Research into Chinese genealogy is complicated due to the Exclusion Acts (1882-1943) and restrictive quotas on Chinese immigration, which did not change until the late 1960's. This restrictive immigration history has vast implications for the search for Chinese family roots.
Here are some tips for getting started:
1. Gather as much existing information you have from relatives or old documents. Some documents commonly found in Chinese American families are government-issued identification documents including Certificates of Identity, Certificates of Residence, and Permanent Resident Cards ("green cards"). Also look for old family photographs, letters from China and other legal documents such as birth and death certificates, deeds and military records.
2. Search passenger lists to find records of your family's immigration and travel to the United States. Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org are two examples of genealogy databases that have digitized and transcribed ship passenger manifest lists. These online sources also make available many marriage, death, birth, military and federal and state census records.
3. After you have searched for information about your family's immigration and travel to the United States, contact federal government archives to see if there are additional immigration-related records. Chinese immigrants and Chinese American citizens traveling in and out of the United States after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 were monitored by the federal government. Nearly all immigrants and travelers from the Chinese Exclusion Act era have case files containing interview transcripts, correspondence, government forms, photographs, and other records about individuals and families. These case files are maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
5. For more detailed information about how to trace your Chinese family history, purchase the Guide for Researching Your Chinese Family History.
6. Become a Member of the Chinese Family History Group and join a community of like-minded individuals and collaborate with others as you delve into your family history.