1. Search existing resources for information about the person
Which resources are useful depend on what you know about the person:
If you know their name ...
- Gwulo.com: Type their name into the box at the top-right corner of this page, and click the 'Search' button to see if we already have any information about them. If you're lucky, a search for a full name (eg David Richard Bellis) will return an exact result. You'll usually want to search again using just their family name (eg Bellis), to catch more matches (David Bellis, D R Bellis, Mr. Bellis, etc.)
- The Carl Smith Collection. A great starting point, though only the index is accessible online.
- Google. You've probably tried this already. If you get too many results, try adding Hong Kong to the search.
- Google Books. The advantage of Google Books over the basic Google search is that it lets you specify a range of years you want to search over. This is very helpful if you're researching a popular name, and Google returns too many years. To specify a range of years, click the 'Custom range...' option near the bottom of the menu on the left of the Google Books search screen.
- Old Newspapers. See if they made the news.
- Hong Kong Government Records Online (HKGRO). This one is less likely to turn up a result, but is worth checking, and is quick to search.
- The Hong Kong Government Records Service / Public Records Office. Search their online catalogues.
- CO129. This is an index to the correspondence between the British Colonial Office in London and the Hong Kong Government, covering the years 1842-1951. It's surprising what's included - marriages, etc - so it's worth a search.
- The UK's National Archive may have some relevant information if the person was a British citizen. Their 'Looking for a person?' page is a good place to start.
They worked for the government ...
- The Blue Books cover the years 1844-1940, and list all civil servants in Hong Kong.
- Here are some extra resources if they worked in the Royal Hong Kong Police.
They didn't work for the government...
- If they were adult men, there's a good chance they'll be mentioned in the Jurors Lists, which are available for years 1854-1941.
- If they worked for a large company (eg Swire, HSBC, ...) see if their company archives have any relevant information.
- If they worked for the China Maritime Customs, check the Database of Chinese Maritime Customs Staff
They were born / baptised / married / died in Hong Kong ...
- For a fee you can request searches of the government's register. Here are the relevant government web pages to request a search for births, deaths, or marriages. Jill has written about applying for a death certificate. Christine Thomas also has some notes about the process.
- In the case of baptism / marriage / death, their church would probably have records too. Here are links to records for: St John's Cathedral (includes the Peak Chapel).
- If they died and were buried in Hong Kong, their gravestone may give you useful information. if they were buried in the Hong Kong Cemetery in Happy Valley, there's a good chance they appear on this list. The findagrave.com website is also worth checking.
They (or their ancestors) were from Macau...
- They may be listed in the Macanese Families database, which has "48,000 names, going back centuries".
- You'll also find the Far East Currents website interesting, eg this post: http://www.macstudies.net/2013/05/16/from-our-global-mail-bag/
They were adopted in Hong Kong...
- The Fanling Babies Home website may be able to help. They write:
Our mission is to discover and network with individuals connected to Hong Kong orphanages and children homes such as, Fanling Babies Home, Pine Hill Babies Home, Shatin Babies Home, Precious Blood Babies Home in the New Territories, Evangel Children's Home, Ling Yuet Sin Infants Home, St. Paul's Creche, Yuen Long Children's Home, Eric Bruce Hammond M. Orphanage, St. Christopher's Home and Po Leung Kuk.
They did something newsworthy in Hong Kong ...
- We've already mentioned searching the Old Newspapers for the person's name. But unfortunately that search is only as good as the quality of the text. For many of the old newspapers with small print, the computer can't reliably recognise the name your searching for. In that case the only option is to manually read the newspaper for the few days around the date of the incident you know about. eg if you have a relative who died on 1st August 1892, it would be worth searching the newspapers by date and reading the papers for 1st-4th August 1892 to see if there was any obituary published.
- Or if they were really famous you'll find them in the Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography. It gives biographies of over 500 people from Hong Kong History. They're all listed on this page.
They lived in Hong Kong during 1940-45 ...
- Check these resources that cover the wartime years.
They traveled to / from Hong Kong by sea ...
- See if they appear in the passenger lists.
They received a medal or other award...
- The notice of the award should have appeared in the London Gazette.
They were well off ...
- They may appear in one of the commercial directories of the time, eg the Ladies Directory, the Chronicle & Directory for China, Japan and Philippines, or the Peak Directory.
If you know any more resources, please leave a comment below to tell us about them.