FREE Chinese Genealogy Online Consultation

Family History Center

Before You Schedule an Appointment

Our priority with Online Consultations is to provide support for your genealogy research. We can help with evidence analysis, translation of key words, or to identify a good next step. The goal is to empower you in your research journey. Please note the following details:

  • These are free, 20-minute online research consultations.
  • Please have your ancestor’s information and any digital copies of relevant documents available for reference at your consultation.
  • Please provide as much information as possible about the research problem on the bookings form. This will help the research specialist be prepared to give you the best suggestions possible.
  • There are a limited number of consultations available. Please allow as many people as possible to receive help by not booking more than 1 consultation in any given week.
  • Some research problems, like providing document extractions, may be better met using our online community pages.

Prepare for the Consultation

Booking Confirmation Email

After you make a booking, you will receive a confirmation email. The email will contain a link to an online meeting on Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams is an application you can download for the desktop of your computer. You can also access the online version of Microsoft Teams using either Google Chrome or Edge browsers.

  • At the time of your appointment, open the Join Teams Meeting link to the online meeting provided in your confirmation email.
  • If you have Microsoft Teams, the meeting will start immediately.
  • If not, your internet browser will open to a landing page for Microsoft Teams. You will be given the option to download the app or join the meeting on the web. Click Join on the web instead.
  • A new meeting will open. You do not need to enable the video camera, but please be sure the microphone option is turned on. If your device does not have a microphone built in, click Phone audio to listen through your phone.
    • You may see a pop-up window asking you to allow Microsoft Teams to access your microphone and camera. Click allow.
  • You will be admitted into the meeting. If you enter before the research specialist who has been assigned to help you, wait patiently and they will start the meeting shortly.

Thank you Marisa Louie for sharing this resource!

Transcribing Oral History

In the previous post, you read about best practices on doing an oral history. Now that you have a video or audio recording, what do you do with it? There are two ways you can approach transcription, manually, and automated speech to text transcription. You convert speech to text every day texting on your phone using speech recognition. But think about all those inaccuracies of just a couple seconds of dictation magnified across a multi-hour interview. After trying five free transcription software, here is a representation of automated speech to text transcription …


… compared to the harbor everyone that some of the side railing that in table to say battery so yelling shouting San Francisco that means we are home we hit the part yes it was an altar or the ship port applies when I saw him as we direct from people waiting longer dog get all why are you a daddy ever buy a washer so go follow everything out of the war go half’s of don’t want to add whatever and then sisters Orajel on the feeling …

At the end of this post is the story this gibberish was suppose to say.

Unfortunately, if you want a full and accurate transcription, the most accurate way is good old fashion sweat. Where you listen word by word, typing word by word. Of course, you can just listen and write a story from memory, but with long interviews, a single story may be intertwined in the front, middle and end of an interview. So organizing your ideas is much easier on paper, or to storyboard a video.

OTRANSCRIBE.COM – Online (Manual) Transcription

Within otranscribe you can open a MP3 audio file, or a MP4 video file. Otranscribe gives you the ability to listen and type, pausing, rewinding and fast-forwarding without taking your hands off the keyboard. You can post a timestamps so you can always cross reference the transcript to the video. The transcription file is automatically saved to your browser’s storage every second, and will be there the next time you log in (assuming you did not fill up your browser buffer).

Note in the below screenshot:

  1. Timestamps. You can force timestamps for easy future editing.
  2. Slow Down Speed. I am a slow typist, so I need to slow down the speech pace to keep up with the narration. Go as fast or slow as you can type.
  3. Placement. You can see that I am 10.15 minutes into a 3 hour, 39 minute interview.
  4. Easy Control. Your hands never leave the keyboard. Pressing esc stops narration, restarting a few seconds earlier so you know exactly where you are.
  5. Transcription is time consuming. It takes me almost an hour to edit and write 15 minutes of dialog.



From the three plus hours of content, I created a representative short story from just three minutes of dialog. The topic I chose was my father’s return home from Midway Island in WWII after the surrender of Japan. To provide pictorial interest, added were photos announcing the Pacific War was over, and a picture of dad in uniform. I titled the story, “Home”.

(Prelude) Alfred Chan, by age 20, still had never been further than 80 miles from his home in the Sacramento Delta, Courtland, CA. But in 1944, as a US Navy Seabee, Al was shipped 3200 miles deep into the Pacific Ocean to Midway Island. He was the only Asian in a Construction Battalion sent to build critical airfields and munition depots for the invasion of Japan. Al served on Midway until V-J Day (Victory over Japan), marking the end of the Pacific War in 1945. Al tells his sailors story, of returning home by ship as he saw the Golden Gate Bridge in the horizon…

(Edited From Transcription) “As the ship neared the harbor, everyone excitedly ran to the railings shouting, “San Francisco, San Francisco!” There was an uproar with the ship whistle blasting.There were people waving on the dock. Everybody aboard was so glad they threw everything overboard, including their hats. Some got on their knees, whispering thanks for returning home alive. Some started crying. Many just held onto each other. We shouted, “Home, home, home. We’re home”.

I got on the gangplank, and thought with my first step, “On my way home. So close now, I can almost smell the farmland”.

I took a bus back to our farmhouse, alone. I still had my uniform on. I walked in the door, and saw my mom painting the kitchen. She knew one day, I would be coming home. But not know what day. I remembered she dropped her paint brush, grabbed me, and would not let go. Home at last. Home at last.

I finished the paint job for her.”

This was originally a black and white photo. The background was removed using The service profile text was done in PowerPoint. Colorized it using
The next two very relevant photos were found using Google Images, searching for VJ Day (Victory over Japan) to provide historical imagery and context to the story

Enjoy turning your interview into family stories capturing the fabric of their lives. If you want to see the actual video footage, go to


PS – More on Automated Speech to Text Software

Please post in the comments section what (free) speech to text transcription software you find most accurate, for a multi hour interview. I found that correcting the gibberish was slightly faster than typing it from scratch. Note when transcribing using automatic transcription software, there is NO punctuation. So from a 3 plus hour interview was a SINGLE sentence of 18,742 words.

The best of a bad transcription lot was an iphone app called “Dictate”. I played over three hours of interview over my computer speaker, and left my phone to do transcription. Then I forwarded the transcript to my email from Dictate, then to otranscript.

Is there a better way?

10 Steps To Conducting Oral History Interviews

Reprinted from the National WWII Museum

  • Inform the Interviewee: Before any interview takes place, you should inform your interview subject of the purpose of the interview, the general subjects to be covered, the time and place of the interview, how the interview will be conducted (will it be taped, video taped?), and what will be done with the information.
  • Perform Background Research: You should do appropriate background research on their oral history topic before you conduct an interview. A trip to the library, as well as research on-line, is crucial to make sure that you have a familiarity with the subjects to be covered. An uninformed interviewer is a passive interviewer, unable to control the structure and direction of the interview.
  • Prepare Questions: You should have prepared questions written down. These questions should be broad enough to let the interviewee describe or explain the how, what, where, and why of a subject, but should be limited enough so that the interviewee knows what you are interested in learning.
  • Be an Active Listener: Oral historians must be active listeners. You should be able to monitor the quality of what an interviewee is relating while also listening to clues or inferences that may reveal new areas or topics worth exploring. Don’t just stick to your scripted questions—be prepared to follow up on interesting or important stories or themes if the opportunity presents itself.
  • Take Notes: You should take notes during the interview. Taking notes will give you a chance to jot down new questions as they come to mind. It is also a good idea to write down names used during an interview so you can check for spelling accuracy with the interviewee after the interview.
  • Listen for Inaccuracies: If the interviewee appears to be presenting a much distorted account, you can switch to a negative tack without damaging rapport. Simply state that other sources you have consulted have taken an opposite view and ask the interviewee to comment. Be careful not to directly challenge the knowledge or truthfulness of the interviewee. It is also best to save more personal and sensitive subjects for the middle of the interview when a more relaxed atmosphere has been established.
  • Accept Silence: Expect and accept a little silence. Never rush the interviewee into answering. One of the most common mistakes that novice interviewers make is to repeat or rephrase a question when the interviewee does not immediately respond. Another frequently made mistake is moving on to the next question at the interviewee’s first pause. People often need time to put their thoughts in order. If you allow them a few more seconds, they will probably add more to their earlier statements. Silence can be awkward, but useful.
  • End Strongly: Before the interview concludes, ask the interviewee if there is anything else they would like to tell you that you did not ask about. Conclude by thanking the interviewee for his or her time. If you have taped the interview and agreed to supply the interviewee with a copy, tell him when you will have that tape prepared. After the interview, write a thank-you letter to the interviewee.
  • Label Your Tape: If you are recording your interview, clearly label your tape with the date, the interviewee’s name, and the subject of the interview. It is always a good idea to start your interview by recording a short introduction at the beginning of the tape which includes the above information (labels can fall off): “This is Joe Smith interviewing Mary Jones about her WWII experiences on Thursday, October 9, 2003.” If you have the ability, digitize your tape onto your computer.
  • Transcribe Your Interview: Recording your interview only on tape will not be very helpful to others wishing to use your interviews for further research. Typing out your interview is time-consuming, but important. Not only will it make your interview more accessible to future researchers, but it will oblige you to listen more closely to the content of the interview.

Photo Restoration – Scanning and Retouching

The above 6″x6″ square photo fell out of one of my parents books. Thank goodness I thought to look through it before tossing it aside. This photo, taken in the early 1940’s, are of my mother’s parents – Mar Shee Tong, and his wife Ng Shee. I have never seen this photo before, so it was very exciting to find, but disappointing to find it in such poor condition.

As you can see, the picture is torn, creased, parts of it missing, and held together with tape and the wind. Otherwise it was fine\-) Note also the shot was poorly positioned, as the background ran out so the right edge of the photo, so the photo has an ugly black boarder. But this is the only photo in existence, so worth spending an entire evening restoring it, pixel by pixel.

There are two tools I used. An Epson V600 scanner, and for this photo restoration project.

The Epson V600 has a scanning feature option called “Digital ICE Technology”. The ICE feature is one of the key features of why I selected the Epson V600. ICE automatically removes dust, creases, tears and missing parts of the photo. See above for the scanner settings. I first tested the restoration using 300 dpi as it takes less time to scan, and then kicked it up to 1200 dpi to do very high resolution final. Scanning took about 5 minutes, but gives me the resolution latitude to edit and crop as I please.

Note with color correction it made the contrast slightly darker, but the major restoration using ICE is that it removed the tears and filled in missing portions of the photo. However there were significant imperfections like like long scratches and cracking surface emulsion. Plus that ugly black boarder on the right side from not framing the subjects well when original photo was taken. The file size was 17mb.

Since 6×6 is not a conventional picture ratio today, I cropped the photo into an 11×14 format. Note that ugly right background is now gone! The clothes are darker and more crisp. All the scratches are gone.

I used, , which is a VERY easy and free PC program, compatible to the far more complex / costly Paintshop. It took me hours using the cloning tool to move cloned pixels to cover up, add, or replace existing pixels. For example, I sampled the gray background overall, then cloned it to replace the ugly black right boarder.

Did it take hours time? Yes. Was it worth seeing my grandparents renewed? Yes. Helps if you have OCD like me\-) File size after the cropping was 12 mb.

I then took the final black and white photo, and tinted it sepia using, to give it that “old time” feel. Sepia file was 15mb.

Then I uploaded the black and white photo to to colorize it. Details in one of my earlier posts. Colorized photo was 2mb.

From the final restored 11×14 ratio photo file, I cropped individual 5×7 portraits of grandma and grandpa for inclusion my family history research. They now live again.

The 5×7 portraits are 3mb … now you know why I stared with a large, high resolution 1200 dpi scan. Anything smaller would have made these 5×7 crops to low a resolution.

Good luck, post a comment if you have any questions.


PS … the jade heart that my grandmother is wearing, is what my mom wore for this 2020 portrait. My mom is 91 years old. My mother, outlived her mother. With my dad being 96, it looks like I come from long lived genes … so you folks are going to have to put up with me for another 30 years! \-)


URGENT: COVID-19 Volunteers: Seeking Bilingual Cantonese & Vietnamese Speakers

by – Anna Eng

Additional note from Anna:  All work can be done remotely from home by phone or email or WeChat. Seeking bilingual and English speaking only. Email Anna directly if you wish to help.

Dear Friends,
I am working with some Chinatown non-profits to help support local small businesses severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and need bilingual Cantonese and/or Vietnamese speakers to help us.

Many of you may be aware of the federal gov’t’s $2T stimulus package under the CARES Act (Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security).

In addition to automatic stimulus payments to individuals there are economic emergency relief loans for Small Businesses to help them continue to pay their workers, rents and utilities while they are forced to be shut down in the interest of public safety.  Unfortunately, the application for these loans are primarily only online and only in English.  Many of our local small businesses are non or limited English speaking and/or do not have access to internet and do not know how to apply for these programs.  Many do not even know these programs exist at all.  Unfortunately because these programs are open to everyone in the country no matter how severely impacted these funds are depleted very quickly often before our minority and non-English speaking businesses even have a chance to apply.   Funds for the recent Calif. Stimulus relief package were depleted and closed within 1 week. 

Many of our local Chinese and other Asian small businesses were already severely impacted even before the Shelter in Place because of racism and the consistent identification of the Coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus.” 

[ Ron’s Edit – relevant video regarding the “Chinese virus at ]

With the increasing xenophobia and the devastating effects of this virus, we anticipate severe long term effects on our communities which will be very hard for them to recover from without some economic assistance for our businesses, workers and their families.

We are setting up a bilingual Cantonese, Vietnamese task force (phone banking, hotline, outreach) to help applicants apply for these programs.  If you are a bilingual speaker or better yet can read/write as well, we really can use your help.   If you have experience in banking or processing loans even better.  We need volunteers immediately– we will train you.  We expect these programs to go live this Fri. Apr. 3 and expect they may only last 1-2 weeks.  If you can help at all, please email me with your name, email, phone #, language skills, availability and I will get back to you with more info.

Please forward this to others who may be able to help.
Thank you!  Be safe, stay healthy and be vigilant!

In solidarity,
-Anna Eng

A Genealogical To-Do List While You Keep Your Distance

Article by Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena’s Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.

Trying to keep your distance from everyone else while we wait out COVID-19? Stuck at home as you self-quarantine? Now is a great time to focus on genealogy. Here are twenty ideas for you to consider as you fill your days with indoor activities.

1. Establish Your Personal Learning Plan. I know you love Legacy webinars so why not think about a personal learning plan for the next two weeks or month. Choose webinars based on a theme such as :

  • The country/countries you are researching
  • DNA
  • Researching female ancestors
  • Technology
  • Every webinar in the Webinar Library by a specific category or presenter

Identify your webinars of preference, watch them, and then study the handouts. Really study the handouts by exploring the suggested websites, seeking out the books in the bibliographies, and jot down notes for future reference.

2. Scan! It’s a good time to pull out some of those photos you have been meaning to scan and start. You could even watch webinars while you do it!

3. Upload photos to the Cloud. Use this time to share and store your photos (especially those that you just scanned). Upload them to whatever makes the most sense to you, an online tree attached to specific ancestors, Facebook album tagged with descendants, FamilySearch Memories collection, or a cloud storage website like Dropbox or Sugar Sync.

4. Download your photos from your phone. Are you guilty of this? I go to a library or archive and take a bunch of photos and then think I’ll download them later. But really later never comes. So now’s a good time to download them to your computer or a cloud storage website. You could even attach them to your online trees. Some cloud storage website feature a way to automatically download them to your cloud storage (such as Dropbox).

5. Take a 2nd look at the census. I know, I know, you’ve already looked at the census. But what about exploring the pages before and after your ancestor’s listing. Or really looking at the columns and making sure you’ve recorded/analyzed everything. Or if you are using the U.S. Census, learning more about the enumerator instructions.

6. Search WorldCat. Have you used WorldCat, the world’s library catalog? Take some time to enter a keyword that is meaningful for your family history such as Quakers or Coal Mining. Take some time to search by your ancestor’s place to find local history books. To learn more about using WorldCat, see the Legacy TechZone.

7. Search ArchiveGrid to become familiar with manuscript collections in the place your ancestor lived.

8. Search the FamilySearch Catalog for the place your ancestor lived. Go through each listing to see what resources you haven’t used and then make a list of what you need to check.

9. Update your family tree. Take some time to update your family tree whether it’s on your computer or online. Have you made any new discoveries? Have new documents to add?

10. Take a new look at your DNA results. New matches? New ethnicity estimates? Take some time to watch a webinar and learn something new you can do as you review those results.

11. Timelines. Create a timeline for an ancestor you are researching now or an ancestor you want to research.

12. Revisit your grandparents. Have you researched your grandparents? What records are you missing? What social history can you add to their lives? Work on writing some short narratives/stories about their lives.

13. Create a timeline for your life. For many of us, someday we will be an ancestor. Do your future family genealogist a favor and create a timeline for your own life. Add vital record events, milestones, and historical events that had meaning for you.

14. Start a journal. We are living in a unique historical period, document it now by starting a journal. Then look at how you can add to your journal with newspapers, photos, and emails from family.

15. Digitize! Have old photocopies from library visits when you first started your family history? Digitize those, organize them on your computer and then throw them away. You should never throw away original or hard to replace records but digitized copies from records like the census, which is found only could be saved to your computer.

16. Take your genealogy to Facebook. Have you identified Facebook genealogy groups to join? Now is the time to do that. Start with lists curated by Katherine R WillsonGail Devers, and Alona Tester.

17. Identify blog articles to read. Bloggers do such a great job of reporting on methodology, new record sets, and case studies. You can learn more about blog posts to read by using Randy Seaver’s “Best of...” weekly list or other similar lists. Randy has links to other blogger lists at the end of each weekly “Best of” blog post.

18. Work on a Research Plan. Now’s a good time to consult library and archival catalogs and your family tree and come up with a research plan. One of my favorite explanations on creating a genealogical research plan is the online article, “Creating a Genealogy Research Plan Like a Detective” by Kimberly Powell.

19. Document an heirloom. Have a family heirloom or something you hope will become an heirloom? How about taking some time to photograph it and explain its provenance? Explain what it is, what its importance is to your family, its history and where it should end up when you are no longer around. Consider long term solutions including family members willing to inherit it or a possible donation plan.

20. Take a virtual trip to your ancestral home. Sure, you might not be able to travel right now but we are so lucky to be able to access places virtually. How about using Google Maps or Google EarthHistoryPin or even What Was There ? To access historical maps and images.

Stuck at home? That’s ok, there’s plenty to do! Look at your family history and decide what you’d like to accomplish.

Thank you Marisa Louie Lee for referring this 3/20/2020 article found at

How to Effectively Research the National Archives Portal


The National Archives is a wealth of information to research your immigrant past. Just scroll down the page and provide immigrant’s name, birth date and birth location to search millions of records. After entering immigrant details, a listing will open up, clicking on a file, will take you to a page to create a free account to view, print, and save files. Researched will be Passenger and Crew Lists, Naturalization Records, Arrival Case Files and more.

Contributed by Marisa Louie Lee

Just wanted to provide some additional information to BACGG members about what’s offered via the new National Archives/Ancestry portal. Ancestry is providing access to records it has digitized from National Archives holdings, which are typically only available to paying Ancestry members. As you noted, this includes passenger records, federal court naturalization records, and military records. The information about immigration arrival case files on Ancestry are indexes to the case files, not digitized copies of the actual arrival case files themselves. If a researcher finds something of interest, they will want to take the step of contacting the National Archives facility that has that case file once NARA facilities re-open so that they can get a copy of the file. 

The National Archives online catalog (which is always free and available to the public at includes additional case file indexes that are not on Ancestry, such as the index for Boston and Chicago. 

BACGG members may be able to gain expanded free access to Ancestry via their public libraries, which are providing at-home access to Ancestry during this time (at least through April 30.) At least two library systems I know of here in the Bay Area – San Mateo County Libraries ( and Marin County Public Library ( – have given its cardholders access from home. The at-home version of Ancestry Library includes vital (birth/marriage/death) records, city directories, and more. BACGG members should contact their local libraries to ask if they can get access at-home.–

What Ching Ming Means to Me …

…. the story of two families.

Ching Ming is April 4, 2020. How does your family observe this date? Add your family story in the “Leave a Comment” section below this story.

Jeanne Young reminded me this year Ching Ming is April 4, 2020. Here is the story she graciously shared of how Ching Ming is celebrated by her family …

“I’m not sure if our BACGG members participate in Ching Ming, but I have been visiting our family cemetery twice a year for as long as I can remember.  Most folks visit the cemetery at least once a year for Ching Ming (Spring time).  This is the one day families pay respect to their departed relatives.

First we clean the grave sites and headstones, then we display flowers and a food offering. Lastly we burn candles, incense and paper offerings to our ancestors.  It is normal to see several thousand people converge at the cemetery on a specific date to honor their ancestors.  

Ching Ming is very important to us, especially, since both my parents have passed. We now have a much better understanding of why we had been going to the cemetery since we were children. As a child, I did not know whose grave we were visiting, but today, I visit dozens of grave sites two times a year. 

If you have Rosemary Gong’s book “Good Luck Life”, she wrote a very informative chapter about Qing Ming (Ching Ming).  

Not all Chinese families follow the same practices. They may be customized to fit each families memories. Some families have forgotten this ritual, especially as descendants move far away from where their ancestors are buried. 

Due to the Coronavirus, my family association made a wise decision not to host an official Ching Ming festival this year. However individual families and individuals can still visit the cemetery on their own to pay respect to their relatives, which is what I am planning to do.” 

Ron Chan’s Ching Ming Remembrances … When my mom, May, visits her parents at the cemetery, she brings two thermos, one with hot coffee with cream and sugar for her mother, and hot tea for her father. May pours a cup for each of them. Then kneels and then gently serves them tea over their final resting place … just as May did in life. Ron’s kids then bow three times to honor their great grandparents.

Even though Ching Ming has been observed for thousands of years, my mother said, “No need to visit me when I am gone, as you loved me when I was alive.” 

Please share how you honor those that came before you on Ching Ming in the comments section below ….