England and Scotland

My family’s last name is Lewis and the oldest son in every generation gets the name Neave as a second first name. According to stories, this is because the last descendent of the Neave family was a woman. When she married to our family, they wanted to keep her family name alive, by passing it on to the oldest son of the next generation(s).

My first ancestor I’ve been able to trace was Henry Lewis. He came from Scotland (or England?), joined the East India Company and went to Bencoolen (now Bengkulu, Indonesia) in the 18th century. I’m trying to find out where he came from. I think there must be a passenger list or subscription list in the EIC archives with his name on it. But which boat was he on? And in which year? And what was his and the family’s home address? And why did he go to Sumatra? According to other stories, this was because he was the second son. The first son inherited the land and the second one was sent away with some money to start a new live somewhere else.

My research in the East India Company archives in the British Librairy in London, the Singapore National Archive and the Dutch East Indies archives in the Leiden University Librairy shed more light on my ancestors. I can find many of their letters and other documents about them there. I found the last will of Henry Lewis and some documents that mention him as a volunteer for the EIC in his younger years, later his job and promotion at the Fort Marlborough, a discription of one of his days in Bencoolen in 1783 (because he was a witness in a case) and that he died in a battle in 1795. And many more documents about the second generation in Sumatra and Malaysia, including a lot of correspondence between them and Stamford Raffles.

However, it’s like looking for needles in a hay stack, the archives are huge. Most documents are handwritten and not transcribed. When I was in London I found out that besides the online archive, there are even more documents and letters that aren’t digitalized yet. So I got a membership card.

While I was traveling and researching, three other descendants of the same ancestor found me online. It was great to hear their stories too. Neither of them knew where Henry came from in Scotland or England either. Recently I met Debbie in England (and Karen by video call). I thought I read an address on a letter from Henry’s son (also named Henry) I found in the online archive. He wrote this to the Bengal government, while he was living in London for a few years from about 1820 to 1826 (shortly after his mother died). I wrongly remembered it was Southampton Road. So Debbie and I went there to see if his house could still be there. When I came home, I realized it was Southampton Row, so I have to go back again. I also went to Westminster Abbey and found the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles, who worked with and was a friend of my ancestors. It’s a different one than the ones in Singapore, that I visited before and after.

I received the same DNA test as Karen and Debbie, exciting! 🙂 As I expected I’m from all over the world. I therefore call myself a citizen of the world. About 70% is from all over Europe, including The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, UK, Scandinavia (probably from the vikings), many more countries and even 1% jewish. To my surprise the 30% from all around South-East asia is not only Indonesian and Malaysian, but also a large percentage from different parts in the Philippines and some from Maladives, East-Timor and a few small islands in this area. My ancestors travelled around. 🙂

Debbie went to Southampton Row and sent me some pictures. I’d love to go here myself as well.