The Generation Game
In conversation with Rajesh Haldipur (pictured with his family)
In late 2009, Rajesh Haldipur, a management consultant from Mumbai, India, faced a unique challenge – what should he give to his granduncle on his 100th birthday. Atmaram Ganpatrao Haldipur was a man who had everything - his health, his wealth, his faculties, and very soon, a century of good living under his belt.
Rajesh’s dilemma resolved itself serendipitously. Atmaram Ganpatrao Haldipur had been de-facto head of the family for 50 of his 100 years; it seemed only fitting then, to honor that role in what would become a labor of love – a book on the complete family tree to share with the whole Haldipur family on their patriarch's 100th birthday.
It seemed a daunting task, but Rajesh found help - MyHeritage.com, a website with software and publishing options, gave him a ready-made tool to store the data he painstakingly began to collect on his community, the Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins.
Rajesh only had one regret “I didn’t think of doing it earlier!” A year and a half after the book’s release, Atmaram Ganpatrao Haldipur passed away, but the “The Haldipur Family Tree’ arrived in time for his 100th birthday celebration.
“It was not an easy task”
Rajesh worked on the project in his spare time, relying mainly on the testimony of family elders to identify names and relationships. Luckily, while several older family members struggled with short-term memory, Rajesh found they “could usually remember the days of their youth like it was yesterday!”
With a deadline looming in six months, extended family began to pitch in and a family tree of 579 individuals spanning nine generations began to take shape. “I realized for the first time that in genealogy, going backwards was progress!” laughs Rajesh.
“It wasn’t just about adding people.”
The process was as complex as it was time consuming. Rajesh needed full names, photographs, dates and accurate links between relationships. The occasional hiccups– a baby boy born to a cousin just as the book went to the printers (he made it into the book!) and awkward glitches- marrying an aunt to her father-in-law, forced Rajesh to verify his data, “I’d just pick up the phone, speak to some uncle or aunt, …run a couple of cross-checks and corrections with other people, especially the relationships of the generations.”
Family Ties to Family Tree
MyHeritage.com made it easier. It emailed automatic updates on progress to family members around the world; they were also allowed to see the tree, contribute comments, add photographs and email advice. This collaboration helped to maintain “high levels of enthusiasm” throughout the project, says a delighted Rajesh.
From across the globe his far flung family’s response was “fantastic”. “It was amazing” he reflects, “to see all these parts of the family come together over just a Family Tree. It really created something for the family to talk about. In a way, we became united around the project.”
You can view the PDF of the book here.
The Next Step
Rajesh also made a discovery that took the project to its next logical step. He found an aunt from ‘a faraway branch of the family' who was a genealogy enthusiast. Nandita Mudbidri became co-webmaster with Rajesh, of what evolved into the ambitious ‘Chitrapur Saraswat Family Tree’ project – an effort to document the entire community of “every Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmin that ever walked the Earth!" The retired but indefatigable Nandita Mudbidri has added 1,500 individuals a month to the database, so that to date, a remarkable 30,000 Chitrapur Saraswats worldwide, are now part of an extended family tree.
Rajesh's project is still ‘alive and kicking’ and he invites you to view the tree as it stands today, here. Data visible will be restricted to non-members; but you can see enough to get a flavor of what it takes to make a family tree.
If you have a query on creating your own family tree, Rajesh would be happy to offer advice. You can ask your question by registering at this site ( register/log in at the top of the page), click on the Generation Game title ( under Related Threads) in the side bar of this article and post your question.
edited by m.kymal