Over the years, many volunteers have worked on indexing the case files. Loretta Chin, the first volunteer to work on this project started about 1993 when the case files arrived at the National Archives in Seattle. When I start in 2001, Loretta became my mentor and friend. She took me under her wing and was always ready to answer my questions about Chinese culture and history. We both got excited about the unique documents we occasionally found in the files. And we loved the photos in files, especially the ones of the babies and children. Loretta is retired now. When Loretta was in her 80s, she took two buses to get to the Archives every week. What a dedicated volunteer!
We now have a team of six volunteers: me, Rhonda, Lily, Hao-Jan, Joyce and Tamia. All the names and case numbers of the files are recorded in the database. We are going back and adding more detail in the index for each file. Each file is indexed by name, date and place of birth, date and port of arrival, ship name, marital and citizenship status, if photos are included, and documents in the file.
The blog contains examples of a combination of typical or unusual documents we find in the files. I started the blog in May 2010 because I want more people to know and understand the files. There is a wide variety of genealogical and historical information included in the records and they can include biographical information on the applicant and his extended family, photographs over many years, maps, vital records, information about his village of origin and much more. The files can bring a person to life. It is important for society to know that this law was in effect for sixty-one years—from 1882 to 1943. The consequences of exclusion has had powerful repercussions on generations of families.
Even though the Act was misguided and hurtful, there is a goldmine of genealogical and historical information in the files. There is healing in studying the past and I hope more people will look for and find their family’s files.
Trish Hackett Nicola
Blog Editor and National Archives volunteer