C.A. Price’s index cards relating to (Chinese) immigrants

This morning I went to the ANU Archives to look at records created by Charles A. Price, the demographer who I know as the author of The Great White Walls are Built: Restrictive Immigration to North America and Australasia, 1836–1888. The ANU Archives have recently provided online access to their collection database and I came across the records—ANUA 475—while doing my ubiquitous search for ‘Chinese’. What intrigued me most about the records was that the item titles mentioned specific county names (Kao Yiu and Toishan) as the origins of Chinese migrants.

I’m now feeling a bit perplexed about whether the four boxes of index cards that I looked at might be useful for anything. I feel they should but I’m not sure how. The time period is a bit wrong for me (mostly people who migrated in the 1950s) and the more complete groups of index cards seem to relate to Victoria and Queensland.

Price and others in the ANU Department of Demography compiled the cards in their research on immigrants, their origins and their place of settlement in the 1960s. They summarise information about immigrants sourced from the Department of Immigration including naturalisation files from 1903 to 1970. Price’s research was into immigrants from all backgrounds, but I only looked at the boxes relating to Chinese.

Each card relates to an individual migrant, some who arrived as early as the 1890s. They provide the following information: name, place of birth or origin, year of birth, sex, marital status, year of arrival into Australia and places of residence. There are also some other numbers, but I didn’t work out what these mean. Some cards have fuller details, such as name of spouse and children, occupation and name of business, and some are grouped into sections for ‘deceased’ and ‘assumed deceased’ (those who were born in the 1860s, ’70s and ’80s). My feeling is that more complete information could now be found from the original immigration and naturalisation records which should be available in the National Archives and are more easily searchable by name in RecordSearch.

What might be missing from the original records, though, is Price’s analysis of the county of origin. Many of the cards simply say ‘Canton’, but where his sources were more specific he has included the county name: Toishan, Hoiping, Sun Wui, Chungshan, Kao Yiu, Tungkoon, and so on. He has also guessed the origin of some migrants (‘Kao Yiu?’), I presume based on the connections he found between them and others whose origins he was more certain of.

Another interesting thing were lists with the number of people with particular surnames from the different counties. With my interest in the Poon Gooey family, it was nice to see all the Victorian Poons from Hoiping. I’m not familiar enough with Price’s work to know if this sort of information about counties and surnames appears in any of his published books or papers.

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