Hi, I’m Kate Bagnall.

I’m a historian based in Hobart, Australia.

I’ve been interested in Australia’s historical connections to China since I first lived in Guangdong in the late 1990s – when, by coincidence, I found myself living in the overseas Chinese homelands of the Pearl River Delta.

My historical research focuses on:

  • legal and administrative histories of migration and citizenship, including the White Australia Policy
  • women, children and families in the early Chinese communities in Australia and New Zealand
  • Chinese heritage in Australia and New Zealand

My doctoral research was the first major historical study of intimate relationships between Chinese men and white Australian women, while other of my work focuses on transnational Chinese Australian family and community histories.

I am also interested in using digital technologies to uncover and understand the historical connections between China and Australia, particularly in tracing networks of clan and kinship over time and place.

I have a PhD in Australian history from the University of Sydney, and I was an ARC DECRA Fellow in the School of Humanities & Social Inquiry at the University of Wollongong from 2016 to 2019.

Between 2017 and 2019 I ran the Chinese Australian Hometown Heritage Tour with Dr Sophie Couchman.

Currently I am a Senior Lecturer in Humanities at the University of Tasmania and coordinator of the Family History program, including the Diploma of Family History

Portrait photograph of Kate Bagnall

Curriculum vitae

You can download a copy of my full CV (PDF, 234KB). 


Kate Bagnall is a social historian whose research focuses on the intersections of migration, family and the law in the British settler colonial world. She is best known as a scholar of Chinese Australasian history, specialising in histories of women, children and families, and the history of the White Australia Policy and colonial anti-Chinese laws and policies. 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 has published widely in her field, including her ground-breaking edited collection, Locating Chinese Women: Historical Mobility between China and Australia (HKU Press, 2021), co-edited with Julia Martínez. Before joining the University of Tasmania (UTAS) in 2019, Kate was an ARC DECRA Research Fellow at the University of Wollongong. She is currently Senior Lecturer in Humanities at UTAS and coordinator of the Family History program.


  1. David Wilson says:

    I am working on my wife’s ancestry. Her grandfather was CHIN KING ( 陳京) who married an English girl called Kate Maria Louisa DUFFIELD. We have possible record of his arrival in 1854 or 55, but we have no record of his wife’s, we are aware that her name could be assumed We can trace some of their movements around the Victorian goldfields through Newspapers, rate records, BDM’s and other records. They eventually settled at Deep Lead near Stawell. Ah King as he was known may have established a business in a Chinese camp at Bendigo. One of their daughters ELIZABETH married another Chinese man named WONG LING at Moliagul Victoria. They had eleven children, one daughter ETHEL ROSE LING married WILLIAM GUBBY, my wife, EVA is their only child.
    THOMAS WONG LING was naturalised early in the 20th century. The family ran a market garden and orchard supplying miners and community with produce and milk. Thomas was a carpenter making pick handles distributing these throughout the goldfields

  2. Helen Douglas says:

    Hi Kate
    Wondering if you can help me. I am researching my grandmother. Alma Marie Clarkson. She married Thomas Whitton in 1916. She was very secretive about her life (died 1985). But her marriage certificate states he mother was Maud Moran. In 1907 she was placed in Parramatta Industrial School as she was deemed a “neglected child” her mother dead and her father in jail. This was decided by the Emmaville court. The document also states she was living with her step father George Lee a Chinaman. My grandmother was very Asian in appearance and my DNA states I have 23% Chinese. We suspect George may have been her father. Can you help me at all. The events all took place in Emmaville so I l presume that is where they resided. One of ;my uncles said that growing up near Dubbo my grandmother was visited once every couple of years by a Chinese hawker. So the case get more mysterious.
    Cheers Helen Douglas

  3. Helen Douglas says:

    Hello Kate

    Just starting to do my family history. My grandmother was Alma Marie Clarkson. Born 1892. Her mother was Maude Moran. Joseph Clarkson was sentenced to Grafton goal in 1906 for sodomy at Barraba . Alma was removed by Emmaville court to Parramatta Girls Home in 1906. The court recorts show she was living with George Lee (Chinaman) who identified as her stepfather. Her mother had died. My grandmother had a very Chinese appearance and a recent DNA test which I undertook indicated that I have 24 percent Chinese. Apparently my grandmother was very fond of this gentleman > Do you have any information.
    Thank you
    Helen Douglas

  4. Pamela See says:

    Dear Kate

    I am a doctoral candidate from Griffith University. I am researching some personal histories of Chinese people living in Queensland. I came across an account of a proprietor who applied a number of times for his wife to be able to come to Australia with him. I thought that I hard read this account on your website however I cannot find it anymore. Are you familiar with this story at all?

    Hoping for your feedback.


    • Kate Bagnall says:

      Hi Pamela. There are quite a few cases where Chinese men applied unsuccessfully to bring wives and children out to Australia in the early decades of the 20th century. I have done research on the Poon Gooey case (1911–13) and more generally on the entry of Chinese wives in the period from 1902–1920. I haven’t yet published this research but hope to soon. If you’d like to send me an email, please feel free: kate.bagnall@gmail.com.

  5. Kellie Broes says:

    Hi Kate

    I’m trying to research William Henry Ah Lyee who married Florence Jane Wrathall in Linton. He arrived at South Australia and walked to Bendigo as many did. I would be really greatful for any information you may have. Also I do have a marriage certificate that has his Chinese name on it would you know how I could get it translated?

    Thank you.

    • Kate Bagnall says:

      Hi Kellie. I haven’t done any research on William Ah Lyee and Florence Wrathall, so can’t help with any further information there. If you’d like to send me an email with the marriage certificate I can see if I can make sense of it for you, or find someone who can. My email is: kate.bagnall@gmail.com. Kate

    • anne says:

      Hello Kelli’
      The correct translation of Ah Lyee is “Yu Li”. He is also my GG Grandfather. His 13 year old daughter Alice married Samuel George Jackson. Their first child Lilly was my grandmother.
      Hope this is of some help to you
      All the best

      • Louise Mcvicar says:

        Hi Anne. Please feel free to email me at the email address provided above. I’d love to talk more about this ancestor.

  6. Anneleise Dolohin says:

    Hi Kate. I’m doing some family history on my family. William Ah Sing 1811 came to Freemantle, Middle Swan in WA. And married a native lady 1841. Any information you may have would be exciting. Kind regards, Anneleise Dolphin

    • Roni Forrest says:

      Hello My name is Roni Forrest and I have researched our family history descended from William Ah Sing and the Noongar Whadjuk woman in Middle swan. If you would like to make contact pleas email me wildfire1@live.com.au

    • Simone Bennett says:

      I would like information on this too please. William Ah Sing was my 3rd Great Grandfather Kind regards S Bennett

  7. Karen Eaton says:

    Hi Kate,
    My Great Grandmother Julia Low (You) was born in 1884 at the Chinese Camp in Emmaville, NSW. Her father James Low (You) was 44 years (?born 1856 Yong Skan or Yong Shan China) and he married a Margaret Reichardt or Reickert in 1876. This is all I know. Do you have any recommendations of where to search to find more information of James Low You (migration records, birth certificates) and about the Chinese Camp at Emmaville? Thanks so much, Karen

    • Kate Bagnall says:

      Hi Karen. You’re probably beyond this now in your research, but have a look at my Top 3 for Chinese Australian family history research: http://chineseaustralia.org/top-3/. In particular, have a play in Trove – you never know what you might find, particularly if you read general articles about Emmaville in the time your ancestors lived there (search for ‘Emmaville Chinese’ and see what comes up!). Kate

  8. Ebony Wee Hee says:

    Dear Kate

    I’m reaserching my family. My granfather is Ronny Wee Hee and my great great granfather is Percy Wee Hee. If you could help me, thank you.

    Regards Ebony Wee Hee

  9. Marie Borchert says:

    Hi Kate

    I’ve hit a brick wall regarding my husband’s grandfather listed as John Edward Lee born in 1905 in Emmaville, NSW, on his marriage certificate. He listed his parents as Tom Lee and Elen (with one ‘l’) Townson which sound like adopted names. As Emmaville had a lot of Chinese residing there at this time, I suspect his parents were Chinese.

    John Lee’s wife died in childbirth and the baby was fostered out, so information about him after that is non-existent. There is no record of his birth that I can find.

    Any tips?


  10. F Nicholson says:

    Hi Kate, My descendent William Flood Sam married a Jane White and I have been told Jane was the grand daughter of convicts Margery (aka Mary/Margaret) Campbell and William Happs (aka Apps). William Flood and Jane daughter Elizabeth Ann Sam married my great grandfather William Loo Long. My siblings and I knew of the background but could not find out anything until we knew our original surname of Loo Long.
    My question is do you know if Jane Sam was the grand daughter of convicts and are there any books or information that you can recommend I get the further my history knowledge. When I do my family history I want everything to be correct and the only stumbling block is William Flood Sam wife’s pedigree. If you had not done an article on the fighting Sams I would never have found out as much as I have for that I and my 9 siblings are grateful as we are not getting any younger.

  11. S Lee says:

    Hi Kate,
    I believe Charlie Ah Loy is my great great grandfather. I have requested some information from the National Archives to gain more information. My family is very private about our family history so far so I have kept our family tree private on the internet. I was excited to see his name on your website and was keen to find out if it was in fact the same person who is fact my own relative?…

  12. Michael La Burniy says:

    Dear Kate,

    I’m researching my uncle – Albert Lee born 10 SEP 1916 in Shekki, China. He is the son of Ruby and Len Boo Lee and arrived in Australia on 28 May 1933 for the second time.

    He was part owner of the Paradise Café and the Oriental Café. He eventually sold his share of the Paradise and became sole owner of the Oriental.

    I cannot find any more information on him. Does he have a wife? Children? Has he passed away? His death certificate and probate? He just seems to have disappeared along with his father Len Boo Lee.

    Len Boo Lee was born in Emmaville in 1890 and was a herbalist/café owner/opium dealer/tobacco farmer. He lived in Scone, Tingha, Killarney and Brisbane. He was married three times to Lottie Lington, Ruby Fay and Kathleen Ah Loy/Ah Bow. I believe that he died 29 APR 1960 (source Ruby Lee’s naturalisation documents).

    Can you help me find where he died please? His death certificate and probate? Again, he has disappeared. I know that he supposedly applied for a passport in March 1960 to leave the country alone in late April. Ruby states in her naturalisation documents that she is a widow and Len passed way 29 April 1960. Where did he die? How can I find this record?

    Kind regards,
    Mick La Burniy
    Grandson of Len Boo Lee and Kathleen Ah Loy

    • Kate Bagnall says:

      Hi Michael

      Re Len Boo Lee, from what you say I think it very likely that he died in China. If he died in Hong Kong you might be able to apply for a death certificate there. If he died in Guangdong, however, things might be more difficult. He would have been about 70 years old in 1960 and many Cantonese men returned from Australia to China in their old age ‘to die’. If he died in his ancestral village, you’d need to know where that was to be able to check if he was also buried there.

      As for your uncle Albert Lee, I presume you’ve checked all the usual places – BDMs, Trove newspapers, business directories, bankruptcy records, shipping lists, immigration and naturalisation records in NAA, etc?

      Good luck!


      • Michael La Burniy says:

        Hi Kate,
        I have found Len Boo Lee’s death in China now in Hong Kong in 1960. How do I go about finding a will? Regards, Michael

  13. Geoff Scott says:

    Hello Kate
    I have been researching my family history and my great great grandmother was Harriet Glover ( Attwood) and she had 3 sisters married to Chinese men. Trove tells us she was an ‘habitue’ of the Chinese camps! Her husband Samuel Attwood had deserted Harriet before my great grandfather was born and a witness to the birth was a Chinese lady. I was doing a Google search and your site refers to Elizabeth Glover who was one of Harriet’s sisters but I cannot find the reference when I click into your site.
    I was interested to see what information you had about Elizabeth’s husband. As a matter of interest I am a volunteer at the Golden Dragon Museum here in Bendigo! I had volunteered before I found out the interesting facts about Harriet!

  14. Marg Breuer says:

    Hi Kate,
    My husband is Agnes Breuers nephew, we have postcards from Agnes in the 1930’s and photos that we would love to return to her descendents, we also have a spinning wheel from Germany. She asked for it many times but my husbands mother would not give it to her. My husbands father was Heinrich Breuer, (he used Henry as his name) and he was the son of Adolfe Breuer Mulhens and Elizabeth (Bessie) Breuer (her maiden name was Ellis). Please forward our details.

  15. Janene Collins says:

    Hi Kate, I’m guessing that you may have come across this family history book already http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/1488917. It’s about my great great grandparents George Ah Kin and Mary Higgins. I stumbled on your blog because I now live in Braidwood and was looking up the phone no. for Nomchongs electrics shop! Love the serendipity. All the best, Janene Collins.

  16. Sandra Spence says:

    Hi Kate,
    I am exploring the interracial unions between Chinese and Kai Tahu Maori in southern NZ.
    I’m looking for international literature on unions between Chinese and indigenous peoples and wondered if you had studied these in Australia or could point me in the direction of other international studies.
    I am aware of Regina Ganter’s book Mixed Relations and another work titled Lost in the whitewash.
    Thank you, Sandra.

  17. Lisa watson says:

    My great grandfather was called James ah chipp. He married Laura Louisa watson in 1888 in cobar nsw. He goes off the radar after he was at his daughter berthas wedding to Frederick Gilham in 1907. Any idea where to look. We only found out about our Chinese heritage at Christmas and are keen to know more.

        • lisa watson says:

          Sorry, by that comment I meant are you related through Bertha’s side or Jessie’s side? I didn’t think Jessie had any children but I could be wrong.

          • Sue Halcrow says:

            Lisa, I have just been alerted to yr reply. My father was Reginald the second son of Bertha , Laura and James Ah Chip’s daughter.


            • Sue Halcrow says:

              Lisa, we emailed back in time re James Ah Chipp. If this still reaches you would you please email me again? Kind regards. Sue

              • Hi Sue
                We may share some forebears as I can see you’ve emailed Lisa. James Ah Chipp is listed as a person who may be connected to us via DNA in Ancestry; Lisa certainly is.
                We too are searching for info re our great great grandmother Giok Nio Tan who lived in Indonesia 1860s.
                We live in Cairns QLD.
                Please get back to us.
                Sisters Anna & Hellena Hanssen.
                Many thanks

        • Hi Lisa
          We share a bit of Asian DNA as per Ancestry DNA. Probably via James Ah Chip. We too are searching for info re our great great grandmother Giok Nio Tan who lived in Indonesia 1860s.
          We live in Cairns QLD.
          Please get back to us.
          Sisters Anna & Hellena Hanssen (hellenaG@bigpond.net.au) Please put your Ancestry name listing in subject when emailing.
          Many thanks

  18. Angela Tang says:

    Dear Kate,

    I was wondering if you had done any search on Chinese immigrants in Darwin, NT?
    My dad recently passed away and this prompted me to start finding out my ancestral roots. My dad was born in Darwin and so was my grandfather. I have contacted the Darwin Chinese Assoc to see if they have any details of my great-grandfather, have yet to get a response from them.
    My great grandfather’s Chinese name was ??. In Chinese Pinyin its Deng Bing.
    On my grandfather’s death certificate its written as: Tang Bang.
    Occupation: Jeweller
    In my great Uncle’s death certificate, the nam was written as: Tang Ong Peang or Ong Peong.
    A few different phonetically translated versions.
    Could you kindly advise what ways could I find more information as to when he arrived in Darwin & other related materials?
    I would really appreciate your advise to point me into the right direction!

    Thanks very much!


    • Natalie Fong says:

      Hi Angela,

      My name is Natalie Fong and I am researching the early Chinese merchants in the NT as part of a PhD, including my great-grandfather and yours. I could possibly help you find out more about your great-grandfather.

      Please feel free to contact me.


  19. Joanne Tapiolas says:

    Hi Kate

    A few years back you had an article about a Sydney minister who officiated mixed marriages together with details about the church’s name and I think how to access their archives. I think he married people “off the grid” and I wanted to pursue a mixed marriage: Chen Ah Yeen who married Sarah Sheehey 25 August 1866 Sydney according to a birth registration but there is no match for a marriage in NSW Births Deaths and Marriages.

    Any guidance or assistance in pointing me in the right direction is appreciated.

    Joanne Tapiolas

  20. Chrissie Minahan says:

    Hi Kate,

    My late father-in-law James Francis Minahan was also fascinated with Potter v Minahan case because of the similarity of name.

    I would be interested to know more about Winifred’s family background to see if she is a relation.

    Good luck with the book.

    Kind regards


    • Kate says:

      Hi Chrissie,

      Thanks for getting in touch. I think I’ve probably come across and had to disregard records about your later father-in-law in my search for materials about my James Francis Kitchen Minahan. I’ve sent you an email with more information about Winifred Minahan. It’s been tricky to track down her family as they appear using many variations of the family name: Minahan, Minehan, Mineham, Minaham, Monaghan and Monahagn.


  21. prue dawson says:

    Hi Kate,

    I am trying to find out more about my grandmother Alice Mow Fung, Pauline Rule wrote a paper about the 5 sisters. Do you have a contact for her.



  22. Pamela Nicholls says:

    Hello Kate

    For the past decade, I have researching our hitherto unknown family. The most amazing finding was a G+++ grandfather from Amoy, China who was working on the Victorian Goldfields initially in Barkers Creek, and later in Specimen’s Creek.

    We are fortunate to have both his marriage certificates: the first dated 4 January, 1858, Castlemaine to Emily Charlotte Bass in with his beautiful Chinese signature which I am told is HOU Sin, Victorian Marriage Registration #1081. Emily died in 1862.

    The second 13 September, 1862 in Eaglehawk Presbyterian Manse to Margaret Mowbray Black with his Anglicized name James OSEEN.

    Three children were born to the latter marriage: Margaret Mowbray Oseen 1864, Harriet Oseen 1866 & James Oseen 1868-1874.

    HOU Sin aka James Oseen died in 16 November 1868. We have his death certificate.

    We understand his father was Georgy Oseen and his mother Harriet James.

    In 1872 Margaret Mowbray Black Oseen remarried Samuel Crossley in Specimen Hill.

    Harriet Oseen married Thomas Vinton Nicholls, elder son of Thomas Odgers Nicholls and Mary Searle Nicholls.

    Margaret Mowbray married William Edward Holmes. Their daughter Margaret Mowbray Holmes married Frederick Searle Nicholls, youngest son of Thomas Odgers Nicholls & Mary Searle Nicholls, younger brother of Thomas Vincton Nicholls.

    I have looked at Campbells Creek cemetery, with no success.

    Best Wishes
    Pamela Nicholls

  23. Trish JAMIESON says:

    I was very interested to find your site, and learn that you found yourself living in the overseas Chinese homelands of the Pearl River Delta.

    My Great Grandfather, Yett Soo War Way Lee came from this area.

    He was born on the 6th of August 1852. Kiang San Village, Tung Kun County, Guang Dong Province (Jingshan Xiang in Dongguan County, China).

    He migrated to Australia in 1874. I see you have the New Year’s card he wrote.

    Do you know this place? I would love to learn more about my Great Grandfather’s family in China. I have folders of information on his life in Australia, and have been very involved in many projects here in Adelaide.

    Regards TRISH

  24. Diane Jennings says:

    Hello Kate
    For years now I have researched my Family’s heritage in the hope of finding information on my Grandfather’s two brothers and sister. Joseph, William and Caroline Wong). My Great grandfather was Pow Wong a gold miner from Linton Victoria, he married Elizabeth Glover and had four children the youngest, Victor James was my grandfather. My grandfather was raised by his Aunt, another Glover sister (Catherine) who also married a Chinese man (Yean). Both Elizabeth and Pow Wong are buried in the Linton Cemetery.

    I posted an article on the Ballarat Genealogy Society Web site a few years ago and only now recieved an email advising me to contact you.

    I have looked through you web site but was unable to find any information regarding my own family connectoins. I would really appreciate your assistance if you have any information I ask that you please contact me.

    Diane Jennings

  25. Lorraine Purcell says:

    Hi Kate,
    I am currently collecting material about the goldfields of NSW around Hill End & Tambaroora Sofala etc. In our researches we have come across some interesting material relating to the Chinese and have one document in particular which has lots of Chinese names in it written in Chinese script. We also have the Census material from 1891 where the enumerator has anglicized the names as well. As we have no expertise in Chinese are you able to suggest who we may contact to get a translation of the names etc. We are happy for any Chinese Australian Family History group to have access to the material for their own use as well. I can be contacted at heatgg@yahoo.com.au – many thanks.
    Lorraine Converer, Hill End & Tambaroora Gathering Group

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