Caribbean-Americans Searching for Their Chinese Roots

The Atlas Obscura web site has published an interesting article by Eveline Chao about the search by Chinese-Jamaican-American or Canadians who wish to find their family history. Author Chao describes the good work done by Hakka Conferences and others to help each other find information about their ancestors.

It seems that many people originating in China with a distinct set of customs and a language also called Hakka left the country and moved to Jamaica in search of better economic opportunities. The British first brought Chinese and Indian workers to the Islands to replace slave labor on sugar plantations after Britain abolished slavery in 1834. (Initially, they used indentured servants from Ireland and Germany, but quickly turned East.) From 1853–1884, a recorded 17,904 Chinese—mostly men from Guangdong Province in southeast China—migrated to the British West Indies as indentured laborers, according to scholar Walton Look Lai. Some 160,000 migrated to the Caribbean overall (including Cuba).

Many Chinese immigrants intermarried with Afro-European-Chinese-Caribbean people. In later years, many of their descendants moved to the United States or to Canada. And you thought you had problems finding family records?

The article describes several success stories including one of adding a family record to the family’s 3,000-year-old jiapu, or genealogy record. Yes, it is not unusual in China for many people to be able to trace their ancestry back 3,000 years or more. The problem is typically in finding your family’s connection within the past 200 years or so.

You can read this fascinating story at https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/chinese-caribbean-american-hakka-conference.

One Comment

For those interested in this topic, I would also like to recommend this book by Paula Williams Madison: “Finding Samuel Lowe: China, Jamaica, Harlem” I found it fascinating.

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