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Chinese-Canadian Genealogy

Resources for Canadians of Chinese origin who wish to learn more about their personal connection to Chinese-Canadian history.

Chinese-Canadian Pioneer Stories

Reading about the lives of Chinese-Canadian pioneers and their families may provide insights that will help as you explore your own family history.

Explore published items available at the Vancouver Public Library with the Chinese-Canadian Biographies and Family Histories booklist or have a look at the list of Chinese-Canadian Pioneer Stories Online.

The following titles are available at the Vancouver Public Library.

The list of Chinese-Canadian biographies and family histories includes non-fiction, fiction and poetry book titles, as well as films. For a list of online resources see the Chinese-Canadian Pioneer Stories Online web page.

For information on the history of the Chinese community in Canada, see the Vancouver Public Library's Chinese-Canadian History study guide.



Being Chinese: Voices from the Diaspora
Djao, Wei
305.8951 D62b 
This collection of twenty-two stories includes recollections of several Chinese who emigrated to Canada.

Brokering Belonging: Chinese in Canada's Exclusion Era, 1885-1945 (2010)
Mar, Lisa Rose
971.1004 M29b

Canadian Steel, Chinese Grit: A Tribute to the Chinese who Worked on Canada's Railroads More Than a Century Ago
Li, Julia Ningyu, ed.
971.004 C2134L 
This book provides a vivid visual impression of the experience of early Chinese railway workers, through numerous archival photographs. It also includes a series of "Our Family's Story" articles, derived from interviews with Chinese Canadians whose ancestors worked on the construction of the CPR.

Chinese Canadians: Voices from a Community
Huang, Evelyn and Lawrence Jeffery
971.004 H87c 
Comprises a series of in-depth interviews with 23 Chinese-Canadians from many walks of life. The stories of some of the older subjects (such as Sam Eng, 100 years old at the time of his interview) span decades of Chinese-Canadian history, and include personal recollections of early immigrant experiences, the head tax, and the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Chow: From China to Canada: Memories of Food and Family
Wong, Janice
641.59 Ch5W8c
The author's father, Dennis Wong, loved to cook and eat. He ran two Chinese-Canadian restaurants in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. This book is a collection of family recipes and history, enhanced by old photographs.

The Concubine's Children: Portrait of a Family Divided
Chong, Denise
929.2 C454c 
As a child growing up in Prince George, B.C., Denise Chong was curious about her Chinese ancestry. A visit to China as an adult re-awakened her curiosity. When her mother joined her there, they set out to find the fragments of their family history, with remarkable and unexpected results.

David Lam: A Biography
Roy, Reginald H.
971.1 L21r
In 1967, at the age of 40, David Lam left Hong Kong and emigrated to Canada, where he settled in B.C. In due course, he became lieutenant-governor, the first Chinese-Canadian to represent the Queen in a Canadian province. This book tells David Lam's remarkable story, and provides a window into a more recent chapter in Chinese-Canadian history.

Dim Sum Stories: A Chinatown Childhood
Wong, Larry 
Local historian and past president of the Chinese Canadian Historical Society, Larry Wong, writes about his 1940s-1960s childhood in Vancouver's Chinatown. A close friend of Wayson Choy, author of The Jade Peony, Wong's personal short stories reveal a world filled with people from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

Eating Stories: A Chinese Canadian & Aboriginal Potluck
Worrall, Brandy Lien, ed.
641.09711 E14w 
This collection of stories of family gatherings, home cooking and restaurant outings by Aboriginal and Chinese-Canadian writers includes 37 recipes and numerous images.

Finding Memories, Tracing Routes: Chinese Canadian Family Stories
Chinese-Canadian Historical Society
971.1004 C53f 
The extent and diversity of the contributions of Chinese-Canadians is explored through eight stories, crafted by participants in a Family History Writing Workshop sponsored by the Chinese-Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia in spring 2006.

First Son: Portraits by C.D. Hoy
Moosang, Faith
971.1 H86m 
Chow Dong Hoy was born in Guangdong province in 1883, and emigrated to Canada in 1902. The following year, he went to the B.C. interior where he worked at a variety of jobs before setting up as a professional photographer in Barkerville. This book comprises a selection of his portraits of First Nations, Chinese and Caucasian subjects, and includes an interesting biographical account.

History of the Struggles of an Overseas Chinese
Che'en, Cho-lien
971.133 V22C53h
An autobiographical account of the life of Harry Chuck Lin Chin, who was born in China in 1905 and immigrated to Canada around age 12. Despite the poverty of his early life in China and his struggle against discrimination in Canada, Chin eventually became a successful businessman and active member of Vancouver's Chinese community.

Jin Guo: Voices of Chinese Canadian Women
Women's Book Committee, Chinese Canadian National Council
305.8951 J611c 
This book is based on interviews with a wide range of Chinese Canadian women, several of whom were born in China or Canada early in the 20th century.

Memories of Cumberland Chinatown
Low, Philip C. P.
971.134 N17L9m
Chapter IV (p. 67-88) is a biography of Low Sue (1862-1948), a businessman and resident of Cumberland on Vancouver Island for 53 years.

Opening Doors: Vancouver's East End
Marlatt, Daphne
971.133 V22O61m
Transcripts of interviews conducted with East Vancouver immigrant residents.

  • Chinese subjects include Gordon Won Cumyow, Yun Ho Chang, Chow Yin Wong, Mary and Shirley Chan, Fred Soon, Harry Con, Dr. So Wong Leung, and Yip Ting and Garson Yuen.

  • Several of those interviewed speak of Hogan's Alley (Peter Batistoni, Nora Hendrix, Rosay Pryor, Leona Risby, Austin Phillips, Dorothy Nealy).

The Other Side of Gold Mountain: Glimpses of Chinese Pioneer Life on the Prairies from the Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection(2010)
Evans, Brian L.
971.2004 E92o
Includes biographical information on Lee Kee (a.k.a. Chung Kee), Edmonton laundryman, and Jue Doey Gam (a.k.a. Chow Chow), a Saskatchewan businessman who owned and operated a combined hotel, cafe, confectionery, and bakery in Lacadena.

Paper Shadows: A Chinatown Childhood 
Choy, Wayson
921 C5523a 
This memoir of growing up in Vancouver's Chinatown in the 1940s was inspired by the author's discovery of the startling truth of his own origins, including the sacrifices his father made to ensure their family's future. Choy is also the author of two novels, The Jade Peony and All That Matters, set during the same period.

The Peasant's Gold: The Story of Peter Wing
Roth, Terrence
971.172 W76r 
Peter Wing was the son of a landless Cantonese peasant, and eventually became the first Chinese mayor in North America. This book starts with his father's arrival in Kamloops in 1901, and covers the history of Peter Wing's life and the growth of the city of Kamloops.

Song of the Azalea: Memoir of a Chinese Son
Ore, Kenneth
951.25 O66s 
This narrative tells the story of the author's extraordinary mother, sold into marriage in 1917 at the age of eight. It also recounts his own remarkable journey from Hong Kong to Canada, where he emigrated in 1974.

Tong: The Story of Tong Louie, Vancouver's Quiet Titan
Perrault, Ernest
658.092 L88p
The story of one man's remarkable journey from being a Chinese grocer's son to becoming one of the wealthiest businessmen ever to influence B.C.'s economy and culture. Illustrated with numerous archival photographs.

The Way of the Bachelor (2011)
Marshall, Alison
971.27004 M36w
A picture of the life of early Chinese immigrants in Manitoba.

Yip Sang and the First Chinese Canadians
Hern, Frances
971.1004 S225h
This fascinating history details the struggles and successes of Yip Sang and the first Chinese Canadians as they built new lives and left a lasting legacy for their families and community.

Fiction and Poetry

Banana Boys
Woo, Terry
This novel tells the intertwined stories of several twentysomething young Chinese-Canadian men, reunited by a tragedy, and struggling with questions of identity related to their sense of being "Bananas: yellow on the outside and white on the inside."

China Dog and Other Tales from a Chinese Laundry
Bates, Judy Fong
A collection of short stories about Chinese immigrants over a period spanning nearly 100 years, starting from the turn of the 20th century. The tales are linked by common factors, including locations in small Ontario towns and proximity to Chinese laundries.

Diamond Grill
Wah, Fred
c838 W13d1
Poetry and prose based on the author's memories of his family's restaurant in Nelson, B.C.

Disappearing Moon Cafe
Lee, Sky
This multi-generational family novel begins with the arrival in Canada of patriarch Wong Gwei Chang in the late 19th century.

The Dream of Gold Mountain
Huffman, Ivy
This book, based on real events, provides an insight into the lives and experiences of early 20th-century Chinese immigrants to Canada through the story of a fictionalized hero named Yee Chang Gong.

Escape to Gold Mountain: A Graphic History of the Chinese in North America (2012)
Wong, David H. T.
971.004 W874e
Architect and historian David Wong's graphic novel explores the history of the Chinese experience in North America.

The Excluded Wife
Woon, Yuen-fong
The story of a village woman from South China who is unable to join her husband overseas in Canada after the passage of anti-Chinese immigration legislation in 1923. The character of Sau-Ping and the account of her experiences is based on extensive interviews with Chinese women affected by the exclusionary laws.

The Jade Peony
Choy, Wayson
FIC / c823 C5521j
Life in Vancouver's Chinatown in the 1930s and 1940s is evoked through the voices of three younger children of a Chinese immigrant family. The sequel (All That Matters, 2004), again takes the reader to the Vancouver of the 1930s and 1940s, this time through the experiences of First Son, Kiam-Kim.

Many-Mouthed Birds: Contemporary Writing by Chinese Canadians
Lee, Bennett, ed.
c820.8 M29L
A collection of stories and poems by contemporary Chinese-Canadians, several of which explore family history.

Midnight at the Dragon Cafe
Bates, Judy Fong
This novel is the story of a young girl and her family who settle into a small Ontario town in the 1960s as the only Chinese family. Over the course of one summer, Su-Jen's life is changed by conflicts at home, tragedy at school, and unspoken secrets.

Mrs. Spring Fragrance and Other Writings
Sui Sin Far
828 S948m
"Mrs. Spring Fragrance," published in 1912, was a collection of short stories in which the daughter of an English father and Chinese mother explored the experiences of the Chinese in cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, New York, and Montreal. This volume includes stories from that collection as well as other selected writings.

Strike the Wok: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Canadian Fiction
Chao, Lien, ed.
c820.8 S91c 
This anthology of short fiction by contemporary Chinese-Canadians includes several stories set in the early 20th century.

Tales From Gold Mountain: Stories of the Chinese in the New World
Yee, Paul
Eight original folktales evoke the experiences of Chinese immigrants to North America.
Set on the West Coast, these stories reveal the hardships and triumphs the Chinese experienced during Canada's founding years. Whether encountering ghosts in a railway tunnel, cruelty in a salmon cannery, or heartbreak on a farm, the characters prove resourceful and determined.


Ancestors in the Attic
History Television
929.1 A538d
Originally broadcast in 2006 as Episode 15 on History Television's "Ancestors in the Attic" series, this disk includes a "Chinese Puzzle" segment focusing on Wing On, born in Victoria in 1884.

Chinese Restaurants
Kwan, Cheuk, director
325.251 C53k 
This set of films explores the lives and stories of families in many countries who own Chinese restaurants. Disc 3 includes a Canadian story, that of Jim Cook who ran the New Outlook Café in Saskatchewan for 40 years.

Comrade Dad
Lee, Karen, director
971.1004 L47L 
Karen Lee tells the story of her father Wally Lee and the communist bookstore that he ran on Vancouver's Skid Row from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s.

From Harling Point
National Film Board of Canada
393 F93c1
Explores the story of Victoria's Chinese cemetery, established in 1902 and now a National Historic Site. Also includes interviews two inter-generational Chinese women, Charlayne Thornton-Joe and Edna Chow.

Generations. The Chan Legacy
CBC Learning
929.2 C45a
This episode of CBC's "Generations" series profiles the Chan family, whose Canadian roots go back seven generations, beginning with the Reverend Chan Yu Tan and his wife, who came to Canada in 1896 to "spread the gospel."

Heroes Remember = Ying Xiong De Hui Yi
Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society
940.548 H559c
Produced by the Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society, this DVD is based on 24 interviews with Chinese-Canadian war veterans and their relatives in Canadian cities.

I am the Canadian Delegate
Lowe, Wesley, director
971.064 J95L 
A documentary film about Douglas Jung (1924-2002), a World War II veteran and the first Chinese-Canadian member of the House of Commons.

In the Shadow of Gold Mountain
Cho, Karen, director
971.004 I35c1 
Karen Cho, a fifth-generation Canadian of mixed heritage travels from Montreal to Vancouver to gather the testimonials of the last living survivors of the notorious Chinese Head Tax and Chinese Immigration Act.

Return Home
Wong, Michele, director
971.004 R43n 
A first-generation Chinese-Canadian filmmaker, Michelle Wong, visits her aged grandparents in St. Paul, Alberta, journeying with them into the past to document their lives.

Under the Willow Tree: Pioneer Chinese Women in Canada
Nipp, Dora, director
971.004 U55n
Recollections of seven Chinese women who grew up in Canada in the first half of the 20th century.

Wayson Choy: Unfolding the Butterfly (Secrets & Memories)
Glassbourg, Michael, director
c823 C5521 WC5w1 
A documentary about the life of writer and activist Wayson Choy. Choy recalls his childhood in Vancouver's Chinatown and reads from his autobiography Paper Shadows and novel, The Jade Peony.

Also worth a look

Ancestors: 900 Years in the Life of a Chinese Family 
Ching, Frank
929.2 C53c 
Not about Chinese-Canadians, but of potential interest to anyone researching their Chinese family roots. Frank Ching traces his family back 34 generations to the 11th-century poet Qin Guan. Through the story of their lives, the history of China unfolds, but as interesting as the history itself is the story of the author and how he accomplished the research for this book.

Information about the following prominent members of the Chinese-Canadian community is available online:

Chang Toy (Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online)
Chang Toy came to Canada in 1874. After working in a fish cannery and sawmill, he went on to become a successful businessman and active member of the Chinese community.

Chinese Canadian Women, 1923-1967
Online exhibit with over thirty oral history interviews and over 1,000 historical photographs and records chronicling the experiences of Chinese Canadian women.

Chow Dong Hoy (Canadian Museum of Civilization)
C.D. Hoy came to Canada around 1902 and established a drygoods store and photography business in Quesnel, B.C.

Chu Lai (Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online)
Chu Lai arrived in British Columbia in the 1860s, and eventually became one of the province's wealthiest Chinese merchants.

David Hung Chang Lew (a.k.a. Lew Hung Chang / Liao Hungxian) 
(Dictionary of Candian Biography Online)
David Lew was 13 or 14 when he arrived in Canada sometime around 1900. Son of a prominent merchant, he learned the English language and Canadian customs in British Columbia public schools. As an interpreter and legal adviser, David was sometimes at the centre of controversy until his untimely murder in 1924.

Lee Mong Kow 
Lee Mong Kow emigrated to Canada 1882 where he settled in Victoria and married Seto Chang Ann with whom he had 17 children. Lee Mong Kow Way in Victoria is dedicated to his memory.

Lem Wong (A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada)
Lem Wong came to Canada at the turn of the the twentieth century. Fifty years later he was working behind the cash register of his own restaurant in London, Ontario.

Li Hong
Li Hong came to Canada in 1916, where he joined his uncles in Montreal, working in their laundry business.

Ng Mon Hing (Wen Wuqing) 
(Dictionary of Canadian biography Online)
Ng Mon Hing served the Chinese communities of western and eastern Canada as lay missionary, teacher, and Presbyterian minister.

Ruth Lor Malloy (Chinese Canadian Women, 1923-1967)
Digitized typescript of the biography of Ruth Lor Malloy, whose mother was born in North Bay, Ontario in 1910.

Stories of Chinese-Canadian Workers
The Ties That Bind is an online virtual exhibit exploring the history of the Chinese in Canada from before Confederation, during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway and beyond. The exhibit uses archival research and documents along with the testimony of Chinese-Canadian descendants.

Wong Family (
David Wong shares the story of his family's 100 years in Canada in this personal website. The site also contains a wealth of information on particular Chinese villages such as Wing On Le (Yong'an Le) and Hing Lim Le, regions such as the Guangdong province and general information for the Wong (Huang) surname.

Yip Sang (Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online)
Yip Sang worked on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Later, he started a business in Chinatown and became one of Vancouver's most successful merchants in the early 1900s. See also: