On Monday, January 13, 2020, the staff at the National Archives at Seattle received notification that within the next four years, the facility will be closed, and the records will be transferred to the NARA facilities in Kansas City, Missouri or Riverside, CA.
The National Archives at Seattle has 50,000 case files from the Chinese Exclusion Act from Chinese who entered the U.S. through the ports of Seattle, Sumas, Port Townsend, Washington; Portland, Oregon; and Vancouver, B.C. from 1882 to 1943. A dedicated staff of local volunteers is indexing these files. If these records are moved 1,000 miles away, this valuable work will end.
Anyone who has ever gotten research assistance from the National Archives staff appreciates their vast institutional knowledge of the records. This will be lost if the National Archives is closed and moved from the Pacific Northwest.
Hom Sit, the 24-year old son of U.S. citizen Hom Tin, arrived in Seattle on the SS Princess Marguerite on 22 August 1938. Although he was married (marriage name Soong Choo) he arrived alone and was going to live with his father in Butte, Montana. His testimony for his admittance was in his native dialect, See Yip. Fung Ming was the official government interpreter. Hom Sit was born on 7 September 1914 in Ung Sing Village, Chuck Hom Section of Hoy Ping District in China. He gave the following information about his father: Hom Tin (marriage name Gwong Ai) was 50 years old, born in San Francisco, California; living in Butte, Montana; and working in the restaurant business. Hom Tin visited them in Ung Sing when Hom Sit was eight years old and stayed for two years. That is the only time they spent together. The Hom ancestral village was Check Suey. Hom Sit’s father’s deceased father was Hom Goon Bow. He was buried at Bok Dook Hill, about a mile from their village. Hom Sit’s mother was Lee Shee, a native of Wing On village. His maternal grandfather, Lee Len Ock, had died but his grandmother, Ow Shee, was 70 years old, living in Wing On. Hom Sit had three brothers, one older and two younger. He was married to Dea Shee from Choo Heung village and they had one son, Hom Ngin, born in 1937.
Ung Sing Village faced east and had eight houses in five rows. Their house was the third house in the first row counting from the north. It was a brick house with five rooms, tile floors, a court paved with stone, had two outside doors with the large door was facing south. Each bedroom had an L-shaped loft along the outside walls and had two outside windows opening above a balcony. They were fitted with iron bars and glass panes with wooden shutters on the inside. The bedrooms and kitchen had skylights fitted with glass. There was a shrine in the parlor; a partitioned room in the parlor was made of wood.
Hom Sit described who lived in the other houses, their extended families, and where they worked. There was a bamboo hedge surrounding the village with a gateway on each end. A river about 200 feet wide was in front of the village and a dirt highway was nearby. The village did not have an ancestral hall or social hall. There weren’t any fruit trees near the village but there was a banyan tree. Hom Sit attended Gung Yee School in the village for twelve years. Won Wing Hop was the principal of the school and there were three other teachers.
Hom Sit said that his father sent $800 for his wedding expenses which included putting in the wooden partition in the parlor and erecting a pavilion for the wedding.
Jack Chan was the interpreter for interrogation of Hom Tin, the alleged father of Hom Sit. Hom testified that he was a partner at the Idaho Café in Butte, Montana at 799-1/2 Utah Avenue. He was born in San Francisco and had made three trips to China–in 1907, 1913, and 1921. He went through the Port of San Francisco each time. He presented his Certificate of Identity for inspection. He had a brother, Hom Foot, living somewhere in the U.S. They were separated during the San Francisco earthquake and fire and never heard from each other again.
Hom Tin said he did not bring his son over to the U.S. earlier because of the Depression but was bringing him over now to work in his restaurant. He was asked the same long list of questions that his son had been asked. His answers were consistent with his son’s testimony, but the interrogator ended the interview by saying, “Isn’t it a fact that the applicant is not your blood son?” [The interrogators frequently asked this question, even if it was obvious that there was a blood relationship.] Hom Tin stated that Hom Sit was his blood son and the interview ended.
The Board of Special Inquiry reviewed Hom Tin’s San Francisco file and recalled Hom Sit to question him about a few discrepancies in the interviews. They considered that the alleged father had not been in China for nearly fifteen years. They concluded that the alleged father and applicant both ”testified in a straightforward manner” and there was a physical resemblance between them. The board determined that the relationship had been established. Hom Sit was admitted to the U.S. as a United States Citizen, son of an American born Chinese, on 10 October 1938, one month and a half after his arrival.
“Form 143 photo of Hom Sit; Hom Tin Affidavit; map of village” 1938, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Hom Sit case file, Seattle Box 767, file 7030/11371.