Saturday, October 14, 2006

What I learned about Chinese Genealogies

You will perhaps recall that last weekend I participated in the genealogy seminar in Ogden, Utah sponsored by Holly had arranged for Ol' Myrt here to provide the use of my computer and projector for two sessions lead by Sheau -yueh J. Chao, author of IN SEARCH OF YOUR ASIAN ROOTS: genealogical research on Chinese surnames.
This was a most enlightening experience for me!

Chinese genealogies are kept at the family level, and are not regulated or controlled by the government.

-- an overview of the derivation of the surname (her's was adopted 71 generations ago when the current emperor's uncle went by her original surname 'He')
-- explanation of the geographic origin of the name
-- highlights of famous ancestors in the family
-- behavioral guidelines including respect for the country, family, living a peaceful life, no smoking, etc.

-- It is rare for an individual to have a copy, as there is usually only 1 copy kept by the eldest male in the extended family.
-- It is patriarchal, usually including women's names only in the current generation or two.
-- Males, even younger brothers, are listed before sisters in the current generation.
-- Often education and occupations are listed for the ancestor.
-- Sheau's 71 generations go back 2,100 years to the original ancestor.
-- Her genealogy has been revised only 5 times by a "compiler" meaning it was rewritten from beginning to end to accommodate all changes and additions.
-- After each "compilation" the previous "original" genealogy is destroyed.

-- One had a document from her deceased grandfather that the researcher couldn't decipher. Sheau explained it was a membership certificate for a Chinese fraternal organization. Sheau was able to translate most of the Chinese characters and referred the researcher to a specific source for more information. Apparently it was notable to belong to such a Chinese organization when coming to the US in the early 20th century.
--The second participant was looking for a translator to travel to China with her mother who wished to visit the village of origin, and prevail upon the eldest to allow a copy of the genealogy to be made for her.

This was my first exposure to Chinese genealogical research. VERY COOL!
Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
227 Bellevue Way NE PMB 544
Bellevue, WA 98004

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