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Genealogy in China

There is a strong genealogical tradition in China. In many families and clans ancestral shrines were maintained within the home, or in the case of the wealthy, a separate ancestral hall. The ancestral shrine or hall housed wooden tablets, inscribed with the names of the honoured dead. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Doorway to the Past, provides a very informative overview of the history and characteristics of ancestral halls.

Ancestors' names were also collected in written genealogical records – jia pu ( traditional or simplified) or zu pu. A classic Chinese genealogy contains a large amount of information including: family rules and instructions, portraits and biographies of important clansmen, genealogical charts, a list of donors to the book, and much more. Detailed and very clearly-written and well-illustrated overviews of the typical contents of a jia pu are available in the following articles (available via interlibrary loan):

"Researching Your Asian Roots for Chinese-Americans"
Journal of East Asian Libraries (no. 129, February 2003, p.23-30)
Chao, Sheau-yueh J.

"Sources on Overseas Chinese Studies: Genealogical Records"
Library Collections, Acquisitions, & Technical Services (vol. 30 no. 1/2, March/June 2006, p. 18-49)
Chao, Sheau-yueh J.

The following scholarly essay explores the history of genealogy in China, including the characteristics of printed genealogies and their value and limitations as research documents:

Meskill, Johanna A. "The Chinese Genealogy as a Research Source"
Family and Kinship in Chinese Society (1970, p. 139-161)
Freedman, Maurice, ed.
Ref. 301.442 F19

Traditionally, access to genealogies was restricted to clansmen and few copies were produced. Moreover, during political and administrative changes under the People's Republic of China, some ancestral halls and homes were demolished or converted into communal housing or headquarters buildings for communes, brigades, or the local Communist Party branch. Family records and genealogies were lost. Where they have survived, jia pu may not be readily available to the general public.

Thus, it may be difficult to locate or obtain access to a jia pu relating to your family. If you do locate a jia pu associated with your family surname, it is important to bear in mind that the record may not actually refer to your family. People from families (jia) with the same surname are not necessarily directly related to each other. For more information, see Clan and District Associations (zu).

Finally, during periods of war, adoptions from other families or villages commonly occurred in order to carry on the family name. These adoptions were rarely indicated in jia pu and knowledge of them was only shared verbally.


FINDING THE RECORDS

For information on jia pu collections in China, see Genealogical Collections and Services in China. Jia pu are also found in selected libraries in the Vancouver area, in the rest of Canada, and in the U.S. Circulating items may be available through interlibrary loan. Vancouver Public Library users can place interlibrary loan requests directly, using this interlibrary loan form. The following listing highlights important and / or local Vancouver-area collections and services, but is not comprehensive:

At the Vancouver Public Library

The Vancouver Public Library does not own any examples of jia pu. However, the collection does include a listing of jia pu titles available at the Asian Library, University of British Columbia:

Jia Pu [Asian Library, U.B.C. Genealogy Titles] (2005)
Asian Library, University of British Columbia
CHI 929.351X U58j

At the Asian Library, University of British Columbia

The Asian Library, University of British Columbia has a small collection of jia pu. A listing is available at the Vancouver Public Library (see above). Alternatively, search the U.B.C. Library catalogue online.

The Asian Library also owns two listings of Chinese genealogies held by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah (see below):

Catalogue of Chinese Genealogies in Taiwan: Taiwan qu zu pu mu lu
Chen Meigui and Zhenji Zhao

Chinese Genealogies at the the Genealogical Society of Utah: An Annotated Bibliography (1983)
Telford, Ted A., Melvin P. Thatcher and Basil Pei-nai Yang

At Other Canadian Libraries

Jia pu held by Library and Archives Canada and other Canadian libraries may be identified using AMICUS, a database of over 30 million records from 1300 Canadian libraries. To search for genealogies of specific families, select Subject Keyword from the drop-down pick-list, and enter a search strategy based on the following example: Yin family.

At the Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah has many Chinese genealogies in its collection. You can search the Library Catalog, which includes entries in both Chinese and English.

Family History Library holdings of Chinese genealogies are also listed in the two books available at the Asian Library, University of British Columbia (see above).

The Vancouver Public Library is affiliated with the Family History Library. Through this arrangement, VPL users are able to arrange to have genealogy microfilms and microfiche from the FHL's vast collection sent to VPL for viewing. For more information on this service and how to place orders, visit the Borrowing Microfilms from the Family History Library guide.

Family History Centers are satellite branches of the Family History Library. Some of the material from the Library in Salt Lake City, Utah can be sent to a satellite branch for researchers to view.

If you are interested in visiting a Family History Center, use the online Find a Family History Center form to locate one near you. Metro Vancouver is served by a Burnaby location:

5280 Kincaid Street
Burnaby, B.C.
Telephone: 604-299-8656

At Other U.S. Libraries

Collections at the following U.S. libraries include Chinese family genealogies:

C.V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University
This library holds the largest collection of Chinese genealogies outside China, and is second largest in the world, next to the Shanghai Library.

Harvard-Yenching Library
The largest and strongest academic Chinese collection in the U.S. The genealogy collection ranks second to Columbia University.

Follow the links below for more information about genealogical collections and services based in China. Pinyin romanizations follow the English names below, where available.



Fung Ping Shan Library

Established in 1932 as the Hong Kong University's Chinese library, the Fung Ping Shan Library contains about 400 Chinese genealogical titles. Many of these valuable primary sources are from clans in Guangdong and Hong Kong.

Contact Information

Website: http://lib.hku.hk/fpslib/
Mailing address: 4th - 6th floors, Main Library,
University of Hong Kong,
Pokfulam, Hong Kong.
Telephone: (852) 2859-2213
Fax: (852) 2858-9420
Email: fpslib@lib.hku.hk


Guangdong Overseas Chinese Affairs Office = Guangdong Qiao Wang

The Overseas Chinese Affairs Office is a branch of the Guangdong Provincial Government. The Office offers a wide variety of services for overseas Chinese returning to China to visit relatives, settle down, invest, or establish businesses. Services include a Root Searching Program offered by the Cultural and Education Department.

The Chinese Culture Center in San Francisco California offers a program which helps young Chinese-Americans search for their roots in China. The program uses the services of the Guangdong Overseas Chinese Affairs Office. For more information about this program, go to Chinese Cultural Centre's In Search of Roots program webpage. The Guangdong Overseas Chinese Affairs branch also includes information about this program.

Contact Information

Website: http://gocn.southcn.com/english/ (English)
http://gocn.southcn.com (Chinese)
Mailing address:
 
 
 
 
 
No. 8
Haishan Street
Ersha Island
Guangzhou 510105
Guangdong
P.R.China
Telephone: (86) 20 - 87353828 or (86) 20 - 87352537
Fax: (86)20 - 87352896
Email: gdqw@gdnet.com.cn

 


National Library of China = Zhongguo Guo Jia Tu Shu Guan

The National Library of China established a Center of Local Chronicles and Genealogies in April 1990. The Center has the second largest collection of genealogies and local records in China, comprising some 120,000 volumes. Holdings include thousands of original ancient genealogies.

Since 1949, the National Library of China has published thousands of additional titles, including several hundred newly-compiled genealogies. Holdings also comprise 1000 local records on microfilm, donated by the Genealogical Society of Utah.

The Centre has completed several database projects relevant to genealogy and local history, including:

  • Index of Biographies in Chinese Local Records
  • Index of Papers on Chinese Local Records
  • System of Bibliographical Retrieval of Local Records

Contact Information

Website: www.nlc.gov.cn/ (National Library of China)
* Mainly Chinese; some English
Mailing address: Center of Local Chronicles and Genealogies
National Library of China
7 Wenjin Street
Beijing 100802
P.R. China
Telephone: (86-10) 66126165 or 66126162
Fax: (86-10) 66175547
Email: gqzlz@publicf.nlc.gov.cn

Shanxi Genealogical Research Centre = Shanxi Jia Pu Yan Jiu Zhong Xin

Established in 1985, the Shanxi Genealogical Research Centre is a division of the Shanxi Academy of Social Sciences. The Center provides research and information services to people tracing their Chinese roots.

Shanxi Centre staff have travelled around China to microfilm genealogical materials. In addition to a large number of microforms, the Centre has a collection of more than 3500 Chinese genealogical documents.

Publications

Zhongguo Jia Pu Mu Lu = Catalogue of Chinese Genealogy (1992)
Catalogue of genealogies relating to specific families.

Zhonghua Zu Pu Ji Cheng = Chinese Genealogy Series 100 vols. (1995)
Studies of five large Chinese clans.

Guo Shi Shi Lue = History of Guo Shi (1997)
Genealogy and history of the Guo clan.

Taiyuan Zhang Shi Bian Tian Xia =Taiyuan Zhang Shi Around the World (2000)
Genealogy and history of the Zhang clan.

Pu Die Xue Yan Jiu= Genealogy Study
Irregular journal

Contact Information

Website: www.sass.sx.cn/ (Shanxi Provincial Academy of Social Sciences)
Mailing address: 282 Bingzhou Nan Lu
Taiyuan 030006
P.R. China
Telephone: (0351) 5691835
Fax: (0351)5691835 or (0351) 5691871
Email:
 
 
skytsg@msn.com
or
liuning@xun-yuan.com

Shanghai Library = Shanghai Tu Shu Guan

Founded in 1952, the Shanghai Library has the largest collection of Chinese genealogical materials in the world. In 1996, the Library opened the first Chinese Jia Pu Reading Room. It also offers public genealogy programs and has organized national and international conferences on Chinese genealogical research. Shanghai Library is currently coordinating an international project designed to create a comprehensive bibliography of Chinese genealogies worldwide (see Shanghai Library Project).

Databases

Genealogy Catalogue = Jia Pu Mu Lu
Shanghai Library's searchable database of Chinese genealogies.

Publications

General Catalogue of Chinese Genealogy = Zhongguo Jia Pu Zong He Mu Lu (1997)

Dictionary of Chinese Genealogy

Summary of Genealogies at the Shanghai Library = Shanghai Tu Shu Guan Guan Cang Jia Pu Ti Yao (2000)
Wang, Heming

Contact Information

Website:
 
www.library.sh.cn/web/index.html (English)
Mailing address: 1555 Huai Hai Zhong Lu
Shanghai 200031
P. R. China
Telephone: 021-644-55555 Ext. 1213
Fax: 021-644-55001
Email: service@libnet.sh.cn

Sun Yat-sen Library of Guangdong Province = Guangdong Sheng Li Zhongshan Tu Shu Guan

Sun Yat-sen Library is the major public library in Guangdong Province, the source of many Chinese immigrants to Canada. The library holds 3.8 million items, including almost 385,000 thread-bound ancient books.

It has not been yet been possible to establish the extent and nature of genealogy-related resources and services at the Sun Yat-sen Library. Inquiries are continuing.

Contact Information

Website: http://web.zslib.com.cn/zslibeng/index.asp (English)
www.zslib.com.cn/cn/index.asp (Chinese)
Mailing address:
 
 
213 Wen Ming Lu
Guangzhou 510110
P.R. China
Telephone: 020 8382 5702
Email: bgs@zslib.com.cn
or
ggb@zslib.com.cn

 

The following books provide practical information and personal stories relating to genealogical research in China. Titles owned by the Vancouver Public Library are linked to their full bibliographic descriptions in the online VPL Library Catalogue. Publisher information is included for titles not owned by VPL, which may be available through interlibrary loan.

Ancestors, 900 Years in the Life of a Chinese Family (1988)
Ching, Frank
929.2 C53c
While working in Beijing as a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Chinese-American journalist Frank Ching researched his Chinese roots, tracing his family through more than 30 generations, to an 11th-century poet, Qin Guan, whose tomb he located on Mount Hui in Wuxi. This book describes his quest, and tells the stories of individual members of the family through succeeding generations, ending with a portrait of Mr. Ching's father.

Asian American Genealogical Sourcebook (1995)
Byers, Paula, ed.
Ref. 929.373 A83b
This book explores U.S. sources for Chinese-American genealogical research (such as government immigration records), but also includes information about genealogy in China itself and sources such as clan and family genealogies, Chinese local histories, and ancestral tablets and graves.

Basic Guide to Chinese Genealogy (2002)
Boey, Danny
Ref. 929.351 B67b
This brief introduction covers a range of topics including the genealogical tradition in China, basic genealogical methods, private and public sources of information, Chinese names, and publishing your results.

"The Chinese Genealogy as a Research Source" by Johanna M. Meskill, in Family and Kinship in Chinese Society
Maurice Freedman, ed.
Ref. 301.442 F19

The Encyclopedia of the Chinese Overseas (1999)
Pan, Lynn, general editor
Ref. 325.251 E56p
"Part I: Origins" explores various topics related to the ancestral homeland of the overseas Chinese community. Although it does not directly address the subject of genealogy, the book provides useful background for those researching their roots.

Hung Zu Zi Sun: Xun Zeo Huazen Zhu Xian Zhi Nan = You Are Royalty: A Guide to Your Chinese Ancestor (2002)
Chinn, A.R.
929.351 C53h
This short book introduces many aspects of Chinese genealogical research. It is not a step-by-step guide, but consists of a series of short chapters providing basic information on diverse topics, including Chinese names, calendar dates, place name terminology, official records, planning a trip to China and more. [Traditional Chinese]

Jia pu: ya su Zhongguo cong shu (2006)
Wu, Quianghua
CHI 929.351 W95j
This book covers the origin and development of Chinese genealogy; editing, revision and layout of family trees; and investigation of family temples. Includes bibliographical references. [Simplified Chinese]

Lam Chi Phat: The Chronicle of an Overseas Chinese Family (2001)
Lam, Tri
929.2 L21L
The author's grandfather, Lam Chi, was born in Guangdong Province in 1890. As a young man, he emigrated to Vietnam, where he married and raised a family. Meanwhile, he maintained his ties with China, where he married a second "mainland" wife. Eventually he returned. In due course, many family members emigrated to Canada and other overseas destinations. This memoir tells their story.

A River Named Lee (1995)
Poy, Vivienne
951.25 P89r
This book starts with the dramatic murder of the author's grandfather, Lee Ting Sien, on April 30, 1928 in Hong Kong. From this beginning, Poy tells the story of her family, from its origins in 1100 B.C. to the 20th century.

A Student's Guide to Chinese American Genealogy (1996)
Oryx American Family Tree Series
She, Colleen
Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx Press
While focusing on Chinese-American history and related records of genealogical value in the U.S., this book also includes chapters on "Social Structure and Genealogy in Chinese History", "Chinese Clan Registers", and "Local Gazetteers".

Studies in Asian Genealogy: Papers (1972)
World Conference on Records and Genealogical Seminar
Palmer, Spencer J. ed.
Provo, Utah, Brigham Young University Press
A wide-ranging collection of essays based on presentations at a genealogical conference held in 1972. Papers relating to Chinese genealogy include:

  • "The History and Arrangement of Chinese Genealogies" by Hsiang-lin Lo
  • "Chinese Genealogies as a Source for the Study of Chinese Society" b y Wolfram Eberhard
  • "The Preservation of Genealogical Records in China" by Hsiang-lin Lo
  • "The Content and Use of Chinese Local Histories (Fang Chih) by Tsun Leng
  • "The Ch'ing Dynasty Archives" by Charles H. Hedtke

Wonton's & Eggrolls: Stories Told by the Blind Aunt (2002)
Mui, Anna
929.2 M9531w
The starting point for this book was the arrival in Canada of the author's blind aunt and two other relatives from China in the late 1950s. The author, then age 14, felt uncertain about these unfamiliar visitors, but a bond grew as the blind aunt shared stories of relatives back in China, spinning a vivid family history incorporating elements of Chinese culture and myth.

You Are Royalty
see Hung Zu Zi Sun: Xun Zeo Huazen Zhu Xian Zhi Nan

Your Chinese Roots: The Overseas Chinese Story (1986)
Tan, Thomas Tsu-wee
929.351 T16y
While much of this book focuses on the Chinese experience in America, Australia, New Zealand, and Britain, some sections explore topics related to genealogy and family history in China.

Zhongguo de jia pu (2002)
Xu, Jianhua
CHI 929.351 X8z
This comprehensive and informative book provides detailed information about the origin and characteristics of Chinese family records, including names and types, content and structure, development and evolution, and spread and usage. Includes bibliographical references and a brief introduction to more than 60 Chinese Genealogy websites. [Simplified Chinese]

Zhongguo Xing Shi Xun Gen You: Zi Zhu Lu You Di Tu Shou Ce (annual)
[Origin of Chinese Clan and Family Names with Travel Guide]
CHI 929.4 Z63z2
Detailed information about the origins and internal migration routes associated with 100 Chinese clan and family names. Over 100 maps showing clan origins, migration patterns, and areas of settlement are included. The book also features 216 suggested travel routes for genealogical visitors as well as information about almost 400 scenic highlights. The language of the book is Chinese, but English translations of clan and family names are provided. [Simplified Chinese]

Zu Pu Wen Xian Xue (2003)
[Chinese Genealogy]
Liao, Quingliu
CHI Ref. 929.351 L69z
This Chinese-language book provides background information on Chinese genealogical research, and discusses related theories, methodologies and practices. It explores the history of genealogy in China and shows genealogists how to collect, organize, research and utilize Chinese genealogical documents. [Traditional Chinese]

The following list focuses on websites related to or based in China itself. The Documents & Records section of this website provides detailed information on Canadian research and resources. There are also several Mailing Lists and Message Boards for those with an interest in Chinese genealogy.

FamilySearch
Connecting families across generations since 1894, The Church of Latter Day saints provides access to the largest collection of free family history, family tree and genealogy records in the world. The Chinese Genealogies, 1239-2010 collection contains almost 9 million digitized records, and more records are being added to FamilySearch all the time. For more detailed information about the various Chinese-related collections, see the FamilySearch Research Wiki.

Jia Pu Mu Lu = Genealogy Catalogue
A searchable Chinese-language database corresponding to the Shanghai Library's collection of Chinese genealogical materials, the largest such collection in the world.

Siyi Genealogy
English-language website devoted to genealogy of Chinese families in the Si Yi (Four Counties) area of Guangdong Province. Provides useful background information on the area, links, a personal genealogical research narrative, and more.

Taishan Families/Clans
Stories and information about three Taishan Clans: Li (Lee), Kuang (Kwong) and Tang (Tong).


Mailing Lists and Message Boards

The genealogy community makes extensive use of mailing lists and message boards for posting questions and sharing information. Participation in mailing lists and on message boards is free. Lists and boards relating to Chinese genealogy include the following:

Mailing Lists

CHINA Mailing List (RootsWeb)

China Mailing Lists (Genealogy Resources on the Internet)

Message Boards

China Genealogy Forum (Genealogy.com)

China Message Board (RootsWeb)

RootsWeb Surname List

The RootsWeb Surname List is another useful resource for sharing genealogical information. Genealogists can post surnames, with details of specific families they are researching, including approximate dates, origin and migration. Email addresses are also provided, allowing others with similar interests to contact the person directly.

      

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