Carl Smith Collection | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Carl Smith Collection

The Carl Smith Collection ...

... is a very useful tool to help researcher identify basic data and sources of information on individuals, organizations, buildings, roads, land matters and important events relating to Hong Kong, Macau and China's coastal cities from the mid 19th century onward. Read more...

The collection can be searched online at:

However the cards themselves cannot be viewed online, as explained by Bernard at the PRO:

Thank you for your inquiry.

To my understand, because of the concern of the privacy of the person and their descendants, image of the cards are not accessible on-line. We will let researchers access to them on-site or provide images to users who sign an undertaking to declare the images are used for their private study and research.


If you are not able to visit the PRO to view the cards in person, the PRO can help you. You can contact them at, saying you'd like to request cards from the Carl Smith Collection. They will send you the form to fill out. You fill it out and send it with a check and once the check clears they send you the copies of the cards.

Thanks to contributors MH and Annelise for providing the information above.

Regards, David


Bernard is great, and so very helpful, nothing is too much trouble for him. 

I have got some images of the cards and signed the said undertaking.  But interestingly, it's not the image of the card that I ever use (or want to use), it's actually the content on the card. i.e. quite often the Carl Smith cards will refer to another reference point of interest, such as a newspaper, gazette, book, file etc.  The Cards are actually like stepping stones; my research doesn't "end" at the card but actually starts with the card and then I move on to other sources.  Many a time the Carl Smith cards have given me just a smidgen of information that I have later been able to expand using other sources and resources. 

Anyway, I'll just have to save up ALL my queries and hit the PRO again when I'm next in HK!


The quality of the scans of the images in the PRO is poor. 

The cemetery records are online at

Scroll down to Notes and the link to the online version.  All other records can be ordered on microfiche through FamilySearch.Org.

I was surprised to find out recently that the original Carl Smith cards had been donated to the Royal Asiatic Society in Hong Kong, who have lodged them in their Special Collection at the Central Library. As namussi says, the images on the PRO scans are sometimes incomplete or faint. I was frustrated not to be able to read the final word on a card which was important to my research. An academic contact knew about the cards and gave me this link:  If you are a member of the RASHK I believe you can apply direct to the librarian of the Special Collection to consult the CS cards taking proof of membership and ID. The RASHK are apparently keen to make this important resource more widely known about. As I'm no longer a member of the RASHK, I applied to their librarian and, to my great delight, was given a letter of introduction to her colleague at the Central Library.

The index cards are stored in vertical rows of locked drawers. Each row has a dedicated key. Hong Kong Residents and Hong Kong Companies are positioned on the left; "Foreigners" are positioned on the right and arranged alphabetically by surname. You can't request for all the drawers to be opened at once, so I just requested the two rows connected with my family names and had no difficulty locating the card I was looking for + the missing word that I lacked. The cards are too fragile for photocopying. You are expected to take notes, but there's not really any writing surface in the vicinity. I didn't ask about photographing, but I can't see a reason why that wouldn't be possible. If you needed to consult a lot of cards, I suspect supervision would be necessary.

I hope this free resource located in the centre of Hong Kong may be useful to other researchers visiting Hong Kong like me and perhaps more convenient than travelling to the PRO in Kwun Tong.