The Historical Society of Pennsylvania's collections include a variety of resources on the experiences of Chinese immigrants in Philadelphia and beyond. Resources include published materials, manuscript collections, newspapers and other periodicals, photographs, and other graphics.
To learn more about the Society's holdings, search our online catalog for "China", "Chinatown", or "Chinese." You should also search for family names, town or township names, or other locations and landmarks that may provide insights into your family history.
Descriptions of all manuscript collections are available in that online catalog, and many collections have finding aids online or at HSP that provide more information. Visitors to HSP's library should also look for names and other terms of interest in our manuscripts card catalog, known as PC1 (and not available online), which serves as a name index for many manuscript items. Collections from the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, which merged with HSP in 2002, are also described in this online manuscript guide.
Note that some immigration and other types of records are now available online. HSP offers visitors to our library free access to AncestryInstitution.com; FamilySearch.org is free for all users. See an HSP Reference Librarian for further assistance using these online resources in the library.
You may also be interested in watching the video recorded at a May 2013 HSP workshop titled "Family Legacies: Genealogical Resources for Chinese Americans." Genealogist and author Jeanie Chooey Low discussed techniques for interviewing family members and deciphering gravestone inscriptions.
Chinese Americans researching their family histories face special challenges, including "paper names" and limitations and/or biases in written records from both China and the United States.
For a general overview of these issues and how to begin your genealogy project, check out:
Jeanie W. Chooey Low, China Connection: Finding Ancestral Roots for Chinese in America (call number REF E 184 .C5 L69 1993b); and
Colleen She, A Student's Guide to Chinese American Genealogy (call number E 184 .C5 S47 1996).
For a general overview on genealogy, check out HSP's "Family History & Genealogy" subject guide.
Newspapers and Periodicals
HSP has microfilm and print copies of several Chinese-focused periodicals published in the United States and Canada, including:
Chiao sheng jih pao (The Chinese Voice). Newspaper, 1954-1970. 37 reels. Published daily in Vancouver, British Columbia by Kue Hing Printing and Publishing Company, 1953-1987. In Chinese.
Chung mei chou pao (Chinese-American weekly). Newspaper, 1942-1970. Published weekly by Chinese-American Press. In Chinese.
Hsin min kuo pao (The New Republic). Newspaper, 1957-1970. 27 reels. Published daily in Victoria, British Columbia by New Republic Publishing Company, 1911-1984. In Chinese.
Min ch'i jih pao (Chinese Nationalist Daily). Newspaper, 1958. 1 reel. Published daily except Sunday in New York by the Mun Hey Publishing Company, beginning in 1927. In English and Chinese.
San min ch'en pao (San Min Morning Paper). Newspaper, 1941-1962. 66 reels. Published daily in Vancouver, British Columbia by Tai han kong bo, beginning in 1915. In Chinese.
Ta hang kung pao (The Chinese Times). Newspaper, 1915-1970. 149 reels. Published daily in Vancouver, British Columbia by Tai han kong bo, beginning in 1915. In Chinese.
Yellow Seeds. Newspaper, 1972-1977. 1 reel. Published in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by Yellow Seeds, Inc., beginning in 1972. In English and Chinese.
HSP's manuscript collections help to document the experiences of Chinese Americans in Philadelphia and beyond. Highlights from our collections include:
The Yam Tong Hoh and Daisy Law papers (Collection 3020) span the years 1919 to 1977, and focus primarily on their lives while residing in the United States as emigrants from China. The collection reflects the work of Yam Tong as an educator and minister in both California and Philadelphia, as well as his untiring work for the True Light School of Hong Kong. The collection complements the Reverend Dr. Yam Tong Hoh Papers (collection MSS 126), also located at HSP, by providing biographical material on Yam Tong's first wife, Daisy Law Hoh, as well as Rev. Hoh.
The Holy Redeemer Chinese Roman Catholic Church was founded in Philadelphia's Chinatown in 1941 as a mission church of the parish of St. John the Evangelist. The Holy Redeemer records (collection MSS030) consists of the unbound contents of two scrapbooks: programs, invitations, announcements, newspaper clippings, and personal correspondence from contributors to the scrapbooks.
The Henry Loo papers (collection MSS140) contains correspondence, personal documents, restaurant ephemera, drawings, and more. Loo was a restaurant owner and manager in Philadelphia.
HSP also holds collections of photographs that document the experiences of Chinese in the United States, including Chinese in California (collection PG114), the Mary E. Scott Chinese Sunday School at the First Baptist Church in Philadelphia (collection PG262), and Jesse K. Spritzler's photographs of Philadelphia's Chinatown (collection PG233).
This guide was made possible by support from the Connelly Foundation.