Banner image:The Gar sisters, Zelma andElsie, whose father was a Filipino diver on Thursday Island.

Using the National Archives Australia to find your ancestor's C.E.D.T:

Answer these questions to find out if your search is likely to be successful:

**Did he ever journeyed back to the place of his birth? 

If "yes" or "don't know" continue.

**What does the name sound like?

  • For example the name "Yip Hoy" as pronounced by its Cantonese owner sounded like "Yet Hoy" or "Yet Foy" or "Yat Hoy" or "Yah Foy" to the recording official. Maybe the sound of the name has been preserved within your family, by Cantonese speaking members of the family. If not, try all possible variations of the sound of the name of your ancestor to retrieve his travel permit and photo if it has been archived. When the ColouredColonialsGenealogy database opens in 2019, specially developed software will help you do this.
  • Go to then RecordSearch then Advanced Search, then insert the  name etc in the Item section. SEE Searching for Certificates at the National Archives for simple step-by-step instructions.

**Where did he work? 

  • when nominating town where he lived and workednote that border towns in adjacent states used the closest port 
  • e.g Port Melbourne, Victoria includes NSW towns Deniliquin, Mildura, Moama, 
  • Brisbane includes NSW towns Mullumbimby, Tweed Heads, Murwillumbah

Using the Aliens Registration database:

The War Precautions (Aliens Registration) Regulations provide an information snap shot of coloureds living in each State during the World Wars. Only Queensland has a compiled Index. Go to to download the Coloured labour and asiatic aliens Index. Ancestory now has a copy of this Index as well. Here is an example

: C.E.D.T. photo of Tommy Chong Fung

Tommy Chong Fung registered in 1916 (at the local police station) as an alien giving his full name, place and date of birth, place of residence, occupation and date of entry into Australia. Each time he moved during WW1, he had to update his address and job description. Extract from the Index:

Family Name

Given Names





Year of Arrival in Queensland


Police District

Police Subdistrict











The following documents are available in the reading room of Brisbane NAA, or they can be ordered online. They provide additional useful information. For instance, Tommy wrote English well and his general physical description is provided.

This Queensland index is not complete. Cairns and Thursday with large Asian populations are not included. If your ancestor lived in Queensland during the Great War and is not included in the index the alien registration details can be ordered from Brisbane NAA.

For other States, use the National Archives RecordSearch. Be aware that the police recording this information may have spelt your ancestor's name differently.

Searching for the Sou Kee family of Burketown, Queensland

Annie and Tommy Sou Kee applied to travel to Canton. She, as a half caste Chinese born in Queensland, with an indigenous mother, had to register as an alien. Her husband (Willie) Sou Kee traveled back and several times and each time he re-entered he registered as an alien. She never returned to Australia. Her son Tommy's permission to return was extended until he was 9 and he also never returned.

From Ancestry Library Edition: Tommy Sou Kee b. 16 Jul 1917 in Queensland Parents Willie Sou Kee &  Annie Ge Ety 

Her alien registration tells us that she was born on Wondoola Station 20 April 1895, North Queensland and lived and worked at Lawn Hill Station as a cook's help. She was 21 when she registered as an alien on 10 December 1916 and 22 when she received approval to travel to Canton and re-enter Australia if she so desired

Willie Sou Kee was also known as Sow Kee or See Poy

facebook & LinkedIn: anthony ah kee

P.O. Box 23506 Docklands VIC  3008

mobile 061 0420 641 456

Artist’s Statement

The lives of ordinary people of colour in late Colonial and early federated Australia were, unlike the rest of the population, regulated by re-entry restriction, alien registration and native protection. We now see that this mix of East and West had its own particular joys and sorrows. My art creates imaginary scenarios and tableaux which capture the emotions of these times:

The research for this genealogy site has allowed me to develop these art installations: 

Federation Penny Arcade Installation
about the effects of the administration of the Chinese/Immigration Restriction and Pacific Islander Labourers Acts on coloured workers & peasant farmers in Queensland and other states using a simulated, interactive Federation penny arcade with re-imagined games                          

The Invading Hordes Installation  3D animated heads and shoulders of marines, convicts, settlers, police and native police, projected sequentially onto 3 walls, suddenly changing to pig-tailed heads of Chinese indentured labourers which turn yellow (jaundiced) with some faces becoming leperous and melting to be slowly replaced by Afghan, Indian, Japanese, Kanaka etc monochromatic brindle faces, then suddenly the distraught, anonymous faces of today's illegals.

        Researching as yet unnamed installations (1) on the use of coloured labour in the north Australia coastal communities from Broome to Thursday Island*

                                                                               (2) on the use of coloured indigenous labour in the coastal, inland and island missions and enterprises of Australasia

*about the effects of the administration of federal Immigration Restriction; the Pacific Islanders' Labourers Act; the various state aboriginal protection Acts and the War Preparation Regulations on the coloured peoples of the coastal north Australia.

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