According to audio recordings of my grandfather, he was from a village called Pung Wu, that he said was as large as the city of Vancouver and filled with many shops. I think that he means P'an Yu (Panyu District), that was incorporated into the megacity of Guangzhou.
This makes sense, since his father also came to Canada around 1884-85 to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and approximately 85% of the Chinese living in Canada at this time came from one of three counties: T'ai-shan, K'ai-ping and P'an-yu [source: Home County and Clan Origins of Overseas Chinese in Canada in the Early 1880s, by David Chuen-Yan Lai]. Also according to the above source, the Chinese displayed "chain migration" similar to other ethnic groups where multiple members of families or villages over the years would migrate to a new region or country. They then tended to follow in the professions of their village-mates or relatives. I have found mention of other Chinese with the same clan name as my grandfather coming in the 1870's to work for CPR. It is mentioned that they are from "Panyu".
So, it seems likely that there is some family migration happening starting as early as 1870 from Panyu to Canada and that these men were employed in the railroad.
Unfortunately, the likelihood of locating information on ancestors who worked on the construction of Canadian railroads is remote. This is true not only of the Chinese, but also of others who were employed in railway construction. There is a Canadian Pacific Railway Archives, but its holdings relate to the operation of the railway, not to its construction. The contractors who built the railway and the sub-contractors who hired railway workers on their behalf, were usually not Canadian, and it is doubtful that their records have survived. The genealogical search is further complicated because, in the case of the Chinese, labourers were not hired as individuals, but in large groups of perhaps one thousand men [source: Vancouver Public Library, Chinese-Canadian Genealogy].
Is it is possible to find BMD, emigration or other travel-related records for a Chinese village in English? How should I tackle this?