As of May 2024, we have published ⭐️ 2.2 million records ⭐️ of Chinese ancestors in historical collections from the United States and Canada. The newest additions to the My China Roots Database include:

  • 📜 The little-known Special Chinese Census of 1905
  • 🚪 A treasure trove of Chinese Exclusion case files and registers
  • ⚓️ Passenger and crew lists for U.S. arrivals between 1865-1962
  • 💒 Marriage and death records across New York, Hawaii, and San Francisco

Search the collections below to discover a new puzzle piece of your family history!

Census Records 📜

🔍 Search Census Records

Recorded every ten years, censuses offer a wealth of information that can help you imagine the lives of your ancestors, including their names, date and place of birth, residence address, family situation, occupation, education level and more.

Now Available

🔦 Collection Spotlight: Special Chinese Census of 1905

The Special Chinese Census of 1905 is a little-known, untapped record from the Chinese Exclusion case files at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Its purpose was to monitor all Chinese people residing in the U.S. and deport them back to China if they failed to provide proof of residency.

⚠️ Indexing Notes

Although census data can be insightful, it’s important to be aware of its susceptibility to racial bias. Historically, it was not uncommon for census enumerators to incorrectly profile Chinese individuals, or even exclude mixed-race individuals. To the best of our ability, we have extracted the census data of all individuals racially recorded as Chinese. However, the possibility that some ancestors were misrepresented or omitted in the original sources remains a challenging reality.

Inspection letter from July 1906 (incidentally, the same year the San Francisco earthquake destroyed all public birth records of Chinese residents): “I wish to refer to my census of Allegheny and Pittsburg, and to report that I think the cases of the following Chinamen should be investigated in detail in order to determine whether they should not be arrested.”

Chinese Exclusion Case Files and Registers 🚪

🔍 Search Chinese Exclusion Records

In the 19th and 20th century, countries including the United States, Canada and Australia passed laws prohibiting the immigration of Chinese individuals. All Chinese entering or re-entering the country had to prove their identity and eligibility, or risk being denied entry.

Now Available

  • Immigration Case Files: All supporting documents for Chinese individuals applying to enter the United States under the Chinese Exclusion Act.
  • Passenger Arrivals and Disposition Books: Registers of Chinese ancestors granted entry during Exclusion era, including special exceptions made for Chinese already in the U.S. before the law took effect, as well as teachers, students, merchants, and travelers certified by the Chinese government.

Passenger and Crew Lists ⚓️

🔍 Search Immigration & Travel Records

Ship manifests, passenger lists, and crew lists contain the arrival records of ancestors who traveled to the United States. This includes ancestors who traveled between Hawaii and the continental U.S., or periodically made trips back and forth between the U.S. and China.

Now Available

Marriage and Death Records 💒

🔍 Search Marriage and Death Records

Vital records document key life events and contain information such as the date and place of the event, parents’ or relatives’ names, residence, and occupation. Because vital records are not publicly available in China, vital records are typically created outside of China in the country of settlement of Chinese ancestors.

Now Available

Coming Soon: Bilingual Indexing 🌐

One of the biggest challenges we aim to resolve in Chinese genealogy research is “How do we make the Chinese information within records searchable to anyone searching for their ancestors in English?”

To start off, we rigorously index and publish the English data of new collections first, so you can search all historical content recorded in English as soon as possible.

Next, we plan to enhance existing collections by transcribing and translating the Chinese data, so that you can uniquely identify individual ancestors by their Chinese names, signatures, and ancestral places. With bilingual indexing, our goal is to cross the language gap and make countless records of Chinese ancestors – long hidden in plain sight – more easily discoverable.

Descendants searching for Chin Bock Suey 陳百瑞 by his Romanized or Chinese name can now find his immigration case file, thanks to the bilingual indexing of his handwritten signature. View Source

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Chrislyn Choo

Chrislyn is a US-born artist with roots in China and Malaysia. When she's not documenting life stories, you can find her drooling over family recipes and hosting community gatherings.

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