Thursday, 22 May 2014

Out Of Their Trees : An Asia-Pacific Family Heritage

In over 30 years of researching family trees most of the work has been concentrated on Europe-based ancestries. I didn't think it would be easy to find an lgbt musician whose ancestry I could look into to celebrate both this Asia-Pacific Heritage Month and my 2014 theme of music. By researching the ancestry of songwriter and rock guitarist June Millington I not only found hundreds of ancestors on her American father's side but also quite a lot of information on her mother's Asia-Pacific ancestry.

June Millington found her first taste of musical success in a girl band she formed at high school. After several name changes the band got their first recording contract under the name of Fanny. They were the first all-female rock band to release an album with a major record label, Reprise Records. In 1986 June and her partner Ann Hackler founded the Institute for the Musical Arts, a non-profit organisation which supports women's involvement in the musical arts.

June's father, John Millington, was a lieutenant-commander in the US navy. During World War II he served in the Far East and the Philippines. As mentioned in my article last week the Philippines were occupied by the Japanese during the war and John was part of the liberating forces in 1945. He married Yolanda Leonor Limjoco in 1947. Like other Filipinos Yolanda and her family suffered through the Japanese occupation. Unlike Willem Nijholt (see that previous article) who was an Allied nation citizen Yolanda's family weren't made prisoners of war but still suffered hardship.

June Millington probably got most of her musical talent from her mother. After the family had moved to the US in 1961 Yolanda became an active member of several local folk dance groups. I don't think there's many people around who, like June Millington, can say that thier mother was a keen belly dancer!

Yolanda's family were well-connected before the Japanese occupation and afterwards their friends and relations became senior figures in national, regional and ecclesiastical circles.

Yolanda's maternal grandfather, Francisco Lejano (1868-1954), was leader of the municipal government of Nasugbu between 1914 and 1917. During this time he acquired the nickname "Kapitan Isko". Before the invasion of 1942 Francisco, by then well into his 70s, was still a leading community figure, as was Angel Limjoco who was married to his daughter and was Yolanda's father.

Angel's family had impressive connections. They were a wealthy family and many of them attended university in the Philippines, as did Yolanda before the war. Angel's older brother Gregorio studied medicine and became close friends with another student, one Manuel Quezon, who went on to become President of the Philippines between 1935 and 1944. President Quezon became godfather to Gregorio's daughter. Several members of Angel's family fought in the guerilla war against Japanese occupation.

Angel Limjoco's mother, Hospicia Trivinio, came from a more modest family, one with solid working-class roots in the Philippine jungle. Hospicia's own mother may even have a connection to another Philippine president. The Magsaysay family is a large one, and its not impossible that Hopsicia's mother, Marcela Magsaysay, was related to Ramon Magsaysay, President from 1953 to 1957, whose own ancestors came from the same area.

Returning to the Limjoco family their roots can be traced as far back as 1770 in the Batangas region where there are still many of June Millington`s cousins living today.

As with most families there are legends. One Limjoco family legend tells how they descend from a Chinese pirate called Lim Ah Hong.

Lim Ah Hong was something akin to a privateer of Elizabethan England in that he attacked Spanish galleons and "relieved" them of their Aztec gold. Some people would call him a pirate. He settled in the Philippines and had many wives and mistresses and countless children. Through the Spanish influence on the islands his name gradually altered from Lim Ah Hong to Limjoco (Spanish pronunciation making "j" sound like "h"). Whether or not this is the true origin of June Millington's mother's family, I wouldn't be surprised it there was a line of descent from the pirate, given that he had so many children and so many descendants.

So that's June Millington's Asia-Pacific ancestry through her mother. At some stage in the future I may write about her father's ancestry and his own links to 2 presidents (of the USA).

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