Finding My Roots: Do I Have Chinese Ancestors?

I have been doing a family tree and genealogical research on both my father's and mother's side for over ten years. One of the reasons why I did it is to know where I came from and what made me who I am.


I have been doing a family tree and genealogical research on both my father's and mother's side for over ten years. One of the reasons why I did it is to know where I came from and what made me who I am. It's probably influenced by the fact that I graduated with a degree in History in university and so it shaped my interest in it. More importantly, I grew up without getting to meet and talk to my grandparents, especially my mother's side since she was born out of wedlock. Apart from that, I never got close connections with relatives growing up partly because I'm a shy and introvert type.

So to cut the long story short, I managed to trace most of my family tree and stumbled upon key and prominent people in the past but it seems I have hit the proverbial "brick wall" on my mother's side due to the lack of documentary evidence and paperwork. Recently, I took an Ancestry DNA test to determine my ethnic breakdown.

I assume that I may have about 10% Chinese ancestry due to the fact that a branch in my mother's line is likely to have Chinese ancestors. The National Geographic's "The Genographic Project", Relaunched in 2012 as Geno 2.0, based on a massive genetic testing of 80,000 Filipinos by the National Geographic in 2008–2009 found that the Philippines’ autosomal gene pool is overwhelmingly Asian, consisting of 53% Southeast Asian and Oceanian genes, and 36% East Asian genes, with only 5% Southern European genes, 3% South Asian (Indian subcontinent) genes, and 2% Native American genes. It goes to show, there is no such thing as "pure Filipino."

Although the "official" family history mentioned that they're really descended from Portuguese explorer-adventurer Diogo Veloso (who never, ever been to the Philippines since he was killed in Cambodia), there has never been evidence to make the connection.  Besides, it would have been impossible for him to settle in the Philippines when Spain and Portugal are locked in a colonial rivalry as to who rules the world. Their timeline is inaccurate since there is no definite evidence that showed he even left behind a progeny in the country. Furthermore, they have lived mostly in the Parian district their entire lives despite accumulating wealth and political influence. It is likely that they only assumed that surname under the Claveria decree as specifically mentioned by American historian Michael Cullinane.

I am a descendant of Chinese mestizo Josef Salvador, a brother of Josef Isidoro (the ancestor of all prominent Veloso clan personalities). Many of their descendants intermarried with locals, Chinese mestizos, and other later Chinese immigrants. Interestingly, some of my relatives and distant relatives have retained their Chinese identities while most have "lost" it through intermarriages with non-Chinese across generations.

Interestingly, I am remotely connected to one of Jose Rizal's siblings as one of my great-great-great grand uncles got married to his grand niece. And Rizal has deep Chinese ancestors that go back to the 12th century!

It would have been likely that they retained their Chinese surname "Chiong" to distinguish themselves from the descendants of Spanish mestizos bearing the same surname. There is also called a padrino system where Chinese immigrants assume the surname of their sponsors. The Chinese diaspora throughout Southeast Asia did not happen in the 19th century (although it was the high point of their immigration to the other lands in the region - from Thailand to Indonesia). The Chinese have already been trading with people from the Philippines even before the Spanish came. So it is safe to say that there is a significant part of the Filipino gene pool that has Chinese in it.

Image result for filipino ancestry dna

Interestingly, the Chiong surname has different variations in different countries where their ancestors have migrated throughout Southeast Asia and beyond. There are Hakka romanizations of the surname with Zhang (traditional 張, simplified 张), Zhang (章) and Zhuang (traditional 莊, simplified 庄) while the Cantonese and Gan romanizations of the surname with Zhang (traditional 張, simplified 张) and Zhang (章). Characters may have differed even with the same surname.

Other variations included the Minnan romanization variant Zheng (traditional 鄭, simplified 郑), the Cantonese romanization variant Zhong (traditional 鍾, simplified 钟) and Zhong (崇), the Cantonese and Gan romanization variant Zhuang (traditional 莊, simplified 庄), and the McCune romanization of the Korean surname Jeong (정).

Our paper trail may have ended here as there seems to be a lack of documentary evidence as to how they even came here. Bear in mind, pre-Claveria names don't have surnames and so all trees abruptly end there for my Veloso and Duterte ancestors. DNA will hopefully give an insight as to where such Chinese roots came from. It is interesting to note that the ancestry hometown of your Chinese ancestor will have their own book that keeps track of their roots as far back as possible amidst changing dynasties.


In reference to Cullinane's research, I do think that the Chinese may have left their homeland to look for better living opportunities elsewhere brought about by the disastrous policies by the Qing overlords especially after the humiliating defeat in the 1842 Opium War. That's where paper records about their activities in Cebu got started.

Hopefully, by the end of the month, I could piece together this forgotten part of my genealogical past.

Want to know your ethnic breakdown? Get a 15% discount on your first Ancestry DNA test by visiting this link.

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Istoryadista | History Blog | Cebu Blogger: Finding My Roots: Do I Have Chinese Ancestors?
Finding My Roots: Do I Have Chinese Ancestors?
I have been doing a family tree and genealogical research on both my father's and mother's side for over ten years. One of the reasons why I did it is to know where I came from and what made me who I am.
https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-pt2EyJ7IeFs/Xmb4otC6MFI/AAAAAAAAbBs/3xzD-16z0fs5PasYic8GDaJfWVO1kr0ugCLcBGAsYHQ/s640/chinese%2Bfilipinos.jpg
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Istoryadista | History Blog | Cebu Blogger
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