Yau OLSON (née KUM) [????-????]

Submitted by jill on Sat, 03/02/2024 - 04:32

Yau Kum is my great-grandmother and mother of my grandmother, Hannah Warren, née Olson. My question to Gwulo contributors is whether this name on the birth certificates of her two children could just be a nickname as has been suggested to me. On the certificate the name is written as Yau, Kum - supposedly surname followed by name, but on the gravestone of her first child her name is given as Y. Olson. I believe that Yau Kum is a "lucky" name. I forget which is which, but I was told that the translation is "jade" and "gold". Can anyone tell me if there should be a clan name appended to "Yau Kum"?

Yau Kum's two children, John Olson and Hannah Olson were born in January 1879 and May 1880 respectively. Their birth certificates are the only record that I have been able to find of her. Her husband's next child by a different woman was born in 1882. My grandmother, Hannah was brought up by her father (also John Olson) and his new partner as if she were their eldest child.

A General Search for Yau Kum's death that I applied for under the name of both "Yau Kum" and "Yau Kum Olson" was unsuccessful. 

In the course of my searches I came across the grave of one Chau Yau Kam in the Protestant Cemetery in Happy Valley. The two faces of the grave are in Chinese and English respectively, but the texts are quite different. As I don't have the Chinese characters for "Yau Kum" I don't know if "Kum" and "Kam" could be interchangeable. I have been given four different possible Chinese characters for "Kum".

The English inscription is as follows:

Sacred/to/the memory of/Chau Yau Kam/born in Canton China/on the 18th December 1857/died at Hong Kong/on the 9th October 1894/aged 37 years/this stone was erected by/her sisters and friends.

The Chinese inscription states that Chau Yau Kam was a mother, but it also says that she was married to "Wai". I applied successfully for her death certificate. Her death was registered by her godson. Her address was given as Old Bailey Street. On the certificate she is described as a "kept woman". I've had different interpretations of the term for the cause of death whether tuberculosis or "internal injury." I have no proof that Yau Kum and Chau Yau Kam are the same person but the dates of birth and death are a possible match.

I'm grateful for the detailed help that I've received from knowledgeable Chinese friends in both Hong Kong and the UK in interpreting the old Chinese inscription and sharing their expertise in the local culture. I think I have probably come to the end of the road in searching for my great-grandmother, but if anyone would like to add anything on the basis of the above information I shall be most grateful.




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