Discover Your Ancestors

We hope that ANCESTORS IN THE AMERICAS will inspire you to learn more about your Asian American family history and genealogy, and to preserve and pass on what you know or find. Why did your family come here? What and who did they leave behind? What was it like for them as the first generation?

It is important that we learn our own stories and pass them on from generation to generation. Our stories, particularly of the early years in America, are largely unknown and untold. They need to be preserved so that we do not forget our roots and early struggles, and so that our history as Asian Americans becomes understood as a natural part of the history of America.

Here are some ways to begin:

    The best place to start in discovering your own ancestors is your family itself. Begin by asking your elders the names of your ancestors or stories from the past. You might even want to do an oral history of your family, recorded on audio or videotape. This can provide the essential beginnings to go even further back in time. To trace your family back to your country of origin, you will need a complete name of an immigrant relative and their place of origin. It also helps to have a date of a significant event in the relatives life in the old country, such as a wedding.

    Many resources are available on the World Wide Web, including others who already may be doing research of use to you. However, you cannot actually do extensive genealogical research on the Web yet. Older records are usually handwritten on paper, and may exist on microfilm, but not yet in electronic format. The Web can be a place to link up with others doing genealogical research and share your questions and experiences. There are usenet groups on genealogy by region of the world (soc.genealogy), though none to date on Asia (Anyone want to start one? If you do, let us know and we'll list it here).

    The books listed below can help guide you in discovering your family history. A few are specific to Asian Americans, others are more general how-to books. Look for many of these books in your public library or local bookstore. You can also order them directly online (we have an affiliate arrangement with online bookseller that provides us a percentage of each book sold).

    Many organizations and institutions have kept extensive records that are essential in genealogical research. Some are local libraries or branches of government agencies, others are privately supported.

  • Please let us know about other useful resources you are aware of not listed here.


There are an enormous number of genealogical sites and resources online. We have selected the sites listed here as energizing starting points.

National Archives and Records Administration
This page provides a good overview of how to begin your search and how to use the archives. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has many records that are useful for genealogical research, such as the Federal population censuses, 1790-1920; military records, American Revolution to1900; ship passenger arrival lists, 1820-1957; and naturalization records.

National Genealogical Society
National nonprofit membership organization includes genealogical and historical societies, family organizations, libraries. Provides a variety of resources, home study courses, and events.

Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites - Asia & The Pacific
An extensive list of international links related to Asia and Pacific countries and genealogy.

Part of the World GenWeb, which is attempting to set up a site devoted to each country in the world, with a personal host. Some Asian countries are linked, others are still looking for knowledgeable hosts.

Chinese Surnames
Contains extensive links to Chinese surnames and people looking for more information about their families.

Chinese Cultural Center's "In Search of Roots Program"
Open to Chinese Americans from 16 to 25 years of age with families originating in counties of the Pearl River Delta region in the Guangdong province of China.


The books listed below with a linked title can be ordered directly from, an online bookseller (a percentage of the sale price is donated back to CET). (NOT LINKED YET) Also, be sure to also see the bibliography on Asian American history in the Resources section.



Asian American Genealogical Sourcebook (Genealogy Sourcebook Series)
by Paula K. Byers (Editor)
Our Price: $69.00.
Hardcover Published by Gale Research
Publication date: September 1995

The Extent and Preservation of Genealogical Records in China
by Hsiang-lin Lo
Available at most Family History Centers,
or from the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City.

China Connection: Finding Ancestral Roots for Chinese in America
by Jeanie W. Chooey Low.

Finding Your Ethnic American Roots/Filipino (Ethnic American Book)
Robert D. Reed, Danek S. Kaus / Published 1993

Finding Your Ethnic-American Roots/Vietnamese (Ethnic American Book)
Robert D. Reed, Danek S. Kaus / Paperback / Published 1993
Our Price: $4.50 + $2.35 surcharge


Ancestors: A Beginner's Guide to Family History and Genealogy
by Jim Willard, Terry Willard, Jane Wilson
Our Price: $16.00
Published by Houghton Mifflin Co (Trd)
Publication date: March 1997

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Genealogy
by Christine Rose, Kay Germain Ingalls
Our Price: $14.36
Paperback, 352 pages
Published by MacMillan General Reference
Publication date: October 1997

A Dictionary of Surnames
by Patrick Hanks, Flavia Hodges
Our Price: $85.00
Hardcover, 826 pages
Published by Oxford Univ Press
Publication date: May 1989

Family Tree Kit
by Noel M. Elliott (Editor), Noel M. Elliot
Our Price: $17.47
Deluxe Edition, Hardcover
Published by Firefly Books
Publication date: February 1996

Searching for Your Ancestors: The How and Why of Genealogy
by Gilbert H. Doane, James B. Bell
Our Price: $14.36
6th Edition, Paperback, 334 pages
Published by Univ of Minnesota Pr (Trd)
Publication date: April 1992

The Genealogy Sourcebook
by Sharon Debartolo Carmack
Our Price: $18.20
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published by Lowell House
Publication date: October 1997

Your Family Tree
by Jim, Jr Oldfield, Jim Oldfield
Our Price: $20.76
Bk & CD-ROM Edition
Paperback, 241 pages
Published by Abacus Software
Publication date: February 1997


A Student's Guide to Chinese American Genealogy (Oryx American Family Tree Series)
by Colleen She. Our Price: $29.50
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Paperback, 168 pages
Published by Oryx Press. Publication date: August 1996

A Student's Guide To Japanese American Genealogy (Oryx American Family Tree Series)
by Yoji Yamaguchi
Our Price: $29.50
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Paperback, 168 pages
Published by Oryx Press. Publication date: August 1996

Climb Your Family Tree: A Genealogy Detective's Kit (for ages 9 - 12)
by Anne Depue, Doug Keith (Illustrator)
Our Price: $10.36
Paperback, 48 pages
Published by Hyperion. Publication: October 1996








Gardena Library, Los Angeles County Public Library
1731 West Gardena Boulevard
Gardena, CA 90247
Telephone: (310) 323-6363


Chinese Culture Foundation of San Francisco
750 Kearny Street (Third Floor)
San Francisco, CA 94108
Telephone: (415) 986-1822

Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSS)
650 Commercial Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
Telephone: (415) 391-1188

China Institute in America
125 East 65th Street
New York, NY 10021
Telephone: (212) 744-8181


University of Rochester
Asia Library
Rush Rhees Library
River Campus
Rochester, NY 14627
Phone: (716) 275-4489


Oakland Public Library
Asian Branch
449 9th St.
Oakland, CA 94607

University of California, Los Angeles
Asian American Studies Center Reading Room
3230 Campbell Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90024-1546

University of California, Berkeley
Asian American Studies Library
3407 Dwinelle Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
Phone: (510) 642-2218

Los Angeles Public Library
History and Genealogy Department
630 W. 5th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90071-2097
Phone: (213) 228-7000

San Francisco Public Library
Larkin and McAllister St.
Genealogical Research Center Dept. of Special Collections
San Francisco, CA 94102-4796
Phone: (415) 557-4400


National Archives -
Pacific Southwest Region
24000 Avila Rd.
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677-6719
Phone: (714) 360-2641
Covers Arizona; southern California; and Clark County, Nevada

National Archives -
Pacific Sierra Region
1000 Commodore Drive
San Bruno, CA 94066
Phone: (415) 876-9009
Fax: (415) 876-9233
California (except southern California), Hawaii, Nevada (except Clark County), American Samoa, and Guam

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