sooliyakotti as evident in the marriage of my own grandparents.”

Discoveries like the one made by Sharmalan and Nessamanie is one of the best parts of genealogy. And Geni is the perfect place to collaborate on these family history quests and to illustrate how we are all connected.

Your Stories: From Friends to Family

A family celebration for his daughter’s first birthday

When asked to share his advice to others just beginning their family history research, Sharmalan had this to offer:

“Never hesitate to ask around from your elders to learn more about your family. Digitize every document and photographs [that] you discover so that it can be copied and does not get destroyed over time. For those of Tamil origin, it is best to find out the village of origin to know more about their own genealogy.”

Thank you to Sharmalan Thevar for sharing your experiences with us!

Do you have a genealogy story to share? Email us at

All photos courtesy of Sharmalan Thevar

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Marketing Communications Manager at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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  • Sharon Vik

    Great story!!! <3 I found out that a friend of mine is my 10th cousin. She is of 3 different Native American tribes (and I am not), so I never thought I'd find a connection to her. But one day I stumbled across a common ancestor in our trees. Funny enough it is through Harriet Beecher Stowe's family (my friend's mother's maiden name was Beecher). Life is great to find out your friends are family! :)