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Monday, March 09, 2015
"Who Do You Think You Are?": Julie Chen Explores Roots in China
Posted by Diane
Family Tree Magazine contributing editor Sunny Jane Morton serves as
our "Who Do You Think You Are?" special correspondent this season. She'll guest
blog with highlights and research tips from each episode, including
tips on where to find the genealogy records you
Here's Sunny's report on last night's premiere:
Do You Think You Are?" launched its new season yesterday on
TLC with a celebrity guest who's built her own career on
investigating other people’s stories: Julie Chen, TV
personality and CBS producer.
The episode takes us to China for the first time in the show’s
history. The story that unfolds about Chen’s grandfather Lou Gaw
Tong is “riches-to-rags-to-riches.” He became an emigrant who
continued to love his homeland. During World War II, he risked his
life smuggling ammunition through Japanese-occupied territory to the
Chinese resistance. He was a self-made businessman who started a
school in his home village that still thrives today, and that Chen
As Chen discovers, her grandfather’s interest in education reaches
back to a generation Julie knew nothing about. I won’t give away
everything she learns, for those who want to watch the episode later
(on your DVR, in a rerun, or possibly online if the episode becomes
the show's website). But there are some tender moments as she
learns about tough family history. By the end, she leaves China
with, she says, “a firmer understanding of who I am today and why I
am the way I am.”
Appropriately for a newswoman, Chen’s first real connection to her
grandfather’s story is through his obituaries. She learns the name
of his home province and village in China, more details about his
business, and about his philanthropy. Hints about his "unnatural"
troubled childhood intrigue her even more and drive her to search
for answers about his entire life.
Newspaper obituaries are often our first window into an ancestor’s
life story. It’s most common to find obituaries by the late 1800s
and especially the 20th century. These often contain clues that
censuses and even vital records may not tell us. You often find
biographical and personal details that person was remembered for by
partnership with digitized newspaper site GenealogyBank is making it
easier to find online obituaries. The names, death date and other
basic details are searchable
and indexed at FamilySearch.org; the full obituary is
available with a GenealogyBank subscription. You also can search sites
such as subscription-based Newspapers.com
and the free Chronicling
America. Some local libraries have obituary indexes you can search, and even digitized newspapers.
Learn more about newspaper research with our video class, Exploring
Digital Newspapers, available
in ShopFamilyTree.com. Or grab our Online
Newspapers Web Guide and start searching old newspapers right
away. See what stories they lead to.
Next week on WDYTYA?: Singer Josh Groban discovers his distant
grandfather was a renowned scientist who got the attention of the
great Sir Isaac Newton. Tune in on TLC on Sunday, March 15, at
You also can follow the show on
the TLC website, on
Facebook and on Twitter
» Sunny Jane Morton
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | Asian roots | Celebrity Roots | Newspapers
Monday, March 09, 2015 9:02:57 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
"Finding Your Roots" Traces Celebrity Chefs' Italian, Mexican and Chinese Immigrant Ancestors
Posted by Diane
Last night's "Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr." on PBS
focused on the immigrant ancestors of celebrity chefs of different ethnic—and culinary—backgrounds: Tom Colicchio
(Italian), Aarón Sánchez (Mexican)
and Ming Tsai (Chinese).
I don't have family heritage in these places, but I think this already interesting show would be even more interesting if you're researching in any of these areas.
I appreciated how this show detailed various motivations for
immigrants to leave their homelands, and explained how some would
travel back and forth between home and the United States before
finally settling here. This was quite common, especially for men, who would come to earn money to take to their families
back home. More than half of all Italian immigrants in the early
20th century, Gates said, were "birds of passage."
Here are some highlights of this episode:
- Tom Colicchio's great-great-grandfather traveled to America in
1901, returned to Italy, then came back in 1906 and went home
again in 1911. He was pressed into service in the Italian army
in World War I, and finally brought his family to settle in the
United States in 1947. The show described the burgeoning
population, harsh taxes, crime and an earthquake that propelled
Colicchio's family to leave their picturesque town of Vallarta.
- Aarón Sánchez's great-great-grandfather was a prominent
rancher in Mexico who lost everything he had and fled to the
United States during the Mexican
Revolution. He later was able to get his cattle back.
Sánchez's third-great-grandfather, born in Spain in 1822, was
the military commander Hilario Gabilondo. In 1857,
Gabilondo ordered the deaths of about 70 filibusters (Americans
attempting to seize land in Mexico) in an expedition led by
former California state senator Henry Crabb. Read
more about filibustering here.
The show's researchers traced Sanchez's ancestors in
Spain back to his sixth-great-grandfather in the early 1700s. A
DNA test revealed Sanchez has nearly 25 percent American Indian
ancestry (the equivalent of having an Indian grandparent) and 3.7
percent African-American ancestry.
- Ming Tsai's grandfather was a comptroller of a university in
China when Japan invaded before World War II. He was sent to a
prison in Japan, where he was tortured and contracted typhus; he
nearly died. He was able to return to his work after the war,
but the Cultural
Revolution, during which millions of intellectuals and
"bourgeois" were persecuted and killed, forced him to flee.
Many historical relics were destroyed during the
Cultural Revolution, including steles, or carved
stone tablets recording families. The Ming family stele was the
only one remaining in their town. It led researchers records at
the Shanghai public library (probably jiapu,
or books recording paternal family lineage) that allowed them to
trace his ancestry all the way back to his 116th-great-grandfather
in the 27th century BC.
In trying to find out more about steles, I came across the House of Chinn website,
about Chinese genealogy research and the author's own family. You
might find it helpful if you're researching ancestors in China.
You also can search
a surname index to jiapu on subscription website Ancestry.com.Each chef's cuisine is inspired by the foods of his ancestors; each recalled delicious meals with parents and grandparents. As the holidays approach, it's good to remember that food is a great way to introduce family members to their ancestors. You might even say that the way to a nongenealogist's heart is through his or her stomach.
can watch this episode of "Finding Your Roots" online, at the
Asian roots | Celebrity Roots | Genealogy TV | Hispanic Roots | Italian roots
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 10:36:08 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
Chinese Immigration and Angel Island
Posted by Diane
One of my favorite aspects of PBS'
"Genealogy Roadshow" is the mention of historical people and
events that have become fuzzy memories for folks who once learned
about them in a history class. The show elaborates on some of these
people and places, and others have me googling on my phone.
Last night, Genealogy Roadshow was set in San Fransisco's US Mint
building, with stories ranging from the 1860 Wiyot
Massacre to the 1906
earthquake and fire. The California
Gold Rush came up when a guest wasn't related to James
Marshall, whose gold discovery in the American River started
San Francisco's Chinese community was highlighted when a young
Asian-American woman wanted to know about her family and its fabled
connection to gangster Big Jim Chen. Researchers weren't able to
prove the story because Chen apparently hid his tracks well.
A history segment focused on Chinese immigration and the Chinese
Exclusion Act of 1882. Here's a little more about Chinese
immigration through San Francisco:
Angel Island in San Francisco Bay
was the immigration point for many Asians entering the United States
between 1910 and 1930 (along with Australians, Candians, Central and
South Americans, Russians and others).
station there served mainly as a place to to detain and
interrogate immigrants, mostly Asian, who were trying to enter the
country. When the 1906 earthquake destroyed San Francisco birth
records, it presented an opportunity to get around the
Exclusion Act, which made an exception for the children of US
citizens: Chinese who'd naturalized could claim to have had
additional children during a visit to China, then sell the "slots"
to those wanting to immigrate.
Immigration officials tried to identify these "paper
lengthy interrogations about the immigrant's home, family and
village in China. Visitors to Angel Island still can see some
of the poetry detainees carved into the walls as they passed
Nearly 250,000 case files were produced for Angel Island immigrants;
they're at the National
Archives at San Francisco. UC Berkeley has a database
with 90,000 of these immigrants' names and case file numbers.
You also can read some
immigrants' stories on the Angel Island Immigration Station
You'll find a guide to researching Angel Island ancestors and
locating their case files (even if they're not in the UC Berkeley index) in
2010 Family Tree Magazine.
You can watch the San Francisco "Genealogy Roadshow" online. Next week's
episode takes place in Austin, Texas. That's where my grandfather went to college in the 1920s and '30s, so I'm hoping to pick up some local history.
Asian roots | Genealogy TV | immigration records
Tuesday, October 08, 2013 3:59:14 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
What's in a Name?
Posted by Beth
Bonne année, Gutes Neues Jahr, Xin nian yu kuai, Feliz Año
Nuevo and Kali hronia … Whether you say it in French, German, Mandarin, Spanish or Greek, they all translate to "Happy New Year!" Hope yours is off to a great start!
Speaking of languages, genealogists understand and appreciate the value of names and all the family history information that they can provide. Naming patterns and traditions; spellings; pronunciations; and meanings can impact your search for ancestors from a given locale.
To provide added insight to your ancestral search, we've created 15 PDF downloadable reference guides featuring first names from around the world. Each comprehensive guide is presented in dictionary-style format, making it easy to search for names, spellings and their meanings. For example, A Genealogist's Guide to British Names reveals that the name Harry means "ruler of an estate." Rather prophetic for Prince Harry!
Get more information from your genealogical research this year with a better understanding of your ancestral names!
A Genealogist's Guide to Ethnic Given Names
A Genealogist's Guide to African Names
A Genealogist's Guide to British Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Chinese Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Eastern European Names
A Genealogist's Guide to French Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Gaelic Names
A Genealogist's Guide to German Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Greek Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Hawaiian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Indian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Irish Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Italian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Japanese Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Jewish Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Native American Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Russian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Scandinavian Names
A Genealogist's Guide to Spanish Names
African-American roots | American Indian roots | Asian roots | Celebrating your heritage | French Canadian roots | German roots | Hispanic Roots | Italian roots | Jewish roots | ShopFamilyTree.com Sales | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, January 02, 2013 12:04:21 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Free for a Limited Time: Canadian Vital Records, Japanese Internment Camp Records, 1930 Census
Posted by Diane
Two Ancestry.com sites have limited-time free record offers:
- Ancestry.com is offering free access to two databases now through Feb. 23 to mark the 70th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which sent 120,000 Japanese-Americans and residents to internment camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor:
- Update: I also just received an Ancestry.com newsletter stating that the site's 1930 US census collection will be free through Feb. 20.
In both cases, you'll need to set up a free account with the site (or log into your existing account) to view record matches.
Asian roots | Canadian roots | census records | Free Databases | Vital Records
Thursday, February 16, 2012 11:33:21 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Friday, May 07, 2010
Genealogy News Corral: May 3-7
Posted by Diane
- The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) plans to launch a public wiki that will allow you to create pages on records or themes. If you can't attend the organizing meeting at the NARA building in Washington, DC, on May 7th, you can contribute ideas by e-mail—see the archives’ blog post for details.
Also check out the archives’ wiki for planning the wiki.
Asian roots | Canadian roots | NARA
Friday, May 07, 2010 3:21:09 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Friday, October 23, 2009
Genealogy News Corral: October 19-23
Posted by Diane
Here are some of the week's genealogy news tidbits:
- We wrote about ethical wills (last statements concerning personal values rather than property) in the September 2008 Family Tree Magazine. (Family Tree Magazine Plus members can read the article here.)
Ready to get started on one? Personal historian Dan Curtis is offering a free, seven-part online course on writing an ethical will for your heirs.
Discover more resources for Chinese genealogy in these Genealogy Insider posts.
- The new Amelia Earhart movie is getting tepid reviews (from what I’ve seen, anyway), but the real-life details of her 1937 disappearance might be more interesting. Ancestry.com’s "Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad" collection contains a case file of correspondence concerning an investigation into the theory that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were imprisoned in Saipan. Find out more about the case on Ancestry.com’s blog and on Ancestry.com's “What really happened to Amerlia Earhart?” page.
- Genetic genealogy company DNA Consultants has added a blog to its revamped website; posts review news and research on dna testing and popular genetics. That involves some complex scientific terms and concepts, so put on your genetic genealogist hat when you visit.
Asian roots | Celebrating your heritage | Genealogy Events | Genetic Genealogy | Social History
Friday, October 23, 2009 4:08:48 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Chinese Canadians Profiled on Genealogy Wiki
Posted by Diane
Canada’s Vancouver Public Library (which started the Chinese-Canadian Genealogy
Web site) and Library and Archives Canada have created a genealogy wiki centered around the country’s Chinese Immigration List
The list bears the names of Canadian-born Chinese who registered with the government as required by the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923. Designed to curtail Chinese immigration to Canada, the act joined a procession of laws levying head taxes on Chinese immigrants. The regulations were finally lifted in 1947.
The wiki contains transcribed information on 461 people recorded on the list, covering the years from Won Alexander Cumyow’s birth in 1861 to Lee Kang Gee’s birth in 1900 (both were born in British Columbia, where most of Canada's Chinese residents lived).
Researchers with more details on any of the 461 individuals can help build their profiles—see the Participate page to get started
You can search 98,361 names from Canada's General Registers of Chinese Immigration
at the online Canadian Genealogy Center.
See the May 2009 Family Tree Magazine
(now mailing to subscribers; on sale March 10) for more help researching immigrants to Canada from all over the world.
Asian roots | Canadian roots | Free Databases | immigration records
Tuesday, February 17, 2009 2:27:10 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Monday, January 26, 2009
New Year, New Genealogy Resources
Posted by Diane
Ancestry.com | Asian roots | International Genealogy
Monday, January 26, 2009 8:27:50 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Friday, August 08, 2008
Chinese Genealogy Resources and Ancestry.com’s Jiapu.cn
Posted by Diane
We’ve heard some questions about Ancestry.com
’s recently launched Chinese site, Jiapu.cn
, and help for researchers who want to use it but don’t know Chinese.
“There isn’t an English version of the Chinese site, just as there isn’t an English version of our Italian, French, German or Swedish sites,” says Simon Zivian, spokesperson for the Ancestry.com’s international business. “These international sites have been launched in local markets for those markets.”
In addition, the jiapu (family histories) on the site are in Chinese.
You can get a rough translation using Google’s Web page translator
, but you’d need to search using Chinese characters, and you’d need translation help with the digitized records.
For translation help, I’d suggest contacting a university Asian Studies department or a local Chinese organization
to ask for recommendations. Here are a few other Chinese genealogy resources:
- China Gateway
Links to repositories in North America, China and elsewhere that have Chinese collections
I did a search for professional genealogists specializing in Chinese research and came up empty. Hit Comment and add a post if you know of one.
Asian roots | Genealogy Web Sites | International Genealogy
Friday, August 08, 2008 2:25:59 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Ancestry.com Launches Chinese Site
Posted by Diane
First, The Generations Network
(owner of Ancestry.com
) just launched a Chinese family history Web site at jiapu.cn
The site, written in Chinese, provides access to jiapu (family histories) online. They're available through a partnership with the Shanghai Library
, which holds the largest collection of Chinese family history records in the world. So far, 1,450 jiapu covering 270 surnames are online; eventually, jiapu.cn will contain 22,700 jiapu.
As of now, the family histories are accessible at no cost.
Ancestry.com | Asian roots | International Genealogy
Wednesday, August 06, 2008 5:07:26 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
The World's Longest Family Tree?
Posted by Diane
Chinese philosopher Confucius (who tradition holds was born 551 BC) has 2 million recorded descendants in 83 generations, says one of that number, Kong Dewei, in China Daily
Dewei is a member of the Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee, which will publish the fifth edition of the family register next year. For the first time, it includes women and those living outside of China. Each person paid 5 yuan (about 70 cents) to register; the committee has stopped soliciting names.
People without pedigrees proving descent could take a DNA test to compare with Confucius’ genetic signature, which scientists in China discovered in 2006.
It may sound as though Confucius, whose proper name was Kong Zi, was particularly prolific, but all I could find (in the Handbook of Today’s Religions
) is that he had a son and a daughter—I guess that's what 2,500 years can do for your family tree.
The descendants have held noble titles and governmental posts throughout history. The main lineage fled from their ancestral home in Qufu during the Chinese Civil War, but now the Temple of Confucius and the Confucius Mansion
(the residence of the philosopher’s descendants) are tourist attractions.
Now, if only I can figure out how to set up a genealogy compilation committee for my family ...
Asian roots | International Genealogy
Wednesday, February 20, 2008 10:47:32 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)