Genealogy Reveals Family Intrigues

By Roxana A. Soto
Jan. 24, 2023

When Linda Lung recognized the elders in her family were dying off and she only knew bits and pieces of her ancestry, she launched into a genealogy search to discover all she could about her ancestors’ remarkable journey from China to Denver more than a century ago.
“The reason why I think it’s important to preserve the history of our family is that a lot of our members, the first generation, they’re dying,” Lung said. “And I feel terrible that we did not take the time to interview them. These are the stories of our lives, so I’ve become pretty passionate about it.”
Like other Chinese families in Denver who’ve been here for generations, Lung couldn’t find much about them in the city’s historic archives. But after much digging and lots of inquiries, she started to build her family’s tree and found some intriguing information. 
Ahmoy Gum, the matriarch of her family and Lung’s great-grandmother, was only 14 years old when she was “won” in a bet her father made with Sam Lung, a Chinese man 35 years her senior. She was his fourth wife and had three children with him. They started their lives together in California then made their way to Colorado via Idaho and Wyoming.
“They kind of progressively moved whenever there was some anti-Asian sentiment,” said Lung, referring to the race riots that disrupted Chinese communities throughout the West in the late 19th century. 
Ahmoy and her three grown children settled in Denver’s Chinatown and in the Five Points area. They worked hard in restaurants and stores so the next generation wouldn’t have to, Lung said. They also did whatever they could to assimilate.
Lung was just 10 years old when her great-grandmother died but remembers her as a powerful and influential member of her family. Her research revealed that Ahmoy Gum established businesses and owned residences in her own name, which was rare back then.
“When you think that not only was she a woman, she was a Chinese woman. She did whatever it took,” Lung said. “Ahmoy was the guiding light of this entire family.”
Lung also discovered the story of her grandfather’s two wives, only one of which was chosen to move from China to Denver: Ahmoy sent son Charlie to China to find a wife. Apparently, he found two. For a while, he traveled back and forth between China and Denver to be with his wives and grow his families. Eventually, a decision had to be made in terms of which family would become the official one.
[Charlie] sent a photo home, and Ahmoy made the decision that Lucille and her two children in the picture were more attractive, so that was the family,” Lung said. That woman would become Lung’s grandmother.