Ho Chi Minh was born and given the name of Nguyễn Sinh Cung (as appeared in a letter from the director of Collège Quốc học, dated 7 August 1908), in 1890 in the village of Hoàng Trù (the name of the local temple near Làng Sen), his mother's village. Although this is his generally accepted birth year, at various times he used five different birth years; 1890, 1891, 1892, 1894 and 1895. From 1895, he grew up in his father Nguyễn Sinh Sắc (Nguyễn Sinh Huy)'s village of Làng Sen, Kim Liên, Nam Đàn, Nghệ An Province. He had three siblings: his sister Bạch Liên (or Nguyễn Thị Thanh), a clerk in the French Army; his brother Nguyễn Sinh Khiêm (or Nguyễn Tất Đạt), a geomancer and traditional herbalist; and another brother (Nguyễn Sinh Nhuận) who died in his infancy. As a young child, Cung studied with his father before more formal classes with a scholar named Vuong Thuc Do. Cung quickly mastered Chinese writing, a prerequisite for any serious study of Confucianism, while honing his colloquial Vietnamese writing.:21 In addition to his studious endeavors, he was fond of adventure, and loved to fly kites and go fishing.:21 Following Confucian tradition, at the age of 10, his father gave him a new name: Nguyễn Tất Thành ("Nguyễn the Accomplished").
Thành's father was a Confucian scholar and teacher, and later an imperial magistrate in the small remote district of Binh Khe (Qui Nhơn). He was demoted for abuse of power after an influential local figure died several days after having received 102 strokes of the cane as punishment for an infraction.:21Thành's father was eligible to serve in the imperial bureaucracy but refused because it meant serving the French. This exposed Thành to rebellion at a young age and seemed to be the norm for the province where Thành came of age. In deference to his father , Thành received a French education, attended lycée in Huế, the alma mater of his later disciples, Phạm Văn Đồng and Võ Nguyên Giáp and his later enemy, Ngô Đình Diệm.
First sojourn in France
Previously, it was believed that Thành was involved in an anti-slavery (anti-corvée) demonstration of poor peasants in Huế in May 1908, which endangered his student status at Collège Quốc học. However, a document from the Centre des archives d'Outre-mer in France shows that he was admitted to Collège Quốc học on 8 August 1908, which was several months after the anti-corvée demonstration (9–13 April 1908). The exaggeration of revolutionary credentials was common among Vietnamese communist leaders, as shown in Tôn Đức Thắng's falsified participation in the 1919 Black Sea revolt. Later in life, Hồ would claim the 1908 revolt had been the moment when his revolutionary outlook emerged, but his application to the French Colonial Administrative School in 1911 undermines this version of events. He chose to leave school in order to find a chance to go abroad. Because his father had been dismissed, he no longer had any hope for a governmental scholarship and went southward, taking a position at Dục Thanh school in Phan Thiết for about six months, then traveled to Saigon.
Thành worked as a kitchen helper on a French steamer, the Amirale de Latouche-Tréville while using the alias "Văn Ba". The steamer departed on 5 June 1911 and arrived in Marseille, France on 5 July 1911. The ship then left for Le Havre and Dunkirk, returning to Marseille in mid-September. There he applied for the French Colonial Administrative School but his application was rejected. Instead, he decided to begin traveling the world by working on ships and visited many countries from 1911 to 1917.
In the United States
In 1912, while working as the cook's helper on a ship, Thành traveled to the United States. From 1912–13, he may have lived in New York City (Harlem) and Boston, where he claimed to have worked as a baker at the Parker House Hotel. The only evidence that Thành was in the United States is a letter to French colonial administrators dated 15 December 1912 and postmarked New York City (but he gave as his address Poste Restante in Le Havre and stated that he was a sailor) :20 and a postcard to Phan Chu Trinh in Paris where he mentioned working at the Parker House Hotel. Inquiries to the Parker House management revealed no records of his ever having worked there.:51 Among a series of menial jobs, he claimed to have worked for a wealthy family in Brooklyn between 1917–18, and for General Motors as a line manager.:46 It is believed that while in the United States, he made contact with Korean nationalists, an experience that developed his political outlook, but Sophie Quinn-Judge admits that this is "in the realm of conjecture".:20
In the United Kingdom
At various points between 1913 and 1919, Thành claimed to have lived in West Ealing, and later in Crouch End, Hornsey. He reportedly worked as either a chef or dish washer (reports vary) at the Drayton Court Hotel in West Ealing. It is claimed that he trained as a pastry chef under Auguste Escoffier at the Carlton Hotel in the Haymarket, Westminster, but there is no evidence to support this.:25  However, the wall of New Zealand House, home of the New Zealand High Commission, which now stands on the site of the Carlton Hotel, displays a blue plaque, stating that Hồ Chí Minh worked there in 1913. Thành was also employed as a pastry boy on the Newhaven–Dieppe ferry route in 1913.