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Li Family History

Li Name Meaning

Chinese : from a character meaning ‘minister’. This was part of the title of Gao Yao, a great-grandson of the legendary emperor Zhuan Xu, who became famous as a minister under the model emperors Yao and Shun in the 23rd century bc; he was the first to introduce laws for the repression of crime. His descendants adopted this part of his title as their surname. The use of this name continued for over a millennium to the twelfth century bc, down to the rule of the last king of the Shang dynasty, the despotic Zhou Xin. Li Zhi, the head of the Li clan at that time, displeased Zhou Xin and was executed, leaving the rest of the clan facing imminent disaster. They fled, and nearly starved to death, surviving only by eating a fruit called mu zi. When the characters for mu and zi are combined, they form the character for plum, pronounced Li. In token of this salvation, the clan changed their name to the current character for li ‘plum’. Li is now the most common surname in China. Among the many famous bearers are Lee Kwan Yew, prime minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990; Lee Teng-hui, president of Taiwan from 1988; Li Peng, prime minister of China from 1988; and Bruce Lee (1941–73), movie actor. Chinese : from the name of a state of Li (in present-day Shanxi province), which existed during the Shang dynasty (1766–1122 bc). Descendants of the state’s rulers adopted the name of the state as their surname. Chinese : this character for Li is an altered form of 1 above. Norwegian: habitational name from any of numerous farmsteads named Li, from Old Norse hlíð ‘mountain slope’, ‘hillside’.

Source: Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press


Similar surnames: Ji, Lu, Qi, Liu, Pi, Ni, Lai, Lin, Yi, Sui

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Where is the Li family from?

You can see how Li families moved over time by selecting different census years. The Li family name was found in the USA, the UK, and Canada between 1880 and 1920. The most Li families were found in the USA in 1880. In 1880 there were 87 Li families living in California. This was about 98% of all the recorded Li's in the USA. California had the highest population of Li families in 1880.
Use census records and voter lists to see where families with the Li surname lived. Within census records, you can often find information like name of household members, ages, birthplaces, residences, and occupations.

What did your Li ancestors do for a living?

In 1940, Waiter was the top reported job for people in the US named Li. 20% of Li men worked as a Waiter.

View Census data for Li | Data not to scale

*We display top occupations by gender to maintain their historical accuracy during times when men and women often performed different jobs.

Top Male Occupations in 1940

  • Waiter
    20%
  • Laundryman
    20%
  • Laborer
    20%
  • Salesman
    14%
Black & white image of two construction labourers

What Li family records will you find?

Census Records

There are 48,000 census records available for the last name Li. Like a window into their day-to-day life, Li census records can tell you where and how your ancestors worked, their level of education, veteran status, and more.

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Passenger Lists

There are 69,000 immigration records available for the last name Li. Passenger lists are your ticket to knowing when your ancestors arrived in the USA, and how they made the journey - from the ship name to ports of arrival and departure.

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Draft Cards

There are 78,000 military records available for the last name Li. For the veterans among your Li ancestors, military collections provide insights into where and when they served, and even physical descriptions.

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What is the average Li lifespan?

Between 1958 and 2004, in the United States, Li life expectancy was at its lowest point in 1960, and highest in 1980. The average life expectancy for Li in 1958 was 71, and 69 in 2004.

View Social Security Death Index (SSDI) for Li

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