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Li Family History

Li Name Meaning

Chinese: Mandarin form of the surname 李 meaning ‘plum’: (i) said to have been adopted in place of the Chinese surname 理 (also pronounced Li; meaning ‘rules’ in Chinese) by Li Zhen (利貞) son of an official called Li Zheng (理徵) in the late Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BC). It is said that Li Zhen's father incurred the displeasure of King Zhou of Shang (died 1046 BC) and Li Zhen fled to a wasteland area where he survived on wild plums. After his return to civilization he changed his surname to Li (李 ‘plum’) a word with the same pronunciation. The original surname 理 is said to be from Li Guan (理官) the name of a post of officials in charge of legislation in ancient China. Li Er (李耳) also known as Lao Tzu or Lao Zi traditionally regarded as the founder of Taoism is believed to have been a descendant of Li Zhen. (ii) adopted as a surname by the Chi Li (叱李) family from the Xianbei ethnic group during the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534 AD). (iii) in the early years of the Tang dynasty (618–907 AD) sixteen high officials with different surnames were granted the surname Li (李) the surname of the royal family of the Tang dynasty by Emperor Taizong of Tang (died 649 BC) because of their contributions to the establishment of the Tang regime. (iv) the surname can also be traced back to several minority ethnic groups in ancient China. Chinese: Mandarin form of the surname 黎 meaning ‘black’ or ‘multitude’ in ancient Chinese: (i) from Li (黎) the name of an ancient state (located in Changzhi in Shanxi province) during the Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BC) which was annexed in the Western Zhou dynasty (1046–771 BC) and later granted to Fengshu also known as Li Hou (黎侯 'Marquis Li'). (ii) adopted as a surname by the Su Li (素黎) family members of the Xianbei ethnic group during the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534 AD). Chinese: Mandarin form of the surname 利 meaning ‘sharp fortunate’ or ‘benefits’ in Chinese: (i) from the first element of the personal name Li Zhen (利貞) son of an official called Li Zheng (理徵) in the late Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BC) also see 1 (i) above. (ii) from the placename Li (利) the name of a fief (located in Hubei province or in Sichuan province) granted to a prince in the state of Chu during the Spring and Autumn period (770–476 BC). (iii) adopted as a surname by the Chi Li (叱利) family members of the Xianbei ethnic group during the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534 AD). Chinese: Mandarin form of the surname 栗 meaning ‘chestnut’ in Chinese: (i) said to be from Li Lu (栗陸) the title of a legendary emperor in ancient China. (ii) from Li (栗) the name of an ancient state (located in Xiayi in Henan province) during the late Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BC) which was annexed in the Western Zhou dynasty (1046–771 BC). Chinese: Mandarin form of the surname 厲 meaning ‘strict rigorous’ in Chinese: (i) from Li (厲) the posthumous title of Qi Li Gong (齊厲公 the Duke Li of Qi ruler of the state of Qi died 816 BC). (ii) from Li (厲) the name of an ancient state (located in Suixian in Hubei province) during the Western Zhou dynasty (1046–771 BC). (iii) adopted in place of the Chinese surname 孫. The king Sun Hao in the state of Wu during the Three Kingdoms period (220–280 AD) ordered the family members of Sun Xiu (a general in the state of Wu possibly died 301 BC) to change their surname to Li (厲) because Sun Xiu had defected to the state of Jin. (iv) adopted in place of the Chinese surname Li (李) by the extended family of an official called Li Jin (李晉) during the Tang dynasty (618–907 AD) who was killed because of his attempt to usurp the throne. Chinese: Mandarin form of the surname 酈: from the placename Li (酈) the name of an ancient state (located in Henan province) annexed by the state of Chu during the Spring and Autumn period (770–476 BC).7: Chinese: Mandarin form of the surname 禮 meaning ‘ceremonies’ or ‘etiquette’ in ancient Chinese: (i) from the first element of the personal name Li Kong (禮孔) and Li Zhi (禮至) officials in the state of Wey who were descendants of Wey Kang Shu (衛康叔 Kang Shu of Wey) founder of the state of Wey. (ii) borne by the descendants of the masters of ceremonies in ancient China.8: Chinese: Mandarin form of the surname 勵 meaning ‘encourage’ in Chinese: (i) said to be adopted in place of another surname Sun (孫) by descendants of Sun Xiu (possibly died 301 BC) also see 5 (iii) above. (ii) said to be adopted in place of another surname Li (厲) by Li Dune an official in the Qing dynasty (1616–1911 AD) who was endowed with the surname Li (勵) by the then emperor.9: Vietnamese: variant of Lệ from the Chinese surname 酈 see 6 above and Le .10: Vietnamese (): variant of Ly from the Chinese surname 李see 1 above.1 Norwegian: habitational name from any of numerous farmsteads named Li from Old Norse hlíth ‘mountain slope hillside’. Compare Lie

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 USA in 1880. In 1880 there were 87 Li families living in California. This was about 98% of all the recorded Li's in 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, Laundryman was the top reported job for people in the USA named Li. 20% of Li men worked as a Laundryman. .

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

  • Laundryman
    20%
  • Waiter
    20%
  • Laborer
    20%
  • Proprietor
    14%
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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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