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ST News, Oct 15, 2011

State of the dead; The intrepid tomb-explorers


MR RAYMOND Goh takes immense satisfaction in helping visitors find the resting places of their ancestors.
Since last year, more than 30 people have asked Mr Goh, 47, to use his expertise at searching out the nooks and crannies of Bukit Brown Cemetery.

He has located half the lost graves, and does not charge a cent for his labour.
'When we reunite the living with the dead, we feel a sense of joy and happiness which money cannot buy,' he says.

'Every grave tells a story,' the father of three says. For him, tomb exploring is like reading a storybook. He tries to find out as much as he can about each tomb from its inscriptions, design and surroundings. He has documented and archived a few hundred graves so far.

He and his younger brother, Charles, 43, have been conducting monthly tours since 2009 for the public to raise awareness of Bukit Brown's history.

'It is difficult to find a place with such rich cultural and historical roots,' he says.

The brothers are licensed tour guides with the Singapore Tourism Board. Their cemetery tours cost about $30 per person. There are 30 to 40 people on each tour - a mix of students, working adults and retirees.
The brothers also conduct tours at the request of government agencies such as the National Heritage Board, Urban Redevelopment Authority, Land Transport Authority and Ministry of National Development.

Mr Raymond Goh is a director of a health-care company, and his younger brother is a safety manager.
He says that interest in the cemetery is growing, and since June he has been conducting tours weekly.
To raise awareness of Bukit Brown's heritage, the brothers organised a Remember Your Ancestors Day on Sunday. The event will be held again tomorrow.

Volunteer guides will provide information about prominent people buried in the cemetery. For those keen on finding their ancestors' graves, the brothers have provided a simple guide.

HOW TO FIND YOUR ANCESTORS' GRAVES
STEP 1: Find out your ancestor's name in English.
STEP 2: Find out the date of death. For help, go to Land Registry at Singapore Land Authority at 55, Newton Road. Search for your ancestor's last address. If he left a will, a grant of probate would have been issued, and you can determine the year of his death.
STEP 3: Check newspapers.nl.sg to see if your ancestor's family published an obituary notice in The Straits Times, which would include the date and place of burial.
STEP 4: Visit the National Archives of Singapore at 1, Canning Rise to find the burial plot number, including the block and section number of the grave.
STEP 5: Join Remember Your Ancestors Day. Guides will help you look for your ancestor's grave with the information you obtained. For more details, e-mail your questions to events@api.sg.
AMELIA TENG

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