Tom Ah See (ca. 1840 – ca. 1903) married Aboriginal woman Margaret (Maggie or Maggy) Dunn at the Taroom Court House in May 1885. Ah See worked as a gardener at Ghinghinda in the Shire of Banana, west of Bundaberg. Ah See and Maggie had seven children. Following Ah See’s death, Maggie married Aboriginal man Peter Rouse. In 1915, Tom and Maggie Ah See’s second son, William Ah See, enlisted in the 41st Infantry Battalion and served in France.

According to the information recorded on Ah See and Maggie Dunn’s marriage certificate, Ah See was born in China in about 1840. His father was named He Ong and his mother Ah Chow. Ah See was a bachelor aged 45 when he married Maggie. Her age was recorded on the certificate as ‘under 21’.

The couple’s seven children — John, Mary, William, Jenny, Annie, Nellie and Kitty — were born between 1886 and 1902. Some time prior to November 1904, Ah See died leaving Maggie a widow and their children fatherless. In late 1904, 8-year-old Annie Ah See began attending the Deebing Creek Provisional School at the Deebing Creek Aboriginal Mission near Ipswich, while 5-year-old Nellie Ah See was enrolled in June 1905. The school admission register recorded that the girls lived at Deebing Creek and that their father was deceased.

Following Ah See’s death, Maggie married an Indigenous man, Peter Rouse, and returned with him and at least one of her daughters, Kitty Ah See, to the Nanango region. Rouse was charged with the indecent assault of Kitty (Kate) in 1911. According to the Maryborough Chronicle, Maggie gave evidence that Rouse hit her and then assaulted Kitty, but Rouse pleaded his innocence and stated that “it was a put up job by his wife to get rid of him”. Rouse was sentenced to serve four years at the Brisbane Gaol.

On 5 November 1915, Tom and Maggie Ah See’s second son, William Ah See, enlisted in A Company of the 41st Infantry Battalion. Prior to enlistment he worked as a carpenter on Morella Station, via Roleston [sic]. After training at the Enoggera Army Camp in Brisbane, William was sent to France. However, he was hospitalised several times with influenza, bronchitis and bronchial asthma. He was eventually evacuated to England for medical treatment and then classified as medically unfit. William arrived back in Australia in September 1917. Photographs of the soldiers of A Company 41st Battalion appeared in The Queenslander on 29 July 1916. William’s photograph was incorrectly captioned ‘V. Ah Lee’.

In October 1919, Brisbane newspapers including The Telegraph reported that William Ah See, ‘a half-caste Chinese’, sought to dissolve his marriage to Evelyn Mary Ah See on the basis of her ‘alleged misconduct’ with George Ferber, also a World War I soldier, with whom Evelyn had a child. A decree nisi was granted, ‘to be made absolute in three months’.

It has not been possible to trace Tom Ah See’s date or place of death as there were multiple Chinese men named Ah See living in Queensland prior to 1904 when the Deebing Creek school register noted that Annie Ah See’s father was deceased.


Jan Richardson, ‘Tom Ah See (ca. 1840 – ca. 1903)’, Harry Gentle Research Centre, Griffith University, 2022,

Archival Resources

Qld BDM, Marriage certificate, 1885/C/1736

Ah See and Maggy Dun [sic], married 1 May 1885, Taroom Court House.

Qld BDM, Birth registration, 1886/C/9186

John Ah See, born 13 Apr 1886.

Qld BDM, Birth registration, 1888/C/10734

Mary Ah See, born 10 Apr 1888.

Qld BDM, Birth registration, 1892/C/11110

Unnamed male, born 29 Mar 1892.

Qld BDM, Birth registration, 1893/C/10698

Jenny Ah See, born 24 Jun 1893.

Qld BDM, Birth registration, 1895/C/11099

Annie Ah See, born 24 Jun 1895.

Qld BDM, Birth registration, 1900/C/10865

Nellie Ah See, born 13 May 1900.

Qld BDM, Birth registration, 1902/C/10961

Kitty Ah See, born 13 Jun 1902.

QSA, Admission Register, Purga Aboriginal State School

QSA Item ID ITM639781, Admission Register - Purga Aboriginal State School, Digital Representation ID DR 32934, entries for Annie Ah See (No. 128, 7 Nov 1904) and Nellie Ah See (No. 149, 20 Jun 1905), Deebing Creek Provisional School.

National Archives of Australia, Service Record, B2455, AHSEE W

Service record of William Ah See, 'A' Coy, 41st Battalion.

Australian War Memorial, First World War Embarkation Roll

Private William Ah See, Service number 113, 41st Infantry Battalion.


Indecent assault, Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser, 26 Jul 1911.

A Company 41st Battalion, photographs by Fegan, The Queenslander, 29 Jul 1916.

Actions for divorce, Telegraph (Brisbane), 24 Oct 1919.

Online Resources

Marg Powell, William Ah See #113, SLQ Blog, 27 July 2017.