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Genealogist unites descendants of Budlee and Boodheah

Monday, April 8, 2013
T&T Guardian employee Natasha Saidwan chats with Dr Ridwan Ali at the family reunion. Photo: RISHI RAGOONATH

More than 400 descendants of the Budlee and Boodheah family, whose ancestors came to T&T 144 years ago as indentured labourers, came together for a family reunion in Princes Town yesterday. Among the descendants are Guardian’s senior sub-editor Natasha Saidwan and former World Bank official Dr Ridwan Ali, a great grandson of Budlee and Boodheah. 



Other attendees came from as far as Norway, Australia, England, Canada and the United States. Minister of National Diversification and Social Integration Clifton De Coteau and genealogist Shamshu Deen also attended. De Coteau commended the family for their reunion. He said the United Nations, under its Family Social Policy and Development Division, had declared 2014  the International Year of the Family, so his ministry will be launching initiatives to foster and encourage family support.


He said strong families are the pillars of a united community. He also announced that a theatrical production will be held on Nelson’s Island on May 24 to re-enact Indian Arrival Day. Meanwhile, Ali expressed thanks to Deen for tracing the family’s roots. He said Deen’s book, Solving East Indian Roots in Trinidad, was an important resource tool for East Indians wishing to trace their roots. 


Ali said during his last assignment at the World Bank, as director for rural development in the South Asia region, he visited the ancestral villages of his forefathers. “Most of the people who migrated here came from the parts of Northern India, which now include the States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal,” Ali said.


He added that not many families migrated from India. However, Budlee, 29, and Boodheah, 27, left their home in Uttar Pradesh and came to Trinidad with their four children—Toolonee, eight, Sahabau, five, Ramjan, three, and 11-month-old baby daughter, Noseebun. Ali painted a picture of life in the sweltering barracks.


“Imagine a family of six living in a two-room barrack. Cooking, bathing, and washing were all done outside. Work on the plantations were physically difficult. They worked six days a week, seven to ten hours per day for 25 cents,” he said. Ali said the sacrifices of their ancestors must never be forgotten. “We have a lot to be proud of and hopefully we can prepare our children for their future just as our forefathers did,” he said.


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