In 2021 I connected with some little known branches of the family, including a UK branch. In sharing information about our ancestral Quon village with them, I started wondering about the larger narrative of how two generations of the family - Albert and his brothers, and Albert's father and uncle - moved back and forth between China and the US for many decades. With our strong US ties, I wondered how or why relatives ended up in the UK.
Family photos also indicate that quite a few cousins and other unidentified young men were also part of the narrative. When you dig into the details, both their mobility and at times immobility can be surprising. And despite a shared China-to-America arc to their lives, their individual stories often ended up quite differently.
So Many Question Marks
Is it pure happenstance that Quon Mane, who we believe was the first Quon in the US, arrived in 1881 or 1882, just before the US Exclusion Act of 1882 went into effect in 1883? Such legislation was restrictive and even punitive, but doesn't seem to have constrained our family's ability to stay in the US or to travel back and forth - or not to the point that any such stories have filtered down to me.
Why did eldest brother Frank, who arrived earliest and who one would assume was most at home in the US, end up moving back East (we know he died in Hong Kong and may have lived in Canton before that)? Is it correct that 3rd brother Nathan only came to the US at a much later age than his older brothers? If so, why?
And how did marriages with women back in the village affect travel patterns? The intervals between the births of children shed some light on the frequency of such visits. Gung Gung's stories, which were attentive to the lives of the ladies, hint at some of the dynamics. Is there significance in the fact that Albert, unlike his brothers, found his own wife in the US?
And what of various "nephews", "cousins" and "employees"... How many were true relatives? Were any paper sons (I haven't heard of any)? What were the family relationships that determined who came to the US and who did not?
What was the larger historical context of US legislation and attitudes, as well as unrest in China? The 2019 book American Exodus: Second Generation Chinese-Americans in China 1901-1949 brings to the light the fact that as many as half of the Chinese born in the US in the early 20th century ended up moving to China because they felt stymied in the US. How much do we really know about the layered Chinese-American identities of those preceded us?
I will endeavor to find out more and update this site in due course!