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Parsons Family

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0102 MS 380686
Held at: School of Oriental and African Studies
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Full title: Parsons Family
Date(s): (1902-1926), 1951-1998
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 3 boxes
Name of creator(s): Parsons | Harry | 1878-1952 | missionary
Parsons | Edith Annie Kate | b 1876 | missionary
Parsons | Richard Keith | b 1916 | Methodist minister
Parsons | Philip Kenneth | b 1916 | Methodist minister


Administrative/Biographical history:

Rev. Harry Parsons was born on 26 November 1878 in Barnstable and entered the Ministry of the Bible Christian Church in 1899. He served in China from 1902 to 1926. He married Edith Bryant on 24 April 1906 in Yunnanfu. In 1907 the Bible Christian Church united with other sections of Methodism to form the United Methodist Church. He died on 8 July 1952.

Edith Annie Kate Parsons was born on 13 December 1876 near Tiverton. She and Harry Parsons were engaged in 1899 and the Bible Christian Church subsequently accepted her as a lay missionary. She sailed for China in 1904. The Parsons had three children, Elsie, born in Zhaotong in 1910 and the twins, (Richard) Keith and (Philip) Kenneth, born in Zhaotong on 17 September 1916.

Both Philip Kenneth Parsons and Richard Keith Parsons became ordained ministers of the Methodist Church, who served at home and overseas. Philip Kenneth served in the Hupeh Central China District, 1940-1946, South West China District, 1946-1950, and later in Kenya, 1953-1965. Richard Keith served in Hupea District, China, 1942-1950, and later as Educational Secretary, United Christian Council, Sierra Leone District, 1953-1958.

From c.1904, Rev. and Mrs Parsons and Rev. Samuel Pollard (also a missionary in Yunnan with the United Methodist Church) went to live among the Hua Miao tribe at Shimenkan, 25 miles east of Zhaotong. They learnt the Hua Miao language and used a simple phonetic script to reduce it to writing. Philip Kenneth and Richard Keith Parsons continued this work with the Hua Miao language. In 1949, they were approached by Mr Wang Ming-ji regarding the possibility of their compiling a Hua Miao-English Dictionary. Wang Ming-ji had already done a considerable amount of work in grouping Miao words written in the Pollard script, and the Parsons translated and annotated these words and phrases.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers, 1902-1998, of the Parsons family, comprising three volumes of typescript copies of letters (1902-1926) written by the Rev and Mrs Parsons from Yunnan, China, the subjects including family matters and mission activities, descriptions of local people and culture, and references to the Miao language; unpublished Hua Miao-English dictionary and phrase book written by P Kenneth and R Keith Parsons, 1998; publications using 'Reformed' Pollard script, 1951-1994, including text books and school primer (some photocopies), collected by them.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English and Chinese (Hua Miao dialect)

System of arrangement:

The letters are arranged in chronological order within the volumes. The dictionary is written in 26 sections, with an introduction.

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

No publication without written permission. Apply to archivist in the first instance.

Finding aids:

Unpublished handlist.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Donated in May and November 1998.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The School of Oriental and African Studies holds the records of the United Methodist Missionary Society (Ref: MMS/UMMS), including papers of Samuel Pollard (Ref: MMS/Special Series/Biographical/China/FBN 29-30); further papers of Pollard (Ref: MS 380690); research papers of Frederick Howard Taylor on the tribes of south-west China, including notes on the life of Samuel Pollard (Ref: CIM Box 11 File 124).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Revised by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

Rules or conventions:

Date(s) of descriptions:
15 May 2000, revised Feb 2002

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