Oatmeal and condensed milk


Linda Haden nee Cornfield remembers yummy things from childhood and shares how she hunted down her family lineage



“Other kids found it strange that my grandfather was Caucasian while I looked Oriental. I was often bombarded with curious stares and questions.”

Linda Haden2

Linda Haden’s paternal ancestors came from India and Eastern Europe. Her maternal ancestors came from China and Borneo. Her great-great grandfather, Alfred Cornfield, was born in Romania. She believes her great-grandfather, the Jewish Maxwell Cornfield, was born in Constantinople, which is now Istanbul.



“My grandfather, Clive, used to make oat porridge every single morning for me. He would drench it with condensed milk and we would soak pieces of bread in it.”


Linda Haden family tree

Clockwise from bottom left: Linda Haden nee Cornfield, grandma Nora Scully (of Penang origin), mum Teresa Cornfield, sister Deborah Cornfield, aunty Molly (grandfather’s sister’s daughter) and paternal grandfather, Clive Reginald Cornfield (born in Singapore) at the zoo.



“Around 4pm each day, my grandmother, Nora, would make tea, and we would munch on biscuits and crackers. Every year, her sister, my grand-aunty would visit us from Penang, and she would make sugee cake. My grandmother also had her nieces over often to play chap chiki, mahjong or gin rummy.”

Linda Haden pic

Linda with youngest daughter Katherine.  Her great-grandmother’s family, the Leicesters, were likely Anglican Anglo-Indians. The descendants of her ancestor, Robert Leicester Sr, moved to Singapore with the British East India Company. Her great-grandmother’s father was Ernest Clarence Leicester who was born in Singapore. His daughter, Winifred Elvira Leicester, was born in Sarawak.



1) The India Office at the British Library in London, which provides access to the East India Company records.

2) The British Imperial War Museums, for prisoner of war records. There, Linda found a record of great-grandfather Maxwell Cornfield’s incarceration in the civilian camp at Changi.

3)  FindMyPastUK is useful for tracing ancestors from Britain and Ireland.

4)  Ancestry.co.uk: “I unearthed the fact that my great-grandfather Maxwell Cornfield came from a Jewish family with eight children. However, I need to verify some of the facts, given that it was based on oral history, rather than actual records, but at least I have a vague idea now. Was completely clueless before!”

5) The Straits Times newspaper archives: “I have found quite a lot about the Leicesters and Maxwell Cornfield through this resource. I have thus been able to slowly piece everything together.”


Have you tried tracing your family’s heritage? Ever wanted to? Share your experience in the comments!


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