The Shepherdson Family

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Chance meetings... and Shepherdsons find their roots
As published in The Straits Times, Singapore, 19 August 1990

The Shepherdson Family Reunion

MORE than two years ago, two men took their infant sons to a Catholic church in Siglap to be baptised on the same day. During the ceremony, they found out that both families were Shepherdsons, but put this down as a coincidence.

The two men, Michael Shepherdson and Terence Shepherdson, did not meet again until earlier this year when they attended the funeral of an uncle, Mr Cedric Pestana. It was then that both realized they were first cousins. That meeting was the start of a search for their roots as they painstakingly traced their family tree.

Their labour has resulted in probably the first printed heritage magazine by a Eurasian family in Singapore. It is called Pride in Knowing and was given to every head of a Shepherdson family at a special function yesterday. And there are about 120 Shepherdsons in Singapore. Said Michael, 32, the managing director of an advertising firm: "It was the life-long dream of our uncle Pestana that we should know our family roots. And we thought, why not?"

The project lasted four months, and it took a four-member team to old Catholic churches in Kuala Lumpur, Perak, Penang and Malacca where they went through baptismal and marriage records, even reading tombstones in graveyards.Team members Michael, Terence, Kevin and Theresa, all cousins, jotted down everything connected with the word "Shepherdson".

On their return to Singapore they got the help of Dr Myrna Blake, a lecturer in social work at the National University of Singapore, in cross-verification of these facts before the final picture look shape. Kevin Shepherdson, 22, an Arts undergraduate, recalled: "When we were in KL looking up Uncle Nick, for instance, we were just knocking doors on what were really strangers' houses and we had to show them the charts we had before they would believe us. At the end of our stay they kissed us on our heads when we left-"

The oldest surviving Shepherdson the team found was Nicholas A. Shepherdson, who was born 90 years ago and now lives in Kuala Lumpur. The oldest Shepherdson in Singapore is Norbert Francis, 75, Kevin's grandfather. The first Shepherdson who arrived in the Malay Peninsula with the spice trade was a court bailey called John Shepherdson. His name has been traced up to 1800.

"It is particularly touching that John Shepherdson's wife was a Pestana, like my uncle," said Michael, who speaks fluent Portuguese as he was brought up by his Portuguese-speaking grand-aunt. "It'd be something he'd really have been happy to know," he said.

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