“The year 2014 is special for me. Firstly, I turned 64. Having been born in 1950, I’ve missed the Pioneer Generation Package by a few months. No CHAS card for me but I still get called ‘Aunty’!
More importantly, I travelled to Germany for the first time. I accompanied my husband, John Oehlers, who was determined to seek out his great-grandfather Heinrich Oehlers’ place of birth.
A carpenter’s son from Germany
So it was to the charming port city Hamburg we went. Heiligenstedten, Heinrich’s place of origin, is only an hour away from Hamburg.
St Marien’s Church where Heinrich was baptised was still standing and beautifully situated by the River Stor. Heinrich Oehlers arrived in Singapore in 1860.
I was so happy to be there because I could see John truly moved, wondering how a son of a carpenter could venture out to the East and make such a success of his life as a ship’s captain and landowner. The roots of the Oehlers family of Singapore stem from his marriage to Julia Carvalhu. She was 16 when they wed.
Check out the lovely walking tour you can do in Heiligenstedten, in German walking enthusiast Trina’s blog post: http://northgermanyblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/sunday-walk-in-heiligenstedten/
(Trina also shot some of the wonderful pictures featured in this post. Thanks Trina!)
A German adventurer in Sri Lanka
We also took the opportunity to visit Sri Lanka, or Ceylon, as it was known until 1972. I went to see the land where my German ancestor, George Godried Ebert, was born. He arrived in Ceylon in 1725. The Eberts of Sri Lanka today can thank the intrepid young German for their existence. Ebert Place was a small leafy lane in Colombo and I wanted to shout aloud, “I AM AN EBERT!” I’m sure the Sri Lankans wouldn’t have minded as they are full of life.
My grandfather, Victor Astley (one of George Ebert’s descendents) went out to Malaya in the 1930’s. My grandfather worked for Chow Kitt & Company as the assistant manager. He married Hilda Perera, an accomplished pianist who ran a music school. She brought her three sons to Singapore to be educated at the Anglo-Chinese School and the family were Methodist.
My Kuala Lumpur-born father, Earl Ebert, graduated from Raffles College and settled down in Singapore. He married my mother, the vivacious Dot Clarke, in 1947. Unfortunately my father died early in May 1952 when I was only 20 months, so I never knew him. When I was born, he was the deputy collector of land revenue, the highest post a local born Malayan could rise to. I learned from my mother I was born in the first class ward of Kandang Kerbau Hospital and it cost $4. So this is a cameo of my heritage.
Circling back home
Next year Singapore turns 50. I am a proud Singaporean looking forward to the celebrations. I was even born on the 9th of August! I am also proudly Eurasian and I salute all Singaporean Eurasians for their contributions to our island nation. We are a unique group among the many threads that embroider the Singapore fabric.” –Ann Oehlers