Chinese Maps and Gazetteers

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Online Maps and Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

Mainland China

Taiwan

Hong Kong

Macau

Tips for Using Maps[edit | edit source]

Maps must be used carefully for several reasons:

  • There are often several places with the same name. You may want to use a gazetteer to help you.
  • The spelling and even names of some towns may have changed since your ancestor lived there.
  • Place-names are often misspelled in English sources. Difficult names may have been shortened and important diacritic marks omitted.
  • Political boundaries are not clearly indicated on all maps. Look for neighboring towns and geographic features to find the area where your ancestor came from.
  • Boundaries changed over time. Use historical maps to understand boundary changes.

For more tips and information on using maps, go to the general Maps Record Page.

Finding the Specific Town on the Map[edit | edit source]

To successfully research maps, you must identify the town where your ancestor lived. Because there are several towns that have the same name, you may need some additional information before you can locate the correct town on a map. Using gazetteers can help you to identify a place's the jurisdiction and help you locate it on a map.

Types of Maps[edit | edit source]

Different types of maps help you in different ways, for example:

  • Historical atlases describe the growth and development of countries, showing boundaries, migration routes, settlement patterns, military campaigns, and other historical information.
  • Road atlases are useful because of the detail they provide.
  • Other types of maps include: parish maps, state maps, tourist maps, topographical maps, and air navigation maps. City maps are extremely helpful when researching in large cities.

To learn more about different types of maps, go to the general Maps Record Page.

Historical Maps Collections[edit | edit source]

Historical map collections are helpful because they can show you the geography of your ancestor's residence at or around the time they lived there.

China[edit | edit source]

Maps are an important source in locating where your ancestors lived because they help you see the neighboring towns and geographic features of an area.

Maps identify places, parishes, districts, churches, geographical features, and transportation routes, and their proximity to other towns. Historical maps are especially useful for understanding boundary changes.

Maps are published individually or in atlases, which are bound collections of maps. Maps may also be included in gazetteers, guidebooks, local histories, and history texts.

Different types of maps can help you in different ways. Historical atlases describe the growth and development of countries. They show boundaries, migration routes, settlement patterns, military campaigns, and other historical information. Road atlases are useful because they provide detail of the countryside. City and street maps are extremely helpful when researching large cities such as Hong Kong; they provide locations of churches, cemeteries, businesses, government offices, and monuments. Other types of maps include county atlases and topographical maps.


Gazetteers are dictionaries of place names that describe towns and villages, parishes, districts, rivers and mountains, population size, and other geographical features. Additional information may include major manufacturing works, canals, docks, railroad stations, and postal stations. Gazetteers usually include only the names of places that existed at the time of publication. The place names are generally listed in alphabetical order, similar to a dictionary.

You can use gazetteers to identify the places where your family lived and to determine the civil and church jurisdictions of those places.

China Gazetteers and Local Histories (fangzhi)[edit | edit source]

Research Use: Supplement genealogies and official records (virtually nonexistent today for historical periods). Contain unique information on widows and wives not found elsewhere. Excellent as geographic and historical outlines of a particular area, but still have some gaps in this regard.

Record Type: These are historical, geographic studies of specific villages and towns that include some biographical and genealogical information.

Time Period: 1368 to present.

Contents: Each local history covers a specific administrative unit (county, town, city or prefecture). These records are divided into sections covering a wide range of topics and categories, including geography, historical events, taxes, population, products and trade, education, transportation, local literary contributions, and local legends and folklore. The fangzhi may include a chapter devoted to recording the famous or influential families or clans. They often include biographies of prominent individuals, and mention of local officials, persons who lived long lives (over 90 years), and chaste widows. In current publications biographies spotlight local martyrs of the revolution.

Location: Found scattered in libraries and archives throughout China and in Chinese collections of university libraries in the U.S. and other countries.

Percentage in Family History Library Collection: We have already acquired about 50% of the pre-1949 editions. There are approximately 5,100 titles in our collection. These represent most of the available gazetteers outside the People's Republic of China.

Population Coverage: Include mainly important personalities and categories of individuals in a specific area; cover less than 5% of the population.

Reliability: Generally very reliable.[1]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: China,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1997.