Swings and roundabouts and SP11/6

This past Friday I escaped work and a very chilly Canberra to head north to do some research in the Sydney office of the National Archives. I had some particular things I hoped to discover from particular files, but I also decided to order up some records from series I hadn’t looked at before – or so I thought. Fossicking in one box, however, I found photocopy markers with my own name on them, so I guess I had seen them before, how long ago I’m not quite sure! For the most part I actually met with disappointment in the things I had set out to uncover from my visit, as files about Thomas Allen and Sing War were not about my Thomas Allen and my Sing War. Alas. But I had some nice unexpected discoveries, which are really the happiest kind.

Series SP11/6 is described in RecordSearch as being certificates of exemption from the dictation test, which indeed it mostly is. It contains material like what’s in SP115/1 – folders of documents of Chinese and other non-whites entering Australia, with each folder relating to a particular voyage. They date from 1926, 1927, 1928, one from 1912 and some from the mid-1940s. There are lots of CEDTs, with the occasional birth certitificate and passport thrown in for good measure.

I found a couple of new Anglo-Chinese families to add to my collection. There were documents (in Box 1) about Mrs TH Lee, nee Violette Dickson, and her two sons Tom Sam Lee and Thomas Henry Lee who were repatriated from China to Australia by the Commonwealth government in 1927. There was a passport for Tom Sam Lee and ’emergency certificates’ for Violette and Thomas Henry, which were issued by the British Consul-General in Canton. Here’s a photo.

In Box 5, I came across an Australian passport for Henry Lee Young, who was born in Ballarat in 1862. A very early Anglo-Chinese baby!

The final thing that got me all excited was a book of the first certificates of domicile issued in New South Wales, dating from February to September 1902. It is in SP11/6, Box 3. ST84/1 has later certificates of domicile, but the ones found in SP11/6 are the very earliest! The certificates have photos and some of the men have beautiful plaits coiled up around their heads. Others show signs of just beginning to grow their hair long, no doubt in preparation for the trip home. I was pleased to find a photo of a friend of mine from other files in the archives, George Quin Sing. There are photos of all the Quin Sing family members who travelled in 1902: Mr Quin Sing, Mrs Quin Sing (who is delightfully Chinese in her dress, jewellery and hair-do), their son George and two daughters Eliza and Lizzie (who are delightfully done up in Australian fashions of the day). Here’s the book and Mr Quin Sing’s certificate.

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