Category: Can you help?

A lost newspaper?

On Saturday, 17 July 1869, the Sydney Morning Herald ran an advertisement (p. 9) for a newly released issue of the Illustrated Police News:

I’m intrigued by the prospect of an illustration showing ‘Australian Ladies and their Mongolian Husbands enjoying themselves in a Camp on the Gold-fields’ – but have not been able to locate it.

The ad appears among those advertising other newspapers published in Sydney at the time – Bell’s Life in Sydney, the Protestant Standard, the Protestant Banner – all of which I can find extant copies of. But I haven’t been able to locate any reference to a newspaper called the Illustrated Police News published in Sydney at this time.

There is, of course, the infamous London newspaper of the same name and a Melbourne Police News, illustrations from which are held by the State Library of Victoria. I’ve had some trouble accessing the British Library’s digitised newspapers site, which includes copies of the London Illustrated Police News, to check, but I’m pretty sure the Herald reference is to a different paper.

Clues anyone?

 

‘Birth of a Chinese in the colony’, 1865

In July 1865, the Maitland Mercury carried an article announcing the birth of the second Chinese baby in the colony of New South Wales – a little boy named Henry Sydney Ah Foo – or, as recorded in the NSW BDMs index – Ah Cong, son of Sam Ah Foo and Ah Fie (15489/1865):

Some days ago Mrs. Ah Foo, wife of Mr. Ah Foo, storekeeper, of Nundle, to the delight of her husband and every other celestial on the Peel river, presented the former with an unmistakable pledge of love in the shape of a fine healthy son, no half and half affair, but a thorough Mongolian. We are given to understand that this is the second birth in this colony where both parents were Chinese, and is, consequently, well worth mentioning. The Chinese in the neighbourhood have taken the matter up, and elated with joy, have made a present to the parents of £150. On Sunday last, the Rev Mr. Whitfield of Tamworth performed the interesting ceremony of christening the child, which was witnessed by a large number of Chinamen. The youngster’s name is Henry Sydney. Mrs. Ah Foo is said to be an interesting woman.

The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, 18 July 1865

I’ve recently started working on a project that has its roots back more than ten years. As part of my PhD research, I started compiling a database of marriages between Chinese men and non-Chinese women in 19th-century New South Wales. A version of it ended up as an appendix to my thesis, but since a lot of time went into the original data-gathering (thanks Mum!) I thought that perhaps this data should now take on a new and exciting life.

I’m therefore extending my original database to include any ‘Chinese’ marriage or birth registered in New South Wales up to 1918 – that is, where either husband or wife, father or mother, were Chinese or part-Chinese. I’m initially working from the published NSW BDM indexes (hence the 1918 cut-off), but I’ll then add information from my piles and piles of other research notes and also hopefully crowdsource further data to fill out the scant details provided by the index. So far I’ve worked through maybe a tenth of the material I have, and I’ve already got over 1000 entries in the database.

You can read more about the database project, Threads of Kinship – and there’s a prize for guessing the origins of the project name and why I chose it.

[Family group] [picture]

One of the first things I learnt in my training in arrangement and description was the meaning of those neat square brackets—they tell you that the archivist has, heaven forbid, used or added something other than the record’s original title. This is often done to assist with searching for the item in a collection database, particularly if the original title is a bit obscure, or non-existant. So it was that I came upon an item in the State Library of Victoria’s catalogue titled:

[Family group] [picture]

As the catalogue description notes, this photograph shows a:

Family grouped in front of picket fence, woman seated with two little girls, and possibly a little boy in short petticoats, beside her, two men standing on either side of her chair, a little boy standing beside man on left. Weatherboard house in background, tiled roof, and pergola, vines growing along roof line of porch.

What isn’t noted (except in the subject keywords) is that this family looks to be Chinese. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that the woman was of mixed heritage.

The photograph comes from the John Etkins collection, a private collection of around 2000 portrait photographs donated to the library in 2004. Inscribed in pencil on the back of the photograph is ‘[…] Wang in (?) Govt. Office / Inverell’. It is dated somewhere between 1880 and 1910.

Not much of a clue as to the family’s identity, but perhaps one day I’ll stumble upon something that tells me who they are.

  • Description: 1 photographic print on cabinet card : albumen silver ; 10.7 x 16.6 cm.; 1 photographic print : albumen silver ; 9.7 x 13.9 cm.
  • Identifier(s): State Library of Victoria, Accession no(s) H2005.34/103.
  • Persistent link: http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/45774

An indecipherable name and Rev. Dr Fullerton’s marriage shop

Some recent research I’ve been doing into an Anglo-Chinese family living in Sydney in the 1870s–1880s led me to both an interesting problem and an interesting discovery. I undertook this research for someone else, so I won’t mention any names here – lets just call our couple ‘J’ (the husband) and ‘R’ (the wife).

The problem was thus: the copy of the couple’s marriage registration provided by NSW Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages includes a Chinese signature for ‘J’ the groom, but it is completely indecipherable. So indecipherable, in fact, that it is even difficult to make an educated guess as to what the name might be. Finding a Chinese ancestor’s Chinese signature is one of those Eureka moments, so finding out that no one can make sense of it is rather disappointing.

I began to wonder, therefore, if the original parish marriage register might provide some clues. All the information on the marriage registration is in the same handwriting, so I thought it might be possible that the details, including the ‘signatures’, had been written in by someone else (who could not write Chinese). This had been the case with another later marriage in the same family – by checking a copy of the original church register I was able to see the (English) signatures of the bride and groom and witnesses.

Many early parish registers for Sydney and New South Wales have been microfilmed by the Society of Australian Genealogists – my local copies are in the National Library. Starting out with great hope, in the end I could not locate the appropriate register among the microfilms. This did, however, lead me to my interesting discovery.

My couple, ‘J’ and ‘R’, were married in 1874 by the Rev. Dr James Fullerton LLD, a Presbyterian minister in Sydney during the middle decades of the 19th century. Fullerton was a somewhat controversial figure who was reputed to run a ‘marriage shop’ out of his home – many of his marriages were performed there rather than in his church. In 1851, he was tried in the Supreme Court for ‘illegal solemnization of marriage’. Fullerton was known not to ask too many questions, and on the registrations of marriages he officiated, the personal details are often scanty and incorrect. For my couple, only minimal details are given and the bride’s age has been stated as being 21 (the age of consent) – she was actually only 17.

The original church registers maintained by Rev. James Fullerton up to 1873 are held by the Uniting Church Archives NSW/ACT, those from 1874 are held by the Presbyterian Church’s Ferguson Memorial Library in Surry Hills. Thanks to archivists at both those institutions, I now know that Fullerton’s original register can shine no more light on the Chinese name of my groom ‘J’. It just says that the groom signed ‘in Chinese’. Alas.

In my research into Fullerton, though, and in thinking about the circumstances in which my 17-year-old Irish-Australian bride came to marry her Chinese husband, I came across a fascinating article from 1873 with information about another marriage Fullerton performed between a young white woman and a Chinese man. It’s quite long, but I’ll copy it here because it is a rather cute account of how things might have been. From the Sydney Morning Herald, 11 April 1873, it details a case heard in the Court of Quarter Sessions in Sydney:

KEEPING A BROTHEL

A Chinaman from Canton, calling himself ‘Charles Tuckland,’ was charged with keeping a brothel.

The case was proved for the Crown by a Pagan Chinaman from Canton, names Lau Hawk, who deposed that the house was a brothel, and that he had married his wife Ellen Jones (a young woman aged 19 years, and a native of Sydney) out of his, prisoner’s disorderly house. Lau Hawk’s marriage was celebrated by the Rev. Dr. Fullerton, on the 23rd of January last. The marriage certificate was produced in Court. The witness, Lau Hawk, was sworn, at his own request, by blowing out a match, “not being a Christian.” Law Hawk [sic] swore that Tuckland’s house was a Chinese house of ill-fame, mostly frequented by Chinaman, but that degraded white men sometimes went there. Constable Michael H. Fox also gave evidence as to the extremely disreputable character of the house. A night-watchman, named Brennan, likewise gave similar evidence. This man had been complained to about Tuckland’s house by the people in the neighbourhood. The witness had seen Chinese men and white women – mostly very young – in couples in every room in the house – all smoking opium. The women were white women, and one of them was the woman Ellen Jones or Ellen Hawk. The white prostitutes and the Chinamen used to make a practice of smoking opium together. Brennan had seen the men smoking opium there, and passing on their opium pipes to the young women in whose company they were. Joe Hong, a Chinaman, gave the like evidence. For the defence, Mrs. Hawk (wife of Lau Hawk), gave the prisoner’s house a good character. She said she was drunk with spirits (not opium) when she was married to Lau Hawk. She went with Lau Hawk to Dr. Fullerton’s, to be married to Lau Hawk on an evening at twenty minuted to 10 o’clock. She swore that she was not then married to Lau Hawk, because they were told ‘it was then too late,’ but she did get married to him at the same place on the following morning, and was drunk at the time. Lau Hawk swore that they were married at night. Mrs. Lau Hawk’s bridesmaid was a girl called Emma Jones; one who passes as her sister, and who was living with Ellen Jones at Tuckland’s, but was not related to her. His Honor, in the course of his remarks said that the circumstances of this case were most extraordinary, and would, he trusted, be reported by the Press.

The prisoner’s defence was that his house was a ‘welly good house, and not bad at all.’ He sold opium for people to come and smoke it, and the young women waited on his customers.

The jury, without retiring, returned a verdict of guilty.

Sentence: To be imprisoned in Darlinghurst gaol and there kept to hard labour for six calendar months.

The opium merchant fluently expressed his astonishment at the result of the trial in Chinese, and was promptly removed from the Court in the midst of his disagreeable surprise.

(See the article online: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13321835.)

Who are the genealogists of Australia?

Via aus-archivists (16 July 2009):

Family history, since the advent of the Cook Bicentennial in Australia, has changed from the interest of a select few to become one of the most popular pastimes of Australians. Yet in spite of the dramatic increase in membership of and numbers family history societies, the changes in library and archive practices and collections to meet the demands of those wanting to research their family history, and the vast numbers of subscribers to commercial family history websites, little is known about the interests, research practices and make up of Australian genealogists.

A survey of Australian genealogists has been launched to examine these questions as part of a master’s research program at the University of New England. Entitled ‘Who Are the Genealogists of Australia’, the survey asks genealogists about their motivations for beginning their research and why they continue to conduct their research. It also asks about their research interests and how and where they conduct their research and why they make those choices. The survey will also investigate their plans for the product of their research. Finally, genealogists are asked about their demographic characteristics.

The survey can be found at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~ausgensurvey/.

It is open for participation from August 1st 2009 until 30th November 2009.

All queries about the survey can be directed to Leon Alekna at the University of New England: lalekna@une.edu.au.

Catching up

I’ve been a bit quiet of late, trying to write other things and not distract myself with blog posts. I’m currently based at the Centre for Historical Studies at the National Museum, who are generously supporting me as an Early Career Summer Fellow to work on my book about Anglo-Chinese Australians and the Immigration Restriction Act (well, that’s one variation of how to describe the book…). It’s such a luxury to be able to spend my days working on the book, instead of trying to fit it in around my real job. If only writing my book were my real job. Sigh.

One of the delightful things of late has been that I have had the time to embark upon correspondence with people around Australia, New Zealand, indeed, the world. One of those correspondents is Natalia Hooker, who is working on a biography of her late grandfather, LJ Hooker. Hooker was born Leslie Joseph Tingyou in 1903 and changed his name by deedpoll in 1925. His Chinese background only came out publicly after his death in 1985.

By one of those strange but really not uncommon coincidences, when Natalia shared information about her extended family with me, I recognised the name of one of LJ’s cousins. As the son of a migrant Chinese father and Anglo-Chinese mother, he was someone I’d ‘met’ in the archives and it was interesting to hear a little more about him, including that he’d apparently fathered a child at a rather young age! It is also further proof that everyone is related to everyone else – well, at least as far as the NSW Chinese community was concerned.

Natalia is interested to hear from anyone with LJ Hooker related memories, information or photographs. Her website is www.nataliahooker.com.

Frances Cogger and Sun Johnson

This post is really a bit of a fishing trip. I’m hoping to make contact with a Daniel Johnson, who contacted the Chinese Australian Historical Society a couple of years ago regarding Sun Johnson (or Sun Junchen). At the time Henry Chan told me of Daniel’s interest in finding out more about Sun Johnson, but didn’t pass on his contact details.

Frances Cogger and Sun Johnson are one of those couples I’ve done a bit of research into, but not much – they’ve always been on my list of people to follow up! Frances was only seventeen when they married in January 1899, and the couple had one son that I know of. They divorced in 1910. Below is their little son’s certificate exempting from the dictation test from 1907 (NAA: ST84/1, 1907/351-360). Note that he didn’t actually leave for China.

The career of Sun Johnson as editor of the first Chinese-language newspaper in Sydney, the Chinese Australian Herald, is discussed in various places including in CF Yong’s New Gold Mountain – but most recently in an article by Mei-Fen Kuo, ‘The Chinese Australian Herald and the shaping of a modern imagined Chinese community in 1890s colonial Sydney’, Chinese Southern Diaspora Studies, volume 2, 2008.

I have written briefly about Sun Johnson’s wonderful wordbook The Self-Educator, published in Sydney in around 1892, in my ‘Across the threshold: White women and Chinese hawkers in the white colonial imaginary’, Hecate, October 2002. James Hayes has also discussed the wordbook in more detail in ”’Good Morning Mrs Thompson!”: A Chinese-English word-book from 19th century Sydney’ in Paul Macgregor (ed.), Histories of the Chinese in Australasia and the South Pacific, Museum of Chinese Australian History, Melbourne, 1995.

If Daniel Johnson ever reads this, I’d love to hear from him! Just leave me a message below.

Chinese cricketers?

It’s the week after Christmas, it’s stinking hot and the cricket’s on. As I write, Ricky Ponting has just made 50 batting against the South Africans. Yesterday Kerry O’Keefe dropped this comment about the Australian cricket captain into an article in the Daily Telegraph:

Ricky Pon Ting did his Chinese heritage proud with a clinical ton on the opening day. The Pon Tings have been mining tin in the north east of Tasmania for over a century and I’m certain they would have celebrated the achievement of one of their own with traditional oriental dignity.

A somewhat half-hearted Google search has brought up no other mention of Ponting’s Chinese heritage, except someone in a World of Warcraft forum saying that both Ponting and David Boon have ‘fairly old Chinese–Australian heritage’. Hmmm, can anyone else shed light any light on this?

Campaign to save Quong Lee’s store, Forbes NSW

Back in October I mentioned the impending destruction of the old Quong Lee store in Forbes. Merrill Findlay, of the Kate Kelly Project in Forbes, has started a campaign to save Quong Lee’s.

She is asking for people to write to the developers, AusPacific Property Group, and to Forbes Shire Council to ask that the historic store be integrated into the design for the shopping centre they will build on the site. Development approval has already been given.

Forgotten heroes

A guest post in honour of the 90th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I. Alastair Kennedy, who is undertaking a PhD at the Australian National University, shares with us some of the experiences of Chinese Australians who served in World War I.

Forgotten heroes – Chinese Australians in the First Australian Imperial Force 1914–20

Due both to the accident of its colonial history and the deliberate imposition of the White Australia Policy after Federation, the First Australian Imperial Force (1st AIF) that set out for Egypt in the troop transports from Australia’s west coast ports in 1915 was predominantly of white European stock. It was a requirement under federal regulations, in force from 1910, that members of the permanent and citizens forces were to be ‘substantially of European origin or descent’.

Yet, despite this and the other discriminatory legislation, Australians of Chinese descent did enlist and served with distinction during World War I. Based on an analysis of the 1911 census it has been estimated that there were less than 2000 full- and part-Chinese Australian males eligible to enlist. Using known Chinese surnames and building on information from Gilbert Jan’s 1999 Sydney Memorial Honour Roll, the 2003 Chinese Heritage of Australia Federation Project’s database compiled by La Trobe University and information supplied by the Golden Dragon Museum in Ballarat, I have so far identified in the records of the Australian War Memorial and National Archives of Australia some 197 diggers of certain Chinese ancestry who served in the 1st AIF.

Between them, these Chinese Australians were awarded five Distinguished Conduct Medals (DCM), fourteen Military Medals (MM), two Belgian Croix de Guerre and three Mentions in Dispatches (MID). In proportion to their numbers, this represents a much higher ratio of gallantry awards per head than the rest of the AIF.

There are many names that already feature in Chinese Australian history; for example, Herbert Kong Meng (21), Arthur Quong Tart (3262) and Christopher Shying (3232), respectively descendants of the more famous Lowe Kong Meng, Mei Quong Tart and John Joseph Shying (who himself had served with the New South Wales Volunteer Rifles in the Sudan Expeditionary Force).

Here are some other 1st AIF Chinese Australian heroes.

Caleb James Shang (2504) DCM and Bar, MM

Caleb Shang was the most decorated Australian of Chinese descent in World War I. He was born in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, in 1884 to Lee Wah Shang, a cabinet-maker, and Jane nee Noon of Gayndah, the eldest of 13 children. His unit was in action at the Messines Ridge and he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery. Just over a year later Shang, now serving in the 45th Battalion, was awarded both a Bar to his DCM (in effect earning the same medal twice) and the Military Medal for his actions at Dernancourt on the Somme. His brother Sidney also served.

Billy Sing (5794) DCM, Mention in Despatches, Belgian Croix de Guerre

Featured in John Hamilton’s recent book Gallipoli Sniper (Pan Macmillan, 2008), Trooper Billy Sing of the 5th Light Horse was born in Clermont, Queensland. He had worked in the bush as a stockman and was both a skilled horseman and a crack shot. In May 1915 his unit embarked for Gallipoli where he started to earn a reputation as a sniper. In December 1915 the Army Corps Commander published a paragraph in Army Orders congratulating Billy on ‘performing his duty at a sniper post’ and ‘accounting for 201 casualties to the enemy’. This was followed by the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Later, in France he was wounded twice (once at Polygon Wood) and was Mentioned in Dispatches for gallantry and awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre.

Sergeant Leslie Kew-Ming (657) MM

Leslie Kew-Ming was born in St Arnaud, Victoria. He served with 23 Battalion in Belgium, was wounded in action and awarded the Military Medal.

Corporal William Loo Long (3364) MM and Bar

William Loo Long was born in Marsden, NSW. He served with 45 Battalion where he earned his first Military Medal in April 1918 at Dernacourt in France. Later, during operations East of Hamel, he earned a Bar to his MM (in effect a second MM). His brother George Thomas Loo Long also served.

The Sam family

Five of the seven sons in the Sam family from West Wyalong served in the AIF. Four of the brothers were Sergeant George Flood Sam (2671) MM, Henry Herbert (676), James Francis (1431) and Norman (1430). The fifth brother appears not to have enlisted under the name ‘Sam’ (or any variation of that), and his service record hasn’t been located.

The Lepp family

James Lepp and George Lepp of Ballarat each had 3 sons – each family had one son killed in action; the others returned safely, one with a Military Medal. They were Albert Edward (4539) KIA, Arthur Norman (1938), Clarence Rupert (2199) MM, James Edwin (2198), Reginald Charles (4540) and Victor Stanley (1576) KIA.

The Langtipp family

All four brothers in the Langtipp family of Port Albert joined the 4th Regimentt Light Horse – each returned safely to Australia, one with a Distinguished Conduct Medal. They were Bertie Allan (2346), Ernest Walter (2345), Henry (2347) and Leslie Oliver (2348) DCM.

I am sure there are many other Chinese Australians who enlisted in the 1st AIF under assumed or Anglicised names. If anyone who reads this has such an ancestor or knows of someone who has, I would be delighted to research them at no cost and provide them with the results. Please help!

Alastair Kennedy
Centre for Immigration and Multicultural Studies
Australian National University
Canberra ACT 0200
Email: alastair.kennedy@anu.edu.au

A note on World War I service records

Service dossiers for men and women who served in the 1st AIF are held by the National Archives of Australia in Canberra. Most of the files have been digitised and are available to view online. The Archives’ website has general information about the service records and how to access them. You can do a search by name using NameSearch.

A new website from the National Archives, called Mapping our Anzacs, provides a different way of accessing the records. With Mapping our Anzacs you can browse maps to see where World War I servicemen and women were born and enlisted. You can also post comments or photographs about individual service people, or create a tribute about people that are important to you. The links above to Alastair’s Chinese Australian servicemen go to their details in Mapping our Anzacs.

Here are some other sites that might be helpful in finding out about World War I service men and women:

For more on Chinese Australians in the defence forces, see Morah Loh and Judith Winternitz, Dinki-di: The Contributions of Chinese Immigrants and Australians of Chinese Descent to Australia’s Defence Forces and War Efforts, 1899–1988 (Australian Government Publishing Service, 1988).