26    Feb 20100 comments

Hong Kong: Family history resources

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.

Click to view photo in full size
PHOTO: Jia Pu genealogical record

English Jia Pu

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.

Chinese surnames are derived from some 18 sources, which include (with examples):

-- A dynasty name - Tang
-- Feudal territory or division - Chiang, Huang
-- Political district - Hong
-- Town - Yin, Su
-- Rural village - Lu, Yen
-- Crossroad or station - Mi
-- Directions/suburbs - Tung-shiang, Xi-men
-- Historical personality - Chin, Fu
-- Male social name became family name - Fang, Kung
-- Adopting a relative's name - Meng, Mi
-- Clans or tribes - So, Chang
-- Official posts - Shih, Shuai
-- Noble titles - Wang, Hou
-- Occupations, trades - Wu, Tao
-- Objects - Chu, Pu
-- Deceased rulers - Wen
-- Diminutive of a parent's name - Wang-tsu, Gong-sun
-- A negative nickname - Fu, Mang

A useful site is that of the Hong Kong Archives Society.

Established in 1999, the non-profit group raises public awareness of the importance of archival materials: "Archives contain information pertaining to the socioeconomic, political, and cultural past of a given place and time. They represent the legacy of a society, region, and country. The purpose of the Society is to help the public understand the value of archives, and at the same time provides a forum where archivists and those interest in archives can interact with each other."

The group's links page offers many interesting sites for information on Hong Kong, such as:

Hong Kong Heritage Project, with much information on the commercial empire and philanthropic activities of the Kadoorie family, which arrived in Hong Kong in 1880. The site offers photographs, records and much more on the family and the history of the area.

Additionally, the Government Records Service manages information and records for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government. It includes the Record Systems Development Office, Records Management and Administration Office, Preservation Service Office and the Public Records Office.

The Public Records Office both acquires and provides public access to Hong Kong's archives. It offers documents, photographs, movies, posters and other record, with holdings available for viewing.

The first purpose-built archival facility in Hong Kong is the Kowloon-based Hong Kong Public Records Building. Opened in 1997, it provides a large working reference room, an exhibit hall and a research room with computers for access to the archival collection.

Are you researching your Chinese heritage? What resources have you used? I'd like to know what resources you have used and how successful you were.

Search for your ancestors:

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