An Amazing Genealogy

February 20, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments (5)




Dear Mr. Ghosh:

My name is Derek Lang.  I am close to finishing River of Smoke, having read Sea of Poppies last year.  I’ve found these 2 books enthralling and reading them has coincided with research into my own Eurasian genealogy which I ramped up a couple of years ago.

Some brief background.  I was born in Hong Kong BCC in 1957 and attended King George V School where I completed my A levels before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area which has remained my home these past decades.  Both my parents are Eurasians with a generous mix of European, Asian and South Asian ancestry – forbears of whom could easily have been any number of the characters in your Ibis Tales.  My father and his father both worked for the British Government in Hong Kong.  My paternal Grandfather, John Charles Lang, died at the age of 42 during the Japanese Occupation.  His mother was Kathleen Paterson, the 4th of 5 children born to Jardine Matheson Tai Pan, William Paterson and his protected woman, Wong Miu Kiu.  Katherine’s husband, my paternal great grandfather, was Cameron Laurence Lang (Laing) (Leung Kam Lun) Compradore of the HK & Kowloon Wharf & Godown for 34 years.  I have not been able to definitively establish his parentage, but we think Scottish or German merchant, Chinese (wife) protected woman.  My paternal grandmother was Susan (Sherine) Nancy Kotwall, eldest daughter of Parsee broker/merchant Edulji Dorabji Kotwall originally from “Bombay”, and Anna Tata (Tung Ashu) local Chinese woman – though we do not know how the name “Tata” came to be associated with her – perhaps some conjured front behind which Edulji managed to be buried in the Parsee cemetery despite marrying outside both faith and blood.




Apologies …. I know I said “brief.”  I will leave it at that for now and not even touch on my mother’s multiculti side.  Long story short, late last year after connecting with a cousin in England, we uncovered a long neglected stash of old photos, many of which I have digitally restored or enhanced (my background is in art, photography and web design) an uploaded to a web site to share with those interested in the extended family.





These photos and the stories I have uncovered over the last couple of years are still as fresh and fascinating to us as to others who see them for the first time.  I must tell you that the process of scanning and working close up with enlargements of these long forgotten images has been, for want of a better expression, mind-blowing.  It seems fairly typical within Eurasian families of this 150 year Brigadoon-like colonial time span in HK that, unsurprisingly, much secrecy and cover-up of the past ensued.  It’s taken the consequential exodus of my generation of Eurasians back out into the Western World from the colonial experience  that have given us freedom to look back, uncover,  view and embrace the realities of that time for what they were.

All for now.  Will keep in touch.







Dear Derek

Thank you so much for this letter! I am writing in haste, on the way to the airport but I just wanted to say: what an amazing history – completely fascinating! I would love to know more. And I would love to post your letter on my blog – I know it will be of interest to many people. I wouldn’t of course post the link to the photographs (but on the other hand it would be great to feature a few of these amazing pictures).

 Please do stay in touch.

With my best wishes








How nice to hear from you.  I trust you had a pleasant flight.

First of all, per your request, I re-read my initial quick email to you yesterday – corrected a couple of typos and made a couple of minor edits pending your posting it to your blog.  That version follows this reply, below.  Please feel free to post this version if you choose.

I am in half a mind to add “we believe” to the claim “His mother was Katherine Paterson, the 4th of 5 children born to Jardine Matheson Tai Pan, William Paterson and his protected woman, Wong Miu Kiu.” but believe persistent researchers within the extended family have now uncovered enough corroborating evidence to prove this beyond a doubt, at least in our minds.

 All for now.  Will keep in touch.





5 Responses to “An Amazing Genealogy”

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  1. Comment by janice wongsurawatMarch 1, 2012 at 6:34 am   Reply

    I was re-reading Orhan Pamuk’s ‘My Name is Red’ and realized I had not understood it at all in the first reading.

    I did not get the significance of the discussion of miniature painting at all!
    I have never studied such art nor have I studied the history of the Ottoman empire. In fact, I have never studied much Asian history at all.

    I have just discovered your blog and am very happy to follow it.
    My task at this point is to figure out the relation between Islam and miniature painting. I thought Muslims were forbidden from making images of humans.

  2. Comment by Annelise connell — July 4, 2012 at 11:01 pm   Reply

    Dear Mr. Lang,

    I have a tree for those of Eurasian descent of Hong Kong families that you are welcome to add to. Here is the profile for William Paterson of Jardine’s

  3. Comment by Lydia Erving — August 1, 2014 at 6:21 am   Reply

    Dear Derek

    I have come across your letter here, and wish to make contact with you.

    My great grandfather is William Paterson Jr, Tai Ming Tak. My grandmother is Nellie Tai Siu Yin ( TMT’s oldest daughter ). I have connected with some of my Eurasian relatives in recent years, one of them is Geoffrey Chan who has given me alot of information on our interesting family. By the way, Geoffrey is from the Tai Yuk Ching branch.

    I hope you will get this message & find time to make contact with me.
    warm regards
    Lydia Erving

  4. Comment by tanya — September 9, 2014 at 2:59 am   Reply

    Hi Derek,
    Very interesting note, I am the great granddaughter of Edulji Kotwall…


  5. Comment by Marilyn West — February 11, 2020 at 9:33 pm   Reply

    Going over old web references, found this one back.
    I have recently connected with Christopher Tai, descended also from Tai Ming Tak. I think he is in a parallel line from yours. I am assuming his ancestor was Tai Ming Tak’s son, as Christopher bears the surname Tai.
    Hope we can connect. Like Derek, I am also descended from Kathleen Paterson.

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