Mystery Photo - Chinese orphans? 1909

Yesterday I was checking out some folders in my genealogy cupboard when I came across a bag with some photos that came from my great uncles Peter Dawson's house. There were many that I had previously seen, some that I knew about and ones that were a complete surprise. This photo was one of the latter. 

Sharon Brennan collection from Peter and Pauline Dawson.

Before I looked at the back of the photo, I wrote down what I could ascertain from the photo.

  1. The children in the photo are Chinese.
  2. There are 2 westerners in the photo.
  3. One of the men has a queue (plait). 
  4. According to Wikipedia it was compulsory for the men to wear a queue until the 1910's.
  5. I'm unsure about what is in the sack. Initially I thought it may have been food for the children, but I'm not sure.
  6. On second thoughts the sack may in fact be part of the clothing of the woman? whose hand is outstretched.
  7. Some of the children appear to be wearing a name tag.

The writing on the back gives some clues as to who the children were.

Keavefsford children -  all over China
brought back from Swalow South China
in baskets from the hold of Ship
20 in all

I'm not sure if I have transcribed this correctly.

My great uncle Ernie worked in Shanghai as a police officer from 1907 until 1912. He would have sent this photo to his brother Peter in Australia.

If there is anyone who knows who Keavefsford? children were I'd love to know. One wonders what happened to them.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I think that is a p just before ford in the first word.

    Swalow is Shantou, Centre for the American Baptist Missions. Perhaps they were orphans.

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  4. There is a Swallow Reef in the South China Sea - could this help? After a bit more searching, found that it could be Swatow, also known as Shantou in China!!! :)

  5. It would make sense if it was 'kidnapped' children

  6. Yes, others have suggested kidnapped and I can see it now. I have been sent a newspaper story about kidnapped children in China in 1909. I'll add more to my post tomorrow.


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