Documents & Records
Christian outreach to Chinese immigrants in Canada began as early as the 1870s, when Methodists started a Chinese mission school in Victoria, B.C. Most early missionary work among the Chinese was done by Methodists and Presbyterians. Anglican activities were limited prior to the 1920s, when missions were established in several B.C. locations. Other denominations were generally more informal in their efforts to minister to the Chinese community.
The early missions offered English-language classes and a variety of social services, which attracted many Chinese. Christian missionaries were also among the few advocates and defenders of the Chinese community during a period characterized by discrimination and prejudice. "His Dominion" and the "Yellow Peril": Protestant missions to the Chinese immigrants in Canada, 1859-1967 examines the history of Chinese immigrants and their encounters with Canadian Protestant missionaries.
Although services offered by the missions and churches were welcomed and used by the Chinese community, the early missions resulted in few conversions. This changed over time, particularly after the exclusion legislation of 1923 (see Milestones in Chinese-Canadian History). The resulting separation of families and sense of isolation led to churches becoming important centres of community life. In some cases, members of the Chinese community decided to run their churches themselves, forming independent churches and Chinese-Christian associations. One of the oldest, the Christ Church of China, was established in Vancouver in 1911. A history of this association can be found on the Coquitlam Christ Church of China website.
This section focuses on records associated with historical Chinese missions and churches in Canada. However, during the Chinese community's long history in Canada, people have not always exclusively attended Chinese missions and churches, and information may be found in other church records. For general information on researching church records, see the Parish Registers page from Library and Archives Canada.
Both Chinese and non-Chinese genealogical researchers face challenges when attempting to access Canadian church records. Churches have appeared, disappeared, or merged over time and administrative arrangements have changed. Record-keeping practices and retention policies have varied greatly. Some records are in the custody of individual churches, others in diocesan collections, and still others in national repositories. Often, there are no online catalogues or finding aids, and in most cases it is necessary to visit the archives in person or hire a researcher. Nonetheless, there are some very useful and interesting records. In the case of Chinese churches, both Chinese and English records can be found.
For basic information about major denominations with ministries to the Chinese community and how to find their records see: