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LDS aka resources for Chinese genealogy

I gave a little presentation today at the local Family History Center about finding Chinese genealogies in the catalog. I used Prezi for the first time, I think it went pretty well. Here is my first Prezi:


You are invited…

to my next Chinese genealogy workshop! This is a little last minute, but why not share, I figure.

Saturday, November 12, 2011
12:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Oakland Regional Family History Center
4766 Lincoln Avenue
Oakland, CA 94602, USA

Are you curious about what Chinese resources are available at the Oakland Regional Family History Center but haven’t had the chance to check it out? Come learn from Assistant Director Marge Bell of the center and Kay Speaks and Christine DeVillier as they tell us how they have used the resources of the center and its Salt Lake City parent, the Family History Library, to research their Chinese roots. Kay will be covering research techniques at the center and Christine will talk about using the FamilySearch catalog and Chinese databases. All are welcome to attend – you don’t have to be a church member.

12 noon – Bring a bag lunch to talk story with the group. Bring your discoveries or share any roadblocks you are facing in your research so the group can brainstorm some research options.

1:30 to 3:30 p.m. – Orientation to the center by Marge Bell, examples of research by Kay Speaks and Christine DeVillier, experienced genealogists.

The classroom has seventy seats and about sixty computers, so we will take the first 60 respondents, and then have a wait list.

Cost: Free!

RSVP by emailing Kay Speaks. When you respond, if you wish, please list your name, city of residence, village, surnames, etc. Depending on response, we may limit the number of attendees from each family.

Sponsored by Oakland Regional Family History Center and Chinese-American Family History Yahoo Group is going down the drain

I have long enjoyed using to host my family tree online, but recently, they have made changes that render near completely ridiculous. They have restricted basic/free account holders to a limit of 100 profiles. Now, anyone serious about family history is going to have a LOT more than 100 family members, dead or alive. They have removed monthly membership options for their so-called “Plus” and “Pro” level accounts, leaving one to fork out a hefty fee for annual, bi-annual, or lifetime membership. Keep in mind, does not actually give anyone something they did not already have — it’s not a record center. It’s a platform to build a tree, enter the info you already know, and hopefully connect your tree to long distance relatives or ancestors (but you have to pay for that too!) and it’s only as useful as the number of connections you can make, unless you are satisfied at capping your tree at 100 entries, which IMHO is not worth the time to even start the tree. By contrast, allows people to start family trees for free, no limit to number of entries, and then when you want to find records for your relatives, you can start paying, and you will get actual sources. You can start and stop, month to month, whenever you need. You can search other member trees for clues. No one can hijack your tree, and you can make it “private” if you like, no questions asked.

Why is this related to Chinese genealogy? I can find things on Ancestry for Chinese relatives and ancestors that give me immigration, residence, names changes, citizenship and naturalization, and death information. Geni does not have this. If you are trying to find clues on Geni, you will only luck out if you have Chinese relatives who have also entered their family tree information on the site, and even then, neither of you will be able to connect or even see each other to verify the connection, unless you shell out $119.40 at the minimum for a one-year membership, which comes out to $7.95 a month (but they don’t let you purchase it month to month). That’s right, you cannot use all the features of the site unless you hand over $119.40 for a one-year Geni Pro membership. At, the lowest single payment you could make is $19.95, which gets you one month of U.S. record searching and downloading, and ability to get clues from other member trees. Comparing one-year rates, you can also choose to buy a one-year Ancestry membership for a flat fee of $155.40, which comes out to $12.95 a month. If you are choosing to pay for a service and expecting actual service or results, Ancestry wins my credit card payment by a landslide.

Sorry, you have indulged yourselves enough, time for a reality check.

FREE collections available October 1-15, 2011

15 collections from will be opened for free searching for the first fifteen days of October. One new one will open each day and will stay open through the 15th. Yesterday was social security death records. Today is something about Ireland, but maybe going forward they will offer more that can be utilized for Chinese-related records, such as census records, passenger lists, naturalization indexes, etc. Take advantage by clicking here!

Bruce Lee’s NARA file available online!

I love the National Archives, and you should too. It is one of the absolute must-go-to resources for Chinese American genealogy research if your ancestors immigrated around 1950 or prior. This is a treasure trove. One of the most interesting files to review at NARA is the revered Bruce Lee. Though he was born in San Francisco, making him an American citizen, the former INS kept extensively detailed records on anyone of Chinese descent traveling in and out of the country during the Exclusion Act era. Now, you can download and read Bruce Lee’s file and read testimony from both his parents, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration’s website here.

One thing that is always apparent after viewing this file is the fact that Bruce Lee was not 100% Chinese – did you know that? His mother was of Chinese and Caucasian ancestry, and it is clear in her photos in the file (as a hapa person, I am easily entertained by learning about other hapas, especially those who have become as widely known as Bruce Lee). Sometimes hapas get flack from inside and outside their communities for being different, not Asian or Chinese enough, definitely not white enough, and once we get over this identity crisis hurdle, we finally realize (or at least I did), I have a lot of different genealogy I can be researching! And that in itself has helped me become a better researcher, just being open and interested in all my ancestors, wherever they came from. You can view one version of Bruce Lee’s family tree here.

Bruce Lee may not of Hoisan ancestry, but this is still fun to share. Lee’s father was of Shude/Sundak, Guangdong, China. Lee’s mother’s ancestry is unclear and numerous rumors abound. Here is an article that has some interesting ideas about Grace.

Bruce Lee and his mother, Grace Ho, as shown in Return Certificate Application Case File of Chinese Departing — Bruce Lee (12017/53752), 03/05/1941 – 04/01/1941,, retrieved 9/22/2011 :

US military resources for Chinese research

Thanks to the smarties at Harvard and the University of Texas, we can view some pretty decent digital versions of some old US military maps of China. These are collections of maps produced during the 50’s and going forward. They are useful for getting snapshot of names and places over half a century ago, when a lot more immigration to the US started happening thanks to the lift of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. Basically, a snapshot of how your parents’ or grandparents’ China was laid out. You may or may not be able to find place names that have since changed or are no longer in existence, but may still be remembered by your immigrant ancestors.

Here, on the “Chungshan” map, you will find Hoisan down in the southwest corner.

Harvard’s collection, which has a nice zoom/pan feature:

University of Texas’ version, which has great high resolution images:

Secondly, one of my favorite Hoisanese resources I’ve ever come across is another product of the US military, the Department of Defense’s Defense Language Institute’s textbook for it’s old “Toishan dialect” basic course. It is a lengthy and practical guide to spoken thlay-yeep 四邑 dialect, which is generally what we call the group of the dialects of Hoisan, Hoipen, Yinpen, Thleenwoi, and Hoksan counties/cities. This guide is the only instruction manual or textbook I have ever come across that teaches non-Chinese speakers how to speak Hoisanwah. There are thousands of classes and books that will teach you Mandarin and standard Cantonese, but so far only this one that will give you some good ole’ thlay-yeep country chops. A lot of people from the non-thlay-yeep spoken world regard Hoisanwah and related dialects as barbaric, too loud, unrefined and indicative of uneducated “hick” type of people. To those people, I say, well I’m not gonna say it because it’s way too vulgar in Hoisanwah, but to put it lightly, Hoisanwah is a rich and emotional, dare I say beautiful language (yes I really do consider it a language) that has deep roots in Middle Chinese and must be learned and spoken to be appreciated. It has more tones than many other Chinese dialects, and the vocabulary is amazing; one single syllable in Hoisanwah can have so much meaning — for those of you who are familiar, just think of the word 胺 “ngaht” and you can smell it! And if you get a verbal lashing in Hoisanwah, you have really felt the effects of a force that comes from somewhere deep within. Download the full guide HERE.

For a taste of thlay-yeep dialect, check out this awesome kid singing, what great tones and clarity he enunciates with:

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