Are you an overseas born non-Chinese-speaking descendants of Chinese immigrants' searching for your Chinese family tree? Some of you may today be classified as ethnic Chinese, while others could very well be 3rd, 4th, or 5th generation children of mixed descent from past Chinese ancestors who moved to an overseas nation somewhere in the world.
Why bother with Chinese genealogy you may ask? To the inexperienced it is just a waste of time because it only deals with ancient time, after all who cares about the ancient history? However, to those who are infected with this craving to know, the past can reveal much about your family genealogy and as the saying goes "If there is no past, then there is no future".
In the past, the majority of Chinese immigrants who journeyed beyond the seas came from two coastal provinces in Southern China - Guangdong and Fujian. Large concentrations of people from each of these provinces tended to congregate in certain areas of the world. For example, in most parts of South East Asia, Hokkien speakers from southern Fujian Province predominate, while further away (North/Central/South America, Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, South Africa) the people are generally Cantonese speakers from Guangdong Province.
The language barrier may make Chinese genealogy more difficult for some of you. Usually, it becomes an issue when you begin the activity of trying to track down your ancestor who arrived in the country where you were born. However, don't let the language issue discourage you from pursuing your Chinese genealogy as you may be able to find someone who is knows Chinese to aid you, or obtain the services of a translator.
Genealogy is quite unlike other activities. You do not start from the top and work your way down. Instead, the route is reversed because at the top of the family tree is your progenitor, an unknown person, and right at the bottom will be you. It would make sense to begin with what you already know and work towards the unknown. So the logical place to start is from the roots at the bottom of the tree and work up to the top.
Start with yourself first and write down all the information you know, such as your date and place of birth, schools attended, university, etc. Then, proceed to your sisters and brothers. Then ask your parents for information about themselves, and through them you will be able to find out additional about your grandparents. If your grandparents are still alive, ask them to fill in any gaps you may have about them and don't forget to ask them about your great-grandparents. Failing that you will have to begin looking for all sorts of documents: like church records, government certificates, school records, university records, birth and death certificates, marriage certificates, naturalization records, etc. And, so the process moves along one step at a time until you come to a dead-end. This is typically about the time of the arrival of your Chinese ancestor in the country where you were born.
Chinese genealogy can be a very challenging process demanding lots of time, much aggravation, ingenuity, imagination and a lot of persistence. Results come irregularly, most times none at all, but when you do find something it will be well worth the struggle. Above all, do not give up once you begin your search!
What you just learned about Chinese Genealogy is just the beginning. To get the full story and all the details, check us out at Chinese Genealogy.
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