A brief introduction to some of our members
I am an accidental family historian. I was asked to translate some parts of the Chau family zupu. Joe (Chau) Yow was an early migrant of 1890s. He came from the Xinhui district. In the 1900s he started a laundry and grocery business in Little Bourke St. Today, his extended descendants, especially the Gen-Y and millennials only have a scant understanding of his history. In the process of my research, I quickly realised the significance of original family documents (usually written in Chinese) in telling an authentic story. I also realised the need to tell the story in a digital and visual form to make it more accessible to a wider audience.
CAFHOV has been very helpful to me in this journey of discovery. Since 2015 I have published several blogs on the Chau clan history, the SeeYup temple in South Melbourne, the Chinese burial plot in the Melbourne General Cemetery and the Gold field Chinese population census of 1867 (see reference below). I am currently compiling a dictionary of Chinese names romanisation, which will help other historians in matching and translating historical records.
In this journey I have come across amazing treasures such as family photos, head stones inscriptions, old Chinese newspapers, public notices, stories from seniors, archives of images on a lost way of life and meticulously kept official records. Most importantly I have met a community of dedicated people who share one belief: “Our ancestors made us who we are today; their stories need to be told”.
Andrew’s research works can be found on:
Having developed a passion for Melbourne’s urban history, and at times finding myself questioning accepted historical understandings, particularly regarding the Euro-centric development of the city’s early business sector, I chose as my Ph.D. research focus to investigate Melbourne’s early Chinese restaurants and their relationship with the city broadly from the late nineteenth century and over the life of the White Australia policy. I found that, while discrimination was undeniably present, the connection between the establishment and growth of the city’s public dining sector and the city’s socio-cultural, economic and political landscape was more complex and interdependent than is generally acknowledged and was often at odds with official racialised attitudes towards the early Chinese presence.
I discovered CAFHOV in the early years of my research and became a grateful beneficiary of members’ experiences and suggestions. I’ve been a member ever since and, I hope, have been able to contribute useful research suggestions to those about to commence their family history journey. I’m currently working on publishing my research.
Diann Talbot was born in Bright, in North East Victoria, the fifth generation of her family, her great great-grandparents settled there in the 1860s. Diann’s love of local history came from the time she spent with her grandfather, Edward (Ted) Talbot. Ted was born in Bright in 1878 and loved nothing better than driving around the district on Sunday afternoons reminiscing about the days of old. He spoke highly of the Chinese and in his younger days had been friends with many; he could count to ten and say a few words in Chinese, a skill he tried in vain to pass on to his very inattentive granddaughter. After the death of her grandfather Diann’s yearning to learn more about the early days of Bright lead to her the realisation that the Chinese, who had once been predominant in the Upper Ovens, were rarely mentioned in local history publications, and coupled with a yearning to find out more about these forgotten men and to bring this important chapter of local history to the fore, she began to research the lives of the Chinese who once lived and toiled in the local area. Added to this was the discovery of a photo in her great grandmother’s photo album. This discovery brought the revelation that there was a whole chapter of Chinese history yet to be told, it was the story, not only of the Chinese themselves but also of the women who were married to, or were part of their lives, and the children that eventuated from these unions.
My interest in Chinese-Australian history began during my undergraduate years at the University of Melbourne. Although I am a Chinese-New Zealander, I felt a connection to many of the stories I came across when I began to read about the experiences of Chinese-Australians, particularly young Australian-born Chinese. This led me to take on PhD research in Chinese-Australian History.
My thesis traced the history of Chinese community life through social events in Sydney and Melbourne, offering insights into the material and emotional lives of young Chinese Australians and contesting earlier assumptions that the Chinese community ebbed in vitality in the first half of the twentieth century. To complete my research, I drew on personal interviews, family photographs, and records from Trove (the largest Australian digital newspaper archive) and Public Records Office Victoria among other archives.
My involvement in CAFHOV has prompted relatives to share family stories and photographs with me about my grandparents and extended family which I might otherwise never have seen and for this, I am very grateful. Within the CAFHOV group, I try to highlight academic tools that I believe may be of use to family researchers and offer encouragement to all of our members.
Those interested in my PhD research can find out more via a radio feature I produced for ABC Radio National in 2014 (see link below).
Grace’s ABC Radio National podcast:
My interest in Australian Chinese history started about three years ago when I began researching our family tree. Along the way I found Kate Bagnall’s blog ‘The Tiger’s Mouth’ which mentioned both my paternal and my maternal grandfathers in separate sections and dates. I was hooked then on finding out more about them!
My paternal grandfather was a banana merchant in Little Bourke Street and had a turn at managing the clan business, Leong Lee, whilst my great grandfather on my mother’s side was a market gardener at Rosebud. In confirming their stories I am still finding my way around BDM Vic, PROV and TROVE with limited success with NAA files. It was the search for validation of their existence and what life was like for them in Melbourne in the early 1900s that led me to join CAFHOV after becoming a volunteer at the Chinese Museum.
My parents came from rural villages in Guangzhou in the south of China, and they left in 1949, when the civil war was still raging. They lived in the Philippines for a few years before migrating to Australia in about 1951, despite the White Australia Policy, with the help of family who had arrived here earlier. They lived initially in Sydney, before moving to Melbourne in 1958. In Melbourne they owned and ran two restaurants, Fong Yuon in Glenferrie Road Malvern, and then Taiping in St Kilda Junction.
My father’s family tree (Fong/Kwong) has been compiled by distant Sydney relatives, but I discovered recently that there are some inaccuracies. Also, it is male-biased, omitting the listing of the children of female family members. My mother’s family tree (Yip) has not been done.
I have had an interest in documenting my Chinese family heritage for some time, but did not have the wherewithal to even know where to start. I joined CAFHOV in November 2018, and hope eventually to be able to join all the dots.
Mei-Ling and John
Researching Mei-Ling’s family history in the last few years has been an exciting and rewarding journey.
Mei-Ling’s father was born in China and came to Australia as a student in 1940.
We have been researching her father, Gung Foon Chen’s ancestry for over 8 years. Foon’s father, Loong Chin Chen originally came to Australia in 1890. Like many Chinese, Loong Chin Chen’s wife, remained in China. Both father and son ran a successful wholesale/retail Fruit and Vegetable business at the Queen Victoria Market in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s.
The National Archives have been of invaluable assistance and provided fantastic discoveries. At the See Yup Temple we found Loong Chen’s tablet.
My Family History research began some 40 years ago. My great grandfather Yett Soo War Way Lee [京山村 Yip Seow Wah] was born 6th August 1852, King Shan Village [Jingshancun] in Dong Guan County. He was a Mandarin of the 4th Degree (Crystal Button) and his great grandfather was an Admiral in the Chinese military and his mother was a titled lady.
I have been fortunate that my great grandfather featured in the news and parliamentary documents as he was involved in the betterment of conditions for all Chinese in Australia. My research has taken me far and wide, both in Australia and overseas. I have drawn on oral histories, newspapers and material in state and national archives and libraries. CAFHOV member, Andrew Wong, is currently helping me undertake Chinese-language research into my family.
Way Lee came to Sydney in 1874 and studied in Brisbane before coming to Adelaide and setting up one of his many business, Way Lee & Co. He married Annie McDonald in a Chinese ceremony around 1890 and in 1902 they married in Melbourne in a civic ceremony. Annie was the daughter of James McDonald and Margaret Kennedy of Victor Harbour, South Australia.
Selected projects related to Yett Soo War Way Lee:
South Australian Migration Museum: http://migration.history.sa.gov.au/photos/yet-soo-war-way-lee-and-margaret-ann-annie-way-lee
University of South Australia: Way Lee building (1997) http://w3.unisa.edu.au/facilities/accessmap/citywest/WL.asp; Out of Site: http://w3.unisa.edu.au/artarchitecturedesign/sasagallery/docs/outofsite.pdf; Way Lee commemoration and launch 2009 ‘Way Lee100 years On” http://www.unisa.edu.au/Global/business/centres/cags/docs/WayLeeMonograph(Burritt.Walker.Carter)FINAL1.pdf
With the late Kevin Wong Hoy wrote, “Chinese feasts and festivals in colonial Australia’, Journal of Chinese Australia, 2006, http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/50815/20070628-0000/220.127.116.11/jca/issue02/03WHandMJ.html
Interpretive trail, West Terrace Cemetery, 2011: http://www.salife7.com.au/adelaide/places/historical/heritage-highlights-walking-tour—west-terrace-cemetery
I have been researching my family history since the early 1990s. My mother used to mention aspects of both her Irish and Irish/Chinese family backgrounds but her knowledge was minimal. Her grandfather was a naturalised Chinese butcher called Ah Whay who lived in Maryborough Victoria in the nineteenth century. His wife was born at the Black Lead Chinese Camp in Creswick Victoria to Bridget Delahunty and Hin Yung. The latter was variously an opium dealer, storekeeper, pig dealer and miner.
I have a chapter on Chinese-Australian family history in – Secrets, Silences and Sources: Five Chinese-Australian family histories, 2005. The book can be obtained by mail directly via the CAFHOV website or from the Chinese Museum shop in person.
My sources are the usual mix of newspapers, public records and relevant publications. As the decades flick by, my innate fascination with the past, the thrill of occasionally placing an ancestor within it and the increasing access to sources strengthens my drive.
Photographs from Robyn’s Whay family can be seen online at:
My interest in family history was sparked by my sister who was an amateur genealogist and had a particular interest in our Chinese family history. I have focussed on my English side for some time but have recently reignited my passion for researching my Chinese immigrant ancestors.
I have two different male ancestors who arrived in Melbourne from Canton. My great great grandfather Leung Mang Yee arrived in Victoria in the 1850s and operated a greengrocers shop in Melbourne’s Lonsdale Street before moving out to High Street in St Kilda. There he branched out and his greengrocers shop also became a “cookshop”. Leung, or George as he was known, was first in line at his local polling station to vote in favour of Federation in 1900.
Leung Mang Yee’s half-Chinese daughter Linda Marion then married another Chinese immigrant, my great grandfather Frank Young Harm Goong. Together they operated a laundry in St Kilda. Linda kept up the Laundry business for several years on her own after Frank’s death from tuberculosis in 1912.
Unfortunately my Chinese ancestors did not leave a trace of their original names in Chinese which is making my search for their origins difficult. What I have found out so far I have pieced together from birth, death and marriage certificates, newspaper articles, rate books, electoral rolls and business directories. I am hoping I can find out more about these interesting and resilient people who form part of my DNA. What were their lives really like? Where did they call home? More discoveries await….
I’m involved with CAFHOV because I believe that the research of Chinese-Australian family historians contributes depth and texture to Chinese-Australian history. My interest in Chinese-Australian history started with fond memories of visiting David Wang’s Chinese Emporium as a child and wanting to know more about the history of Melbourne’s Chinatown. Stories of ‘ordinary’ Chinese Australians and the ways in which Chinese migrants have built lives and families to become an integral part of Australian life continues to interest me.
I’ve worked with a wide range of historical source material, and have a familiarity with current scholarship in the field of Chinese-Australian history. One of my research focuses is the history of Melbourne’s Chinatown area and in particular the people and businesses which made the eastern end of Little Bourke Street a ‘Chinese’ space in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. I also have an interest in Chinese-Australian family photograph collections and what they can tell us about how Chinese-Australians wished to be seen.
Scholarly activity for Sophie can be found at:
My family history research project is the “Lamson Family of Cheshunt”. This is the history of an early Chinese Settler Henry Lim Son (Lamson). Records show that he arrived in Sydney from Canton in 1853. His story was one of hard work and migrating to where opportunities were. He worked as a labourer around Sydney till 1863, and as a cabinetmaker at Braidwood in 1864. He married Mary Ann Morby in 1864 in Braidwood NSW.
He moved to the Buckland goldfields and he was a miner, carpenter and carter there from 1865 to 1870. He was a market gardener at Tea Garden Creek in the King Valley for the next few years and then he finally settled as a farmer at Cheshunt further up the valley from 1874 until 1903.
I was able to assemble his life in the colonies through public records, land records and newspapers gave me great insights, but I had difficulties tracing his home village and his time in China.
It is a delight to share, discover and learn with the CAFHOV team. Through the help from everyone in the group, we understand his name was 林 Lam 信 Seon 名 Ming in Cantonese, surname Lam. We are now exploring different ways to find his connections in China, and potentially find our ancestry village.
The associated names of my research include Morby, McFarlane, Burrows, Ah Shin, Hardy, Stewart, Benson, Colson and Roach.
Has a professional background in teaching primary and secondary education. Working as Education Officer at Sovereign Hill and Ballarat Fine Art Gallery for many years. Presently undertaking a PhD at Federation University to research three generations of her Chinese connection with the Tong Way family from sojourner to settler generations. Her great grandfather was Reverend John Tong Way, the last Superintendent Presbyterian Minister to the Chinese of Ballarat and district who retired in 1949 at 87 years.
Membership of group
a) Persons engaged in personal Chinese Australian family history research
b) Persons engaged in relevant post-graduate research.
Frequency & venue of meetings
Meetings are usually held on the first Saturday of each month at the Chinese Museum, 22 Cohen Place, Melbourne.
Further information may be obtained by writing to CAFHOV Secretary, PO Box 18214, Melbourne, Victoria, 3001, or by email at [email protected].