PNG family histories preserved
Israeli-based family history and DNA company, My Heritage, has embarked on a project to help preserve the family histories of five PNG tribes.
A team of five spent two weeks in Papua New Guinea last year, building up a profile of the tribes, visiting 11 locations, recording about 4363 names and creating family trees, the biggest of which has 745 names. The tribes are Owolka (Jiwaka Province), Melpa (Western Highlands), Karim (East Sepik), Yokoim (East Sepik) and Chimbu (Chimbu).
“When speaking to the tribes, we would start with the heads of each family, and collect general information about the tribe, location and their memories,” project leader, Golan Levi, says.
“Once we had a general outline we would start to forensically track all members of the family, dates, birth certificates, photos and any other memorabilia.”
The response was amazing, says Golan.
“This is the first time that an external international organisation has attempted to create family histories of these tribes.
“We also made it clear that the information being collected is for the local tribes to own themselves. It is a living record that they can build on in the years to come.”
At the end of each family session, the team snapped a family portrait using a Polaroid.
“For many, seeing a photo being printed is akin to a magical experience, which is wonderful to see.”
Golan says the team is amazed at how much value the locals place on the importance of preserving their history.
“There were some very emotional moments. During a panel with some elders, they recalled childhood memories, which included the bombings from World War 2.
“What MyHeritage is doing is safeguarding our language and our history,” says tribesman Luke from the Yokoim clan.
History in the making … a MyHeritage team member works with villagers to map their family trees.