How to Start
Genealogy is quite different from other undertakings; you do not start from the top and work your way down. In this case, the procedure is the exact reverse, because at the top of the family tree is your progenitor, an unknown person, and right at the bottom somewhere near the roots of the family tree will be you. It would only make sense to start with what you already know and proceed towards the unknown or towards the top. How far you will be able to climb up the family tree will depend largely on the quality of information you will be able to ferret out during your genealogy search.
Tiantan (Temple of Heaven) Beijing 北京天壇
Start with yourself first and write down all the data you know, such as your date and place of birth, schools attended, university, etc. Next, proceed to your sisters and brothers. This will complete your generation. Then ask your parents for information about themselves, and through them you will be able to find more about your grandparents. If your grandparents are still alive, ask them to fill in any blanks you may have about them and don't forget to ask them about your great-grandparents. Following these steps will provide you with at least three generations or perhaps more. Normally based on past history, some may have about 150 years of family history accounting for five generations.
Failing that you will have to start looking for all sorts of documents— like church records, government records, school records, university records, birth and death certificates, marriage certificates, naturalization certificates, prison records, court records, etc. And, so the process moves along one step at a time until you come to a final dead-end, which normally will be about the time of the arrival of your Chinese ancestor in the country where you were born.
That in a nutshell will be the procedure to follow when you commence on your genealogy search.
For more detailed information about other factors and clues on building up your family history please refer to my book You Are Royalty, A Guide to Your Chinese Ancestor 皇族子孫.