Explore The Free Chinese Exclusion Era Collection On Ancestry

Ancestry announced the free availability of more than 500,000 records from the Chinese Exclusion Era – a 60 year period in the U.S. and Canada when laws were enacted to restrict immigration and rights of people of Chinese descent. Beyond discovering potential family connections, these significant records offer the opportunity to look into a complex period and learn about the Chinese Exclusion Era.

We partnered with Linda Yip, an expert in Chinese genealogy, to illustrate how individuals can leverage these records to learn more about their family and the Chinese experience during this chapter in history. The following blog post penned by Linda includes tips to get you started.

Understanding this complex era in history

In the mid – to late – 1800s, sparked by the discovery of gold in California and British Columbia, large numbers of Chinese immigrants came to the United States and Canada in search of safety and economic opportunity. At the end of the 19th century, as economies shifted and labor competition grew, anti-Chinese sentiment increased and targeted laws, such as the U.S. Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Canadian Chinese Immigration Acts of 1885 and 1923, were enacted to constrain and prohibit further immigration and to limit the rights and opportunities of existing residents of Chinese heritage.

July 1, 2023 marks 100 years since the Chinese Immigration Act, 1923, was enacted in Canada. Ancestry has indexed images of C.I. 44 registration forms and index cards of people impacted by the Chinese Immigration Act, 1923. For 24 years, no new Chinese immigration was permitted, and families in China were separated with little hope of reunion. In addition, Section 18 of the Act required “persons of Chinese origin” to register – that is, as an immigrant – under the penalty of a $500 fine and a year in jail.

Tip No. 1: Getting started

Everyone can now browse or search the curated collection for free by visiting ancestry.com/ChineseExclusionEra. As a first step, consider the following:

Was your ancestor in Canada or the United States during this time?

Do you know your ancestor’s Romanized Chinese name(s) and alternate spellings?

Did your ancestors adopt one or more English names?

Tip No. 2: Find the index card to get a snapshot of your ancestor.

If your Chinese ancestor was in Canada from 1923-1947, the registered under Section 18. The records consist of index cards and the C.I 44 forms. Chinese Immigration Branch clerks organized their files with index cards which provided details including full names, alternate names if known, a C.I 44 number, age, date of registration, and other identifying certificate numbers.

Tip No. 3: Find the corresponding C.I 44 form

C.I 44 forms contain a wealth of knowledge and demographic details, sometimes years after initial immigration, including:


Names and alternate names




Martial status and names of children in Canada


Arrival ship and date

Tip No. 4: Find your ancestor’s relatives.

Chinese people often registered with family members. Using Ancestry navigation tools, you can also scroll between records to look for relatives. In this case, LEE Chun Yu (C.I. 44 no. 35684) registered with LEE Chun Wee (C.I. 44 no. 35683). 

Like LEE Chun Yu, LEE Chun Wee traveled to Vancouver, BC and worked as a cook at the same cafe. Notice the the two boys’ C.I. 44 numbers are consecutive, and can be accessed together.

Both records include similar surnames “Lee” and generational names “Chun,” suggesting that they are cousins or siblings. By comparing numbers, photos and index cards, and census records, you can discover more information on their relationship and family members.

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