Family history charts and worksheets can help you plan and organise your research process, and record and visualise the information you uncover about your ancestors. They can be used instead of, or alongside, genealogy software or websites to document your research. Charts and worksheets are particularly useful to use as a ‘working copy’, where you add information as you go along.
I developed the charts and worksheets below to use in my family history teaching. You can download them in both Word or PDF format. They are provided with a CC BY-NC 4.0 licence, so you can share and adapt them as you like.
To record information about your ancestors
Ancestor chart – for recording your direct ancestors
In 1968 and 1969, Maisie Fook from Sydney had three ‘reader’s stories’ published in Australia’s best-read women’s magazine, the Australian Women’s Weekly. The first of these told the story of her recent adoption of two Korean orphans, the second recounted the story of her obstetrician brother Ted’s rise from ‘grocer boy to star doctor’, while the third was a reflection on what it was like to be ‘a Chinese, born and living in White Australia’.
Maisie Fook was born in Tenterfield in northern New South Wales in 1924, the ninth of eleven children of Cecilia (Cissie) Wong See and Harry Gee Hon. As she noted in her story, Maisie had an ‘Australian’ childhood, growing up in a country town where there were no other Chinese children. ‘At school I lived Australian, spoke Australian, thought Australian, and after the initial contact was accepted as Australian by Australians,’ she wrote.
But life at home was different. Her Cantonese father, ‘a proud Chinese’, had migrated to New South Wales as a young man, ‘determined to improve his lot and that of his impoverished relatives’. Her mother, Cissie, born in Sydney in 1887, was the daughter of Cantonese migrants, Ah Sam (mother) and Wong See (father), and had married Harry Gee Hon in Shekki in 1905. Maisie recalled that as a child at home in Tenterfield her family enjoyed Chinese food eaten with chopsticks, her parents ‘spoke Chinese frequently to each other’, and her father instilled in her ‘his idea of the superiority of the Chinese race’.
Although Maisie’s story was framed as an exploration of her identity as Chinese and Australian, a third element – her Christian faith – was also central to the story. Maisie told of her involvement with a Chinese church, where the congregation was mainly ‘Chinese Chinese (born in China)’, and of the communication difficulties she had. ‘I could understand neither their Chinese nor their Chinese-accented English. They could understand my English, but my attempts at Chinese were hilarious.’
By contrast, she told of spending time with a group of ‘Christian Australians’, women she had never met before but in whose company she ‘felt suddenly “at home”‘. It was through such a lens of language and religion that Maisie also mentioned her mother and maternal grandmother, writing:
Eighty years ago my mother was born in Sydney. Her mother was so Chinese and so heathen that she conducted a joss house. My mother speaks Chinese and English fluently, and has a remarkable understanding of heathenism, but she has been a Christian for 50 years.
As mother to a young and growing family in rural Glen Innes, Cecilia Gee Hon had become interested in the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church through the kindness and friendship of an Adventist neighbour. By the time the family moved to Tenterfield in the early 1920s, Cecilia was a baptised member of the church.
In time, her husband, Harry, and her nine surviving children also became Adventists, and from the late 1930s they closed the family store, Sun Sun & Co., on the usually busy trading day of Saturday to observe the Adventist Sabbath.
Maisie continued her mother’s Christian outreach through her work with the Chinese Adventist Church in Strathfield in Sydney, where she and husband Denis Fook were foundation members, and through the charity Asian Aid, which she founded in the early 1960s. One of Maisie’s outreach activities at the Chinese Church was its weekly ‘Creative Activities’, held on Tuesday morning – my mother taught crochet there for many, many years and I can still taste the vegetarian fried wontons Mum would bring home with her!
In her Women’s Weekly story Maisie Fook concluded that ‘Surely, I am Chinese, but, just as surely, I am also Australian’.
In the lives of Maisie, her mother, Cecilia Gee Hon, and her grandmother, Ah Sam, we see three generations whose lives characterise the history of Chinese Australian women over the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
From the mid-1800s, Cantonese women like Ah Sam travelled out from the Pearl River Delta counties in Guangdong through Hong Kong to Australia, usually following paths forged by fathers or husbands. Some of these women, and those born overseas like Cecilia Gee Hon and her daughters, also returned to Hong Kong, Shanghai and the Cantonese home villages. Other women were mobile beyond Australia and China, taking part in the multi-sited networks and circulations of Cantonese across and around the Pacific and of British subjects around the Empire.
For more of their stories, see Kate Bagnall and Julia Martínez (eds), Locating Chinese Women: Historical Mobility between China and Australia, Hong Kong University Press, 2021, https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv1wd02mp.
John Y. Chan, Amazing Stories From My Two Worlds, Palmer Higgs Pty Ltd, 2011 [preview available in Google Books].
While visiting Canberra in January 2021, I looked (again) at a collection of Tasmanian naturalization certificates held in the National Archives of Australia in series A804. Here’s one of the stories found in these records – which I tweeted at the time but have reproduced here for posterity.
Let’s have a look at one of the Tasmanian naturalization certificates from NAA: A804 to see what we can find out. This one caught my eye because it was witnessed by Andrew Inglis-Clark, and it has no annotations related to travel (NAA: A804, 706).
The certificate was issued to Ah One, a gardener from Hobart, on 21 September 1897. He was 38 years old, a native of Canton in the Empire of China, and had lived in Tasmania for seven years. He had applied for naturalization on 17 September 1897.
On the back of the certificate we can see that Ah One swore the required oath on 24 September 1897, before a Commissioner of the Supreme Court of Tasmania, and this was ‘enrolled and recorded’ the same day by the Supreme Court Registrar (No. 706, Bk 5, page 247).
The memorial gives more information about Ah One: he was born at Canton on 1 February 1859; he arrived at Hobart on the Southern Cross in 1890; he could sign his name in English; and his application was endorsed by JG Davies, JP and Mayor of Hobart.
The accompanying correspondence shows that Ah One was one of nine Hobart gardeners who applied for naturalization at the same time through Tinning & Propsting Solicitors, all endorsed by the Mayor of Hobart.
The nine gardeners were: Ah Doo, Ah Look, Ah Now, Ah One, Ah Koon, Hie Mane, Kie Sung, Sing Gin, and Sing None.
The approval process took four days and issuing their naturalization certificates cost the applicants 2s 6d each.
On the back of Ah One’s naturalization certificate in NAA: A804 is the annotation ‘No. 706, Bk 5, page 247’ – which refers to Tasmanian Supreme Court series SC415, which contains copies of denization and naturalization certificates. A copy of Ah One’s certificate is found on pp. 247–8 of Book 5 (SC415/1/5, https://stors.tas.gov.au/SC415-1-5-P247).
Under s 7 of the Aliens Act 1861 (Tas), a copy of each naturalization certificate had to ‘be enrolled for safe custody as of record in the Supreme Court’.
Almost 600 Chinese people were naturalised in Tasmania up to December 1903. Tasmania stopped naturalizing Chinese people after the new Commonwealth Naturalization Act 1903 came into force from 1 January 1904. By contrast, New South Wales and Victoria stopped naturalizing Chinese in the mid-1880s.
Coohey Fue (c. 1875–1920) worked as a market gardener in Devonport in northern Tasmania. He died by suicide on 10 April 1920 (Advocate, 12 April, p. 2; Tasmanian Archives SC195/1/86 Inquest 14257) and was buried by his compatriots in the Latrobe General Cemetery on 12 April (Advocate, 12 April 1920, p. 2; 13 April 1920, p. 2). Coohey Fue was said to have a wife and three or four children in China at the time of his death.
Coohey Fue’s life and passing are connected to two white marble monuments in the Latrobe General Cemetery – but as these memorials only have inscriptions in Chinese there is nothing obviously linking them to ‘Coohey Fue’.
The two monuments appear to have been made from the same materials at the same time, although one is in somewhat poorer condition than the other. The text on them differs only in the deceased’s name, and I believe they were both erected following the death of the man known in English as Coohey Fue.
Searching the Chinese-language newspapers in Trove brings up a few articles that mention the names given on the monuments:
林舉富 (Lam Kui Fu): ‘美利濱中華公會捐賑廣東水災彙録’, Tung Wah Times, 21 August 1915, p. 8, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226737771 [list of Melbourne donors to Guangdong flood relief; includes 林舉富 and another man who is presumably a brother/cousin 林舉羨]
The text on the monuments includes a number of Chinese cultural terms that are difficult to translate directly into English, including: 公 (Cantonese: gūng, honorific, for a male person), 府君 (Cantonese: fú gwān, honorific, for a person who has died), 庚申 (Cantonese: gāng sān, one of the 60-year cycle/stem-branch cycle).
TAMIOT (the Tombstone and Memorial Inscriptions of Tasmania database) provides the following details about the monuments:
LAM Kui Cheung. Native of: Guangdong Taishun Chung Fa Tsui Village. Monument erected in 1920 – LATROBE CEMETERY, GENERAL SECTION – LATROBE – DEVONPORT – LT04/0865
LAM Kui Fu. Native of: Guangdong Taishun Chung Fa Tsui Village. Monument erected in 1920 – LATROBE CEMETERY, GENERAL SECTION – LATROBE – DEVONPORT – LT04/0866
LAM Kui Cheung 林舉章
This headstone is in memory of Kui Cheung Lam, of Chung Fa Tsui, Toishan, Kwangtung.
Erected on a lucky day and a lucky month, 1920, Gang San Year, during the era of the Republic of China.
LAM Kui Fu 林舉富
This headstone is in memory of Kui Fu Lam, of Chung Fa Tsui, Toishan, Kwangtung.
Erected on a lucky day and a lucky month, 1920, Gang San Year, during the era of the Republic of China.
Coohey Fue’s ancestral village
Coohey Fue’s family name was Lam (林) and he came from Chung Fa Tsui, a Lam village in Toishan, Kwangtung, China. Chung Fa Tsui (or Songhuaju in Mandarin) is about 25 kilometres south-west of the county capital of Taicheng 台城 and about the same distance to the north-west of the coastal town of Guanghai 廣海.
廣東省 / Kwangtung / Guangdong (province)
台山縣 / Toishan / Taishan (county)
新安鄉 / Sun On / Xin’an (village)
松花咀村 / Chung Fa Tsui / Songhuaju (hamlet)
I would like to thank Lyn Phillips, and Kelli Schultz, who alerted me to these two Chinese monuments in the Latrobe General Cemetery. Kelli pointed me to a query from Lyn about the memorials that Lyn posted on the ‘Tasmanians Finding their Past – Genealogy Group’ on Facebook on 21 October 2022. I used Lyn’s photographs to transcribe and translate the text; my thanks to Mei-fen Kuo (Macquarie University) and my UTAS colleague Lucy Li (and her father) for their assistance in teasing out the nuances of the text’s meaning. I’d also like to acknowledge that the information above from TAMIOT was posted by Suzanne Griffin in response to Lyn’s post to the Tasmanians Finding their Past Facebook group. In October 2022 I did some initial digging in Trove and the Tasmanian Names Index to identify who Lam Kui Cheung / Lam Kui Fu might be, and I was able to stop off in Latrobe just before Christmas to photograph the headstones for myself.
Earlier this year I was commissioned by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) to compile a bibliography on Tasmania’s Chinese history and heritage.
The bibliography is intended as a tool to help with the study of Tasmania’s Chinese communities across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It documents existing research relating to Chinese people in Tasmania, focusing on history, heritage and community, and provides a survey of publications and other research outputs.
The bibliography was funded as part of TMAG’s Contemporary Migrant Experiences project, with funding from the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations.
On Sunday, 5 June 2022, Kirstie Ross and Grace Williams from TMAG and I presented copies of the bibliography to the Chinese Community Association of Tasmania Inc 澳洲塔省華人聯誼會 at their monthly meeting in Hobart.
The bibliography will be made available in Libraries Tasmania and the National Library through the National edeposit service. I have also made a copy available online in Zenodo.
The compilation of the bibliography marks the beginning of my work on Chinese Tasmanian history and heritage, which I will be pursuing further through the new Everyday Heritage project. Everyday Heritage is an Australian Research Council Linkage project and is a collaboration between researchers at the University of Canberra (Tracy Ireland and Tim Sherratt), University of Western Australia (Jane Lydon), University of Tasmania (me) and GML Heritage in Sydney.
Note: Terms used in the following population tables reflect the original historical sources and are considered offensive today.
Chinese population of Tasmania, 1881–1947
Source: Compiled from the Official Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, No. 18, 1925, Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, Melbourne, 1925, p. 955; Census of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1933 and 1947.
Sophie Couchman and I will be speaking as part of the Cangdong Cultural Heritage Month Academic Lecture Series on 23 January 2022. The theme of the workshop is ‘Heritage Conservation and Roots Searching in Home Villages of Overseas Chinese’.
Sophie and I will be in conversation with Canadian historian Henry Yu about our Chinese Australian Hometown Heritage Tour and its social impacts.
Also speaking on Sunday are Selia Tan Jinhua from Wuyi University, and Henry Yu and Denise Fong from the University of British Columbia.
The workshop runs for two days – details of the Sunday sessions are below and full details including the Monday program are available in the workshop schedule (pdf, 253kb).
I will be speaking (via Zoom) to the Chinese Australian Historical Society on 24 July 2021 about ‘Writing women into Chinese Australian history’, drawing on my new edited collection, Locating Chinese Women: Historical Mobility between China and Australia, co-edited with Julia Martínez.
Date: Saturday, 24 July 2021 Time: 2.30pm to 4.00pm Venue: Via Zoom (link will be provided by email after you RSVP) RSVP: email@example.com, 0417 655 233
Women have been largely invisible in the broad sweep of Chinese Australian history. From the earliest days of Chinese migration to Australia, it was predominantly men and boys who came south to the colonies as labourers, miners and merchants. By the turn of the twentieth century, there were still fewer than 500 migrant Chinese women in Australia among a population of nearly 30,000 Chinese men. These small numbers have made it easy for historians to overlook the presence of Chinese women and girls in Australia and this, combined with the challenges of locating sources that document women’s lives, has contributed to an apparently legitimised acceptance of male-centred history. In this talk I challenge the framing of Chinese Australian history as a history of men and consider how tracing the lives of Chinese women in Australia disrupts accepted narratives of Chinese migration and settlement. These themes are the focus of my new book, Locating Chinese Women: Historical Mobility between China and Australia, co-edited with Julia Martínez.
Kate Bagnall is Senior Lecturer in Humanities and coordinator of the Family History program at the University of Tasmania. She has a background in public history and archives, completing her PhD in History at the University of Sydney while working at the National Archives of Australia in Canberra. Kate is best known for her work in Chinese Australian history, particularly the history of women, children and families in Australia’s early Chinese communities. Before joining the University of Tasmania in 2019, Kate was an ARC DECRA Research Fellow at the University of Wollongong.
In letters that Charlie Allen wrote to his mother from China in 1911, he mentioned his ‘uncle’s wife’, who was, like him, trying to get home to Australia. Charlie had gone to live in Chuk Sau Yuen 竹秀園 near Shekki 石岐 in Heungshan 香山 in mid-1909, at the age of twelve, leaving behind his mother and siblings in Sydney. His father, Charley Gum, had taken him to China but had then returned to work in Sydney. His parents were no longer together and Charlie’s mum, Frances Allen, had not wanted her son to go to China.
I’ve written elsewhere about Charlie, his mum and the letters he wrote to her from China. They are a poignant account of Charlie’s loneliness and homesickness – he was a boy far from home and family, living in an unfamiliar place and learning a new language, with no easy way to leave. One hopeful thread in two of the letters, written in 1911, was the thought of returning to Sydney with his ‘uncles’ wife’ and her children.
He wrote about this idea in a letter dated 11 April 1911:
My uncle’s wife got a letter to-day from her sister say that if she wanted money to write & ask for it so she is going to send for 40 pound & she is going to pay my fare to sydney, & when we get to sydney she wants you to pay her back, & wants to know do you like this or not. so write back & tell me so I am now writing to custom house & sending photo & asking him for my paper to go back.
In a subsequent letter, written when Charlie had been in Chuk Sau Yuen for nearly two years (so perhaps around June 1911), he wrote:
My uncles’ wife said that she will pay my fare back to Sydney when I get there for you to give back my fare to her, or send Sam for me, & she told me to ask you would you like it or not you can please your self, mother I am very unhappy here.
And later in the same letter:
My uncle is going back to Sydney soon & as soon as he goes his wife is going to sneak away, she has 4 children & she would have a lot of trouble with them so I ask her to pay my fare back to & I would help her with her children & luggage & when we get back for you to pay her back my fare so I am writing this letter to ask you weather you like it or not, when she gets there she will stay at your place until she writs to her parents saying that she is home & tell them what to do.
I have long wondered who Charlie’s ‘uncle’s wife’ and her four children were, but without a name I thought it unlikely that I’d ever be able to establish their identity.
I’ve tried to solve a similar mystery in the case of another Sydney boy in China, Richard Lee, who, in newspaper reports, gave the name of a white Australian woman (‘Mrs Gee Chong’) that he knew and spent time with while living in his father’s village in Heungshan (the village was ‘Chuk-to-in’, which may or may not be the same village Charlie Allen lived in – another long-term, as-yet-unsolved puzzle!). In Richard Lee’s case, despite some substantial digging, I haven’t been able to identify who ‘Mrs Gee Chong’ was, even with a name, and so with Charlie’s ‘uncle’s wife’ I had given up any hope of identifying her.
A serendipitous breakthrough!
Recently, though, I’ve had a serendipitous breakthrough. Tim has been doing some updates to our Real Face of White Australia project, re-harvesting and processing the portrait photographs from NAA: ST84/1. As he does so, we’ve been looking through the images to see if we can spot any ‘new’ women and children – and one of those Tim spotted was this little poppet in her distinctive frilly bonnet:
The certificate to which the photographs are attached – a 1909 CEDT for Charlie Yin – reveals that she is Alice Yin, aged one year and six months, and that she was leaving Sydney with her father and siblings. Her elder brother, Norman (aged three years and four months), and sister, Alma (aged 5 years and four months), were issued with their own CEDTs. Norman and Alma were both recorded as being ‘half-caste Chinese’ born in Mungindi, New South Wales. The family left Sydney on the Empire in October 1909; Charlie Yin returned to Sydney on the Empire on 16 August 1911 while the children returned three years later, on 30 October 1914 on the Eastern.
Further investigation revealed that a ‘C’ file in series SP42/1 still exists for the family, and it was here that I struck gold.
The file revealed that Alma, Norman and Alice Yin were the children of Charlie and Annie Yin, and had been born at Bumbalar, Mungindi in 1904, 1906 and 1908. Their father Charlie, a gardener, was from Canton while their mother, Annie (née Campbell), was also born at Mungindi. Charlie and Annie had married at Bumbalar on 16 July 1903, when Annie was aged 18 and Charlie was 29.
Charlie had applied for CEDTS for himself and for the children to travel to China in 1909, and as noted, he had returned to Australia in 1911. In 1912, he wrote to the Collector of Customs, through Wing On & Co., requesting an extension of the children’s CEDTs ‘as they have not yet completed their schooling’. Charlie was then living at Eastern Road, Turramurra in Sydney. The extension was granted, providing the fee of £1 each was paid. Charlie then applied for another CEDT for himself in February 1914, and he departed Sydney for Hong Kong on the Taiyuan on 20 March 1914.
The next document in the file is a two-page letter addressed to the ‘Commissioner of Customs, Sydney’ from the Archdeacon of Hong Kong, dated 8 October 1914, requesting attention to the case of Mrs Yin née Campbell. The letter stated that after travelling together to China:
her husband himself returned to Sydney leaving his wife and family in the Heung Shan district, about one day’s journey from Hongkong. Subsequently he came back to China and died on June 2nd last. … Another son, Hubert (Huey) was born on 11th June 1911.
She holds no papers for this child of three years but as it is impossible for her as an Australian woman to live in China now that her husband is dead without suffering untold hardships, she is most anxious to return to her own people at Moree.
… this woman has been most harshly dealt with since her husband’s death as is unfortunately too often the custom in such cases. By careful manoeuvring she has managed to escape from her husband’s village with the children, and to return there would be fatal.
(On the experiences of Australian wives of Chinese in China, see my ‘Crossing oceans and cultures’ chapter in Australia’s Asia – details in References below.)
When the family arrived back in Sydney at the end of October 1914, Annie Yin and her three Australian-born children were allowed to land without question. Little Huey’s case, however, was referred to the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs for decision, as he was born in China; ten days later, permission was granted for him to remain in the Commonwealth.
Do the facts match?
Alice Yin née Campbell had travelled with her three children and husband to her husband’s village in Heungshan in 1909 and gave birth to a fourth child there in June 1911, after which time her husband returned to Australia (in August that year). Charlie Allen wrote, in around June 1911, that his ‘uncle’s wife’ was keen to return to Australia with her four children and that her husband was soon to return to Australia. So, they were in China at the same time, there were the right number of children, but were they in the same village?
Charlie Allen’s father, Charley Gum was a Gock / Kwok / Goq 郭 from Chuk Sau Yuen, and it was here that Charlie spent his time in China. On Alice Yin’s 1908 birth certificate, her father’s name was given as Charlie Gock Yin, and he corresponded with the Collector of Customs through Wing On & Co., which was run by members of the Gock family. Some poking about in Ancestry.com revealed a family tree (never the best source, but still!) that named Charlie as ‘Charlie Kwok Yin’ and listed his birthplace as ‘Jook So Yuen’.
Based on that, it seems very likely to me that both men, Charley Gum and Charlie Yin, were Gocks from Chuk Sau Yuen, and that it was here they took their children in 1909. And therefore that Annie Yin and Alma, Norman, Alice and Herbert were Charlie Allen’s ‘uncle’s wife’ and four children!
NAA: ST84/1, 1909/33/51-60 , Edward OYoung, Kee Sum, Mar Chin, Ah Mee, Charlie Yet, Charlie Yin, Norman Yin, Alma Yin and Marm Fong [Certificate Exempting from Dictation Test – includes left hand impression and photographs] [box 31], 1909
NAA: SP42/1, C1914/6345 , Children of Charlie Yin [includes photographs of Charlie Yin and birth certificates of Norman Yin, Alma Yin and Alice Yin; Customs Sydney restricted migration file], 1909–1914