Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Indexing 'Sons of the Soil'

Lily Lee and Ruth Lam, the authors of the book 'Sons of the Soil' have done a good job of pulling together what little 'original' documentation there was available about early Chinese market gardeners - such as newspaper articles, account books, photographs.

The families described in the book sometimes set up gardens in different parts of the country and moved around and frequently inter-married. So staff at the Central Auckland Research Centre decided that it would be very useful to index families mentioned in the book and add this information to Auckland Libraries heritage online database: Index Auckland. The goal was to help people track down the families mentioned in the book and set up useful connections.

Index Auckland is a rich resource of history, art, theatre, film and music references sourced from Auckland area newspapers and journal articles. Whilst the index predominantly covers Auckland, other regions are also covered, which means that the index adds to both family history and local history research at a national as well as regional level.
 
Ref: 31-411A, members of the Jee Kai group, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Once this indexing work began, it  became obvious how few Chinese individuals appeared in Index Auckland due to the number of "new" descriptors that needed to be added to accommodate the new information. There are challenges in indexing Chinese names in that some individuals anglicised their names and reversed the traditional Chinese order (family name first, given name second) and some did not. They also sometimes changed their names over the years and the spelling was often affected by local pronunciation. The book's index reflects this as there are some inconsistencies and omissions. It is hoped that the entries in Index Auckland will "enhance and supplement" the original book index.

You can look through these newly added records by adding a place/location e.g. Ohakune or a family name or a person's full name  e.g. Sip or Ah Sip or Sip, Ah into the Quick Keyword Search box. Since all the variations of names have been included, entering a family name such as Wong will bring up all the people with this surname and all their various aliases as well: Wong, Chung Kwong (aka James Wood); Wong, Gei Hung (aka David Wong); Wong, Gei Jung (aka Peter Wong). Entering terms such as Chinese gardener or market gardener will bring up all the indexed family names from 'Sons of the Soil' and other relevant publications, which you can then browse through. To narrow down and refine your searches, use the Advance Search option.

If you enjoyed this post, then you may be interested in joining Lai Lam for a free talk, entitled 'The CJK Chopstick Societies with Lai Lam'. This talk, which is part of the Family History Lunchtime Series, is being held on 27 February 2013, 12pm - 1pm at the Central City Library, Whare Wānanga, Level 2. Lai will talk about the common cultural ties between the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans; including languages, food, the arts and religion to name a few.

Ref: Post for talk by Lai Lam at Auckland Libraries
For more information and bookings, go to Auckland Libraries' events calendar listing.

Authors: Carol Griffiths, Central Auckland Research Centre

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