Tracing Ancestors

Information about Chinese people in Uk archives is very limited. However, some sources of information, such as the Census returns and Alien Registers, can give us a surprising amount of information about immigration patterns and people's 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, this name is 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, France colonised Vietnam, 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 unfamiliar with Chinese names and often guessed at spellings. Anglicised versions of Chinese names and the cities and towns they originally came from are common. This was also the case with immigrants 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 be quite difficult.

Luckily most local libraries will help with genealogical or family history enquiries, and there are many online resources available for tracing relatives, some of which are listed below. If you are a member of the Greater Manchester Libraries, you can access Ancestry and Find My Past from your local library free of charge. The research below was undertaken using these online resources.


Censuses have been held in the UK since 1801 and are held every ten years. The next census occurred in March 2011. The censuses from 1841 to 1911 are available online. These records were used to try to find early Chinese immigrants. It is quite possible that the census records did not include many Chinese immigrants, some of whom may have entered the Country illegally and didn’t want their presence known.

Apart from records of Chinese seamen who happened to be in the major ports on the day of each census, the Chinese did not appear in the North West in 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.

1841 - 1901

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 excluded ports. Surprisingly there were only four records found for that sixty-year period. These were:- 


                        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 -u-Lyne            1861

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. Hence, the likelihood is that they were first-generation migrants who died without having children or returned to China, and 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 some assumptions are involved in considering him 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. Most likely, 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 household members. He is a shoemaker and is listed in the household as a lodger. The family consisted of a husband, a 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 before 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 shows the beginning of the leading Chinese migration into the Manchester area. Several records of Chinese people were found, again searching for the most common Chinese surnames. Seven Chinese households were found, all 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 was 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 was 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 was 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 was 28 and Jon Loy was 20 at the time of the Census. The latter two are 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 they 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 was 47, and Joseph Lung was 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 takeaway called Kongs


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 was 38 at the time of the Census. They are both from Canton in, China, and both are married. The property has four rooms and is now a launderette.



Outside Manchester, there is one record of a launderette 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 the wife should have only filled in. This was subsequently crossed out, but it reads that he has been married for four years and has one living child. There are seven rooms on 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

Shang-Tung Liang     Engineering student  1892

Shang-Tung Liang was a nineteen-year-old student living in Nantwich and working for a railway company. He is described as a visitor. Nantwich is adjacent to Crewe, a large centre for the railway industry.


The above is not necessarily a comprehensive list of the Chinese immigrants from 1841 to 1911. Still, it is certainly an indication of the general migration trend 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 before 1911.

Researched by Ken Shaw




1841 - 1901

我们在1841至1901年期间的人口普查登记记录中,试图查找中国百家姓中的普遍姓氏。但令人惊讶的是,在这近六十年的时间里仅仅只有4项华人的记录。他们都出生于中国。Gin Longfoo是Bolton的皮匠,Yip A. Chew是住在Ashton-Under-Lyme市Birch House棉厂老板的仆人。




曼彻斯特地区的人口普查记录已经被损毁了。但1914年至上个世纪60年代索福尔德市的外籍人登记记录现还存放于曼城警察博物馆里。那时,每个外国人都要去警察局登记, 无论是新移民,还是搬家,或是结婚生子,等等这些都是每个外籍人员之后想要入籍的主要证明。截至目前,我们已经找到了有关华人移民的100多条记录。


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