- Audio: Liz Denny on researching Chinese miners
Good morning. My name is Liz Denny and I'm what's called an Acts of Service Officer. I work in the Public Record Office Victoria. And let's just see if this works. Yes. So, I work in the Ballarat Archive Centre, which is a branch I suppose, repository of the main archives of the Public Record Office Victoria.
Public Record Office Victoria. It's the state archives of Victoria. They hold government records from the time of the Port Phillip district, the colony of Victoria, the state of Victoria, which is over a 170 years of government records now and that's a lot of family history contained in those records.
In those records, there are material and records about families who had ancestors from China. Because, after all, people from China had been migrating and settling in Victoria since before the gold rush in fact. And some of the records of them are preserved in the State Archives and regional archives like Ballarat and the Bendigo Regional Archives Centre which, with the library in Bendigo, holds historical records of Bendigo but also state records of the Bendigo area.
So, I will probably skip between records from different centres in this talk, because it is impossible to simply go to one archive, even in the state archives, to get material on your family. I'll also, like Diana, be running between different sources of information and I will mention them. But I will focus on records from Ballarat and I will also try and use records that you can find digitised initially, although you'll eventually find yourself compelled to go to the archives and look at the real thing. And that's one of the excitements of archival research. Holding a 100 year old document in your hand, a letter, a court record, even sometimes a photograph, though photographs are rare in the state archives, and realising that that this is a record made possibly even by the person whom you're looking for.
So, I'm going to do first of all an introduction to where we are, in the hope that at the end of this talk all of you will eventually end up in Ballarat looking at the Ballarat Archives' contents.
So we're in what's called The Glass Box, this hideous square glass box of state government officers in the middle of beautiful Ballarat. We're quite near the railway station, five minutes’ walk. We are a free service. We are, just like everywhere in the state records, we offer help and access to the state records of Victoria. But we are only open two days a week, Monday and Tuesday, 9.30 to 4.30. Unlike our main archives in North Melbourne who are open five days a week, and some Saturdays. But all this information you can find on our website, we keep you well-posted with maps, details and times.
So, in terms of what we hold the Ballarat Archives Centre, we hold local records of the Ballarat region. So roughly, if you think of from Bacchus Marsh to Stawell and from Daylesford to Tisdale, not quite as far as Geelong, is the catchment area for our records and we deal with local records.
So we have mining records, we have municipal records, records of shires and town councils, and although of that may sound boring, local council records are fantastic. There is a bill for underpants for the mayoress of Ballarat, and I bet she never knew they were going to end up in the Ballarat correspondence. So there's stuff in council correspondence which is very revealing and very interesting. It's not as boring as you might think.
In terms of local schools, for example, you would have to go to the main archives because land records, education records, criminal court records, are generally in the main archives in Melbourne.
So today, I'm hoping to talk about some very interesting records particular to Ballarat. Mostly mining records, but also some records of what's called the Chinese Protectorate, Ministration of Chinese Populations in Ballarat, and then a whole range of other records which are the sort of records that you would use for your family history for people who haven't come from China.
So everything I talk about today, all these records, although I'm focusing on Chinese people on the Ballarat gold fields, the same records will give you the same interesting about people from Britain, from Wales, from Cornwell, from Scotland, from Ireland, Scandinavian ancestors on the gold fields, German ancestors. There were a lot of Germanic people speaking German on the gold fields.
So, in terms of the documents that I have to do with Chinese people in Ballarat in particular on the Ballarat gold fields, they consist of government documents in Chinese. Official documents such as regulations, notices to the population, and things like garden licenses in the 19th century. All were bilingual, they were printed in both English and Chinese.
Then we have government documents about Chinese people.
Chinese people turn up in the same range of 19th century records, court records, inquests, hospitals, rate records, mining records, as do people from Britain and other places. If you're interested and have not yet looked at the Prov website, I recommend you do. There's a lot of help, including online guides to show you how to research specific records and also general help in family-history research using government records at Victoria.
And the other category of records that I'll be dealing with are very rare and very precious. These are the document written by Chinese people on the gold fields in both English and Chinese.
Now, the earlier talk on the Immigration Museum showed you the richness of personal records in English from English migrants. Unfortunately, we have very little in terms of personal experience of people from China on the gold fields. There is a little, and more and more is coming to light. And places like Heritage Victoria will have fantastic things like phrasebooks in Chinese. So Chinese people from, in coming to Ballarat would learn how to say ‘I saw a kangaroo’ in English, and ‘there is a bush fire’, and ‘no I won't lower the price of my vegetables’. So have a look around. You will find lots of resources, more and more coming to light and being digitised and being made public.
Now I'm just going to do a slight diversion, because there aren't many photographs in the archives, maps and written documents are our strength. There are a few but not many. I'm going to cheat a little.
This beautiful arch was erected by the Chinese community in Melbourne for Federation in 1901, but I'm putting it up because it's typical of what goldfield's Chinese communities, and there are lots of records in Ballarat newspapers in the 19th century, would put up for big civic events and parades.
In fact, there's one from 1867 described in the Ballarat Star that sounds exactly like this, and it had puppets worked by hot air lanterns around the base and it was hugely appreciated and there was a whole paragraph given to it in the local paper. So the Chinese people were very good at putting on exciting displays and parades in local towns, and the population of those towns really appreciated it and went out of their way to invite the community to join in things like visits from governors, Easter fairs. And the other thing was that the Chinese community also had a very strong sense of civic responsibility and very frequently put in funds to things like orphanages, local hospitals and, for instance, the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum.
So I'm now pinching a digitised image from the State Library site. This is 1875. This is a parade in Ballarat and this has come from one of the Ballarat Joss Houses. And everyone was dressed up, they're fundraising for the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum. You won't find much of this side of life in the state records. These tend to turn up in digitised newspapers because they're not to do with state government institutions and government organisations. So you need to really look at things like the digitised newspapers to get a sense of life on the Goldfields. However, some of the records we have are quite wonderful, and these are the ones I'm hoping to introduce to you today.
I'd like to first talk about a Ballarat pioneer who came out from China in 1849. His name was Abu Mason. He was naturalised in 1857. He married a local woman in Ballarat and he had four children. He was an entrepreneur, a miner, an interpreter, a government employee and a constant spokesman for the Chinese community. He probably annoyed a lot of people. Was never shy of giving an opinion. And he turns up very often in the digitised newspapers. Very early on in his career he was employed by the local protector of Chinese.
So all the Goldfields' areas had what was called the Chinese Protectorate. The Chinese Protector in Ballarat was called Mr. Foster. His job was to arrange interpreters at the courts, prevent intercultural incidents, to pub, make sure that Chinese population knew what the Victorian Government laws and regulations were, and, most important, to collect a great deal of money from the community through the discriminatory taxes on Chinese miners. In terms of organisation, they intended to get the Chinese population to live in designated villages, in nice straight lines, clean up their rubbish and have a headman to whom everyone would be responsible. In reality, the thing was much more messy. Not everyone chose to live in a Chinese camp. People filtered in and out everywhere. Head men didn't do what they were told. Taxes weren't always collected and the Protectorate correspondence is full of complaints about this. However, they also say that the population was very orderly.
So, this is a letter book of the Chinese Protector of the Ballarat Goldfields. And it is a particular treasure, we don't have many records from the Protectorate period. But 1855 to 1860 is when these institutions were in place. The diary and letter book covers five years and it is digitised on our property. Digitised and transcribed for those of you who have trouble reading English.
There's a great deal of information in that diary and there's a little brief glimpse of Abu Mason here, who in 1856 was employed as a head man of the Canadian village. That's a mining area in Ballarat. There were six Chinese villages in Ballarat at this time. A huge Chinese population. There were Chinese operas and circuses going on, there were tea houses, there were all sorts of…it was a very lively community…there were kite makers and specialists of all kinds, as well as people very busy digging for gold.
The next record I'm showing you is also about Abu Mason. And this is a much later record. This is from some records that I'd like to emphasise in this talk. They're mining records in the Ballarat collection, from the Ballarat Mining District. And everyone mined in Ballarat. They mined from the 1850s right through to the 20th Century, and they frequently mined under city streets. So you'll see applications to mine under the Town Hall of Ballarat East, solemnly going in to the mining department and solemnly coming back refused. But, nonetheless, people made the attempt and every time an application was made a survey had to be made.
So, there are maps of Ballarat in the mining records that are contemporary and give you an absolute snapshot of what is happening in that month, in that little particular segment. And the surveyor, he hasn't on this, in this case, but the surveyor will put down sludge piles, and puddling whims, and piggeries, and hedges on these surveys for the inner city area. This, I just put this one up because that's Abu Mason's house there in a little group of Chinese houses on an area that someone not Chinese wishes to mine.
And it's, that little notebook is pocket-size, fitted into the surveyor's back pocket and he would write out and do his sketches with pen and ink and didn't seem to ever blot them, which is quite amazing.
So, mining records are a great treasure. I'll talk a little bit more about them.
But I'm now going back to the Chinese Protectorate. So we're back to Mr Foster and his letter book, and I'm showing you an official document, a notice to the Chinese population in Chinese. This is a letter from Mr. Foster to central headquarters announcing that he has just paid for and authorised a notice to be translated into Chinese and put into the local paper.
Now I call this talk Records of Chinese on the Ballarat Goldfields, because I am mentioning some records that aren't in the archives. This is one of them. This is another great treasure of Ballarat. This is a notice in the Chinese newspaper in Ballarat. It's a year later than the one in Foster's letter, but nonetheless, it was put in by Mr. Foster.
This newspaper is a great treasure. It's probably the world's first bilingual English-Chinese newspaper. It was published in Ballarat. We only have about eight copies of it in Australia and four of them are in the Ballarat Library and they have been digitised. So, if you wish to read a nice series of advertisements encouraging Chinese people to buy candles and to keep their camps clean, you can go to the Central Highlands Library website and see these see these newspapers.
So, there are a few official news notices still surviving today. This is a fairly early start at sending notices and regulations to the Chinese population. Eventually the Victorian Government had to invest in official central government interpreters and translators and proper printing equipment. And the Victorian government printer, throughout the 19th Century, printed a considerable amount of material in Chinese.
So, this is actually a fragment of a huge poster. It is a mining statute, number 480. It was, it went through Parliament in 1875. And it has been translated into Chinese by CP Hodges, who is the Chief Chinese Interpreter of the Colony of Victoria. Do note that he's not Chinese. The Victorian Government preferred to employ Europeans educated in Chinese, rather than Chinese interpreters, feeling that their loyalty was not in question.
I don't know about the quality of the Chinese translation either. I think as people start to read these things more we might get some comments on the competence of these interpreters. However.
Now! This is a little detective story, just for a bit of fun. I had been reading in the Ballarat East local Board of Health minutes. Again, sounds boring, in fact, fascinating. If you want to know about epidemics, diseases, unsanitary schools and the trials of being Public Health Inspector in Ballarat, these minutes are wonderful. And in the minutes, there's a little note saying that the Central Board of Health in Melbourne has sent Ballarat East some nice posters in Chinese and would they please put them up around the town.
We didn't have any left in our correspondence. So, just out of interest I contacted my colleagues in the Bendigo Regional Archives Centre and said, could you have a look in your correspondence roundabout this date? And they did. To my great joy, they found the very poster, including some more correspondence from the Central Board of Health.
So that is also digitised on our wiki with a translation from Professor of New York. And it's telling people to be very clean because there's been an outbreak of plague in Sydney, essentially, and if they're not very clean they'll be fined. But you can read the translation for yourself. And you can go to Bendigo and look at the original if you want to and that's one of the joys of the archives, particularly the Victorian archives. They're right here. You can go and have a look at these records and hold them in your hands.
So having mentioned the PROV wiki and having mentioned our website, I'm going to say that the quickest way into it is simply google PROV…P-R-O-V…and wiki, and it will appear. If you want our website you can simply Google P-R-O-V and our website will appear. Once you've found our website, there's a considerably degree of help on it to help you navigate around and find things on it.
Later on after this talk, I won't take questions because we're running a little tight on time but I'll be available outside and you can come and ask me any questions you like about finding the wiki or about finding these records.
So we talked a little bit about government records, about official documents in Chinese, about the fact that the Chinese community was so significant in the 19th century, but a very reluctant Victorian government had to set up official interpreters and translators, and a whole printing outfit to print material in Chinese.
And again the municipal local court and mining records of Creswick, Ballarat East and Ballarat, which are all defined as the central mining district of Ballarat in the 19th century, contained a lot of local records from Chinese people.
This really beautiful little bit I extracted cause it has a nice red seal on it as you can see—there are very few seals on the documents, so I saved this for an illustration—this is the full document. It is in fact an invoice for groceries.
So, as was common on the goldfields, people didn't pay their bills. So at a certain date of the year, all the shopkeepers took their debtors to court to get their money back. So, a Chinese grocery in Creswick, in fact, took one of their debtors to court and they produced the bill as evidence in the court papers. So that's the bill. Much more decorative than the official translation the translator turned out for the court to read. And you can find out what this particular goldminer in Creswick had been buying. And it gives a really nice glimpse into the daily life of people on the goldfields in the 1860s. Notice the joss paper. Notice the cabbage and pork and other ingredients, all of which could be found in a Chinese grocery today.
So these local court records will often find odd bits and pieces that will help you build up a picture of daily life. You can find from people haven't paid their debts what they were wearing, what sort of furnishings they had, what they were eating, and so on.
Again what I just showed you is on the PROV wiki and can be found quite easily. It's been digitised.
Now I want to briefly rush through this. I'm talking about petitions. Petitions were huge in the 19th century and they're a big part of the Public Record Office of Victoria's holdings. Everyone sent petitions into the colonial government, and the Chinese community was no exception.
This is actually a petition from Melbourne, held in the main archives, and I've got a red star above the name of John Aloo who signed this. He was another prominent person on the Battle at Goldfields. He was interpreter for Mr. Foster, among other things, but he was very famous for running a restaurant in Ballarat. And before you feel very excited about Chinese food on the menu of Ballarat miners, he in fact served soup and puddings, knowing his customers extremely well. But many other people in China operated restaurants and teahouses on the diggings, serving Chinese customers who presumably didn't want Christmas star puddings.
Like Abu Mason, John Aloo arrived in Victoria early, established an English name for himself, married a local girl and had children born in Ballarat. He and his family eventually moved to New Zealand. But I want to show you the petition because if you have Chinese family ancestors you might consider the petitions a way of perhaps correlating the English name that you know your ancestor by with perhaps their original Chinese family name.
There are problems, many problems, with Chinese names on documents in the Victorian archives, but there's also been a considerable amount of research done on them and places like genealogy centres and the State Library, online help, will guide you through some of these problems.
And I'd also like to point out that the petitions to the Victorian State Government have been the subject of two extremely interesting articles by Anna Kyi. And those digital articles on online journal Provenance, which again can be found very easily by googling ‘Anna Kyi Provenance’ and it will turn out magically on your computer screen.
I'm suggesting these articles because there is simply not time to discuss petitions in this talk. And having said that, I'm going on to more petitions.
So this petition is by people in Ballarat, and they have in 1859 got together to protest the incredible amount of excessive tax they are paying. And very politely they are pointing out that this year the special tax on Chinese people is expected to produce 50,000 pounds. That's a huge sum of money. They then go on to politely point out, in English translation, not much of this is going back to the Chinese community, most of it seems to be spent on officials. Strange that. Perhaps the government might like to devote a bit to the Chinese community. Perhaps they'd like to get some Chinese language printing equipment, which the government eventually did. And that they should employ Chinese teachers, who are fit persons, employed to open evening-schools near the various Chinese camps to teach English. Not an unreasonable demand we would have thought, and something that's become part of our social policy nowadays, but which was turned down flatly in a little note on the edge of that petition when it was received in the government department.
So that's the English translation supplied with that petition. This one isn't digitised, although I hope to get it up on the wiki soon. But you can order it from the Public Record office and go in and read it. And you'll notice there were many, many Chinese names on that. These were all people resident in Ballarat at that time.
Now, apart from the big petitions on big issues of the day, the other thing that we have in our collection and also in the Victorian Archives Collection, are petitions to local government. I've called them Municipal Petitions.
Sending a petition to the council was how you got things done in the 19th century. If you wanted your road made, if you wanted your drain fixed, if you wanted gas lights put up, if you wanted to complain about the fact that miners had opened a hole in your paddock and cow had fallen in, which is actually in a note to the Council in Ballarat, you sent a petition to your local council.
And we do have a few petitions from the Chinese community on the Black Lead camp at Creswick. Now, not a lot of these have survived, but in Creswick there are a few. So these are quite special and these have in fact being digitised, they are on the PROV wiki.
This is a joint petition from both European shopkeepers and Chinese residents of the Black Lead. The Black Lead camp was the main Chinese community area in Creswick borough, that's the Creswick town, and towards the end of the 19th century it fell in a hole and got flooded because it was, in fact, on top of a mining area and very unstable, as the local health inspector pointed out many times. So nothing really survives physically of this very busy community except a lake, a park and a plaque in Creswick, but we do have petitions from the people who are living there.
In this petition they are asking that the council please fix the offensive ditch across the road and also could they repair the public foot path. And they've already, as a community, put in 100 pounds to get this foot path started, and could the council start kicking in.
The next petition is from the same area a few years later. This is just from Chinese residents on the Black Lead camp, and they are asking Creswick to pipe out water from a new town dam that's just been established. At this time if you want to town water you had to petition and you had to promise the council that you'd pay for it. Cause council had to get out a loan and if you weren't going to pay your water rates they wouldn't supply the water. And I'm pleased to tell you the Black Lead camp got its water in record time. One month under the engineers estimate. And everyone on that petition, in fact, promptly paid their water rates. Their names are there on the water rates, a receipt book in the Creswick Council, except for the man I want to talk about. Now, I forgot to circle his name. His name is Henry Quock Ping.
Henry did not pay water rates because he wasn't living in Creswick. He was in fact visiting, I expect. Because he was, in fact, a doctor and he obviously had several places he would visit the patients, and Creswick must have been one of them.
So Henry was actually living in Ballarat. He was a doctor in Victoria Street in Ballarat East. And we find him in the rate books for quite a few years here. Henry was also a person who had determined to settle in Australia. He was naturalised by 1873. He married Anna Jane Glenister of Ballarat in 1874 and before he died at quite a young age he had two young children, both born in Ballarat.
Henry described himself as a doctor. He was in fact what we'd call now a practitioner of traditional Chinese Medicine, and as the Ballarat doctors of the day called an Herbalist. So, at this time in the goldfields anyone could practice medicine if you're prepared to face a malpractice suit if your patients died.
What you couldn't do was claim to be a Registered Medical Practitioner. Now a Registered Medical Practitioner had to have undergone a certain number of years training in a recognised medical institution and had to have documents to prove they passed the exams. And the model was Edinburgh University but they also, in Victoria, registered people from Chile, and from Italy, and from Germany.
So, I have, there was a little bit of a fracas in Ballarat East, and I found this letter in the minutes of the Victorian Medical Board that was set up to produce a registration-list of proper doctors. And if you're a proper doctor then you could say so to your patients and you could also get government positions as Coroner or Health Officer and so on, so it was worth a bit to be on the register.
So the next thing I'm going to show is a quick extract, which I will read reasonably quickly. A letter received from Mr. Richard Bunce, a very busy Ballarat East doctor who was often Coroner. Reporting the fact that four Chinese practicing as medical men amongst the uneducated European population there. And he's obviously asking the board to do something about this competition. And the board points out to Mr. Bunce that anyone can take up an unregistered medical practitioner if they want to. And if they're claiming to be registered, take them to court. But, in fact, the board’s not interested in prosecuting anyone, they're too busy running their register. So much for Dr. Bunce.
However, Henry was never one to take things quietly and he, in fact, was quite prepared to take on the Ballarat doctors. And the minutes show that as Hui Quock Ping, he actually applied to be registered himself, as a doctor. He turned up with a translator and a lawyer and his Chinese medical training documents. Firstly, he was turned down. So he came back again. This time he had the opinion of the Victorian Solicitor General, who advised the board that if they didn't take this seriously they could be sued in court. So the board sat down and took this seriously. They got a letter from the British consul in Beijing, who said, ‘yes, these are genuine medical documents’, and ’yes it's a real place’, and ‘yes, Henry has done the required years of training’. But after a bit of deliberation, they found a loop hole. He hadn't had training in anatomy. So they were able to refuse him.
Unfortunately, Henry died two years after this hearing in 1877, otherwise I'm fairly certain we would have heard more of him. When he left, when he died, he left his wife and young sons an 11 room weatherboard house in Ballarat East, the furniture, and his horse and buggy, which is no doubt what he used to do his medical rounds with.
Now again another digitised will, findable on our website. Wills in Victoria and the probate papers that go with them, from 1840 up to 1925, are digitised. You can find them on our website and they're a great resource for family history. And you will in fact, as I've just shown you, find Chinese ancestors leaving property, sometimes leaving property to go back to family in China, sometimes leaving property to Australian family or to local business associates and friends.
And, just one last slide. Guess what? In 2000, Victoria finally registered traditional Chinese medical practitioners. Only about 100 years too late for Henry. Be we finally recognise that branch of medicine.
Now I'd like to talk a little bit more, depending on the time, about the mining records, which I think are one of the real treasures of the Ballarat Archive Centre.
Here's a map, again, from that little pocket notebook of a mining surveyor, showing Chinese market gardens along the Yarrowee creek, on the Ballarat east side of the creek. This is 1883. And in order to get a market garden, or to get a house in Ballarat, you didn't have to buy the land. You could go to the Mining Department and apply for a Miner's Right, a right to business and residence, and just pay a low yearly fee, then you could build your house, build your garden, plant your orchard, and you had all the rights of ownership, provided you renewed that yearly.
Many, many people, including many Chinese residents of Ballarat, used this way to build homes and to set up businesses. And this is an application from Ho Huay. He put in his application in 1897. He describes exactly where the block is that he wants. The references are to the township plan of Ballarat East and, once again, township and parish plans for the whole of Victoria are digitised and can be found on the PROV website. Very handy for locating relatives in Victoria.
You'll notice he signs his name in English. And we know that this is his signature. People had to sign in front of the mining warden. If they couldn't write, if they were illiterate, we'll have Maria Barrett for example, she's got a cross on her mining application witnessed by the warden. So we know Ho Huay could write in English, that is his name and his signature.
This is his map of where he wants his garden block to be. A little bit wonky, but he probably scribbled it on the back of the application form to show the warden what he was talking about.
And this is the area. Again, not at the period that Howay made the application. This is a different date, but this is again from the field notebooks and the allotment 117 that you see on the right-hand side is mentioned in Ho Huay’s application, so I'm pretty so, sure his allotment would be just about where that top one is, just about.
And in fact he mentions the woollen mills, and here's a segment of the Barrack East Township planned, and here are the woollen mills circled. And he would have been somewhere near the bottom of that circle to the right in his actual plot.
So if you can find people, I'm not just talking about Chinese ancestors here, but if you can find any people in these mining records, It’ll give you a good deal of information about their living conditions and their businesses at the time that these records were made.
And I took a photograph of that same spot. You can see there's no trace of those gardens. Now, there would've been ponds and all sorts of irrigation arrangements and out-buildings and huts. They're all gone. They've been just landscaped over now. However, the woollen mills have been preserved, so that's the woollen mills that we were looking at in the map.
And I think part of the reason I wanted to show you those photos was that in Ballarat, as in many places, a great deal of what was there in the 19th century, particularly, when we're talking about miner's cottages, mining gardens and such, have gone. They've been modernised. They've been bulldozed. They've been lost. But using the records in the Archives can help you find those old landscapes that have since gone.
I'm showing you now the business, Residents and Business application here, simply to show you that if you couldn't write in English then you would write your name, sign your name in Chinese.
It's a slightly complicated application because this is R.Goon writing on behalf of Ming Kee. Ming Kee is actually the applicant for the land and R.Goon has brought the application down and is signing for him. This is an application from 1897.
Now the mining records in Ballarat, wonderful as they are, are mostly useful from the late 1860s through to the beginning of federation. Simply because that's what survived. So for earlier periods we don't have quite these sorts of rich surveys to look at.
And the other point about these things, like inquests and these applications and wills, is a signature is always that of the person.
For petitions quite often, particularly petitions from a large Chinese community, the names will be written down by one person, possibly because they've got the best handwriting. But when you come to a witness statement, the requirement is the person actually write their name. So this will be the writing of the person at the time.
Another sort of mining record. Again 1870. This is R.Shing applying to mine in a reasonably populated area of Ballarat. I didn't follow through to see if he was approved. But the references on that mining survey, again, can take you to the township plan of Ballarat East, and that is his block circled. And there was, in fact, a house on that. So in these circumstances, miners would come to terms with the inhabitant and, depending on their degree of sophistication, they might simply promise not to knock the fence down, while they tunnelled under. But some savvy people would demand a percentage of the profits. These would be organised privately.
My last person I want to talk about is Samuel John Tong-Way. Now, he is slightly later from the people I've been mentioning. He was a teacher in Ballarat and he was born in Ballarat. From his teacher records—wonderful records in the Education Department of Victoria, which are held in the Victorian Archives Centre, but microfilm of them is in Ballarat as well as in the Victorian Archives— and they just record everything of a teachers’ teaching life, including some fairly terse comments on their teaching ability if they weren't measuring up.
And from Samuel's teacher record, we find that he was born on the 25th of August in 1894, he was born in Ballarat. His parents were both Chinese from China. They were Christian missionaries to the Ballarat goldfields. His father was a Presbyterian minister, the Reverend Young, Reverend Tung-Way I'm sorry, who lived in Young Street Ballarat for many, many, many years and was a well-known local identity. A strong tradition of public service that he obviously brought his children up in.
Samuel went to Ballarat High School, which was quite an achievement in those days. High school wasn't automatic. And then he began a career with the Education Department as a junior teacher in 1912, and he did extremely well. He was accepted to the new teacher's college in 1914. Again, quite an achievement, this is equivalent to getting into university now and maybe more for the early 20th century.
Of his teaching, he was reported as being precise and vigorous and leaving a favourable impression. And I've read quite a few of these and when the inspectors were feeling that someone was wishy-washy, they said so.
So, from his teacher record we discover that Samuel was appointed to a school in Daylesford on his graduation. And it says here that he enlisted. So I went to the National Archives site, the Mapping our Anzacs with all the digitised records of WWI service people, and I had a look at Samuel's form, which I’ve actually edited.
So, when he enlisted in 1917 in Daylesford there was a question on his form that said, ‘Have you ever been rejected as unfit for service?’ And he replied, ‘Yes. Non-European origin’. Well that's interesting, because many, many people in Ballarat of Chinese-descent enlisted. It didn't seem to be a problem. But it turns out that, although it was a problem early in the war, once large numbers of people started to die, they were less picky.
So, in the Ballarat correspondence—now I mentioned municipal correspondence as a marvellous resource for family historians for ancestors from all over the world—we've got a file in 1915 to do with recruitment, because local councils had a great deal to do with recruiting and enlisting people during the First World War
Here's a letter I found about in a file about the expeditionary forces in 1915 and the 18th Brigade is querying the Ballarat Council saying, ‘37 Australian-born men of Chinese extraction have been recruited from the Ballarat district’. And it goes on to say that they don't really approve of this. ‘Only British subjects substantially of European origin or descent will be accepted for service with the AIF. Could you please comment?’ There's a hurried pencilled note underneath saying, ‘No, we're not doing anything like this’ and there's only one person and that was Mr. Kiang. So I went back to have a look at Mapping our Anzacs to see who was enlisting at Ballarat, and in fact a substantial number of Chinese-descended Ballarat people did enlist. So it's possible that the council wasn't fussy, just the army.
And they also put a note that only Herbert Kiang has been enlisted here. H Kiang. So I had a look at that record. He's actually from the K-I-H-A-N-G family, Kihang. His father was Chinese, his mother was from Warrnambool. There were four sons born in Ballarat. All three enlisted and only one survived the war. So, I think that's about all I can really fit in now, but I'll just show one last photo.
This photo is in the Victorian Archive Centre. It's a picture of the Ballarat Joss House in Main Road. It is the very last joss house to exist in Ballarat. It was pulled down in the 1960s. Derelict. Now there were more so many joss houses, at least one for each Chinese camp in Ballarat. The Star, digitised Star newspaper has constant reports of joss houses being built, being initiated, ceremonies being held on them, joss houses burning down, joss houses being moved down the street to a new place, so we know there were lots and lots and lots of these. Only one survived to the 1950s and that's now been lost.
So a significant part of what would have been the local landscape is gone and you'll only find these memories in the archives. So I highly recommend our archives as a source of family history, of community memory, and of recovering lost landscapes and buildings.
'a significant part of what would have been the local landscape has gone, and you'll only find these memories in the archives'
– Liz Denny
About this recording
Liz Denny, Access Services Officer at Public Record Office Victoria, speaks at Family History Feast 2014 on the topic of researching the records of Chinese miners who worked on the Ballarat goldfields in the 1850s.
Liz provides plenty of information for family history researchers who are planning a visit to Ballarat to browse the archives, and highlights the huge amount of fascinating material available. Of major interest are those records particular to Ballarat, including newspapers, minining, administration and municipal records.
She also highlights regulations, garden licences, court records, hospital records, inquests and rates notices, and documents written by Chinese people in both English and Chinese.
Hear more from Family History Feast 2014
- Jenny Harkness on FamilySearch: Don Grant Lecture 2014 (video)
- Andrew Griffin on Australia's non-British migrants (audio)
- Diana Hookham on multicultural family research (audio)
- Dr Moya McFadzean on collecting migrant stories at Museum Victoria (audio)
- Walter Struve on on German family history resources (audio)
Liz Denny is an Access Services Officer at the Ballarat Archive Centre, a branch repository of Public Record Office Victoria's main archive.