Rev. Chan Legacy Project: Rev. Chan Yu Tan Family Highlights


The Rev. Chan Legacy Project documents 7 generations of Chinese Canadian history.

The Rev. Chan Yu Tan family and descendants were featured in the museum show “Three Early Chinese Canadian Pioneer Families“, created by the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum and Archives.


Rev. Yu-Tan Chan and Mrs. Chan seated.  His daughter, my great-grandmother Kate Lee and her husband Ernest Lee (standing 2nd and 1st on the right.) New Westminster, BC, circa 1920

Rev. Chan Yu Tan Family Tree is 7 generations long, 14 pages long and includes over 370 names.

The Rev. Chan Legacy Project recognizes the importance of Canada’s early Chinese missionary pioneers and the way the Chan family descendants reflect the integration and assimilation into Canadian culture despite the challenges of extreme racial prejudice and discrimination. Legacy projects to share the Rev. Chan story with fellow Canadians include photographic archives, historical artifacts and stories have been
collected. A Family tree was created. Family Reunions were organized in 1999 and 2000, and are planned again for 2007. A website is underway.

This project began as a Family Reunion, and drew on several existing family tree attempts.  The 1999 Family Reunion included members from the Missionary Chan sister
who moved to Chicago.  The 2000 Reunion included many Rev. Chan Sing Kai descendants from Oregon and California.

The founding committee members are: Todd Wong co-chair; Gary Lee co-chair, Verna (Mar) Tak archivist and treasurer, Betty (Mar) Wong, Rhonda (Lee) Larrabee, Alvin Lee,
Sylvia (Mar) Chang, Gail Young.  Special advisors were Daniel Lee,
Gerald Chan, Mabel (Lee) Mar and Betty (Toy) Lee.


Chan Family first arrives in Canada in 1888.


Rev. Chan Sing Kai left Hong Kong in 1888, invited by the Methodist Church to serve as a missionary for the Chinese in British Columbia. He became the first Chinese minister ordained in Canada. In 1902 he went to minister in Oregon and then later in California.

His younger brother Rev. Chan Yu Tan followed him to Canada in 1896. Rev. Chan Yu Tan served with many churches in BC including the Chinese Methodist Church, and United Churches in Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo and New Westminster. Two
sisters were also missionaries in Canada and the United States.


Family descendants make contributions to Canada – doctor, lawyer, Indian Chief!  All in the family now…

The history of the Rev. Chan Yu Tan family very much reflects the integration of Chinese Canadian history in Canada. Inter-racial marriages first took place in the 1920’s with son Luke and grand son Henry. Today the 7th generation is only one-quarter Chinese.

Luke Chan
was the preacher’s son who went to Hollywood to become an actor and appeared in movies with Katherine Hepburn, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, such as Marco Polo and The Good Earth.  He starred in The Mysterious Mr. Wong, with Bela Lugosi, as well as  Samurai, Secrets of Wu Sin and Charlie Chan and the Chinese Cat.

Daniel, Howard and Leonard Lee + cousin Victor Wong are the grandsons  who fought for Canada during World War II. Daniel Lee has been a tireless volunteer and leader for the Veterans of Pacific Unit 280. He is past-president and has received Awards of Appreciation, Service, and Merit – the only Chinese-Canadian to receive all three. He also helps to organize Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Victory Square Cenotaph in Vancouver.

Rhonda Larrabee is the great-grand-daughter who became an Indian Chief. She single-handedly rebuilt the Qayqayt (New Westminster) First Nations Band. She is the subject of award winning National Film Board documentary “A Tribe Of One.” which one best documentary at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco in 2005.

Janice Wong, daughter of Dennis Wong, son of Rose Chan became an internationally recognized visual artist wtih shows in Europe, New York and across Canada. In 2005, she wrote a book titled Chow From China to Canada: Memories of Food and Family. It is a hybrid book of her father’s recipes from his Chinese restaurants in Prince Albert, Sasketchewan, and family stories of her ancestors in Canada. The book is well received and Janice does media interviews across Canada.

Joni Mar, daughter of Victor Mar, grandson of Kate Chan. This great-great- grand-daughter, Joni Mar is now an international leadership trainer, executive coach, and faculty member of the Coaches Training Institute.  In 2005, Joni Mar published her first book, The Inspired Business Approach. Joni Mar began her illustrious career as the the first Chinese Canadian daily television news jounrnalist in Western Canada.  While working for CBC Television News, Joni was awarded the top North American news story of the year in 1989.  She launched her own business and went on to win National awards as an interior designer and a nomination by the Bank of Montreal for Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year

Todd Wong, great-great-grand-son is a community organizer, co-organizer of the campaign to save the childhood home of author Joy Kogawa and create the Joy Kogawa House Society as a Writer-in-Residence program, community activist for Chinese Head Tax Redress, and director for the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop in Vancouver.  He is well known as “Toddish McWong” –  the creator of Gung Haggis Fat Choy: Toddish McWong’s Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.  In 2004, CBC TV created a musical variety performance special inspired by Todd’s dinner and was also titled “Gung Haggis Fat Choy,” receiving 2 Leo Award nominations.  Todd was awarded Simon Fraser University’s 1993 Terry Fox Gold Medal for his efforts to create racial harmony and triumph over adversity in surviving cancer. In 2008, he was awarded the BC Community Achievement Award  for his community work, including efforts in the dragon boat race community.


2 thoughts on “Rev. Chan Legacy Project: Rev. Chan Yu Tan Family Highlights

  1. Anonymous

    I have found Chan Yu Tan and family in Victoria in 1911 census. District 13 Subdistrict 5 page 17.
    In 1901 they are in Vancouver, District: Burrard District Number: 1 Sub-District: Vancouver (City/Cité)
    Sub-District Number: D-17 Family Number: 270 Page: 30
    My wife's grandmother was Yea Eva Chan, apparently-adopted-daughter of Sing Kai Chan. She married Won Alexander Cumyow.


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