Family

What is a family? Does a family need to live under one roof? Can a family be split across the world in places far apart? Family links were crucial to Chinese Canadians. They connected people across space and time. Families forged enduring bonds of trust, affection and duty despite physical separation and long years apart. The stories that travelled along family networks enflamed dreams of a better life, inspiring men and women to start long journeys across oceans and continents. They were helped along the way by their relatives who gave them advice, lent them money, found them jobs, introduced them to friends, nursed them when sick, kept them company during lonely days. Those left behind depended upon family support in the absence of those who had left. Marriages to aboriginal and non-Chinese women created new families throughout Canada. A devotion to family helped endure decades of hard work and sacrifice. Family also went beyond blood relations to include “uncles” and “aunts” who were treated like family. Friends and neighbours also became part of the family, sharing communal meals. Of course, all families have conflict as well as affection--vicious gossip told alongside funny stories. Whether around the meal table or during long hours of toil, chattering voices ‘telling stories’ filled the air.