I'm in Hong Kong this week presenting genealogy talks and workshops. Tomorrow I travel to Melbourne, Australia for a genealogy conference and will return here for two more programs in a few weeks.
Chinese traditional genealogy features a document known as Jia Pu or Zu Pu - genealogy record. It is a record of the history and lineage of a clan, as it documents the surname origins, migration patterns, family lines, biography and much more.
PHOTO: Jia Pu genealogical record
Jia Pu have been dated as early as 1523-1028 BC.
Before writing was invented, early clan family trees were written on turtle shells, cow bones and bronze, or as a system of knots interlaced with miniature objects signifying generations, numbers, gender and more. The elders also transmitted this information orally to the younger generations.
The record begins with the first ancestor who settled in a place and ends with the descendant drawing up the genealogical record. One one form, the original ancestor's sons and descendants are the first six generations. That line is listed vertically on the right side with the sons and grandsons of the first son. The first born son's brothers are listed horizontally on the left. Information may include an individual's name, alias, birth and death dates and rank.
Women are not featured prominently as they become part of their husband's family after marriage, although their names are mentioned in the Jia Pu of their family and their husband's family.
Researchers now study these genealogies to learn about social and economic history, geography, law, demographics, religion and culture.
A now-defunct site called ChineseRoots.com, which was based in Singapore, claimed a database featuring 12,000 volumes of Jia Pu and a list of more than 1,300 surnames. It was working on English language immigration records to help researchers. Unfortunately, the site is no longer in existence.
Does your family have an age-old coat of arms?
Would you like to create a contemporary one and have some fun with your family tree?
When MyHeritage.com acquired OSN, we also acquired their popular Family Crest Builder.
It's easy to start creating your family's coat of arms. Go to your MyHeritage family site, click Family Tree, and click Family Crest in the tabs. The new tab is only visible if you have already added people to your tree.
Even if your family isn't descended from a European noble family with a prestigious coat of arms dating to the Middle Ages, you can now design your own and even use it as a background for your tree.
See (below left) some of the Crest Builder elements. At right, see the elements of a traditional coat of arms.
Coats of arms, family crests? What are they? What do those symbols, colors and elements mean?
A traditional coat of arms may include the following elements:
Scroll: A banner or ribbon on which the surname is written.
Crest: A crest is the topmost element of the design.
Helmet: Worn by knights during battles.
Mantle: Placed over the knights' helmet; the colors were important.
Crown: Kept the mantle in place. Some show a wreath instead.
Coat of Arms: The shield with small design elements called charges.
Motto: Some families have a family motto.
Begin by thinking about your family, occupations, special interests, and even colors that might have special meaning to you.
Think about various symbols indicating professions. What's in your background? Are there doctors, farmers, shipbuilders, teachers, writers?
First, choose a shield shape with numerous layout possibilities, including a single field or two or more sections.
Select colors (left) for the internal fields - if you click on the bottom square in the color list you can choose from more colors and shades.
As we enlarge our own company tree, MyHeritage.com has made it even easier for people around the world to track their family history, connect with relatives and build their unique family trees.
We will be sharing new technologies, tools and features, contributing to a an easier and better experience for all family historians and roots seekers.
With the new addition of OSN's 10 family sites, MyHeritage now has 13 million family trees, 47 million members and 530 million profiles. The increased possibilities mean that, for example, it will be easier for North Americans to track their European roots and for Europeans to find family branches that migrated to North America.
MyHeritage.com now covers more of the world to help more people research their families, stay connected and build their family trees with security and privacy.
How many people are in your family tree? Two hundred, 500, 1,000, 5,000?
Nissim Moses has some 15,000 people in the project for his Bene Israel community of India (see below for the history of this community).
Most importantly, now there's a way to make it easier for Bene Israel families around the world to stay connected through MyHeritage.com and his community website.
This story should be an inspiration to others who wish to create a secure community or family site at MyHeritage.com.
"People have left India and gone to many other countries," he said on a recent visit to the MyHeritage.com office, where he met with genealogy and translation manager Daniel Horowitz and with me (see photo).
"They are away from their families and have lost some of this information. So many people have moved away and lost contact. They haven't heard their detailed family history."
From left, Schelly, Daniel, Nissim
Nissim, 68, also helps out with his expert knowledge in other ways.
He recently received an email from an American girl planning a wedding to her Bene Israel fiance. She wanted to incorporate Bene Israel ceremonies into their celebration. Nissim sent all the details on the special Malida ceremony, which is only performed among the Bene Israel.
Along with the family trees, he has posted thousands of photos to his community site at MyHeritage.com, and informed his contacts about the new website. Over the past few weeks, people have responded with updates, new names and additional photos.
MyHeritage already had some small trees from other community members, and 23 matches were found for 17 people in other trees in the database.
"This project is for the future of the Bene Israel community," Nissim stresses. "Our community has produced so many individuals who have contributed so much to Indian society."
"I wanted to know how I could help my people," he said. "I'm happy to have done this so far and to continue this project into the future."
Nissim's goal is to include 25,000 individuals in the community tree and to preserve this information for future generations. One problem, he says, is that "men were often chauvinistic and did not include the names of their sisters and wives in the genealogy records." His own family tree dates to the 1600s and fills 132 pages.