How to Find My Chinese Ancestors

A man searching for his Chinese family tree in his family jiapu.

If you have Chinese ancestry and would like to find your ancestors and do your family history, FamilySearch is here to help! FamilySearch can help you trace your Chinese family tree into the distant past through jiapu.

Using Jiapu to Find Your Chinese Family Tree

Those of Chinese ancestry usually have the tradition of keeping a family book called a 家譜/Jiapu. This book includes names and other details of your family lineage, from father to son. The lineage usually starts from the mid 1900s and can go back as far as thousands of years. These jiapu books are kept as a way to preserve and uphold your family’s identity and honor throughout the ages.

Chinese family pedigree chart in family jiapu.

How to Find Your Jiapu on

To begin your Chinese family tree, here is a list of information that will help you find your jiapu online:

  1. What is your surname in Chinese characters: Ex. 劉 (Liu) / 陳 (Chen) / 賴 (Lai)
  2. Where is your Chinese family’s hometown: Province-City-County-Town-Village
  3. Who are Honored Ancestors in your family: Famous people or well respected, likely from many generations back.
  4. Ancestral Hall (堂號): A temple where ancestors of the same clan are honored.
  5. Generation Poem: A poem created to form the first character of the given name of each generation. This means the sons from the same generation (brothers or cousins) have the same first character in their given name.
  6. Build out your family tree as far as you can. FamilySearch has an online tree where you can build your pedigree. Fill it out as far back as possible. This is how you will connect to your jiapu book.

To actually find your family's jiapu and grow your Chinese family tree, follow the 2 steps below.

Step 1—Gather Information

Gather what you can from the above list. You can do this by interviewing a family member who has knowledge of your family history and heritage. This may be a parent or a grandparent who understands your family’s history. It’s important to note that those with Chinese ancestry have more than one jiapu. If your mother is Chinese, then she may have a jiapu through her mother and her father. There are many opportunities and paths for research.

Step 2—Search Online

You can search for your jipau on FamilySearch for free. All you have to do is sign in to your FamilySearch account and click on the Search tab in the top navigation bar. In the drop-down menu, click on Images.

Under Search in the top navigation bar, click on "Images" to find your Chinese family tree.

In the search bar, input the location (such as China). Then select the place from the drop-down menu. Click Search Image Groups.

If there is a pop-up asking if you'd like to try the Chinese Jiapu Search, click Yes.

On this search page, you can input your family details in the search fields in the menu on the left. The more information you can enter in the search, the more likely you'll be able to find your jiapu.

Use the search menu to the left of the page to narrow your search results.

Jiapu books start from the past and end in recent times. After narrowing jiapu search results, start by viewing images toward the end of the book, and look for your closest relative in your jiapu (This may be someone from the early 1900s).

If you need help with this process, please reach out to your local family history consultant or to FamilySearch!

For more help on reading jiapu and what is in it, check out this resource from the FamilySearch Wiki.

April 22, 2019
Nearly 2 billion people in the world today have Chinese ancestry. China, the most populous country in the world, is home to 1.4 billion peop…
April 22, 2019
If your Chinese ancestors immigrated to North America, you may be able to learn more about them in Canadian or United States records. Here a…
March 29, 2019
Chinese last names have a history dating back more than 4,000 years. In many ways, Chinese surnames hold the key to understanding Chinese fa…

About the Author