In a country that in recent decades has seen the biggest movement of people in history away from their ancestral homes, genealogical records are patchy. My China Roots recently received private funding to build an online zupu database, starting with records from southern provinces. With luck, searching for ancestors will one day be as easy as online shopping.
Chinese immigrants once viewed the past as a black box – sealed shut to blend in abroad. But as new generations come of age, many are turning to genealogical services to search for identities that are fading with time.
When Adam Liu decided to research his family roots, he soon hit a wall with the great-grandfather who left China to seek his fortune in Singapore in the 1890s. He decided to hire a tiny start-up called My China Roots.
How do you start searching for a family in a country of 1.3 billion? At a time when family tree business is more booming than ever, Dutch entrepreneur Huihan Lie runs the first-ever professional genealogy service business for overseas people of Chinese descent.
China’s revolution made it difficult for Chinese abroad to stay in contact with their families. Now, many in the diaspora are searching for their roots. Lie and his staff scour local records and hunt down villages on behalf of their clients abroad, even taking them on trips if desired.
In southeast China, long-held memories, stories, and even properties still await those who’ve gone abroad to seek their fortunes. Join the descendants of these overseas Chinese as they return in search of the ancestral keys to their family history.
Huihan Lie, a 36-year-old Dutch citizen, never expected he would someday make a profession out of helping fellow overseas Chinese find their roots through jiapu or “ancestry book”, when he first visited China in 2004.