Chinese names in the BC gold rush

One of the interesting discoveries I’ve made while researching both the Fraser River gold rush and the Cariboo gold rush, is the Chinese names of the miners. In particular, I was struck by the number of Chinese men with the name “Ah.”

Here are some names I found:

  • Ah Fatt
  • Ah Hoy
  • Ah Sam
  • Ah Shing
  • Ah Yett

Apparently, it was common in the 1800s that Cantonese would use “Ah” as a prefix before their last name. In the Cantonese tradition, “Ah” was normally used before a familiar person’s name. For example, “ah-po” is the name for a maternal grandmother.

It was not uncommon for Chinese gold miners to have different versions of their name depending if the person recording their name understood Cantonese or some other Chinese dialect. For example a person by the name of Wu Bai-feng was also recorded as Ung Fong and as Eng Fong. To add to the confusion, there are many acceptable English spellings for the same Chinese symbols.

Interesting Trivia: Loo Chuk Fan, Chang Tsoo, and Kong Hop Tong were merchants who owned most of the lots in Victoria Chinatown in 1859.

Here is a site on Chinese Geneology with a focus on an area of Guangdong Province known as Siyi.