The program involves a year-long commitment to researching one’s Chinese American family history and genealogy. After exploring their Chinese roots in America, participants explore their roots in China through searching for and visiting their paternal an/or maternal ancestral villages in the Pearl River Delta region of Guangdong Province, home to the majority of Chinese who have migrated to the United States since the mid-nineteenth century. The program culminates in a Chinese New Year exhibition of the interns’ research at the Chinese Culture Center in San Francisco, where the participants share what they have learned with family, friends, and community.
The overarching intent of the program is to provide the participants with an awareness and appreciation of the totality of the Chinese American experience through research on family history and genealogy. Consequently, they can gain a better understanding of their heritage, which ultimately helps them to better understand their identities as Chinese Americans.
The program has five major outcomes: at the conclusion of the project the interns construct a fami1y tree with related familial history (including an essay, photographs, and artifacts) to be included as part of a group family history and genealogy exhibit; interns expand their knowledge of the historical development of China and the Guangdong Province, with emphasis on the peoples of the Pearl River Delta region; they deepen their understanding of the history of the Chinese in America; they explore research facilities, such as the records of the National Archives; and ultimately they visit their paternal and/or maternal ancestral villages in China.
In October of each year, the CCF circulates recruitment brochures and applications to all the major high schools, colleges, universities, community organizations, and other public facilities in the San Francisco Bay area. Applicants are interviewed and screened and approximately ten candidates are chosen at the beginning of the year. In the spring, the selected interns attend a series of nine Saturday seminars. They also begin gathering materials to write their individual family histories, under the guidance: of the program coordinators.
In July the group goes on a guided two-week trip to China to search for and visit their ancestral villages under the auspices of the summer camps program of the Guangdong Province Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the People’s Republic of China. Since the program’s inception, interns have visited ancestral villages in the counties and county-level municipalities of Guangzhou, Panyu, Huadu (formerly Huaxian), Foshan, Nanhai, Shunde, Zhaoqing, Dongguan, Bao’an, Shenzhen, Huizhou, Zhongshan, Zhuhai, Doumen, Xinhui, Taishan, Kaiping, Enping, and Heshan. Over one hundred interns have gone through the program, visiting more than one hundred fifty villages.