Information about Chinese people in Uk archives is very limited, although there are some sources of information such as the Census returns and Alien Registers which can give us a surprising amount of information about immigration patterns and peoples lives. For example the 1851 census revealed that 22% of the population of Liverpool was born in Ireland. By the end of 1945, census information showed a large increase in immigration to the UK due to the Second World War and the horrors of the Holocaust, the largest group of Europeans in Britain being the Polish.
Tracing Chinese family histories in the UK is a difficult and complicated process due to the way that Chinese names are written in English. In Chinese, a person’s name appears as a series of characters.
A Chinese name is composed of several parts, for example in this name, Yip Cheung On. This is the way a name will appear in an official document. The first word ‘Yip’ is the surname or family name, ‘Cheung’ is the generation name, indicating which generation of the family the person belongs to, i.e. all the members of one generation will have the same generation name and ‘On’ is the forename or christian name. However a name may not always appear in this form. Sometimes it can be written as Yip On or as On Yip. There are regional variations in terms of the way a name is written, for example Yip can appear as Yi, Yap or Yapp in Cantonese, or Ye in Mandarin. There are also national variations, for example Vietnam was colonised by France, so Vietnamese Chinese names are written in French giving different spellings again. Many Chinese adopt English forenames names.
To further complicate matters, in the past, the information on British census returns and other important documents, was usually recorded by local British officials who were not familiar with Chinese names and often guessed at spellings. Anglicised versions of Chinese names and the cities and towns they originally came from is common. This was also the case with emmmigrants from other countries, such as the Irish. Trying to piece together when our ancestors arrived in the UK, where they came from, and what happened to them once they settled here can therefore be quite difficult.
Luckily most local libraries will help with genealogical or family history enquiries and there are many on-
CENSUS RECORDS OF THE CHINESE COMMUNITY IN GREATER MANCHESTER 1841-
Censuses have been held in the UK since 1801 and are held every ten years. The next census occurs in March 2011. The censuses from 1841 to 1911 are available on-
Apart from records of Chinese seamen who happened to be in the major ports on the day of each census, the Chinese did not start to appear in the North West in any great numbers until the 1911 census.
Whilst most of those recorded below were single males, it is on record that some did develop relationships with local Englishwomen. However if they married, the wife would then officially be termed an ‘Alien’ and lose certain privileges of citizenship. Consequently very few marriages took place and none are recorded below.
In order to try and find records earlier than 1911 a search was carried out of the top one hundred most common Chinese surnames appearing in the 1841 to 1901 censuses. The search was restricted to the Manchester, Lancashire and Cheshire censuses, but excluding ports. Surprisingly there were only four records found for that sixty-
Date of Birth Birthplace Address Census
A Mand c. 1829 China Bolton 1851
Gin Longfoo c. 1836 China Little Bolton 1861
Yip Achew c. 1840 China Ashton –
Yung Quee c. 1881 China Clitheroe 1901
All of the above were male and were servants apart from Gin Longfoo who was a shoemaker. According to the records they were all single. None of them appeared on earlier or later censuses so the likelihood is that they were first generation migrants who died without having children or returned to China, their time spent in this country was under twenty years.
A Mand was born in China in 1829. He was 22 years old at the time of the 1851 Census. The surname Mand is also a British name so there are some assumptions involved in considering him to be Chinese. He lived at 2 Market Place, Bolton with six other people. His occupation is stated as a servant. The occupation of four of the residents is that of grocer and tea dealer the others are housekeepers or servants. It is most likely that they were not servants of that particular household but worked elsewhere.
Gin Longfoo was born in China in 1836 and was 25 years old at the time of the 1861 Census. He lived at 144 Folds Road, Little Bolton, formerly a weaver’s house, with six other members of the household. He is a shoemaker and is listed in the household as a lodger. The family consisted of a husband, wife, two sons and a daughter. They also had a house servant. The husband and the two sons are also listed as boot and shoemakers. Interestingly he is the only Chinese person with a trade to be found in the area prior to 1911.
Yip Achew was born in China in 1840 and was 21 years old at the time of the 1861 Census. He lived in Ashton under Lyne at Birch House. This was the home of a cotton manufacturer, his wife and their daughter. They also employed a cook, a housemaid and a nurse.
Yung Quee was born in Pekin (sic) China in 1881 and was 20 at the time of the 1901 Census. He lived in Clitheroe at 177 Fairfield with three other domestic servants.
The 1911 Census
The 1911 census starts to show the beginning of the main Chinese migration into the Manchester area. Several records of Chinese people were found, again carrying out a search for the most common Chinese surnames. Seven Chinese households were found, all of which were listed as Chinese laundries. They were all born in China. These were as follows:-
Date of Birth
Chung Lee Laundry worker 1877
Logan Servant 1872
65 Liverpool Road, Eccles
Chung Lee was 34 and Logan 39 at the time of the Census. Both were single. The record shows that their laundry was at the address given above. The property has seven rooms.
Date of Birth
Hop Sing Lee Laundry Proprietor 1890
Moy Jim Fat Laundry Assistant 1889
327 Moston Lane, Moston, Manchester
Hop Sing Lee was 22 and Moy Fat 21 at the time of the Census both were single. The property has five rooms and is now a convenience store selling African foods
Harry Wong Laundry Assistant 1881
Chu Cox “ 1887
Chu Sun “ 1892
Wong Dai “ 1897
51 Manchester Road, Chorlton
Harry Wong was 30, Chu Cox 24, Chu Sun 19 and Wong Dai 14 at the time of the Census. The latter three, including the fourteen year old Wong Dai, are all listed as workmen their occupation given as laundrymen. The property has seven rooms and was almost certainly the place of business. It is now an Indian takeaway.
Quong Yen Laundry 1881
Wong Coon Laundry 1883
Jon Loy Laundry 1891
Jon Hung School 1898
Jon Gone School 1898
Jon Linn School 1899
145 Broughton Street, Salford
Quong Yen was head of the household and 30 years old, Wong Coon 28 and Jon Loy 20 at the time of the Census. The latter two being listed as his assistants. Quong Yen and Wong Coon were married. The three younger members of the household were listed as scholars. They do not appear on later Censuses so presumably returned to China following their education. They are cousins of Quong Yen. All of them lived in just three rooms which was also the place of business.
Hang Chin 1876 Laundryman Head
Bin Chin 1890 “ Cousin
Hing Chin 1890 “ Cousin
1046 Ashton New Road, Clayton, Manchester
Hang Chin was 35 and his two cousins, Bin Chin and Hing Chin both 21 at the time of the Census. They were all born in the Canton region of China. Hang Chin is a widower and Hing Chin is listed as married. The record mentions both their wives in China but this has been crossed through for some reason. The property has three rooms. It is now a private dwelling.
Charles Young 1878 Laundryman Head
Ching Ling 1864 ” Lodger
Joseph Lung 1886 ” “
145 Market Street, Hyde
Charles Young was 33, Ching Ling 47 and Joseph Lung 25 at the time of the Census. They are all from Canton in China. The property has two rooms and was also the place of business. It is currently a Chinese take-
Juny Lung 1863 Laundry Head
Jon Lan 1873 laundry Cousin
20 Bury New Road, Cheetham, Manchester
Juny Lung was 48 and his cousin Jon Lan 38 at the time of the Census. They are both from Canton in China and both married. The property has four rooms and is now a launderette.
Outside Manchester there is one record of a laundry, from Crewe:-
Sing Wah Chinese laundry 1878
Fough Frot Ironer 1889
106 Nantwich Road, Crewe
Sing Wah was 33 and Fough Frot 22 at the time of the Census. They were both born in China and Sing Wah is registered as married. Sing Wah mistakenly filled in the section about marriage particulars which should only have been filled in by the wife. This was subsequently crossed out but reads that he has been married for four years and has one living child. There are seven rooms in the property which was also the place of business.
A few students from China were found living in the area at the time of the 1911 Census:-
Date of Birth
CR Wang Engineering Student 1886
Wei Han Yang Mining Student 1883
Percy Liang Student 1892
Date of Birth
The above is not necessarily a comprehensive list of the Chinese immigrants from 1841 to 1911 but is certainly an indication of the general trend of migration into the area at that time. Chinese laundries did not seem to exist until after the 1901 Census. None of the recorded individuals can be found on previous or successive Censuses indicating that there was no sustained Chinese community in the area prior to 1911.
Researched by Ken Shaw