Parsons family papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises three volumes of typescript copies of letters dating from 1902-1926, from Yunnan, China, written by Rev. and Mrs Parsons. It also comprises a complete set of the Hua Miao-English Dictionary written by their sons Philip Kenneth and Richard Keith Parsons, and several volumes of post 1950 'Reformed' Pollard Script (Hua Miao) school primers.

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.


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

Conditions Governing Access


Acquisition Information

Donated in May and November 1998

Other Finding Aids

Unpublished handlist

Conditions Governing Use

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


Possible accruals

Related Material

Related Collections at SOAS: Pollard, Samuel [ref. MS 380690] Methodist Missionary Society [ref. MMS]

Geographical Names