Do you think it’s complicated to remember the definition of a third cousin, or what it means to be twice removed? What if every relationship in the family had a different name? If there was one word to describe your paternal grandmother and another for your maternal grandmother? Different words for older and younger brothers or sisters, aunts or uncles? Apparently that’s the case for those with Chinese heritage! Whether you have Chinese roots or not, check out this video below and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Then, if you do have Chinese heritage, keep reading for a few get-you-started resources.

Chinese Heritage: Get Started

Want to start exploring your Chinese family history? Get started with FamilySearch’s introductory page on the topic (it’s in English). You’ll find brief explanations of Chinese geography, a helpful date converter, and information about where to research.

Next, move on to a more in-depth article, Jia Pu: Chinese Genealogical Record (An Introduction), where you’ll learn about clan genealogies that provide the basic written history of Chinese families. Then head back to the FamilySearch wiki for articles on specific topics: cemeteries and burial practices, immigration and emigration, notarial records and more (do a keyword search for “Chinese”). Finally, do you want to learn to research in Chinese? FamilySearch offers several free online courses in Chinese.

Here are a few online Chinese record collections:

China: Collection of Genealogies, 1239-2010. “Digital images of Chinese genealogies from various public and private collections. Although some genealogies include information on family branches that migrated to surrounding countries this collection covers families with roots in China. Chinese family genealogies list the origin of the family within China, where the family settled, and gives the generations of the family. Although some genealogies reach as far back as 1500 the time period and content of the records will vary from one genealogy to the next. Additional records may be added to this collection. Check the wiki or browse the collection to determine current coverage.” (, free.)

San Francisco, CA Chinese Applications for Admissions, 1903-1947. “This database contains descriptive lists of Chinese immigrants arriving at the port of San Francisco, California between 1903 and 1947. Information recorded in these documents includes: ship or vessel name, date of arrival, name, age, gender, marital status, occupation, nationality, last place of residence [and] final destination.” (, world collection, $)

PA-Philadelphia Case Files of Chinese Immigrants, 1900-1923. “Case files for Chinese immigrants arriving through Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1900-1923. Data includes the name, occupation, age, birthplace, ship name, date of arrival, and many other pieces of information. This collection corresponds to NARA publication M1144: Case Files of Chinese Immigrants, 1895-1920, from District No. 4 (Philadelphia) of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.” (, free)

North Dakota and Washington, Chinese Passenger Arrivals, 1903-1944. “Contained in this database are passenger arrival and disposition lists for Chinese immigrants between the years 1903 and 1944. The primary port of entry was Seattle, Washington; however, some additional entry ports, listed below, are also included in these records. Information that can be found includes surname, vessel name, arrival date, class or citizenship status, and whether the individual was admitted or denied. Ports of entry in these records: Seattle Washington, 1903–1944; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 1911–1916 (in transit to U.S.), Sumas; Washington, 1903–1909; Portal, North Dakota, 1903–1910.” (, world collection, $)

Other helpful resources:

Chinese Roots Wiki

The Chinese Historical Society of America

National Archives (USA) Asian Genealogy Links

Research Guides to Chinese Genealogy

Finding Your Ancestral Village in China (YouTube video)


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