Author: Kate Bagnall

‘Joss and Chinese festivities’ – Weldborough, Tasmania, 1884

Kung hei fat choi! 恭喜發財! Happy new year!

As we enter the Year of the Dragon in 2024, here’s a look back at how the Chinese community in the tin mining settlement of Thomas’ Plains (also known as Weldborough), Tasmania, celebrated New Year in 1884 – one hundred and forty years ago.

The report by ‘Miner’, published in the Hobart Mercury on 6 February, 1884, includes a mention of the joss house at Weldborough. This temple was only newly opened at the time of writing, and it remained in use until 1934. Today, its contents, and those of five other nineteenth-century joss houses from the north-east of Tasmania, make up the Guan Di Temple (關帝廟) at the Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery in Launceston.


‘On first pitching my tent within the margin of this sunny oasis of the forest, I little thought eight years hence its echoes would be awakened by the discordant jinglings of a Chinese orchestra; but so it is, and the year 1884 of the Christian era, and the ninth year of the reign of Tsai-Tien, Emperor of China, leave an established epoch in the history of Weldborough.

Wooden plaques either side of the entrance to the Guan Di Temple in Launceston, which originally came from the joss house in Weldborough (QVM.1990.H.0193 and 0195; photograph by Kate Bagnall, September 2020)

Like most mining settlements, we, too, have passed through a series of perplexing ups and downs since the year 1875. So great, indeed, are the changes through which we have entered as to make us often somewhat doubtful of our position. Many who came here as the pioneers of our tin mines have retired from the field, some to rest upon their gains, and others, to toil afresh in pastures new; and some, I regret to think, are numbered with the past. What with births, deaths, and marriages, and earthquakes, we are induced to review the principles of cause and effect.

Both morally and physically we indicate a transition : the Celtic and Saxon blendings are fast yielding to the strongly-marked tendencies of the Mongolian. This is seen in all our public and festive gatherings, but strongly so in the large brood of almond-eyed, olive-cheeked urchins attending our day school. If there is any truth in the tenet advanced by many of our philosophers, touching Nature’s fiat on the ‘surviance of the fittest’, John, here, may be said to be in the ascendant, since he has driven the European from the field, and is now master of his position. …

We are now in the midst of the high festivities of their new year. There is one continual round of feasting, music, fireworks, and Joss ceremonials. There must be fully 300 men congregated within the camp, all living in the highest state of enjoyment, for the time being all things seem to be held in common, even the barbarous European is present again and again to partake of their dainties, consisting of pork, fowls, and rice, with oceans of oil and other celestial condiments.

There is one very noticeable feature brought out in John’s feastings, he does not forget his god. The inevitable pig is roasted whole, and borne as an offering to the altar, amid the burning of incense, the clashing of cymbals, prostrations, prayers, incantations, and a crackling blaze of fireworks, after which it is returned to render a more substantial service, as the sacred tit-bits of another feast.

Whatever may appear the architectural frailties of our Chinese dwelling places, which may be said to consist for the most part of palings, poles, and rice-bags, they have spared no expense in embellishing and decorating their Joss House, which may be said to glitter with adornments. The altar-pieces, and symbolical carvings, and gilding, and painting on glass, show much artistic skill and cleverness; but, alas! to what strange purposes employed. …

Yours, etc., MINER
Thomas’ Plains, February 1, 1884.’

So you think your ancestor might come from Shunde?

Over the past few years, I’ve been contacted by a number of family historians who believe that their Chinese ancestor came from Shunde, Guangdong. While this is entirely possible, this post issues a word of warning to those who might be relying on a family tree from Ancestry.com as the source of this information.

The Chinese Exchange (Num Pon Soon Society Building), Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, 1863, State Library of Victoria, http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/74198

The district of Shunde (順德), or Shuntak in Cantonese, is located directly south of the provincial capital of Guangzhou (廣州, Canton, C: Kwangchow) and today is part of the city of Foshan (佛山, C: Fatshan). Together with Nanhai (南海, C: Namhoi) and Panyu (番禺, C: Punyu), Shunde was one of the Three Counties or Sam Yup (三邑, M: Sanyi), from where many early Cantonese emigrants left for destinations in South-East Asia and around the Pacific, including the Australian colonies.

Shunde was known for its silk production and for its wealth, and Sam Yup people were dominant among the merchants of 19th-century overseas Chinese communities. Those of you familiar with Melbourne’s Chinatown might know of the historic Num Pon Soon Society Building in Little Bourke Street – the ‘Soon’ in ‘Num Pon Soon’ refers to the ‘Shun’ (順) in Shunde. The Num Pon Soon Society (南番順公司 or 會館) was the native place association for people from the Sam Yup.

Given the numbers of Sam Yup men in the Australian colonies, we would expect there to be some descendants in Australia today. But here’s where I think some family historians might be coming unstuck re Shunde in their search for their ancestors’ Chinese origins.

We know that many historical records give the place of origin of Chinese immigrants as ‘Canton’ – a somewhat vague term that could mean either the city of Guangzhou or the province of Guangdong (廣東, C: Kwangtung).

However, Ancestry.com.au, in their standardised list of place names, suggests ‘Canton’ as a city that is part of ‘Shunde’, as shown in the image below: ‘Canton, Shunde, Guangdong, China’. This follows a similar hierarchical format as other places, where it lists City, County, State, Country, or suchlike.

This isn’t such an issue when searching for digitised records, but when you create a family tree and enter ‘Canton, China’ as a place (of birth, for example,) Ancestry prompts you to use their standardised place name, as in the image below.

If you choose this standardised version of the place name, and then view the person’s LifeStory, the place is then given as ‘Guangzhou, Guangdong, China’, as in the second image below.

So, through this process, the vague historical place name ‘Canton, China’ (probably meaning the province) becomes translated to the much more precise place names of Guangzhou (city) and Shunde (county). It is then very easy for an unsuspecting family historian to come across this information and assume that these details are correct, and that the person came from Shunde and/or Guangzhou, when they might have actually come from a very different part of the province of Guangdong.

The moral of my story is the usual one – always check the original source of the information! And unless there is concrete evidence to support it (like a headstone with Chinese characters), I would always be a bit suspicious of an Acnestry family tree or recent family history that says a Chinese ancestor was born in Guangzhou or Shunde.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the Cantonese origins of Australia’s early Chinese communities, have a look at my short article ‘Cantonese connections: The origins of Australia’s early Chinese migrants’ (Traces, issue 6, 
pp. 43–45), which gives a brief overview and includes a glossary of place names. You might also like to read my 2017 blog post on ‘Finding your Chinese roots‘, which includes a map of the Pearl River Delta.

Uncovering the stories of Chinese Australian families

Video, transcript and slides of a talk on ‘Uncovering the stories of Chinese Australian families’, presented at Libraries Tasmania in Hobart on 8 August 2023

When I began researching the history of Chinese Australian families more than two decades ago, the sources I first came across, including accounts by politicians and journalists, focused on an absence of ‘real’ family life among the colonial Chinese population.

Despite this, other sources provided tantalising hints at the presence of a small number of Chinese women as well as a significant number of families made up of a Chinese father and white mother.

In this talk, I share how I, alongside a growing number of family historians, have gone about uncovering the stories of Chinese Australian families and consider how their transnational lives are an important part of the history of connection between China and Australia.

You can watch the video, or read the text of my presentation below.


Video

Video also available on the Libraries Tasmania YouTube channel, and audio only is available on the Libraries Tasmania SoundCloud.


Transcript and slides

Over the past couple of decades, a number of Australian and New Zealand writers have produced works of historical fiction featuring romances between white women and Chinese men.

One of the best known is the ongoing and somewhat illicit liaison between Kerry Greenwood’s lady detective, Phryne Fisher, and Lin Chung, the Cambridge-educated son of an elite Victorian Chinese family of silk merchants, whose progenitor had first arrived in Australia with the gold rushes.

Lin Chung first appears in the seventh book in the Phryne Fisher series, Ruddy Gore, published in 1995, and while he is an intermittent character across the two dozen novels, he – along with a string of other lovers – is central to the portrayal of Phryne’s liberal attitude towards life and obvious pleasure in flaunting the social mores of respectable 1920s Melbourne.

A few other examples are worth mentioning, too.

There’s Neridah Newton’s The Lambing Flat, published in 2003, which won the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for an Emerging Author in 2002. It follows the intertwined lives of Ella, born and bred on a Queensland cattle station, and Lok, who arrives in Australia as a boy and experiences the violence of the Lambing Flat anti-Chinese riots of 1861, before heading north to Queensland. He finds work on Ella’s father’s property, and the love story progresses from there.

There’s also As the Earth Turns Silver, by New Zealand author Alison Wong, which won the Janet Frame Fiction Award in 2009. Set against the backdrop of racist white working-class Wellington in the early twentieth century, the book tells the ultimately tragic story of a secret love affair between widow and mother of two, Katherine McKechnie, and Wong Chung-yung, a greengrocer.

Then there’s Deborah O’Brien’s Mr Chen’s Emporium, and its sequel The Jade Widow, which are aimed more at the ‘book club’ market. Mr Chen’s Emporium plots a fairly predictable romantic path to the marriage of Amy Duncan and Charles Chen in a small New South Wales goldfields town in the 1870s – and their relationships, once again, ends tragically. While not great literature, Mr Chen’s Emporium is nonetheless pretty spot-on with its history.

As a historian I’ve spent much of my career looking into the lives of white women and Chinese men who formed intimate relationships in the past, women and men like the protagonists in these novels.

This research has been part of my broader interest in the histories of women, children and families of Australasia’s early Chinese communities – and a caveat here, the ‘Chinese Australian families’ I’ll be talking about today are predominantly those made up of a white mother and Chinese father.

So, it interests me very much to see stories of Chinese-European couples being told again through fiction in the twenty-first century, in television as well as the novels I’ve mentioned – some of you might have watched, for example, the 2021 SBS mini-series New Gold Mountain, which touches on the tangled lives of Chinese men and white women on the Victorian goldfields.

I say ‘again’ because more than a century ago, in the 1880s and 1890s, intimate relationships between white women and Chinese men were not an uncommon subject in popular Australian fiction.

Typified by Edward Dyson’s ‘Mr and Mrs Sin Fat’, published in the Bulletin in 1888, or William Lane’s novella ‘White or Yellow? The Race War of 1908AD’, published as a serial in the Boomerang in 1887, late nineteenth-century stories tell a very different tale of interracial relationships, of their dangers on a personal and societal level. Such stories both drew on and fed accounts that appeared in popular newspapers such as the notoriously salacious Truth.

I want to suggest, however, that the telling of these two very different narratives of love and sex across racial boundaries have something very much in common. And that is that their meaning, their power as stories, comes from their acknowledgement of not just the possibility, but the reality, of intimate relationships between white women and Chinese men in Australia and New Zealand in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The scare power of stories like those published in the Bulletin and the Boomerang came from an understanding that all around the Australasian colonies white women and Chinese men were getting together. Yes, in opium dens and brothels, but also through contacts at church, at the store, across the threshold of the home, in the neighbourhood. These stories presented a threatening future of racial mixing in Australia that was made more real by the presence of mixed-race couples and their mixed-race children in colonial communities – they were simply there.

Estimates carefully calculated by historians like myself put the number of legal marriages between Chinese men and white women in the Australasian colonies in the nineteenth century in the thousands – but of course there were many other relationships not formalised through marriage and many children born out of wedlock.

While official statistics are unreliable in giving the true number of children born to white mothers and Chinese fathers, they do give some indication of their significance in the Chinese Australian population overall.

Here, for example, is a breakdown of the birthplaces of Chinese people in New South Wales in 1901, where you can see (in blue) that a total of 1,223 were Australian born (in New South Wales and other Australian states), and of them 1,028 – about 9% of the total Chinese population – were so-called ‘half-castes’, which in this case meant people of mixed white and Chinese heritage.

What about Tasmania, I hear you say!

Looking at 1901 again, the Chinese population of Tasmania was 609, of whom 103 – or about 17% – were of mixed Chinese-European parentage.

Over the course of the twentieth century, though, the obvious presence of Chinese-European couples and their families faded for various reasons – within families themselves, in popular memory, and in historical accounts. The perception that lingered was that interracial relationships between white women and Chinese men were bound up with prostitution, alcoholism, opium addiction and so on, and that only ‘a few illiterate Irish girls’ were desperate enough to marry themselves to Chinese men.

What was forgotten were the thousands of Chinese-European couples who, mostly unremarkably, met, formed relationships of different kinds (for shorter or longer periods of time), had children, and raised them together or apart.

Families like that of Hannah Maria Mason, who was born in Launceston in 1844, and her Amoy-born husband, William Edward Oram Chi.

Hannah and William married in the Wesleyan Parsonage at Newtown, Sydney, in 1865, four years after William was baptised as a Christian. After the stillbirth of their first child in 1866, Hannah and William went on to have another son and five daughters. William was naturalised as a British subject in 1868 and the family became part of the community of Scone, in central New South Wales, where they made their home.

It has only really been in this new century, over the past 25 years or so, that early Chinese-European families like the Chis have been remembered and recognised on a broader scale. The historical novels I mentioned are one manifestation of this.

Alongside the work of academic historians like myself, it has largely been the growing interest in family history that has shifted our understanding, as family researchers have pieced together often-hidden parts of their own histories.

These same family historians, and local and community historians, are increasingly visible online, creating their own blogs and websites, making family trees in Ancestry.com, and participating in family history forums and Facebook groups. They are publishing memoirs and family histories, they are presenting at history conferences, and they are collaborating with researchers in universities and GLAM organisations, particularly museums.

If you’re an avid viewer, you might also have noticed stories of Chinese-European families pop up in the television series Who Do You Think You Are?

In 2018, there was the story of actor John Jarratt’s 2 x great grandparents, Martha Hamilton and Ah Yot, who lived at a little place called Jembaicumbene on the Braidwood goldfields in New South Wales, and more recently, in 2021, there was the story of musician Jeff Fatt’s 2 x great grandparents, Elizabeth Wright and Lee Young, who lived at Ararat and Ballarat on the Victorian goldfields.

When I first began researching Chinese-European couples back in the late 1990s, the most common question I was asked about my work was ‘why?’ In particular, ‘why did these white women choose Chinese partners? – the implication being a slightly different question, I think, and that was ‘Wasn’t there anyone better (i.e. white) for them to marry?’

The decisions made by mixed-race couples in their choice of partner can seem extraordinary for their time, but they may in fact have been very simple ones to make, based around love, sexual attraction, the desire for companionship, or due to circumstance, convenience, or economics.

Despite some failings in historical accuracy, one of the things I like most about seeing Chinese-European relationships portrayed in contemporary fiction is the way that fiction can present historical possibilities that, it seems, are still often hard for many of us to imagine.

Once you start looking for it, though, evidence of Chinese-European couples and families is abundant and, with the digitisation of more and more historical materials, that evidence is increasingly easy to find and access. The historical newspapers available through Trove, from the National Library, are a particularly rich source for Chinese Australian family history, and one that I didn’t have when I started my research way back when!

Here, for instance, is a graph of references to the term ‘half-caste Chinese’ in the digitised newspapers in Trove for the period from 1860 to 1920, created using a nifty app called QueryPic, created by digital historian Tim Sherratt. The articles that come up through this search range from invectives in major city newspapers about opium and smallpox and ‘the Chinese Question’, to reports in small country newspapers on all manner of moments in the everyday lives of Chinese Australian families and individuals.

As a historian, I’m lucky that race was mentioned in such articles, as it marks these articles as immediately of interest to me. But, of course, personal names can also be traced through time in the newspapers, in a way that was near impossible before.

Trove, and its New Zealand counterpart Papers Past, give us the ability to easily uncover small stories of ordinary lives and this helps break through a barrier in thinking about the prevalence and place of Chinese-European couples and families in colonial Australasia.

Our understanding of the history of Chinese Australian families has come a long way in the past twenty-five years.

When I started my research in 1998, the available historical literature said little that was of help to me about Chinese Australian family life, particularly in understanding these families within the context of Chinese migration.

Most histories overlooked the presence of migrant Chinese women and their daughters in colonial and post-Federation Australasia, and those few that discussed Chinese-European families in any detail framed their lives as stories of ‘pioneers’ or of ‘assimilation – unusual exceptions to the dominant story of the sojourning gold-seeker living a lonely life, working to make his fortune and return home to China.

Many Chinese Australian family histories are easily slotted into these sorts of narratives, and it can make sense to tell them in this way – particularly for descendants, community activists, and historians of many kinds struggling to assert Chinese people into a national story that still remains one predominantly about white people. They are keen to stress how people of Chinese heritage, whether migrant or Australian born, have contributed to the building of this nation particularly through agriculture, mining, and business.

However, when I started looking closely into the lives of Chinese-European couples and their children, the pioneer or assimilationist frameworks did not fit so well with evidence I found about the mixing of language and cultural traditions within the home, and about the ongoing connections mixed families fostered and maintained with local Chinese communities and with China itself.

For example, the Australian-born mixed-race daughters of Chinese settlers commonly married migrant Chinese men, sometimes men as old as their own fathers, creating networks of kinship ties and often drawing young Australian-born women towards their Chinese, rather than European, heritage.

This picture, for example, shows Emma Lee Young with her husband, the Rev. Joseph Tear Tack, and four of their children – Elizabeth, Joseph, Laura and Josiah, who born between 1886 and 1892. As featured in Who Do You Think You Are?, Emma was Purple Wiggle Jeff Fatt’s great-grandmother.

She was born in Ararat, Victoria, in 1865, and at the age of 20 married China-born Joseph Tear Tack, who was about 17 years her senior. With Joseph’s church work, the family moved from Ararat in Victoria to the Inverell district in New South Wales, and then to Darwin and eventually to Cairns.

Numbers of Chinese-European children were taken or sent to China to help them to ‘become Chinese’ by receiving a Chinese education and/or being raised within their extended Chinese families.

White wives, too, went to China, where some encountered for the first time the unhappy reality that they were not their husband’s only wife – for according to Chinese custom, men were able to take multiple wives and concubines. Other white wives said goodbye to children and husbands who left for China and never returned.

These practices didn’t fit neatly with the idea that Chinese men who formed relationships with white women, who fathered mixed-race children, were simply assimilating, turning their backs on their own ancestry and heritage and abandoning an identity as Chinese for themselves and their children – even when it might have seemed on the surface that that’s what they were doing.

Quong Tart, the well-known Sydney tea merchant, shown here with his wife Margaret and their three oldest children in Hong Kong in 1894, is an interesting example of this.

We know Quong Tart best as the dapper businessman and philanthropist, anti-opium campaigner and friend to Sydney’s elite (and coincidentally, my great-grandfather, Harry Bagnall), the beloved husband of Lancashire-born Margaret (née Scarlett) and father to a brood of handsome children who were educated at some of Sydney’s finest private schools.

Yet Quong Tart’s business interests were reliant on ongoing contacts with Hong Kong and China, and it seems he remained close to his family, returning to China three times, including in 1894 to introduce his young family to his elderly mother. Research by Chinese historian, Mei Weiqiang, and information gathered within the family, also suggests that Quong Tart was married by proxy, in absentia, to a Chinese woman and that one, perhaps, two sons were adopted to carry on his name in his hometown in Toishan.

How to reconcile all this in a man known as the ultimate ‘assimilated’ Chinese?

An article by US historian Adam McKeown, published in 1999 (nearly 25 years ago now!), on ‘Transnational Chinese Families and Chinese Exclusion‘, suggested to me that there was an alternative way of viewing these relationships, an alternative explanation for why Chinese men ‘outmarried’ (that is, partnered with non-Chinese women), and a real way of understanding these families within the context of Chinese migration.

McKeown was among a number of scholars who have outlined the family strategies used by Cantonese in the sending districts of the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong province in southern China, from where most nineteenth-century Chinese migration took place.

Central to the Cantonese family was the patriline, the ongoing line of descent from father to son, father to son.

Cantonese families in the sending districts of the Pearl River Delta undertook economic strategies to ensure their survival and prosperity – such as establishing sons in different occupations or sending them to different overseas locations, such as Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Canada. They also developed strategies to ensure the continuation of the family line when more usual patterns of family formation were not possible due to the often long absences of men overseas.

Most common was the ‘split’ family, where a man lived overseas for shorter or longer periods, while his wife remained at home in his ancestral village, often living with her in-laws or other members of her husband’s family. When a man had left unmarried and was not easily able to return, he could be married by proxy in absentia to a woman who then took up residence in her parents-in-law’s home. Sons could be adopted to ensure the patriline continued, even if husband and wife never met due to his continued residence overseas.

Non-Chinese women were drawn into this when they formed relationships with Chinese men – and it was not uncommon for Chinese men to already have a wife, and sometimes children, at home in China when they formed relationships overseas.

Chinese families could be opposed to men taking foreign wives, out of fear that his interests and energies would be redirected away from the ancestral home and his filial obligations there. (In the early decades of the twentieth century, there were also warnings by Chinese community leaders overseas against relationships with non-Chinese women, fearing that patriotic sentiments towards a new China might dissipate).

But children born to non-Chinese women in places like Australia and New Zealand, Hawaii, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica and Peru still counted as ‘Chinese’ and as part of their Chinese families. Their paternity (biological or adoptive), not their maternity, mattered. The evidence for this is in the number of children of mixed race who went to China, for a period of education or more permanently, a practice that was happening in the Australian colonies from early as the late 1850s.

The National Archives of Australia holds thousands of documents that trace the journeys of young Australians of Chinese and part-Chinese heritage to China and back over the early decades of the twentieth century – after the introduction of the federal Immigration Restriction Act in 1901. Included among those who went to China were a small number of children of mixed Chinese-Aboriginal heritage, as well as a few white stepchildren of Chinese men.

You might, for instance, have heard of Tasmanian Senator Thomas Bakhap – the son of Margaret Hogan and stepson of Gee Bak Hap of Lottah in north-eastern Tasmania. There is debate about whether Thomas Bakhap had Chinese heritage or not, but he became fluent in Cantonese and, according to Adrienne Petty, ‘had spent several years in China, some as a young child and later in his early teens’ (‘Deconstructing the Chinese Sojourner: Case Studies of Early Chinese Migrants to Tasmania’, PhD thesis, UTAS, 2009, p. 124).

Before I conclude, I’d like to share one more family story, that of the Gan family, pictured here in Melbourne in 1917. There is Edward Chung Ah Gan, usually known as ‘Teddy Ah Gan’, who was naturalised as a British subject in Tasmania in 1891, his Victorian-born wife, Annie (née Harris), and their four children – Dorothy, George, Ruby Elizabeth and Frederick.

The family left Australia for Hong Kong in 1917, where Teddy found work at the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock Company, and Annie was busy with her growing family – she gave birth to three more children in Hong Kong. In 1925 and again in 1933, the family attempted to return to Australia, but this request was denied due to Teddy’s extended absence from the Commonwealth, and there is nothing on file to indicate that they ever did come home.

Placing the history of Chinese-European families within a transnational framework, like that suggested by McKeown’s ‘transnational overseas Chinese family’, allows us to see the parts of the story that took place beyond Australian shores.

Chinese migration to Australia wasn’t a simple one-way trip – economic, cultural and legal factors meant that Australian Chinese were highly mobile, travelling back and forth between Australia and China, and between colonies and states, too. The formation of families followed a similar path, and limiting our definition of ‘family life’ to the ‘geographically localized nuclear family’ (to use McKeown’s phrase, p. 100) ignores a range of experiences and choices made in the process of migration, sojourning and settlement.

So, to conclude let’s go back to those historical novels, where we can also see aspects of the transnational overseas Chinese family:

  • Lady detective Phryne Fisher sees her lover Lin Chung married to a young Chinese woman, Camellia, in an arrangement that benefits both Chinese families, if not themselves.
  • In As the Earth Turns Silver, Katherine McKechnie’s Chinese lover has a wife and child in China, while his brother works for years to be able to bring his wife to live in New Zealand too.
  • In The Lambing Flat, Ella has to confront Lok’s yearning for his homeland and his ultimate decision to return home. He asks her to go too, and some of my favourite passages in the book describe Ella’s feelings as she contemplates whether she could leave her home and go with him. In the end, though, she doesn’t.

What these imagined life stories suggest, and other real life histories demonstrate, is that there is not just one neat framework into which we can place the history of Chinese-European families in Australasia, and beyond that the history of Chinese Australian families. This history is messy and complex and sometimes hard to untangle – but for me, this messiness and complexity is also what makes it so fascinating.

2023 in review

My life over the past 18 months has been radically shaped by the effects of long COVID.

Kate Bagnall sitting at a table in a restaurant holding a glass of sparkling wine in one hand and a copy of the book 'Subjects and Aliens' in the other
At my very low-key lunch celebration of the publication of ‘Subjects and Aliens’, Hobart, 21 September 2023

I never fully recovered following my initial COVID-19 infection in July 2022, which was followed by two subsequent viral infections in August and September 2022, and I reduced my work hours in early 2023 me to help me ‘cope’ with my ongoing fatigue. I had COVID-19 a second time in April this year and, after the acute infection passed, my long COVID symptoms worsened, eventually resulting in a period of severe ill-health in late August which resulted in 6 weeks off work.

During this time off, I came to understand more about the nature of my illness better, including by reading The Long Covid Handbook, by Gez Medinger and Danny Altmann. I also have found science journalist Ed Yong’s writing on long COVID to be some of the best there is, if you want to understand more about it all, including the struggles ‘long haulers’ like me face.

Reflecting on what led me to this severe long COVID crash, I came to understand how the demands of academic life were not allowing me the time and space to begin to feel well again. With the support of my GP, I have now reduced my work hours to four mornings per week, and I have become very strict in policing my boundaries. This means that many, many things that I would like to be doing have necessarily been put aside – perhaps for now, perhaps forever. One of those things is my book on Chinese naturalisation, which at present I just don’t have the physical or mental capacity to contemplate. I am also stepping back from my role as coordinator of the Family History program at UTAS in 2024.

My long COVID symptoms include fatigue, post-exertional malaise (PEM), cognitive dysfunction (‘brain fog’, including issues with memory, word recall and verbal processing), orthostatic intolerance (including inability to stand for more than a few minutes and lightheadedness), exercise intolerance, insomnia, muscle aches and weakness, autonomic dysfunction, tinnitus, and more. Some days are better than others, but my symptoms are always worse when I do not pace myself and get sufficient rest, or when I am even remotely stressed. Alongside these physical symptoms have come a whole gamut of emotions – particularly grief and guilt about all the things I cannot do, but a lot of sadness, anger, frustration and boredom, too.

While my symptoms are not as bad as many with long COVID, and I’m not currently bedbound or housebound, my world has now shrunk very small. And every day is a tiresome balancing act of things that must be done, things that I’d like to do, and things that my body can cope with.

So, with all that said, I look at the list that follows with some amazement – how have I have managed to do all of this? (See my point above re the punishing demands of academic life.) Next year will necessarily be different, and I’m quite looking forward to that.

Things I’ve done in 2023

Course coordination of the UTAS Diploma of Family History and the Undergraduate Certificate in Family History, including course administration, marketing, student recruitment, and outreach work, such as:

  • Judge, Lilian Watson Family History Award, Tasmanian Family History Society
  • Judge, UTAS Society of Australian Genealogists Scholarship (for study in the Diploma of Family History)
  • Judge, UTAS Genealogical Society of Victoria Scholarship (for study in the Diploma of Family History)
  • UTAS Family History Referencing Guide
  • UTAS Family History Newsletter, distributed to UTAS Family History students monthly
  • Hosting visit by Professor Melanie Méthot (University of Alberta), February 2023
  • Radio interview with Mel Bush, about studying Family History at UTAS, ABC Breakfast (Hobart, 30 June 2023

Unit coordination and tutoring in HAA108 Migrant Families and HAA003 Introduction to Family History

Preparation and delivery of learning materials (‘lectures’) for 5 weeks of HTA206 Australian History in a Global Context

Preparation of my new staff profile (still a work in progress): https://discover.utas.edu.au/Kate.Bagnall

Everyday Heritage Linkage project, including research administration, team meetings, our conference and workshops in Sydney in July, and research and planning for publications to come

PhD supervision, including primary supervision of Elizabeth Walsh at UTAS, and external supervision of Emma Bellino (University of Wollongong)

Peer review for ARC Discovery Projects Scheme, Manchester University Press (book proposal), International Journal of Heritage Studies (article)

Things I haven’t done in 2023

I declined a whole heap of invitations, including to review a book manuscript (HKU Press), journal articles (Ethnic and Racial Studies; Race and Social Problems; History Australia) and ARC Discovery Projects Scheme applications; media interviews and to be interviewed for a PhD project; to examine postgraduate theses (MRes at Macquarie University, PhD at James Cook University); to present my work at conferences and give public talks; and to contribute to publications (including book review for History Australia; book review for Asian Studies Review).

Research publications

‘Cartoonlets’ from ‘The Bulletin’, 20 June 1896, p 7, including one (bottom left) that refers to the use of identification photography in Chinese immigration administration in New Zealand. This was the subject of Sophie Couchman and my 2023 article in ‘Australian Historical Studies’.

Kate Bagnall and Peter Prince (eds), Subjects and Aliens: Histories of Nationality, Law and Belonging in Australia and New Zealand, ANU Press, Canberra, 2023, http://doi.org/10.22459/SA.2023.

Peter Prince and Kate Bagnall, ‘Australia’s “alien races” meet New Zealand’s “race aliens”’, in Kate Bagnall and Peter Prince (eds), Subjects and Aliens: Histories of Nationality, Law and Belonging in Australia and New Zealand, ANU Press, Canberra, 2023, https://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/n11134/pdf/ch01.pdf.

Sophie Couchman and Kate Bagnall, ‘Identification photography and the surveillance of Chinese mobility in Colonial Australasia’, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 54, no. 2, pp. 299–329, https://doi.org/10.1080/1031461X.2022.2162094.

 

Blog posts and other publications

2023 in review, 31 December 2023

Family history research worksheets, 12 June 2023

Maisie Fook: ‘A Chinese, born and living in White Australia’, 26 May 2023

A naturalized Chinese Tasmanian: Ah One from Hobart, 20 February 2023

Remembering Coohey Fue, 3 January 2023 (Everyday Heritage)

‘Studying Family History at the University of Tasmania’, The Ancestral Searcher (Family History ACT), vol. 46, no. 2, pp. 64–66

Talks

‘Chinese Australian Family History Research’, Chinese Australian Research Interest Group, Society of Australian Genealogists, 25 March 2023, via Zoom

‘Chinese Australian Family History Research’, Members’ Meeting, Family History ACT, 4 July 2023, via Zoom

Uncovering the stories of Chinese Australian families‘, National Family History Month 2023, Libraries Tasmania (Hobart), 8 August 2023

Review of my work

Liew, Zhen Hao, ‘Julia T. Martínez, Kate Bagnall, eds. Locating Chinese Women: Historical Mobility between China and Australia. Crossing Seas. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2021. viii + 277 pp. $72.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-988-8528-61-5′, H-Migration, November 2023, https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=58708.

Citations to my work

Arnold, Taylor and Lauren Tilton, Distant Viewing: Computational Exploration of Digital Images, MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts, 2023, https://direct.mit.edu/books/oa-monograph/5674/Distant-ViewingComputational-Exploration-of.

Bellanta, Melissa and Lorinda Cramer, ‘The comfort of things in White Australia: Male immigrants, race and the three-piece suit, c.1901–39′, Australian Historical Studies, 2023, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1031461X.2022.2161587.

Berthiot, Marine, ‘Representations of girlhood trauma in Aotearoa, New Zealand literature written by women’, PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh, 2023, https://hdl.handle.net/1842/39741.

Byrne, Denis, Ien Ang, and Phillip Mar (eds), Heritage and History in the China-Australia Migration Corridor, Hong Kong University Press, Hong Kong, 2023 – my work is cited in the following chapters:

Ang, Ien and Denis Byrne, ‘Introduction’, pp. 1–24

Williams, Michael, ‘Villages of the Fragrant Hills’, pp. 21–51

Byrne, Denis, ‘A heritage of lifelines in the migration corridor’, pp. 52–74

Ang, Ien, ‘(Un)making transnational identities: migration and Chineseness’, pp. 75–105

Wong, Alexandra, ‘Diaspora tourism and homeland travel’, pp. 106–132

Byrne, Denis, ‘Making heritage in the migration corridor’, pp. 240–262.

Cotton, James, ‘Chungking follies: The supporting case of the Chungking Legation, 1941–42’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. 109, part 2, December 2023, pp. 187–209.

Cutter, Nat, Rachel Fensham and Tyne Daile Sumner, ‘The slipperiness of name: Biography and gender in Australian cultural databases’, Gender & History, 118, https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0424.12699.

Indelicato, Maria Elena Indelicato, ‘Neither black nor white: Colonial myths, Irish women, and Chinese men’s quest for respectability, Interventions, vol. 25, no. 4, 2023, pp. 448–467, https://doi.org/10.1080/1369801X.2022.2099946.

Jones, Mike and Alana Piper, ‘Digital History: A state of the field review essay’, Australian Historical Studies, 2023, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1031461X.2023.2267586.

Kong, Vivian, Multiracial Britishness: Global Networks in Hong Kong, 1910–45, Cambridge University Press, 2023.

Marston-Pattison, Aaron, ‘Un-Australian? White Australia’s visions of identity and the racialisation of the Pacific War’, Australian Historical Studies, 2023, pp. 1–19.

Merrell, L. Y, Settler Colonial Fatherhood in New South Wales and Ontario during the Long Nineteenth Century, PhD thesis, Indiana University, 2023. (Retrieved from ProQuest: https://www.proquest.com/dissertations-theses/settler-colonial-fatherhood-new-south-wales/docview/2846778547/se-2).

Rerceretnam, Marc Sebastian, ‘Quong Tart’s neighbours: Cycling around the boundaries of exclusion and racism, 1880s-1900s’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. 109, part 2, December 2023, pp. 141–164.

Rizvi, Fazal, ‘China-Australia tensions and international higher education’, Beijing International Review of Education, vol. 4, no. 4, 2023, pp. 610–628, https://doi.org/10.1163/25902539-04040007.

Simmonds, Alecia, Courting: An Intimate History of Love and the Law, La Trobe University Press in conjunction with Black Inc., Melbourne, 2023.

Smith, Evan, ‘The Bureaucratic Limits of a National Security Agenda: The Winding Road of Alien Registration in Interwar Australia’, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 54, no. 1, 2023, pp. 24–43, https://doi.org/10.1080/1031461X.2022.2125544.

Tarchi, Andrea, Building the Intimate Boundaries of the Nation: The Regulation of Mixed Intimacies in Colonial Libya and the Construction of Italian Whiteness (1911–1942), PhD thesis, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 2023, https://doi.org/10.5463/thesis.93.

Tao, Yu, Benjamin Smith, Petra Mosmann, Kaylene Poon, and Betty Walker, ‘Searching for Moon Chow: A joint journey’, Life Writing, vol. 20, no. 1, 2023, pp. 217–236.

Thatcher, Louise, ‘Maritime workers, desertion, racism, and labour mobility in early 20th-century Australia’, Australian Studies Journal / Zeitschrift für Australienstudien, vol. 37, 2023, pp. 13–29, https://doi.org/10.35515/zfa/asj.37/2023.02.

Xiong, Xiao, Haunting in Chinese-Australian Writing, Springer Nature Singapore, Germany, 2023.

Zhang, Jiasheng and Baoqi Lin, ‘Images of Chinese in Australian nationalist literature’, Neohelicon, 2023, pp. 1–16.

Family history research worksheets

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

To plan and keep track of your research

Maisie Fook: ‘A Chinese, born and living in White Australia’

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, 1968. Australian Women’s Weekly, 17 July 1968, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article46443217

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.

Sources

John Y. Chan, Amazing Stories From My Two Worlds, Palmer Higgs Pty Ltd, 2011 [preview available in Google Books].

Jan Fook, ‘Maisie Fook (1924–2002)’, Adventism in China [website], https://www.adventisminchina.org/individuals/3-lay-persons/fookmasie. [View PDF of article]

Maisie Fook, ‘From a land of many orphans’, Australian Women’s Weekly, 17 July 1968, p. 4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article46443217.

Maisie Fook, ‘From grocer boy to star doctor’, Australian Women’s Weekly, 27 November 1968, p. 4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article48080574.

Maisie Fook, ‘What is is like to be… a Chinese, born and living in White Australia?’, Australian Women’s Weekly, 12 February 1969, p. 42, http://nla.gov.au/nla-news-article51384523.

John Hammond, ‘Asian Aid’, Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists [website], 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=4JBZ.

Richard A. Schaefer, ‘Hon, Edward Harry Gee (1917–2006)’, Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, 2020, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=D9I2.

Janis Wilton, ‘HON, Harry Gee’, Different Sights – Immigrants in New England [database], https://hfrc.une.edu.au/heritagefutures/neimmigrants/main.php?area=ppl&ID=P367&form=&RecNo=2&ImgNo=&IDFlg=1&fileLetter=P. [View PDF of database entry]

Jill Wong, ‘The Asian Aid miracle’, Thornleigh Church Online Magazine, 44, December 2011–January 2012, http://www.thornleighadventist.org.au/onlinemag/edition_44/asian_aid_miracle.htm. [View PDF of article]

New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, 2005/180624, birth registration of Cissie Wong See, Sydney, 26 March 1887.

There are also various records in the National Archives of Australia (Sydney) about the Wong See and Gee Hon families.

A naturalized Chinese Tasmanian: Ah One from Hobart

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).

Tasmanian Archives holds colonial naturalization records for Tasmania, so more information about Ah One’s application can be found there – using both the Tasmanian Names Index and the information provided on the certificate.

A search of the Tasmanian Names Index led to Ah One’s naturalization application (memorial) and correspondence about it (CSD22/1/3/56 pp 216–218, https://stors.tas.gov.au/CSD22-1-3-56$init=CSD22-1-3-56-P216).

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.

Remembering Coohey Fue

CONTENT WARNING: This blog post mentions suicide.

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’.

A old cemetery with trees and scattered headstones in the background, and in the foreground among the long brown grass are two white headstones, one of which is lying on the ground
The two white marble monuments to Coohey Fue in the Latrobe General Cemetery, Latrobe (near Devonport), Tasmania (Photo by Kate Bagnall, December 2022)

The monuments

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]
  • 林舉章 (Lam Kui Cheung):

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 舉章

廣東台山縣松花咀村
民國特贈舉章林公府君坟墓
192千歲次庚申年吉月吉日立

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.

A white stone gravestone, which has Chinese writing on it, standing on a concrete plinth in a country cemetery
Monument for Lam Kui Cheung, Latrobe General Cemetery, Tasmania (Photo by Kate Bagnall, December 2022)
LAM Kui Fu 林舉富

廣東台山縣松花咀村
民國特贈舉富林公府君坟墓
192千歲次庚申年吉月吉日立

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.

A cracked white stone gravestone, with Chinese writing on it, lying on the ground
Monument for Lam Kui Fu, Latrobe General Cemetery, Tasmania (Photo by Kate Bagnall, December 2022)

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)

Acknowledgements

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.

Bibliography on Chinese in Tasmania

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.

Presentation of the bibliography to the Chinese Community Association of Tasmania Inc., North Hobart, 5 June 2022. Pictured L–R: Ruby Lee, Kate Bagnall (UTAS), Grace Williams (TMAG), Daniel Chan (President, CCAT), Brian Chung, Kirstie Ross (TMAG), Hingor Chung, Jan Everett. Photo courtesy Daniel Chan.

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.

Population statistics on Chinese people in Tasmania

Note: Terms used in the following population tables reflect the original historical sources and are considered offensive today.

Chinese population of Tasmania, 1881–1947

    1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 1933 1947
Chinese Persons 844 1056 609 529 321 197 111
Male 842 993 536 450 283 160 81
Female 2 63 73 79 38 37 30
‘Full’ Chinese Persons 844 939 506 427 262 132 68
Male 842 931 482 400 247 117 51
Female 2 8 24 27 15 15 17
‘Half-caste’ Chinese Persons _ 117 103 102 59 65 43
Male 62 54 50 36 43 30
Female 55 49 52 23 22 13

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.

View a PDF version of this table.


Chinese in Tasmania, 1901

An Appendix in the 1901 Census of Tasmania contained specific tables enumerating Chinese and ‘half-caste’ Chinese, as well as ‘other alien races’ and Tasmanian Aboriginal people.

View a PDF of the Appendix to the Census of Tasmania, 1901.

Find the complete Tasmanian Census 1901 (look for TAS-1901-census.pdf) in the Historical and Colonial Census Data Archive (HCCDA) Dataverse.


Chinese British subjects in Tasmania and Australia, 1911

In this table, ‘Chinese’ indicates ‘race’ not birthplace. It is taken from a section of the 1911 Commonwealth Census on ‘Non-European Races’.

British subject by Total Chinese British subjects Total Chinese
Birthplace Parentage Naturalization
Male Chinese Australia 2 679 67 3 261 6 007 23 374
Tasmania 84 1 116 201 450
Female Chinese Australia 2 137 3 49 2 189 2 398
Tasmania 72 0 6 78 79
Total Chinese Australia 4 816 70 3 310 8 196 25 772
Tasmania 156 1 122 279 529
 
Male ‘full Chinese’ Australia 1 168 65 3 259 4 492 21 856
Tasmania 34 1 116 151 400
Female ‘full Chinese’ Australia 643 3 49 695 897
Tasmania 20 0 6 26 27
Total ‘full Chinese’ Australia 1 811 68 3 308 5 187 22 753
Tasmania 54 1 122 177 427
 
Male ‘half-caste Chinese’ Australia 1 511 2 2 1 515 1 518
Tasmania 50 0 0 50 50
Female ‘half-caste Chinese’ Australia 1 494 0 0 1 494 1 501
Tasmania 52 0 0 52 52
Total ‘half-caste Chinese’ Australia 3 005 2 2 3 009 3 019
Tasmania 102 0 0 102 102

Source: Compiled from the Census of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1911, Part VII: Non-European Races

View a PDF version of this table.