Carl Smith Collection | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Carl Smith Collection

The Carl Smith Collection

... is a very useful tool to help researcher identify basic data and sources of information on individuals, organizations, buildings, roads, land matters and important events relating to Hong Kong, Macau and China's coastal cities from the mid 19th century onward.

The Public Records Office allows the collection to be searched online at:

Previously the content of the cards could only be viewed at the Public Records Office, but as of December 2018 the search results now include scanned copies of the cards.

Thanks to Vannesaf for these good tips on how to narrow searches:

In case this isn't already known to most already, if you want to search a particular person, say Peter Hendrickson, I find that if you just type in Peter Hendrickson, it will search anything "Peter" and anything "Hendrickson", which may returns thousands of results.

What you must do is put into the KEYWORD search field:

Peter AND Hendrickson

Has to be CAPITAL "AND", not lowercase "and"

And make sure there is exactly only one blank space between Peter and AND, and between AND and Hendrickson

I also noticed that inputting that into the "names" search field will give much more unfiltered results than using the "keyword" search field using the "AND" term.


Bernard is great, and so very helpful, nothing is too much trouble for him. 

I have got some images of the cards and signed the said undertaking.  But interestingly, it's not the image of the card that I ever use (or want to use), it's actually the content on the card. i.e. quite often the Carl Smith cards will refer to another reference point of interest, such as a newspaper, gazette, book, file etc.  The Cards are actually like stepping stones; my research doesn't "end" at the card but actually starts with the card and then I move on to other sources.  Many a time the Carl Smith cards have given me just a smidgen of information that I have later been able to expand using other sources and resources. 

Anyway, I'll just have to save up ALL my queries and hit the PRO again when I'm next in HK!


The quality of the scans of the images in the PRO is poor. 

The cemetery records are online at

Scroll down to Notes and the link to the online version.  All other records can be ordered on microfiche through FamilySearch.Org.

I was surprised to find out recently that the original Carl Smith cards had been donated to the Royal Asiatic Society in Hong Kong, who have lodged them in their Special Collection at the Central Library. As namussi says, the images on the PRO scans are sometimes incomplete or faint. I was frustrated not to be able to read the final word on a card which was important to my research. An academic contact knew about the cards and gave me this link:  If you are a member of the RASHK I believe you can apply direct to the librarian of the Special Collection to consult the CS cards taking proof of membership and ID. The RASHK are apparently keen to make this important resource more widely known about. As I'm no longer a member of the RASHK, I applied to their librarian and, to my great delight, was given a letter of introduction to her colleague at the Central Library.

The index cards are stored in vertical rows of locked drawers. Each row has a dedicated key. Hong Kong Residents and Hong Kong Companies are positioned on the left; "Foreigners" are positioned on the right and arranged alphabetically by surname. You can't request for all the drawers to be opened at once, so I just requested the two rows connected with my family names and had no difficulty locating the card I was looking for + the missing word that I lacked. The cards are too fragile for photocopying. You are expected to take notes, but there's not really any writing surface in the vicinity. I didn't ask about photographing, but I can't see a reason why that wouldn't be possible. If you needed to consult a lot of cards, I suspect supervision would be necessary.

I hope this free resource located in the centre of Hong Kong may be useful to other researchers visiting Hong Kong like me and perhaps more convenient than travelling to the PRO in Kwun Tong.

This is so great that the PRO has made the Carl Smith Collection available online. I had previously been advised by the PRO that info from the cards cannot be published in a form which identifies the subject. I'm just clarifying with them whether that is still the case now that the cards are available online.

Another search tip is to use " " to search e.g. someone's name, "Louie Wai"

Could anyone tell me why I am getting the following message when searching the Carl Smith Collection for a name: 

 !/WEB-INF/include/carl/listview.xhtml: The class '' does not have the property 'imgMap'.

Has something changed?




Hi Jill, it worked ok for me just now, so maybe it was a temporary problem with their computers? If you're still having trouble, best to contact them at for help.

Thanks David. I tried the link again today and it worked. Panic over.

Anyone else unable to view the images of the Carl Smith cards? Is this a temporary glitch? It's been like this for a few days. 

I just tried a search for Wong, clicked on the first result, and was able to view the card ok.

Yes, thanks, it seems to be working now. Presume it was a temporary glitch that lasted for days.