How to find your Ancestral Village with the Village Database
In the past most of the Chinese migrants who went overseas to the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand generally came from the southern part of China around the Pearl River Delta Region.
Around the 1970s the American Consulate General in Hong Kong began developing a listing of villages from whence most of the migrants to the USA originated from in their attempt to stem bogus claims and enable them to verify legitimate claims for emigration. Unfortunately, this listing was only limited to four districts or counties, Toi Shan (台山), Sun Wui (新會), Hoi Ping (開平) and Chung Shan (中山) where the majority of the migrants came from. This listing has now been revamped into a very useful database and it uses a non-standard Cantonese Romanization for all the names and the Chinese script is in Traditional characters only.
If you are a descendant from one of these counties, the Village Database can now be utilized to find your ancestral village. To find your ancestral village you need the Chinese characters for your surname, the name of the village and the county. Let us take for example your surname is Chan (陳) and you are looking for your village called:
Shek Tau Village (石頭村) in Sun Wui (新會) County
Here are the steps needed to find this village:
Goto: http://villagedb.friendsofroot.org/search.cgi and open it.
There are two methods available, one is the “Search by name” and the other is “Search by other”.
Let us use the “Search by surname” first. In the box “Search for villages with surname’ press the down arrowhead and select Chan, Chin (陳).
It will then automatically do a search and a complete listing will be displayed. If nothing happens just press the “Search” key to the right.
To find the village, just look to the left hand side and scroll down the list until Sun Wui (新會) County is displayed which happens to begin from Line 554.
Now look to the right hand side and keep scrolling down until Shek Tau Village (石頭村) is found, in this case it is Line 584.
It identifies the village is located in Area 3 but the maps associated with it are not included in this database so it is not much help.
Next it identifies it is a part of 觀瀾鄉 / Kwoon Lan Heung and consists of a total of 17 villages and Shek Tau Village (石頭村) is one of them. To find other village just mouse click on the Heung name. A Heung (鄉) represents a cluster of villages within close proximity of each other in the same area and in this sense it is akin to a Western municipality.
Notice after the village name there is a list of other surnames, in this case it is (陳,張,黃,盧,譚,鍾)/Chan, Cheung, Wong, Lo, Tam, Chung. This indicates Shek Tau Village (石頭村) is not an exclusive single surname village but it also contains the other surnames shown.
That completes the search using the first method.
What if the village name cannot be found? It means either the village name has not yet been included in the database (this is a voluntary project) even though it may have been on the original listing, or the village was not been included in the original listing. However, it does not mean the village does not exist.
Let us now use the second method “Search by other”
In the “Search for Villages whose name” the first box has the default “in Cantonese Romanization” and beside that is a box “starts with” followed by an empty search box. To find the location just enter “Shek Tau Village” and press the Search key.
This will return the same result as shown by the first method.
Other available search options are: “in Chinese” which requires the use of Chinese script and “in Pinyin” which requires the entry of Hanyu Pinyin (漢語拼音) for the village name. The one using Chinese script works and will return the same result as previously shown but the Pinyin option does not appear to work.
This website is most helpful even if you only have one piece of information, like just the surname and you only have an approximate idea of the village name and county. You have to search through the surname listing and chances are pretty good you may find the village.