|Note: When recording a Chinese surname as part of a genealogical project, always include the Chinese character.|
Names are basic to family history research. When tracing your family history, a major part of the process involves looking for your ancestor's name in documents and other records. Obstacles arise when the ancestor's name has been changed, either officially or unofficially, or recorded incorrectly.
While such problems are common in genealogy, the challenge is greater for genealogists of Chinese origin. Chinese individuals often used several different names. For example, Chan Toy was a Chinese immigrant who became a leading merchant in early 20th century British Columbia. Many sources refer to him as Chang Toy, although how and when this change occurred is unknown. He may simply have invented the new version of his name himself. Chan Toy is also cited in some sources as Chan Doe Gee, a probable Cantonese romanization. Other forms of his name include Chan Chang-Jin and Chen Chang-Jin. In Mandarin, his name has been romanized as Chen Dao-Zhi. However, he was generally known as Sam Kee. In a similar vein, the surname of C.D. Hoy, a photographer in the Cariboo area, was actually Chow. It can be very difficult to track an individual through the records when there are many variations on his or her name.
Both traditional Chinese naming practices and the ways in which names were used and changed by Chinese immigrants after they arrived in Canada account for the many changes often seen in individual names. An understanding of these factors may be useful for the purpose of framing appropriate genealogical research strategies.
This section provides information on the traditional characteristics of Chinese names, the ways that they were sometimes transformed after arrival in Canada, and tips for searching indexes and records. Finally, a list of resources relating to Chinese names is included.