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Need help with Chinese names

Need help with Chinese names

Posted: 1113513650000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1120493813000
I am transcribing federal census information for the Rootsweb Census Project. Specifically, the 1860 census for Calaveras county, CA. I have come across hundreds of Chinese names with "Ah" listed as the first name. What does this mean? Is this truely a first name and is the second name most likely the surname?

Any clarification will be appreciated.

Re: Need help with Chinese names

gilbert (View posts)
Posted: 1114459115000
Classification: Query
you might of think ah in the same way mr. is uesed

Re: Need help with Chinese names

helen (View posts)
Posted: 1120467434000
Classification: Query
Surnames: Chinese in New Zealand, Names with Ah
Courtesy Nigel Murphy, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellingtopn, New Zealand
‘AH’ PREFIX TO CHINESE NAMES:
There has long been discussion about the use and origin of the appellation ‘Ah’ in many early Chinese names in Australia and New Zealand. I attach the following by the Rev Alexander Don, Presbyterian missioner to the Chinese in New Zealand from the 1880s to the early C20th. I hope it helps.
‘AH’
Everyone has noticed the prevalence of this prefix to the names of Chinese abroad, and many are the attempts to explain. Generally it is supposed to represent our "Mr", but on one occasion a Supreme Court Judge gravely informed the jury and counsel that he had discovered it to mean "Bachelor"! In China it is used only to familiar friends, to close relatives, to inferiors, servants, and such. In the Colonies one finds the head of a large importing firm, known as "Ah - - ," with "& Co." often attached. The nearest parallel to this in English usage would be to style the firm, Robert Wilson & Co. as "Bobby & Co." For the prefix "Ah" has much the same force as our familiar and diminuative affix "y" or "ie." For the Britons, James Brown, John Smith, and Thomas Jones, to be known among the the Chinese in China as Jimmy, Johnny, and Tommy - this is one with the Chinese Lee Wun, Chan Wing, and Wong Ping, bearing among us the names Ah Wun, Ah Wing, and Ah Ping. Their full names may be - probably are - Lee Yeoung-Wun, Chan Shing-Wing, and Wong Ping-Kwong. They would never be called Ah Lee, Ah Chan, nor Ah Wong; for these are surnames. Equally Ah Yeong-Wun, Ah Shing-Wing, & are not used, just as we do not call a boy Tommy Wille for Thomas William, but either Tommy or Willie separately. Chinese, not knowing the meaning of "Mr" say, when asked the meaning of "Ah" - "All the same Mr." And thinking that we have only names - not surnames - prefix "Ah" indiscriminately. So I am sometimes called "Ah Don" and Mr Ings "Ah Joe."
Under six flags being notes on Chinese in Samoa, Hawaii, United States, British Columbia, Japan and China', by Alexander Don, Dunedin, J. Wilkie &
Co.: 1898, pp.11-12
Don was right mostly

Re: Need help with Chinese names - Part 2

Helen (View posts)
Posted: 1120467677000
Classification: Query
Surnames: Chines in New Zealand - use of AH
Ah in Cantonese is a prefix usually to a single name, denoting informality, familiarilty and closeness.But double names may also has this prefix occasionaaly. This is also used in some instance as a prefix to a relationship, eg Ah Shook (Uncle), Ah Yaeh (Grand father), Ah Goor (Older brother), Ah Mui (Younger sister) etc. It can even extend to status if there is familiarity, eg Ah Shi Tou (Boss) Ah Low Goong (Husband), etc.
Ah is also used as an exclamation, denoting there is something to follow eg:
Ah!Long time no see
Ah! Have you eaten , etc etc. or expressing surprise:
Ah! I did not expect to see you here.
Ah! Who are you etc
It can also mean understanding and agreement (in English!), as in ahhhh, I see! Thanks, it adds to my knowledge on this. This matter was brought up at several of the consultation meetings, people couldn't understand why so many early Chinese in NZ were called Ah something or other. In Levin people thought it was just a thinking or pausing sound before their name that the Customs officials thought was part of their name. As in answer to the question "What is your name?" The answer being "aaaah - Chen." But that wouldn't make sense because there are no examples of people in NZ using "Ah' with their surnames, only their personal names, eg: Chan Da-chee is known as Ah Chee, Yan Kew as Ah Kew and Chan Moon-chang as Ah Chang. This makes working out the family name of people like John Ah Tong and Ah Gee (the pioneer Wellington settlers) almost impossible.
COMMENTS ON DON’S COMMENTS
Everyone has noticed the prevalence of this prefix to the names of Chinese abroad, and many are the attempts to explain. Generally it is supposed to represent our "Mr", but on one occasion a Supreme Court Judge gravely informed the jury and counsel that he had discovered it to mean "Bachelor"!A VERY WRONG CONCEPT. WE ALSO CALL FEMALES WITH THIS PREFIX.

In China it is used only to familiar friends, to close relatives, to inferiors, NOT NECESSARILY "INFERIORS", WE ALSO CALL "AH LO DOU" = HI! FATHER, A VERY INTIMITE WAY TO CALL YOUR FATHER. servants, and such. In the Colonies one finds the head of a large importing firm, known as "Ah - - ," with "& Co." often attached. The nearest parallel to this in English usage would be to style the firm, Robert Wilson & Co. as "Bobby & Co." For the prefix "Ah" has much the same force as our familiar and diminuative affix "y" or "ie." For the Britons, James Brown, John Smith, and Thomas Jones, to be known among the the Chinese in China as Jimmy, Johnny, and Tommy - this is one with the Chinese Lee Wun, Chan Wing, and Wong Ping, bearing among us the names Ah Wun, Ah Wing, and Ah Ping. Their full names may be - probably are - Lee Yeoung-Wun, Chan Shing-Wing, and Wong Ping-Kwong. They would never be called Ah Lee, Ah Chan, nor Ah Wong; for these are surnames.
NO, WE ALWAYS CALL CLOSE FRIENDS/RELATIVES THEIR SURNAME WITH AH AT THE BEGINNING. FOR EXAMPLE MY BROTHER & SISTER- IN- LAW (MY WIFE'S SISTER AND HER HUSBAND CALL ME AH CHENG. Equally Ah Yeong-Wun, Ah Shing-Wing, & are not used,
NO, WE ALSO USE IT AT THE BEGINNING OF A TWO-CHARACTER NAME.
just as we do not call a boy Tommy Wille for Thomas William, but either Tommy or Willie separately. Chinese, not knowing the meaning of "Mr" say, when asked the meaning of "Ah" - "All the same Mr." And thinking that we have only names - not surnames - prefix "Ah" indiscriminately. So I am sometimes called "Ah Don" and Mr Ings "Ah Joe."
'Under six flags being notes on Chinese in Samoa, Hawaii, United States, British Columbia, Japan and China', by Alexander Don, Dunedin, J. Wilkie & Co.: 1898, pp.11-12
SINCE CHINA IS SO BIG THAT WHEN ANALYSIS THIS KIND OF 'CULTURAL" MATTERS THERE COULD BE SOME DIFFERENCES BETWEEN VILLAGES/COUNTIES/PROVINCES ETC.
EUROPEAN PEOPLE ENCOUNTER ALMOST ALL CHINESE USE "AH" BECAUSE IN THOSE EARLY DAYS CHINESE MIGRANT CAME FROM THE SOUTH. DON'T YOU KNOW THAT IN SHANGHAI THEY USE THE PREFIX "XIAO (¤p)" = LITTLE, SMALL, HUMBLE ... SO "XIAO LIN", "XIAO FONG" ... ARE ALWAYS HEARD.
THEREFORE IT IS MORE APPROPRIATE TO SAY "IN SOME PLACES OF THE CHINA THEY USE IT LIKE THAT" BUT NOT APPROPRIATE TO THINK IT IS THE CULTURE OF "CHINA (THE WHOLE CHINA)".

Re: Need help with Chinese names - Part 2

Posted: 1120494271000
Classification: Query
This is a bit confusing. What I am getting from all this is what "Ah" is not. It is not a surname as it was recorded in the census records I was looking at.

Am I fairly safe in assuming in the cases of Ah Ming, Ah Wing, Ah Chung, Ah Gow and Ah Fung - Ming, Wing, Chung, Gow and Fung are family names?

Re: Need help with Chinese names - Part 2

helen (View posts)
Posted: 1120555550000
Classification: Query
Surnames: Chinese surnames
In New Zealand for instance, my Grandfather's name is Chan Sheen Chong. The surname is Chan - the christian name is Sheen and his second name is Chong. However, the English people have their surname last, and assumed that the Chinese also had their surnames last. So he ended up being called Mr Chong, and my father inherited the Chong as his surname, and so did I. So brothers who came out together ended up with different surnames, and their families all have different names.

If you know which village the people came from, you should be able to sort out the family name - eg the Wong, Chan, Ng, Loo,Lee families come from Kwangchow area, from villages scattered around

Re: Need help with Chinese names - Part 2

helen (View posts)
Posted: 1120555737000
Classification: Query
I would say that the Ah is not part of the name - the first name after that would be the surname. Does the census show where these people come from?

Re: Need help with Chinese names - Part 2

Posted: 1120569894000
Classification: Query
The census doesn't show the village they came from. Sometimes a careless census taker won't even have the correct country and, to make matters worse, these are handwritten documents and the handwriting is often very difficult to decipher.

Thank you very much for your help. I really appreciate it.

Re: Need help with Chinese names - Part 2

helen (View posts)
Posted: 1120643630000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1161316334000
I know how you feel - there is no order to anything. I went to Archives New Zealand recently, and came across some photos of Chinese men and women who were returning home to China for up to 4 years, from 1880- 1920s (but there are others as well). Since they had paid the poll tax of 100 pounds previously, to ensure they didn't have to pay again on return, they had to submit 2 portrait photos with name and signature. I'm sure the names are incorrect as they were "transcribed" by Europeans, and the english is written how it sounded to the recorder.
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