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The historical peoples of Annam (now located in central Vietnam) after many years of contact with the Chinese culture were conquered by China about 214 B.C. The Annamese remained subject to China (with several brief interruptions after 923) until 1428 when they formed an independent kingdom. The kingdom included Tonkin in the north. The Cham kingdom in the south-central area was added in 1472.
Cochin China (now in southern Vietnam) for many centuries formed part of the Khmer Empire, and was influenced by the Indian sphere of culture. The Annamese gradually increased their influence in the South, competing at times with the French, until 1750 when they became masters of that region as well.
The Annamese dynasty split in 1558 into central (ruled from Hue) and northern (ruled from Hanoi) lines that were not united until Emperor Gia Long in 1802 signed a treaty with the French whereby he obtained assistance in establishing his new empire. Long’s successors, however, followed isolationist policies and mistreated French nationals and Christian converts. This opened the way for French military intervention. In 1858 the French seized Cochin China and established it as a colony. Tonkin accepted a French protectorate status in 1882, opting for this rather than being taken by China, their traditional adversary. In 1884 a French protectorate was established over Annam as well. In 1887 the three areas together with Cambodia were united to form the Union of French Indochina. Laos was added to Indochina in 1893.
By the 1930s these areas were lobbying strongly for independence. The French proposed a Federation of states in Indochina within the French Union. This was accepted by Cambodia and Laos, but Annamese nationals demanded total independence. In the Second World War Indochina was occupied by the Japanese who set up the autonomous state of Viet Nam comprising Tonkin, Annam, and Cochin China. The last Annamese emperor Bao Dai was established as ruler. After the war, his regime quickly collapsed and the Viet Minh coalition of nationalists and communists headed by Ho Chi Minh, original name: Nguyen Ai Quoc (1890-1969) set up a republic with its capital at Hanoi. The French recognized the new republic, with the object of keeping it within the Union of French Indochina. When the Viet Minh rejected their offer, the French refused to let Cochin China in the South become part of the new republic. After three years of negotiating and fighting with the Viet Minh the French decided to establish their own republic which also claimed all of Vietnam. They reestablished Bao Dai as the leader, who ruled from France.
When the French forces were defeated at Dienbienphu in 1954, they were forced to withdraw their territorial claims to the country. The Geneva convention divided Vietnam into separate North and South republics. 750,000 Catholics and others with western ties fled to the South. In 1961 the United States came to the aid of the South to resist Northern insurgency and full scale guerrilla war developed. In 1973 an agreement was signed ending the war in Vietnam. Hostilities continued however until 1975 when the South was defeated. Reunification of the country took place July 2, 1976. Hundreds of thousands of refugees fled the country, including 400,000 who returned to China. Many records were lost or destroyed in the wars. In 1995 Vietnam and the United States officially normalized relations and Vietnam became a member of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations), and the United Nations, and signed a trade agreement with the European Union.
Local Histories and Gazetteers
Research use: Supplement genealogies and official records for historical periods. Contain unique information on widows and wives not found elsewhere.
Record Type: These are historical, geographic studies of specific villages and towns that include some biographical and genealogical information.
Time Period: 1500 to present.
Contents: Each history covers a specific city, county or prefecture. Topics covered include local legends, folklore, famous or influential families or clans, historical events, population, trade, education, transportation, local literary contributions, and biographies of prominent individuals, and mention of local officials, persons who lived long lives, and widows.
Location: Found scattered in libraries and archives in Vietnam and other countries. 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.
- The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Vietnam,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 2001.