New resource, & talk tomorrow | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

New resource, & talk tomorrow

We've got details of a good new online resource for anyone researching Hong Kong history. Plus there's a talk by its author tomorrow evening. (But there are only 6 seats left out of 90, so better be quick!)

New resource

It's an online database of the 6,000+ burials in the Hong Kong Cemetery, and will be a great help to anyone researching early Hong Kong's residents.

The database was compiled as part of Patricia Lim's research for her recent book. She has generously agreed to make it publicly available, and to let us publish a copy here on

You can see a condensed version of the database here. It shows each grave's location, and who is buried there. Expanded versions will follow, with photos, inscriptions, and Patricia's additional notes.

The book

The end result of Patricia's project is the book, 'Forgotten Souls: A Social History of the Hong Kong Cemetery'. It's not about the cemetery though, instead it looks at the lives of the people buried there. Here's a sample section's chapter headings to give a flavour:

Section II: The Early Denizens of the Hong Kong Cemetery, 1845–1860
4: Merchants, Clerks and Bankers
5: Servants of the Crown
6: Professionals
7: The Merchant Navy
8: Tradesmen, Artisans and Small-Scale Businessmen
9: Beachcombers and the Destitute
10: Missionaries
11: The Americans
12: The Armed Forces
13: Women and Children
14: The Chinese and Their Position in Relation to the Europeans

Visit the publisher's website for more information about the book, and online ordering.

The talk: 'Forgotten Souls'

Then tomorrow (Thursday, 5th May) evening, , Patricia will give a public talk about the project. Expect to learn about how she did the research, and to hear some of the interesting stories she unearthed but that didn't make it into the book.

The talk is arranged by the Royal Asiatic Society, and will be held in the Garden Room of the Helena May. It starts at 6.30 pm but the room will be open at 6.00. Cost is $50 for RAS members, $70 for non-members. To check if there are still any free seats, and to reserve your place, please call Mrs Katherine Fenton (2813 7500) before noon Thursday.


There will also be a guided walk through the cemetery, led by Patricia. But... unfortunately that is already fully booked.

I'll be interested to hear from you if you find the database useful. And I'll be attending the talk tomorrow - hope to see you there!

Regards, David


Hi David, on which website will the 6000+ graves database be placed?  Will it it be fully searchable and also show the full inscriptions of the graves? And lastly, when will the full database be made available?

I'm sure many people will ask the same, but would appreciate it if you could put those questions to the meeting!. Thanks



Will St Michael's Cemetery be included on the data base, or will that be a future project?


Q1. On which website will the 6000+ graves database be placed?

A1. The publisher's website for the book says that the database will be "held in the archives of the Hong Kong Memory Project and the Royal Asiatic Society among other places." Fortunately is one of the "other places". The answers below refer to publishing the database on this website.

Q2.  Will it it be fully searchable?

A2. That's certainly my goal. At the simplest level, all the content will be accessible to internet search engines, eg Google. But I also plan to provide a search interface.

Instead of the current complete lists we show (eg Jurors Lists), the information will be held in individual records to make searching easier. I'll be talking about this in a separate thread, and would like to get feedback from researchers (Liz, Patricia, Jill, Sean, etc) about the features they find useful in other sites (and any new features they'd like to see).

Q3. Will it show the full inscriptions of the graves?

A3. Yes, Patricia's database includes the full inscriptions.

Q4. When will the full database be made available?

A4. We'll have to see how smoothly the work goes. I hope to have a simple first version finished in the next 8-12 weeks. At the minimum that will allow  basic access to all information via Google.

Q5. Will St Michael's Cemetery be included on the data base, or will that be a future project?

A5. The database from Patricia Lim covers the Hong Kong Cemetery (ie the Protestant cemetery), so there won't be any records from St Michael's Cemetery initially.

But it will be possible for anyone to add new records (graves) to the database via this website, just like you can currently add Places. So over time I hope we'll gather information about other cemeteries. If anyone has already compiled lists of graves at other cemeteries and is willing to share them on the web, I'll be happy to add them to the collection here.

That sounds great.  It will be a fab resource when up and running, hats off to Patricia for this monumental project.  Where do you want comments, suggestions, feedback posted? Here, or to you privately so you an digest?


Hi Liz, feel free to post anything you think is relevant here for starters.

A couple of other updates:

I've also been asked for a list of burials ordered by family name to make it easier to search. Here it is: List of Burials ordered by Name

And I've put the gravestones' inscriptions online, as they seem to be of most interest. They're listed by section, so you'll need to note the Plot for the person you're interested in. Then look up the inscription in the relevant section's list below (you can find the section from the first two digits of the Plot reference, eg Plot "07---/03/05-" is in section 07):

Regards, David


Just to say again that Patricia Lim's work is just amazng. What an addition to our knowledge. Please tell her how much her work is admired and marvelled at.

Have taken a skim through your latest postings and there is so much info in some of the inscriptions that life for many a researcher will be made much easier and I figure they will be the source of many an hour on the computer just imagining the stories behind the inscriptions.

I take it the hash mark and number after some means there is some mention in the book. Had a look at the book and searched for my lot and found a brief description of the three brothers.

One suggestion I would make is that if there are mentions to specific graves, families etc., it would be good to have a cross reference to other known material. For example my relations could be cross referenced to my website. Don't know whether this is possible but it would certainly expand the knowledge base of anybody interested.

One small point. In the general list there is an Elizabeth Moore died aged 38. Can't find her in the inscriptions. May be me but have found everybody else! Interested because she may be my great grandmother on my grandmother's side (the Irish connection) and I know nothing about her at all except that she was probably born in Foochow. On the other hand may not be her at all. Interestingly I suspect most of the Moores mentioned must have be Catholic though buried in the Prostestant cemetery. Was it cheaper I wonder!

Thanks again to Patricia Lim.


This is amazing. I have just oredered a copy, and can hardly wait to peruse it.

Thank you for all the work you do!


Hi Sean,

I've just forwarded a copy of everyone's compliments to Patricia.

Here's what the hash mark means (I've just created a FAQ to gather this information):

When found on the tomb, the name of the undertaker/stone mason is given below the inscription as is the number under which the incumbent is entered in the burial register of St. John’s Cathedral. This number is preceded by the # sign.

Your suggestion is good - that's where we'll be going with the full database version. Stay tuned!

Elizabeth Moore. Is that Plot 23---/09/02- ? Then she's in section 23. You can find the inscription in Inscriptions for cemetery sections 17-47 :

illegible/ also/ Marian Harriet/ [illegible]

Regards, David


I found the correct place but no Elizabeth Moore. Am I right in assuming that the grave stone cotains marking for several people I wonder -  Elizabeth Moore/illegible/also/Marian Hariet/illegible. Otherwise how do we know it Rlizabeth Moore's grave?


Reply from Patricia:

Thank you so much for forwarding the comments to me. I was very interested and am so glad that the data base is being used and appreciated which is what I wanted.


I think Patricia has used several sources to identify gravestones. So that could explain a record with a clear name, but a missing inscription.

There will also be transcription errors though, so it'll be worth making a note of any confusing entries for further checking - either in the full database once that's online, or by a visit to the graveyard to see the original gravestone.

Regards, David

I saw the entry for the grave yesterday and it may help me make a step further on my search


Picked up a copy of this fantastic book at Cosmos Books, in Wanchai at the weekend.

Fascinating read and I am only on page 46...

Well done Patricia.

Invaluable and original historical insight in HK and the graveyard itself.

As to the original Queens Road East graveyards described (now Moon st, Star St etc), I wonder if the large stone retaining walls at the back of Lok Moon Mansion formed the boundary of the original hillside cuttings to create the plateau for the burial site?

(Its also amazing that the local Chinese ever considered developing and living on the same sites after the graveyards were relocated given their auspicious beliefs...)

The land just too proximate and valuable to be left unused I imagine...

Finally its worth having a look into the entrance lobby of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Chapel - relocated into the lobby and mezzanine floors of what I think must be No.1 Star Street residential development, or a block close by.

Its not mentioned anywhere, but look up and I suspect the old bells are the originals from the first catholic parish there...

They also had an interesting temporary display of the parish history (with photos dating back quite a long way) some time back, but this is already removed.