China Gazetteers

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Gazetteers are dictionaries of place names that describe towns and villages, parishes, districts, rivers and mountains, population size, and other geographical features. Additional information may include major manufacturing works, canals, docks, railroad stations, and postal stations. Gazetteers usually include only the names of places that existed at the time of publication. The place names are generally listed in alphabetical order, similar to a dictionary.

You can use gazetteers to identify the places where your family lived and to determine the civil and church jurisdictions of those places.

The FamilySearch Catalog has the following collection of Chinese gazetteers:

  • Handbook on administrative divisions of the People's Republic of China, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, 1965 (FHL International book 951 E5j; film 795620, Item 6).
  • Gazetteer of Mainland China (FHL International book 951 E5g).

Gazetteers and Local Histories (fangzhi)

Research Use: Supplement genealogies and official records (virtually nonexistent today for historical periods). Contain unique information on widows and wives not found elsewhere. Excellent as geographic and historical outlines of a particular area, but still have some gaps in this regard.

Record Type: These are historical, geographic studies of specific villages and towns that include some biographical and genealogical information.

Time Period: 1368 to present.

Contents: Each local history covers a specific administrative unit (county, town, city or prefecture). These records are divided into sections covering a wide range of topics and categories, including geography, historical events, taxes, population, products and trade, education, transportation, local literary contributions, and local legends and folklore. The fangzhi may include a chapter devoted to recording the famous or influential families or clans. They often include biographies of prominent individuals, and mention of local officials, persons who lived long lives (over 90 years), and chaste widows. In current publications biographies spotlight local martyrs of the revolution.

Location: Found scattered in libraries and archives throughout China and in Chinese collections of university libraries in the U.S. and other countries.

Percentage in Family History Library Collection: We have already acquired about 50% of the pre-1949 editions. There are approximately 5,100 titles in our collection. These represent most of the available gazetteers outside the People's Republic of China.

Population Coverage: Include mainly important personalities and categories of individuals in a specific area; cover less than 5% of the population.

Reliability: Generally very reliable.[1]

External Links


  1. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: China,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1997.