Adam: A real, historically tangible connection to the past
My China Roots
This is where I discovered My China Roots, and they seemed perfect for the task. The manager Mr Huihan Lie explained to me that his company offered comprehensive, reliable and nuanced genealogical research based within China for overseas Chinese. I was particularly attracted by the fact that Huihan was an overseas Chinese himself who had returned to the homeland to learn about his own roots, culture and family stories, and thus had an authentic personal interest and motivation – something that only a true family historian can understand!
With this in mind I gave the My China Roots team their task: to research the lineage of my mother’s paternal grandfather Zhou Jucai, who came from a remote village in southern Jiangxi province. Since my great grandfather came from an area not normally associated with overseas Chinese migrations I thought that this would provide a true test of the research capabilities of My China Roots – I was not disappointed.
The research process
From the beginning I was impressed with the professionalism, scope of knowledge and sensitivity displayed by Huihan and his team. After they presented me with a comprehensive and costed research plan they conducted several months of research, keeping me updated and consulting with me regularly about developments on the ground and promptly answering all my questions. The correct village of my great grandfather was verified, contact was made with distant relations, and a 3 day research trip was conducted at the village which culminated in the ‘Holy Grail’ of Chinese genealogical research, the discovery of the Zhou clan genealogical record which traces our line back over two thousand years! The team also obtained hundreds of photographs and footage documenting their visit to the village and went so far as to organize a live Skype call from the village. This made the experience much more real and personal.
Hungry for more!
I was extremely pleased with the integrity of their detailed and nuanced approach that Huihan and his team took when trying to discover my particular lineage among several competing sources. At the conclusion I have to say that the results truly meet, and indeed, exceeded my expectations. As romantic as it sounds, I am so pleased tobe able to have a real, historically tangible connection to the past that runs in my own bloodline.
Huihan and his team went out of their way to involve myself and enliven this journey offamily discovery. One day I hope to be able to take the next step and travel to Yangjiao village and discover more of my cultural roots, and in the meantime, I shall be commissioning Mr China Roots again to find out what mysteries await with my father’s family!
Nio S.G.: Seven generations outside of China
It was no less than seven generations ago that my ancestors left Zhangzhou in Fujian and sailed south. I grew up in Indonesia and the Netherlands. Through my own family history research, I was “only” able to dig up information from the last few hundred years of our stay in Indonesia. Our background in China remained a mystery, hidden too far away in history for anyone to find. Consequently, I was very skeptical about hiring a firm to trace my Chinese ancestry.
Hesitations about genealogy companies
First, how do you know whether the company is trustworthy? Secondly, I did not want to pay money and then end up empty-handed because the company may not be able to find anything.
However, My China Roots’ flexible attitude regarding fees, payment models, and research approach, combined with Mr. Lie’s background (he left a high paying corporate job in order to pursue his passion!) set my mind at ease.
Finding the village
After I had emailed pictures of family grave tombstones, an ancestral portrait, and a family tree that covered our time in Indonesia, My China Roots went to work. They discovered and traveled to my ancestral village in Fujian, interviewed villagers from my clan and took numerous pictures that gave me a good impression of what the village looks like today.
Finding the jiapu, 4000km away…!
Unfortunately, our village clan’s jiapu was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. With it, the documentation of my family’s long history in China had vanished. However, My China Roots did a great job in discovering that other ancestors had moved to Singapore many generations ago, and they were able to retrieve a copy of my clan’s jiapu through their network in Singapore!
Nicholas: Exhilarated and grateful to have traced my Hainan heritage
I have always been interested in learning about my ancestry but being Australian-born meant that my Chinese cultural and language competencies were limited. With whatever information I had from my family, I made various posts on genealogy forums hoping to find the link between myself and my grandfather’s ancestors in Hainan. Eventually, I came to a dead end.
It was by pure chance that I stumbled on the website of My China Roots, which remains one of the few professional companies that deal with Chinese genealogy. My lack of success made me doubt what could be achieved but I was put at ease as Lie Huihan explained the historical context of my grandparents’ lives and the possible outcomes of my case. I was impressed by his expertise and so I commissioned My China Roots with my project.
After a month, Huihan informed me that he and Hai Miao were in contact with my relatives at my grandfather’s ancestral village through a government source (My China Roots has relations with a range of organisations, including Chinese government institutions). However, in order to find out more information they would need to travel to the village. Most worrying for me was that I would have to reveal myself! But the genealogists advised me of how to deal with the situation and so I agreed to the travel research trip.
A true experience
Although I was not able to visit the village in person, I was still able to experience it. I received many photos and videos, and regular skype updates – I even saw and spoke to relatives live on skype. Yes, I was apprehensive about “meeting” my relatives but by this stage it was just the natural thing to do. Seeing my grandfather’s cousin in real-time was a highlight of this research trip. During these meetings, both Huihan and Hai Miao translated between us; this is something that an ordinary genealogist would not be able to do and I feel privileged that I was given this opportunity.
One of the aims of the travel trip was to find information directly from the jiapu (family history book) of my relatives. I was given several options as to what I needed from the book. The jiapu linked my family in Hainan to a long list of ancestors stretching over 2000 years. It also included details of some famous and infamous relatives! This information was included in the final report that was given to me …
And how could I forget the report! It was written in an engaging way, covering everything that had been investigated from the research trip. After (re)-reading the report, I feel that I can really appreciate my heritage and the struggles that my forefathers went through for the good life I am living now. I am thankful to My China Roots for this blessing.
Lesley: Traveling to my grandfather’s village in Kaiping, Guangdong
My grandfather died when I was 13. He was born in China and emigrated as a young man to the Dominican Republic. He rarely spoke, let alone about his past. His house in the Dominican Republic was white and empty; unassuming, like himself. Iʹm only part Chinese, my other three grandparents are Dominican. ʹHomeʹ has always been the Dominican Republic and the US, where I was born and raised. However, I wanted to visit the place my grandfather was from, and so I commissioned My China Roots. I just wanted to see the place, nothing more.
The start of two journeys
From the moment the research started, I found myself on a wonderful, personal journey that unfolded along with the search for my grandfather. I met up with Huihan several times and My China Roots wrote a great report about the time and environment of my grandfatherʹs upbringing. This gave me a better grasp of the historical context and made me curious about questions I never thought I would be interested in. I started to wonder: ″Why did he choose the Dominican Republic? Why did he never return? Why would he have deserted his life like that?″
Visiting Kaiping, Guangdong Province
Our long-awaited trip to Kaiping was personally guided by Huihan, who bridged the language and cultural gaps between us and our Chinese family in a sensitive manner. Because of Huihanʹs cultural and historical knowledge, we found more answers than we would have ever found with a standard guide. We saw the house that was built with the money my grandfather had made overseas, we prayed at my great grandmotherʹs grave, went through the family history book, and chatted with family I never knew I had. It was wonderful.
A surprise ending
Lesley family chinaFrom the start, the search for my roots had been an intellectual process; I never saw it as anything emotional. This changed completely, strangely enough after I came back home from the trip. Somehow, all the things I had seen in Kaiping fell into place and the whole experience turned intensely emotional. For the first time, I felt connected with China. I felt: ″this is also my country now″. My roots are somehow real now, they are part of me. Home isnʹt just the US or the Dominican Republic anymore; home is now also this little hidden place in Kaiping.
Anne: Tracing the woman who saved our adopted daughter
In 2003 we, a Dutch family, travelled to the Sheraton Hotel in Xi’an to pick up our lovely Chinese adopted daughter Mila Jiang, aged 18 months. We were all exhilarated to have her and fortunately, Mila directly felt at home in our family.
In May 2011, we were suddenly alarmed by a newspaper article: the Chinese government was planning mass migration to stimulate industrial development in northern Sha’anxi province, exactly the area where Mila spent her first 18 months.
We felt that swift action was needed if we wanted to locate and visit Mila’s finding place and former foster family. So we informed ourselves about organizations that could help us and My China Roots was one of them. Already in the first email contact with Huihan it was clear that his company could offer the skills, personal touch and flexibility needed to make the roots journey for Mila and ourselves a success.
After handing over all our pictures from Mila’s time at the foster family in Yulin, our notes from the 2003 visit and sharing all our contacts, Huihan’s organization was able to trace the foster family and the exact location (street and building) in Jingbian where Mila was found. This was not an easy task because some of the information was conflicting and incomplete, and the Children’s Welfare Home in Yulin was not very informative.
My China Roots, delivering much more than expected
What absolutely made this roots trip so very special was the personal touch provided by Huihan, the interesting information on China’s rich culture and history that he shared, and the possibility to tailor the trip exactly as we wanted it.
During the visits to the foster family, Huihan pro-actively supported us, the foster mother, and other foster family members, in exchanging very detailed information about the period that Mila was handed over to them, was taken care of, and then needed to be separated from again because she was joining our family.
Because of his involvement, integrity, and translation skills (take notice that not everyone speaks Mandarin…), we really felt no barrier existed between them and us. During our visits, we learned that Mila was literally saved by her truly exceptional foster mother, who gave Mila all the love and care she needed. Mila was severely ill and weak during the first 6 months of her life, as she was abandoned outside at a temperature of minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit).
Other interesting activities arranged
Also worth mentioning are the multiple other interesting activities during our trip to Beijing, Yulin, Jingbian and Xi’an. The activities included visiting a family with a Chinese peer of Mila’s age, Mila visiting and experiencing a school-lesson, visiting Yulin University, a Tai-chi lesson with a qualified teacher in the Temple of Heaven Park, and a lot more. Also, the program was flexible enough to make possible that interesting or useful people we met during our travelling, could travel with us to add useful local information. During our trip to Jingbian, an English teacher who lived in Jingbian when Mila was born joined us, telling us all about Jingbian and what it used to look like.
Huihan, My China Roots, thanks again very much and you made at least two families very happy by re-uniting, using your valuable skills and professionalism!