“Searching Her Roots,” Ensign, Oct. 1998, 69
Sheila Hsia has long felt a sense of urgency in doing her family history work. “In my patriarchal blessing I was promised that I could help my people in this life and in the life to come,” she explains.
In 1949, at age 23, Sheila left her native China and relocated to Hong Kong, where she joined the Church. Due to China’s political situation, she was not able to visit her hometown, Jungking, until 30 years later. While on a second trip she learned that during the Cultural Revolution her family’s records, which had been preserved for centuries, had been destroyed. Sheila then asked her brother Shao Qiang if he would search for any records that might include their family’s line.
In 1983 Shao Qiang learned that a distant relative, Xin Song, possessed some old family records. Some 50 years earlier, Xin Song’s father, who didn’t have long to live, gave Xin Song nine large books and told him to guard them with his life. Being unable to read or write, Xin Song did not know what was in the records but felt that the best thing he could do was to bury them in large clay pots beneath the ground in his home. This he did in 1930.
Not long afterward the village burned down, but the records remained safe in the ground. Sometime later the village was rebuilt. In the late 1960s, when the Red Guards came through and destroyed most of the records in the village, again these books were preserved as they lay under a blanket of earth.
In December 1983 Shao Qiang was able to visit Xin Song and hand copy from the records all the names of their direct line back 12 generations. He sent the information to Sheila, who, through further research, managed to trace her lines back an incredible 172 generations. “I am very lucky that the Chinese keep such detailed records,” she says.
Receiving these records was only the beginning of Sheila’s work; now she had to write by hand all of the Chinese names into thousands of family group sheets so that temple work could be done. This effort took several years to accomplish because it involved more than 15,000 names. Sheila continues to be involved in this endeavor. Additionally, she is a family history consultant in the Coquitlam Ward, Vancouver British Columbia Stake.—Elder and Sister Roland and Darla Tooley, Canada Vancouver Mission