Chinese Genealogy

Partial map of Guangdong showing Siyi (the 4 counties)

This site is devoted to the genealogy of Chinese families from an area of Guangdong, China (中國廣東)commonly known as Siyi (四邑) or four counties. The counties are Xinhui (新會), Taishan (台山), Kaiping (開平), and Enping (恩平). The families in this area have much in common besides geographic location. The great majority trace their origin to China’s central plain. Each faamily may have different reasons for leaving the Central Plains and migrated southward. The most common would be fleeing the turmoil caused by an invading nomad tribe, internal uprising or natural disaster. This southward journey happened in multiple stages and over hundreds of years. Each major unrest or disaster drove them further south until they finally settled in their current locations. In many cases this final settlement took place five to six hundred years ago.

Due to crowded living condition and lack of agrarian land the migration, however, continued. At first a small number headed to the South Pacific. Since the 1850′s an increasing large number had crossed the Pacific and Indian Oceans in search of work. This is not a true migration in that they seldom settled in their new locations due to cultural and political reasons. This, however, began to change in the latter half of the 20th century as the Western nations amended their immigration policies primarily because of the overseas Chinese’s contributions to the war effort during World War II. This coupled with events in China made many decided to have their families joined them and settled in the foreign land.

A place of great significant during this southward migration is Zhujixiang, Nanxiong (南雄珠璣巷). A vast majority of the families in the Pearl River Delta area trace their roots to there. One can say it is Pearl River Delta genealogy’s equivalent to the Americans’ Mayflower and Plymouth Rock.

The surnames we are actively researching are: Chan, Chow, Der, Kwan, Lee, Mak, Wong, and Zhao (陳周謝關李麥黃趙). So far we only have time to compile some of the information on the Chow (周), Der (謝), Lee (李), and Zhao (趙).

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99 Responses to Chinese Genealogy

  1. Joanne
    April 3, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Hi…I actually was able to fill some blanks with this site so thank you very much. I wasn’t raised with my Chinese family and my grandfather passed 10 years ago. My husband and I were going to plan a trip to China but I only want to go if I can find my grandfather’s ancestral home.
    His name was Li Lam; also known as Li Yi Ching. His father’s name was Li Hin Pun. Li Lam was born in 1899 and emigrated to Canada in 1917. His ancestral village was Nam Wo Li (Black Stone Village) in Enping, Guangdong (formerly Kwangtung).
    Would you be able to help me find this on a map? I have many Chinese co-workers but they haven’t been able to find it on any of their maps.
    Thank you.

  2. Woodson
    April 3, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Hi Joanne,

    Nam Wo Li doesn’t translated into Black Stone Village. I think the word “Nam” means South and Wo means Harmony and Li is a noun similar to village. The name in Chinese characters is 南和里. Unfortunately I can’t find a “Nam Wo Li” on the map but was able to find a village with the name Black Stone 烏石. It is on the north east sector of Enping, just north West of Shahu. See map

    http://www.box.com/s/081ba2f4bd1c62513606

  3. Ronald Wolfe
    April 3, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    I was born “European” legally but unofficially I was given my chinese name Lauw Tjin Hong, which I later found out to be most likely written 劉真 鳳.
    My father was Lauw Kwee Kang and his father Lauw Tjiang Hin (or Hien according to Dutch influenced spelling in Indonesia).
    We may be Fujianese considering our pronounced names. Father was born in Bekasi, just East of Jakarta, Indonesia.

    I wonder if anyone could help me to trace my ancestry back to the mainland, respectively find wider relatives, based on my above grandfather’s name.

    Thanks in advance,
    Ron / Zhen Fong (Tjin Hong)

  4. Juan Victor Andres
    April 9, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    Me llamo Juan Chau Chang, Mi padre peruano fue Amador Alejandro Chau Jo, Su padre fue Aljandro Chau, quien vino de China (Cantón) al Perú a inicios de 1900, llegando al Calao con un primo. Se afincaron por la pequeña ciudad de San Vicente de Cañete, al sur de Lima, donde nació mi padre.
    Deseo saber mas de la ascendencia o que datos debo buscar entre mis parientes para hacer mi genalogía. Sé que tenemos algún parentesco con los Johnson (ingles)

  5. Philomena
    June 10, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Hello,

    My compliments to the website. I am looking for relatives from the Xinhui county, mu-kang village. My paternal great-grandfather is Ying-hung Kan and my grandfather is Yam-Kee Kan, went to Singapore.

    Also if anybody knows of a Wong family who went to Kudat please contact me. My great grandfather is Sam-Yun Wong. It is believed that he was buried in the Kudat Christian Cemetry.

    Many thanks, Philomena.

  6. indayjoy
    June 27, 2012 at 2:11 am

    Hello, I am the granddaughter of To Klon Wong and Kim Sue Lee of Taishan,Guangdong. My father is Taysing Wong and he was born in 1901.He left China when he was 8 years old and settled in the Philippines. According to my father, his father migrated to San Francisco, California. I don’t exactly know the names of his relatives in Guangdong. Whoever knows my relatives please help me find them.

  7. Elinar Mar
    June 29, 2012 at 8:23 am

    I am the grand daughter in law of Mar Chiu Kwong..if anyone knows anything about the Mar family..Mar Chiu Kwong came to Fiji during the world war 1..he has a sister by the name of Mar Lin who later went to live in Canada..please contact me on linavukitu@yahoo.com …any information will be highly appreciated

    • Douglas
      September 11, 2012 at 7:19 pm

      If your grandfather was from Chungshan, Zhongshan, chances are he was from the village of Sa Chung. Sa Chung is the home village of the Ma/ Mar / Mah clan. Clan members had a big presence in Australia, and the Pacific in the early days. They were very successful merchants, so much so, one Ma Ying Bew, decided to leave Australia because of discriminatory laws, and returned to Hong Kong and China. There, he and other Chungshan compatriots from Australia pioneered department store retailing. Sincere Company, established by Ma is still a household name even now.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sincere_Department_Store

  8. Linda
    July 16, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Hi, i want to find out about my ancestry. Is that possible? I know that there have been several adoptions in both my parent’s families.

  9. Aidan Chou
    July 25, 2012 at 4:57 am

    hi
    I’m trying to find my chinese family history and i am struggling,my grandfather was called jo lim chou and was born in canton in 1905- he later emigrated to the UK in 1924, i was wondering if i have any more relatives living in the canton area? i have no other way of tracking them after my grandad past on many years age, any information would be great. many thanks.

    • Karen
      December 10, 2012 at 11:55 am

      Hi, I’m doing the searching for my nephew in law. His mother’s maiden name was Lee. Her small village in Hong Kong which now is under water. Her family had moved to UK: Scotland But do not know about Canton because once one of his ancestor married to one of them and she removed the info. They have hard time to find their ancestors’ names with more info. So, did you find any more info. lately??

  10. Lana Mee Yee
    September 28, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    My father and his brothers came to US in 1921 or 1922 and settled in Mt.Clemens, Michigan. His name was JOHN YEE. His birth date might be March 22, 1907

    • Woodson
      September 29, 2012 at 8:22 am

      I’m afraid more information is needed, at the very least his and the village name in Chinese characters. However, vast majority of the Yees in Taishan are from the Dihoi, 狄海, area which is now part of Kaiping, 開平.

    • Jon
      February 20, 2013 at 8:09 am

      Many Yee’s settled in the Detroit area. Try the Yee Fung Toy Association and/or the On Leong Tong Association.

  11. Ginny
    November 12, 2012 at 7:02 am

    Oh boy, I am going to guarantee that I will not have enough information to give you but I do have the last name which you have been actively researching. I will do my best to give you information that I have done in my own research.

    My father’s name is Wong Hep Min, his brother Wong Hep Nen (papers were sold) along with my biological grandfathers. Wong Qi Su (not sure if correct). My grandmother was Wong Tong Yette (Yet) maiden name Lee (Li?) In the 1950′s Wong Hep Nen and Wong Qi Su went ot Indonesia they lived in Medan (I do have an address). Meanwhile my father and grandmother moved to Canada in 1956.

    My great grandfather on the Wong side was only known as Charlie Wong he was born 14 Apr 1878. He immigrated to Canada sometime before 1920 (I believe). He lived primarily in Thunder Bay, Ontario where he died in 1964.
    My father was born in in Taishan, Guangdong, China.

    • Karen
      December 10, 2012 at 12:00 pm

      Hi, I’d wondered if they had migrated to Scotland ??
      My nephew in law’s mother’s maiden name is Lee also so I’d wondered if they’re related ? It’s hard to find more info. because her small village in Hong Kong is now under water. I do not know what year she migrated….wondered if they had migrated from HK to Canada to UK ??

      • Woodson
        December 10, 2012 at 1:14 pm

        Strange because Hong Kong has been increasing its land mass by filling in its shorelines. Anyway, do you have the name of the village? The UK should have records of all immigrants entered the country. Sorry I’m not familiar with the situation there.

  12. Nic Lee
    November 12, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    A fascinating website. My great-grand father (Lee Cha Boh) originated from the Siyi/Guangdong area. All I know is that he left there with his first wife and at least one son (Lee Swee Guan) for Kedah/Malaysia alledgedly to take up tin mining. It is believed he left around 1900. My grandfather (Lee Swee Lee – 4th son) and his older brother (Lee Swee Hin, 3rd son) were born to local Malaysian Chan Saw Kooi (?1905 & ?1907). Lee Cha Boh died 28 March 1931 – at a guess, in his 50s. I probably should get my great-grand father’s tomb script translated… ;) Any suggestion on how to proceed? Thanks!

    • Woodson
      November 12, 2012 at 9:23 pm

      Simple. Use your digital camera and email the photos to me.

      • November 20, 2012 at 1:54 am

        Hi is it possible to read what this tombstone says. any info is appreciated to help me with family root research. Much appreciated. Please email me back.

  13. November 20, 2012 at 1:57 am

    sorry how do i email u pic of tombstone?

  14. Ng Poh Soon
    November 28, 2012 at 4:54 am

    My grandfather Ng (Wu) Kwan Nong originated from Long Wan Village, under the Ngiau Jiang town in the Enping Perfecture.
    Recently we made a trip there.
    Unfortunately the original record was not available only the printed Ng (Wu) family record was availble.
    Hope somebody can help

  15. Brian Chong
    December 14, 2012 at 10:47 am

    My name is Brian chong, and I’m looking for information regarding my relatives in china. My grandfathers name was Chon Chong, and was born in “posan” or “poran” guangdong china in 1901. his parents where Lou Yueng Chong and Lee Chan.. does anyone know where i can find more information? Or how i can proceed…

    Kind regards,

  16. jared
    January 20, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    HI, MY NAME I JARED OCHOA LOO, I NEED SOME INFO ABOUT MY ANCESTORS, THE ONLY THING I KNOW IS THAT MY GREAT GRANDPA ENRIQUE LOO LAM CAME FROM Canton, Huang-Dung,China TO PERU. IS THERE WEBSITE I COULD CHECK OUT TO KNOW HIS FAMILY TREE?

  17. John Brown
    February 6, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Searching for wife’s father’s village.
    Name: Guy Ling Mok (Guy may be English translation)
    Born 1900
    Yang Ping/Enping County
    Canton Province

  18. garry goon
    February 15, 2013 at 6:00 am

    last year while traveling in Gui Lim, on the top of a granite mountain was a list of Chinese names with their lineage. I have pictures of the four family names associated with Chew Lun Family Association, Hom, Tom, Huie and Der. I do not read or write Chinese, can anyone translate?

    • Woodson
      February 15, 2013 at 7:13 am

      You can email them to me at sgenson.bchn@xoxy.net

    • Michael
      October 29, 2013 at 7:11 am

      Where is Gui Lim? Can’t find it on Google maps

  19. SW Eng
    March 16, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    I am very glad that I found this website. I am interested to find my grandfather’s family/village in China. He migrated to Malaysia, I don’t have exact year but know for sure its before 1940 (may be between 1920-1930). The only think we know is that he came from 廣東新会. Our chinese family name is 英 and my grandmother who came to Malaysia with him has chinese family name 謝. I found at your website here that likely my grandfather may be from 楊漢鄉, 公社村 or 黎村. I have my grandfather and grand mother’s chinese name. What other information do I need to find their family/village?

  20. F Toy
    March 27, 2013 at 12:02 am

    I think this is one of the more rare ones. My last name is Toy and I’m 4th generation chinese, with my chinese blood having dwindled down to about only 18 percent. My family is from Mexico, from a small city in Oaxaca called Salina Cruz, in which we are not the only chinese family, with several people with the last name Choy and others with the last name Leon (a spanish last name which I suspect was given by the immigration officers instead of Leung or something like that). Due to dicrimination against chinese in the 1950′s, my grandfather, his siblings and the other second generation chinese were never taught cantonese (or toisan dialect, as I suspect they may have spoken) and all documents relating them back to China were destroyed, with very few left behind. Two years ago, I started doing some research after I met a chinese girl in Canada, where I live, with my same last name. My family may have been from Toisan, but that is just my speculation, as I have read that the surname Cai is pronounced and romanized as Choy in cantonese and Toy in Toisan dialect. One of my cousins found the identification of her great grandfather, who was registered as Juan Choy, from Sun Ming, Canton in 1919. However, as hard as I try, I cannot find a place called Sun Ming in China, the only thing that keeps coming up is the name of an old railway company. I have gone through shipping records and have asked the last living second generation relative, my great-aunt, about anything she may know but I don’t really consider her information very reliable seeing as she changes the story every time.Things are made more complicated by the fact that no one knows the chinese names of any of my chinese ancestors and the fact that the Mexican policy at the time was to give immigrants a spanish first name and write down what they heard, leading to some very interesting spelling.
    I’m not really expecting to be able to find much but any information at all about the last name Toy or Choy would be very much appreciated ^-^. It’s sad that my family history was lost due to some discriminatory policies and now, when we want to know and we have the means to find information more easily, there are no clues to start with. My interest and my family’s interest was revived by my marriage to my husband, who is Chinese and “the revival of the Chinese line”, as my great-aunt stated proudly. In reality, I just want to know who I am.
    Thanks

    • Woodson
      March 27, 2013 at 9:43 pm

      I believe the Sun Ming you’re searching is for is actually Sun Ning. The name was changed in 1914. http://legacy1.net/taishan-county/

      Do you have the name of the village?

    • gilbert hom
      August 14, 2013 at 6:46 am

      f. toy,
      you actually know more than a lot of Chinese 4th generation from mexico. I agree that sun ming is likely sun ning, which is the former name of toishan, which goes along with your name “toy” being the toishan pronunciation. if you still have contact with the Chinese in salina cruz you may want to ask them if they were related to your family or knew what village your ancestors were from, many Chinese migrated to places they had relatives or people they knew in china rather than by chance.
      good luck

  21. Elizabeth Duncan (LeeBing)
    May 28, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    I am looking for my brother and possible other relatives who came from Canton, China. My father now deceased,who went by the name Lee Bing born August 25,1904 traveled to British Guiana (now Guyana) back in the 1900s as a laborer. His father who is also deceased name was Lee Tet Kee from Canton, China. I met one of my brother many years ago in Florida while I lived in Maryland. I have lost touch with them and cannot remember their names. My father had a sister who first moved to New York and then the family moved to Florida. He also has relatives in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. When he left China, some of his relatives travelled as well and some stopped in New York, Canada, and Jamaica. My grandfather was in the silk business in Canton and later sold it before his sons travelled elsewhere.

    If anyone knows of my relatives please feel free to let me know. I will continue to check this site for responses.

    Thanks much.

  22. James Tang
    May 31, 2013 at 7:00 am

    Dear Elizabeth Duncan

    Look for records from abandon homes that they used to own a lot of records can be found in those homes. Also get in contact with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday saints they can help you find your sources. don’t be afraid to get to know them they are great people.

    Sincerely,

    James Tang

    P.S My ancestors are from that region but, you can find a lot from where they came from. Don’t be afraid to see where they came from and good luck.

  23. Elizabeth Duncan (LeeBing)
    June 2, 2013 at 5:57 am

    Thank you James. We were able to locate a relative but he, like us are looking for the same information related to Lee Tet Kee and Lee. Unfortunate for us there are further info we can go on regarding the location they lived in China other than what we know. But we are hopeful.

    Thanks again.

  24. serene yap
    July 4, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Hi, my family is Yap/Yip 葉. My paternal grandfather is Yap Kee Song, he was from Enping, and emigrated to Singapore with his cousins, survived as a tailor. I am trying to trace my roots to find related bloodline in China.

    It would be great if anyone knows anything about 葉村 in Enping, it would help alot.

    Thanks in advance!

    Serene

  25. Ms. Melvin Bart
    July 30, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Warmest GREETINGS!
    I am Ms. Melvin Bart from Davao City, Philippines!
    My father MOK WONG, pure Chinese from Canton, China married to my Filipina mother, Leoncia Hampas Obsioma. My father died on August 18, 1961. We do not know his parents, brothers and sisters and relatives. It seems he came from Canton, China to Iloilo City, Philippines then settled in Oroquieta City. His Uncle died and his cousin went back to China. I was only 7 seven years old when he died of Tuberculosis which was incurable at that time. We are four his children and I am the eldest.

    Please help me trace the family and relatives of my father MOK WONG. He was the chief baker and they had bakery.

    Thank you so much! Hope to hear from you soon!

  26. Mary Bennett
    October 15, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    My father Wong Hing Yan ( later years known as Wong Hing passed away last month. His grand father immigrated to Canada. Mt great grand father & grand father provided financial support to the revolution, overturning the Ching ( Qing ) Dynasty, thus we heard of the family had some close relationship with Dr. Sun Yat-Sin. All my father, grand father & great grand father were Christians. We were told that when Great grand father & his son went back to China they provide financial support to build a church, presumingly in Xinhui (Sun Wei) Any body heard of the Wong family with such back ground? I would love to hear more about them. Thanks.

  27. Hooimin
    February 5, 2014 at 7:43 am

    Hi, my fiance and I are trying to trace his genealogy. It’s a bit challenging because his father died when he was young and his father’s parents also died when his father was young. What we know of is that his surname 王, his father’s Chinese name in hokkien dialect, and most likely his ancestors migrated to North Sumatra, Indonesia in late 1800s from southern Fujian region. With such little information, is it possible to at least find out his generation poem? Thanks!

    • Woodson
      February 5, 2014 at 10:07 am

      Generation poem is very specific to a particular clan or even just to a branch. I’m afraid it isn’t possible without more information.

      • Elena Wachong
        May 9, 2014 at 11:21 am

        My Chinese Clan in Costa Rica has traced its Lee Family roots back to its hometown in Heshan, Guangdong and the arrival of this Hakka family in 1644 to South Canton. It originated as a Hakka speaking Family of the Han majority of Central China, has 106 generations recorded, going back to 800 b.c…so we now have written records going back over 2,800 years !

        The first thing to learn is that the Western Alphabetization of a Chinese name is of no help…to research a Chinese Family Tree, the original surname must be written in Chinese script. My Father´s name in Chinese was phonetically LEE Wa Chong, but upon immigration to Costa Rica it became Luis Wachong Lee….and there are at least 3 ways that Lee can be written in Chinese and phoneticized: Li, Lee, Lu, Ly, Leung, Lam, etc….so finding a Chinese script of the family name is the first step…none of the alphabetizations work.

        My suggestion to overseas Chinese descendants seeking to find their roots is as follows:

        1) Find out how the Chinese name was written in Chinese script (name, generational name, and surname)
        2) the Chinese name of the town and hopefully the district or neighborhood(generally from the province of Canton in the last 200 years, since Cantonese were furthest from the Emperor´s control and closest to the foreigners and the sea).
        3)Collect all letters or papers written in Chinese
        4)take them to the closest Chinese Association in your town…they can usually read the family name and town so you can write it down. Perhaps they have a specific address or other family connections you can trace down if translated. They also have the address of your Family Association in the town of origin(oftentimes Guangzhou, Chung Shan, etc). All Chinese are associated with a Family Association in each town in China….like having a Smith Family association in London or Washington, the Chinese gather around a Family name (theoretically there are 100 names and Chinese cherish their ancestors)and seldom wander away from their town of origin.
        5) You can then write the Family Association of that town in China (in Chinese, please) which shares your same Chinese surname. There is a Chinese Family Association in each town in China, which helps overseas Chinese find their relatives, IF you can write to them in Chinese with the correct Chinese full name, and a little of the background and time they left.
        6) The Family Poem or Generational Tree is extremely helpful in that it can assist in finding out relationships with other members of your extended family…all persons who share the same Generational Name will be related to each other in some way , so it is a great way to start…If your Father´s Generational name was Ka (in Chinese)and his surname was Lee, for example, any other person you find who is also name LEE KA, will probably be related to you. Especially if your generational name and Chinese surname also coincide with their children´s. That would mean you are part of the Same Generational Family Tree.
        7) Once you have recovered your Generational Family Tree (ours spans three hundred years from 1644 to 2020), you can start locating other members who have the same Generational Name and Surname…they are bound to be related..put the puzzle together!
        8) Family Tree hunting of Chinese relatives requires that you read Chinese, or work very closely with somebody who does, as all meaningful records are written in Chinese
        9) Thanks to my extended Chinese family in Heshan, Costa Rica and the USA, we have recovered our ties with Family in China…and given them back their Family Tree (which was destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
        10) This has taken 30 years and the help of many educated Chinese friends in several countries, since old Chinese script is a challenge to even the most educated of Chinese!

        Good luck, and may the wind be at your back !

  28. April 7, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    hello I write from argentina. i will go to guangzhou next month. how could i arrive into Xinhui ?
    thank you

    • Woodson
      April 7, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      There is bus services from Guangzhou. Please contact your travel agency for detail.

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