- Background Information
- Historical Societies and Museums
- Personal Stories
- Genealogical Resources
In the 19th century, factors such as war and famine in China and the needs of newly industrializing countries for cheap labour drove many Chinese abroad. Many went as sojourners, expecting to reside only temporarily in foreign countries. In fact, large numbers of sojourners settled overseas, establishing Chinese communities in many foreign countries. In some cases, there was re-migration, as families settled in one country, and subsequently migrated again, to Canada or another country.
This section suggests book titles and links which may be helpful in exploring the history of Chinese communities outside Canada and China. For Chinese history and genealogy in the United States, see our separate Chinese-American Genealogy page.
The Chinese diaspora has been studied extensively and a large amount of information on Chinese communities overseas is available. Useful books on this subject include:
The Encyclopedia of the Chinese Overseas (1999)
Ref. 325.251 E56p
This outstanding reference source provides a comprehensive view of historical and modern Chinese communities worldwide, as well as an extensive bibliography. A Chinese-language edition is also available.
Your Chinese Roots: The Overseas Chinese Story (1986)
Tan, Thomas Tsu-wee
Basic information on Chinese communities in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Britain.
Although there are no historical societies and museums relating to the Chinese community in New Zealand, an informal website provides information and links on this subject:
Individual accounts of Chinese who migrated to foreign countries or were born outside China provide interesting and potentially useful insights into the experience of Chinese sojourners and settlers abroad. The following library materials and websites explore the Chinese overseas experience through personal stories:
Being Chinese: Stories from the Diaspora (2003)
Stories of individuals of Chinese origin living in the U.S., Australia, Cuba, Malaysia, Germany, Canada, Zimbabwe, India, New Zealand, Philippines, The Netherlands, Peru, Indonesia, U.K., Singapore, and Mexico.
Cultural Curiosity: Thirteen Stories about the Search for Chinese Roots (2001)
Khu, Josephine M.T.
Autobiographical essays by ethnic Chinese born or raised in New Zealand, Sri Lanka, England, Indonesia, and the U.S.
Chinese Restaurants (2005)
5 DVDs explore the Chinese diaspora through the stories of Chinese restaurants in Israel, South Africa, Turkey, Mauritius, Trinidad, Cuba, Madagascar, Norway, Canada, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, and India.
Family Histories: The Chinese in New Zealand
Accounts of the experience of several Chinese individuals and families in New Zealand.
Golden Threads: Kwan Clan and Kwong Sing Stories
Personal stories from the Kwan clan of New South Wales, Australia.
While genealogical information for North America, the British Isles and Europe is extensively available in microfilm, print and electronic format, access to genealogy resources for other countries is more challenging.
An excellent survey article on overseas Chinese genealogical research (available through interlibrary loan) is "Sources on Overseas Chinese Studies: Genealogical Records" by Sheau-yueh J. Chao (Library Collections, Acquisitions, & Technical Services (vol. 30 no. 1/2, March/June 2006, p. 18-49).
The following websites may be helpful:
A huge portal pointing to genealogy-related resources worldwide, including many links to online databases of genealogical information. It is important to note that information relating to individuals of Chinese origin may be minimal or difficult to find, as early Chinese communities were often transient and not as well documented as other communities.
Website of the Genealogical Society of Utah. The site includes a link to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, which has a vast collection of genealogical records and related useful information on microfilm. Search the online Family History Library Catalogue to identify materials of possible interest. Microfilms may be ordered through Family History Centres. (In the Vancouver area, these are located in Burnaby and Surrey).
Bendigo Chinese Association Golden Dragon Museum - Ming Yeung Library and Joan Jack OAM Research Centre
The museum's Library includes holds a collection of manuscripts including immigration, cemetery, rates records, family trees, and various research papers. An online list of Chinese family names [PDF] represented in the collection is available.
Chinese Australian Family Historians of Victoria
This group based in the State of Victoria is relatively new. Although little information is available on their webpage, contact information is provided.
Chinese-Australian Historical Images in Australia
This large database is a catalogue of historical images of Chinese, Chinese immigrants and their descendants held in Australia. The database can be searched by personal name.
Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation Project
The website associated with this project includes several databases of potential value to genealogists:
Golden Threads: People & Collections
A database of information derived from interviews, grave markers and other sources. Although the database is large in scope, searches can be limited to People, and detailed family information is often provided.
Chinese First Families Project
This project initiated by the Auckland City Libraries aims to register the first families of Chinese immigrant groups arriving in New Zealand and their family histories.