Some Notes on Chinese Genealogy

To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.

– Confucius (551 BC – 480 BC)

I looked up the great Chinese philosopher, Confucius, on FamilySearch today. His page is here. I read an article a while back about how there is a Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee that is working on revising and updating the already existing genealogy of Confucius, which is the longest genealogy in the world. Unlike European genealogy, which I discussed in this post, Chinese genealogy has fairly accurate records that can legitimately go back for hundreds, even thousands, of years. Although many records, tombstones and shrines to ancestors were destroyed in the Cultural Revolution of 1966, there are still several records and family histories that survive. Not being of Chinese descent myself, I have not had any experience doing Chinese genealogy research, and I don’t plan to do it anytime soon because it requires being able to read Chinese characters, but it fascinates me that Chinese genealogy can be traced back so far.

Another cool thing I found is that FamilySearch has a template for entering names in Chinese so that they show up in the proper order (surname first instead of surname last as in English) and the system automatically finds a standard Romanized transliteration of the Chinese characters. When you are adding a new person, click on “Template.” There will be a dropdown menu with different language options. If you click on “Chinese,” it will look like this:

chinese name input

You can then input Chinese characters in the “Hanzi” field, and the transliteration will appear below. If you don’t have Chinese language input installed on your computer, you can use an online tool such as this one to type the Chinese characters you need, and then copy and paste them into the FamilySearch fields.

Again, I am not even close to being an expert on Chinese genealogy, but if you are trying to find your Chinese roots, here are a few links that might help you get started:

You should also watch this inspiring story about a part Chinese, part African-American woman from New York who managed to find her Chinese roots: https://vimeo.com/84472327