Ayubowan, hello and welcome to the ‘De Fonseka‘ family name website, the very first web site dedicated to Genealogy and family name research in Sri Lanka.
This site is more than a genealogy website and moves away from the traditional “Family Tree” websites to bring alive to you information on surnames, their origin and use, as well as the history of the families carrying the ‘de Fonseka’ name. The site documents the people, their stories, achievements and contributions to the society, and their path thru the tremendous social change over the centuries. It also documents the social history of people carrying similar Sephardic names (Spanish or Portuguese Jew names such as Fernando, Perera, Silva etc), which is necessary to understand their background in Sri Lanka.
This site takes you on their journey thru time.
Genealogy (from Greek: genea, “generation” and logos, “knowledge”), is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history. For the Sri Lankan genealogist searching for one’s roots, lack of records of any sort has been a serious constraint. But one unique court case during the Dutch Period (Dutch Rule 1658 – 1796), in which the all powerful ‘Disava’ or the Dutch ruler of the province who was also the chief land administrator, was challenged in a court of law, left a trail of records relating to the De Fonseka and associated families.
It was the Dutch who introduced meticulous record keeping to Ceylon. The Dutch records (still available in the National Archives) pertaining to the above case was subsequently translated and published in English as the ‘De Andrado manuscripts’ by Mr. J. H. O. Paulusz, who was the Government Archivist, from 1940 to 1958. It was a stroke of luck for the family, and early researchers such as S R De Fonseka worked with scholars to translate the Dutch work and build the family history to around the later part of the 19th century. This authenticated research which was also published in the book, ‘The Karava of Ceylon’ by M D Raghavan, lays the foundation for this website.
Built up from these archival records, the website builds up on the early research, to presents to you the up to date genealogy and history of the De Fonseka families of Sri Lanka. With a documented history going back to 1658 in the Dutch period (during the reign of King Raja Singha II), the families were part of the ruling Mudaliyar class in the lowlands.
This website is also proud to present to you extracts from original Dutch records referring to the case, maintained at the Sri Lanka National Archives. This is the first time that the Dutch records, now preserved in the National Archives of Sri Lanka, has been brought online.
If you are a first time visitor to this site, you have probably come to the best place to start off your voyage of discovery. The following notes will guide you on the contents of this site, how it is organized, and how to look for specific information.
In the Surname page we look at the meaning, origin, history and other details of the surname called ‘de Fonseka’ such as it’s first known usage in Sri Lanka.
The Family pages traces back the roots of known family groups from way back in 1658 to the present, with the help of the genealogy information found in a collection of historical Dutch Documents, and other reference material. The website builds up the records to the present day with more than six further generations of the families and over 400+ entries. These details have been collected from family members, from feedback received through the website from fellow genealogists and by researching church and government records.
Use the ‘Search‘ feature of the main page to search for any known ancestor. From the search results, tag in to your relevant family tree. If your name or any family member names are missing or needs correction, please contact the webmaster thru the email shown in the footer,
The Early History page traces the early historical background, so necessary to understand the history of the family name beyond the available documentation. To do this we resort to cast studies, specially the history of the Karava caste, and other reference material to trace the origins and the possible paths the families may have taken before 1658. The contents in this page will be of interest to members carrying Sephardic surnames .
The Articles page lists articles of interest authored by the Webmaster, as well as published articles, about the People, Places and Events surrounding the families. These pages brings alive the legacy to you with interesting well researched articles containing stories, anecdotes, and others, captured and documented before the stories disappear forever. It also contains historical articles which help you to put the family history in to context in the time period.
The Reference page contains the extensive list of documentation referred by this site. This is also a useful place for other Sri Lankan Genealogists, to start their own journey of discovery.
Do take time to read the special ‘Genealogy Guide for the Sri Lankan Researcher’ article, which was built up from the experiences gained from this project.
If you are a visiting ‘de Fonseka’, please go to the contact section in the footer and help me to enhance these pages further, by sharing information such as missing family details, stories, anecdotes, photos, articles, books, artifacts or material which may be in your possession. All contributions will be acknowledged, and any original materials returned to the owner. The web site is continuously evolving with contributions from far corners of the world, from people like you who stumble upon it, and contribute in your own different ways to make it grow.
Hope you’ll enjoy browsing these pages, as much as I enjoyed bringing it Online.
J. F. R. De Fonseka (Fonny)
Land for Money – Dutch Land Registration in Sri Lanka, K. D Paranawithana 2001