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Jia Pu - An Ancient Chinese Tradition
There is a strong genealogical tradition in China. In many families and clans ancestral shrines were maintained within the home, or in the case of the wealthy, a separate ancestral hall. The ancestral shrine or hall housed wooden tablets, inscribed with the names of the honoured dead. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Doorway to the Past, provides a very informative overview of the history and characteristics of ancestral halls.
Ancestors' names were also collected in written genealogical records – jia pu ( traditional or simplified) or zu pu. A classic Chinese genealogy contains a large amount of information including: family rules and instructions, portraits and biographies of important clansmen, genealogical charts, a list of donors to the book, and much more. Detailed and very clearly-written and well-illustrated overviews of the typical contents of a jia pu are available in the following articles (available via interlibrary loan):
"Researching Your Asian Roots for Chinese-Americans"
Journal of East Asian Libraries (no. 129, February 2003, p.23-30)
Chao, Sheau-yueh J.
"Sources on Overseas Chinese Studies: Genealogical Records"
Library Collections, Acquisitions, & Technical Services (vol. 30 no. 1/2, March/June 2006, p. 18-49)
Chao, Sheau-yueh J.
The following scholarly essay explores the history of genealogy in China, including the characteristics of printed genealogies and their value and limitations as research documents:
Meskill, Johanna A. "The Chinese Genealogy as a Research Source"
Family and Kinship in Chinese Society (1970, p. 139-161)
Freedman, Maurice, ed.
Ref. 301.442 F19
Traditionally, access to genealogies was restricted to clansmen and few copies were produced. Moreover, during political and administrative changes under the People's Republic of China, some ancestral halls and homes were demolished or converted into communal housing or headquarters buildings for communes, brigades, or the local Communist Party branch. Family records and genealogies were lost. Where they have survived, jia pu may not be readily available to the general public.
Thus, it may be difficult to locate or obtain access to a jia pu relating to your family. If you do locate a jia pu associated with your family surname, it is important to bear in mind that the record may not actually refer to your family. People from families (jia) with the same surname are not necessarily directly related to each other. For more information, see Clan and District Associations (zu).
Finally, during periods of war, adoptions from other families or villages commonly occurred in order to carry on the family name. These adoptions were rarely indicated in jia pu and knowledge of them was only shared verbally.
Finding the Records
For information on jia pu collections in China, see Genealogical Collections and Services in China. Jia pu are also found in selected libraries in the Vancouver area, in the rest of Canada, and in the U.S. Circulating items may be available through interlibrary loan. Vancouver Public Library users can place interlibrary loan requests directly, using this interlibrary loan form. The following listing highlights important and / or local Vancouver-area collections and services, but is not comprehensive:
At the Vancouver Public Library
The Vancouver Public Library does not own any examples of jia pu. However, the collection does include a listing of jia pu titles available at the Asian Library, University of British Columbia:
Jia Pu [Asian Library, U.B.C. Genealogy Titles] (2005)
Asian Library, University of British Columbia
CHI 929.351X U58j
At the Asian Library, University of British Columbia
The Asian Library, University of British Columbia has a small collection of jia pu. A listing is available at the Vancouver Public Library (see above). Alternatively, search the U.B.C. Library catalogue online.
The Asian Library also owns two listings of Chinese genealogies held by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah (see below):
Catalogue of Chinese Genealogies in Taiwan: Taiwan qu zu pu mu lu
Chen Meigui and Zhenji Zhao
Chinese Genealogies at the the Genealogical Society of Utah: An Annotated Bibliography (1983)
Telford, Ted A., Melvin P. Thatcher and Basil Pei-nai Yang
At Other Canadian Libraries
Jia pu held by Library and Archives Canada and other Canadian libraries may be identified using AMICUS, a database of over 30 million records from 1300 Canadian libraries. To search for genealogies of specific families, select Subject Keyword from the drop-down pick-list, and enter a search strategy based on the following example: Yin family.
At the Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah
The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah has many Chinese genealogies in its collection. You can search the Library Catalog, which includes entries in both Chinese and English.
The Vancouver Public Library is affiliated with the Family History Library. Through this arrangement, VPL users are able to arrange to have genealogy microfilms and microfiche from the FHL's vast collection sent to VPL for viewing. For more information on this service and how to place orders, visit the Borrowing Microfilms from the FHL guide.
Family History Centers are satellite branches of the Family History Library. Some of the material from the Library in Salt Lake City, Utah can be sent to a satellite branch for researchers to view.
If you are interested in visiting a Family History Center, use the online Find a Family History Center form to locate one near you. Metro Vancouver is served by a Burnaby location:
5280 Kincaid Street
At Other U.S. Libraries
Collections at the following U.S. libraries include Chinese family genealogies:
C.V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University
This library holds the largest collection of Chinese genealogies outside China, and is second largest in the world, next to the Shanghai Library.
The largest and strongest academic Chinese collection in the U.S. The genealogy collection ranks second to Columbia University.