All posts by Trish Hackett Nicola

Woo Quin Lock – rejected/appealed/admitted

[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19. This file was copied before March 2020. thn]

Woo Quin Lock was born on 3 March 1920 at Kwong Tung, China. He was the son of a U.S. citizen. He arrived at the Port of Seattle on 2 February 1940 on the Princess Charlotte. He was denied admittance on 12 April 1940. His case was appealed on 10 May, and he was admitted on 10 August, more than eight months after his arrival. He received his Certificate of Identity No. 83265 two days later. The exhibits submitted in his case were an affidavit by his father, Woo Yen Tong, three letters written by the applicant to his father and their translations, a sample of the applicant’s handwriting, four Woo Seattle case files and eight San Francisco files for various Woos.

Woo Quin Lock’s father, Woo Yen Tong, swore in an affidavit that he was a United States citizen and that he had proved his citizenship to the Immigration Service after his arrival at the Port of San Francisco on 14 August 1911 and was issued a Certificate of Identity No. 4752. Three photos were attached to his affidavit.

Woo Quin Kwock, Woo Quin Lock, probably Woo Koon Sang
Son: Woo Quin Lock; Father: Woo Yen Tong

“Woo Yen Tong, affidavit,” 1939, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Woo Quin Lock case file, Seattle Box 805, file 7030/12841.

During his 1940 testimony, Woo Quin Lock testified that his father sent him $1,200 in Hong Kong currency to cover his travel expenses. Chin Thick Gee a member of the Mow Fon Goon store in Hong Kong, purchased his ticket for him. His father owned two houses and a social hall in Wan Jew village. Overnight visitors stayed in the social hall which was the 8th house, 9th row, counting from the north. Gar Theung and Gar Thin, sons of his paternal uncle Get Tong were living in the building while they were guests of the family in 1938. The family owned an old house on the north side and a new house on the south side. The interrogator told Woo Quin Lock that his testimony about some of his uncles and cousins and the location of the houses did not agree with his father’s and brother’s testimony.

The case file contains more than sixty pages of documents and testimony. The following is an excerpt from the summary written by the Immigration Committee Chairman:

The alleged father, Woo Yen Tong, was originally admitted at San Francisco in 1909 as the foreign-born son of a native, Woo Gap.

Woo Yen Tong returned to China in 1919. He married Chen Shee and their son; Woo Quin Lock was born before he returned to the United States. He made several trips to China and four sons were born. Woo Quin Lock’s younger brother, Woo Quin Kwock arrived from China in 1939 and was admitted. He was a witness for Woo Quin Lock.

There were many discrepancies between the testimony of the applicant and his brother about their method and date of travel to Hong Kong, where they stayed on the way, and when they got there. The brothers did not agree on when and where their alleged younger brother attended school.

The interrogation committee decided that the relationship between Woo Quin Lock and his father and brother could not be established. They denied Lock admission to the United States, but he had the right to appeal. The case was reopened in April 1940 to reconsider the citizenship of the alleged father. Woo Yen Tong’s brother was called to testify. Woo Fong Tong (marriage name Sik Kew) presented his Certificate of Identity #10738 which was issued to him in San Francisco in 1913. He testified that he was forty-four, born (ca. 1894) in Wan Jew village, Toy San district, China. He was a laborer living in the Chicago Hotel in Spokane, Washington. He made two trips to China in 1921 and 1929 and returned through the port of San Francisco. He identified the photos that were attached to Fook Yen Tong’s affidavit and a photo of their father, Woo Gap, from his 1921 Certificate of Identify that was included in his San Francisco file. He correctly identified all the Woo photos from the Seattle and San Francisco files.

Woo Fong Tong described the burial ceremony for his father Woo Gap (the transcriber made a note that Gap was pronounced NGIP). Woo Gap died in 1929 and Woo Fong Tong took his remains, his whole body, not just his bones, back to China in a regular wooden casket which was placed in a wooden box lined with tin. After their arrival in Wan Jew village the shipping box was removed, and the casket was placed outside the village for a day for visitation by the family. Then the casket was opened briefly to give everyone one last look at the body. They had a regular burial procession with the whole family accompanying the casket to the burial place at Fong Ngow hill, about 2 lis (less than a mile) north of Wan Jew village. After Woo Gap was buried, the family worshipped at his grave.

Woo Gap was married three times and his father was married twice. There was much testimony in the case file about whether the Woo men were stepsons or half-brothers.

In May 1940, P. J. Hansen, wrote a reference letter for Woo Yen Tong, who he called Raymond Woo. Hansen stated that Woo had worked for him for nine years as cannery foreman and he considered him a conscientious and trustworthy employee. He offered his assistance in getting Woo’s son admitted to the United States.

The legal brief for the appeal on behalf of Woo Quin Lock conceded that Woo Quin Lock was a foreign-born son of Woo Yen Tong but left open the question of his father’s citizenship of the United States.  Woo Yen Tong derived his citizenship through his father, Woo Gap. Woo Gap and his second wife Lee Shee were the parents of Woo Yen Tong. Woo Gap married Lee Shee before the death of his first wife which was legal under Chinese law and custom. Woo Gap’s first wife, Chow Shee, the mother of his four sons, was ill for many years and required constant care. Woo Gap’s second wife moved into the household and cared for Chow Shee and the children. Woo Yen Ton was the son of Woo Gap and Woo’s second wife, Lee Shee. He was born before Woo’s first wife died.

Woo Quin Lock’s attorney, Edward E. Merges, brought forward a May 1918 letter written by Philip B. Jones, Immigration Officer at San Francisco to the Commissioner of Immigration at Angel Island stating the merits Woo Gap’s status as a merchant (one of the exemptions to the Exclusion Act). Woo Gap was born in the United States, a merchant in Santa Cruz, California, and well-known by the community and the immigration station. He resided with his wife and their son Woo Yen Tong. They provided a home and schooling for their son which Immigration authorities thought was sufficient proof of their relationship. They were also impressed that Woo Gap was honest about his dual marriage. Woo Yen Tong’s case was submitted to the Central Immigration Office in Washington, D.C. and it was determined that Woo Gap was a citizen of the United States. His son, Woo Yen Tong, had been admitted as the son of a citizen.  Finally, after an eight-month legal battle, Woo Quin Lock was admitted as the son a citizen on 20 August 1940. His new residence was 725 King Street, Seattle, Washington.

Suey L. Moy – born in Indiana, resident of Chicago, Illinois

[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19. This file was copied before March 2020. thn]

In October 1900, Dr. E. R. Bacon, a practicing physician and surgeon in Lovell, Lane County, Indiana, swore that he knew B. Harley Moy and his wife Agnes T. Moy, and that he delivered their baby son, Suey L. Moy, on 8 September 1898.

B. Harley Moy swore in an affidavit that he was born in China and had lived in the United States for over fifteen years. After arriving in the U.S., he lived with his father in San Francisco, California, for a short time, then moved to Chicago, Illinois, for ten years where he attended school. He travelled around and visited New York City before settling in Lovell, Indiana, where he ran a Chinese bazaar or emporium which he called Harley Moy’s. He married Agnes. F. Anderson, of Chicago, in 1896. In 1900 he was applying to visit China with his young son.

Daniel Lynch, the postmaster of Lowell, and Frank E. Nelson, a cashier at the State Bank of Lowell, both swore in an affidavit that B. Harley Moy had been a resident of Lowell for over two years and was employed in the mercantile business; he was well known by the local residents and that he had a wife and son. A 1900 certified transcript of Suey L. Moy’s 1898 birth certificate is included in his file.

In 1912 Suey L. Moy, age fourteen, wanted to return to the United States. His mother, Agnes T. (Anderson) Moy, started the process to get him readmitted. She swore in an affidavit that she was born in Sweden, immigrated in 1893, and was now a resident of Chicago. During her 1913 interview, Agnes stated that her husband, Harley, owned a restaurant called Ningpo and they lived in an apartment above it. They had four children, Suey who was in Gow Lee, On Fun, China with his paternal grandparents, and a daughter, Helen Moy, born in 1901; and two sons, Boyd Moy (Suey Tang Moy), born in 1905, and Frank Moy (Suey Wing Moy), born in 1907. The three younger children had not been out of the U.S.

“Suey L. Moy photo” 1900, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Suey L. Moy case file, Seattle Box 1392, file 41410/14-30.
“Moy family photo” 1900, CEA case files, RG 85, NARA-Seattle, Suey L. Moy case file 41410/14-30.
“Suey L. Moy form 430 photo” 1912, CEA case files, RG 85, NARA-Seattle, Suey L. Moy case file, 41410/14-30.

Included in the 1912 application was a photo taken about 1900 of Suey L. Moy at about age one and a group photo of Agnes and her three younger children.

During B. Harley Moy’s interrogation, he testified that the initial “B” in his name stood for Billy, his American nickname. He was forty-two years old and married in 1897. His brother, Moy Dung Goon, was living in Chicago. His family home in China had a big door and a little door. Moy Dung Gee lived across from the little door. [The interrogators often asked the applicant details about the big door and the little door, probably so they could see if the interviewee would give the same answer during their return trip interview.]

Harley and Agnes gave slightly different answers about the date and place of their marriage, however it was close enough for the interrogators to approve Suey L. Moy’s application. But first, as part of the application investigation, the Seattle Immigration Service wrote to Immigration office in Vancouver, B.C. asking if they had any information on the 1900 departure of B. Harley Moy and his son leaving through Portal, North Dakota. Although they could not find the departure information, the Vancouver office thought the evidence of his U.S. citizenship was enough to admit him when he returned in 1913.

In February 1922, Suey L. Moy applied for another trip to China. During his interview he said his father was born in San Francisco. [According to the earlier testimony Suey L. Moy’s grandfather was born in San Francisco and his father was born in China] His parents, B. Harley and Agnes Moy divorced about 1921. Suey L. Moy presented a certified copy of his birth certificate.

“Suey L. Moy 1898 birth certificate, No. 4847” 1922, CEA case files, RG 85, NARA-Seattle, Suey L. Moy case file 41410/14-30.

Suey L. Moy returned on 28 May 1923. He reported that he married Lai Shee while in China and they had a son, Moy Jun Wing. He was admitted.

Chin Wah – Hoping to return to Salt Lake City from Paris, France in 1925

[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19. This file was copied before March 2020. thn]

In early October 1925, Julian M. Thomas, Counsellor at Law in Paris, France, wrote to the U.S. commissioner of Immigration in Seattle, Washington, requesting the necessary papers to allow Chin Wah to return to the United States. Chin Wah claimed that he was well-known in Seattle, Washington in 1904 by both the Wa Chong Company and the Quong Tuck Company and many other residents of the city including A.W. Ryan, a policeman; Charles Phillips, a detective; Fred Lyson, a lawyer; and Lee Hoey, a Chinese person.

In June 1904, L. Dan swore in an affidavit that he had lived in the U.S. for more than twenty years and that he knew Chin Wah’s parents when their son, Chin Wah, was born. Dan testified that after Chin Wah’s parents died, Chin lived with him. L. Dan’s wife, Wong Sine, was a sister of Chin Wah’s mother. A. W. Ryan and Charles Phillips, both white citizens of the U.S., and residence of Seattle for more than fifteen years also swore that Chin Wah was born in Seattle. These affidavits were drawn up to prove that Chin Wah was a native-born citizen of Chinese parentage.

“L. Dan, affidavit,” 1904, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Chin Wah case file, Seattle RS Box 222, file RS 30543.

In 1913 in his pre-investigation interview to make a trip to China, Chin Wah testified that he was living in Salt Lake City, Utah, and working at the Grand Restaurant at 47 West 2nd South Street as a cook and sometimes a waiter. He said he was born at North 512 [414 in 1925] Washington Street, Seattle, Washington on 15 January 1890, the son of Chin Chung (Ching/Gin/Gen} [the spelling varies throughout the documents] and Wong Shee. His father died in Sitka, Alaska in 1899. He and his mother moved to Portland, Oregon about 1901. She died a year later. After her death, he went back to Seattle and lived over the store of Quong Gwa Lung Company with his uncle, Ng Yee Loots (L. Dan) and his aunt, his mother’s sister. He attended the Methodist Mission school on Spring Street for about two years. Other places he lived in Washington state were Cle Elum, Ellensburg, Yakima, and Pasco before going to Salt Lake City, Utah about 1910. While in Salt Lake City he worked for U.S. District Judge John A. Marshal, Mr. William H. Childs as a cook, and Captain Burt at Fort Douglas.

“Chin Wah, Form 430 photo,” 1913, CEA, NARA-Seattle, file RS 30543

D. A. Plumly, the examining inspector at Salt Lake City, sent Chin Wah’s application and the original affidavits of the witnesses to Louis Adams, Inspector in Charge at Denver, Colorado. Adams sent everything on to Immigration in Seattle and requested that they re-examine the witnesses since they were residents of Seattle. Adams noted that Inspector Plumly did not expect a favorable report. [There is no explanation of why the documents were sent to Denver.]

J. V. Stewart, the Seattle Chinese Inspector, interviewed all the 1904 witnesses again in 1913. He thought the witnesses only knew someone they thought was Chin Wah as a small child but since they had not seen Chin Wah for many years they could not be sure of his identity. Stewart thought Lee Hoey was a “manufactured witness” and the other witnesses’ information was so vague they could have been talking about several different children. Stewart noted that Chin Wah’s parents did not appear in the 1895 Seattle census of Chinese and rumors said that Ah Dan was known as a gambler and connected with other fraudulent cases. Based on this information Stewart did not approve Chin Wah’s application.

L. Dan was also known as Ah Dan or his married name Ng Yee Yin. He was fifty years old and was born in China. He did not have a certificate of residence. He was living in Port Townsend, Washington and was a merchant with the Yee Sing Wah Kee Company when he was required to register in 1894. [According to the Geary Act of 1892, Chinese who were not registered for a certificate of residence could be arrested and sent to China even if they were born in the United States.] L. Dan lived in Tacoma, Washington, for a year before moving to Seattle where he got to know Chin Gin and his son Chin Wah.

Witness Charles Phillips testified that he was 48 years old and had live in Seattle twenty-six years. He was a city detective. He knew Chin Wah when he was a young child and after being cross examined, he said that he could not state unequivocally if Chin Wah was the son of Chin Ching/Gin.

Witness Lee Hoey, also known as Lee Tan Guhl, stated that he was 66 years old and born in China. He showed the interrogator his certificate of residence. He had lived in Seattle fifteen or twenty years and remember the big fire in June 1889.  He identified a photo of Chin Wah although he had not seen him in over ten years. The interrogator asked Lee Hoey how much he was being paid to testify in this case.  Hoey denied the charge.

A.W. Ryan, another witness, testified in 1913 that he was 56 years old and a sergeant for the Seattle police force for about twenty years. Although he swore that he knew Chin Wah in 1904, he could not be sure that this was the same person in 1913.  Ryan said that at the time of Chin Wah’s birth in 1890 there were only four or five Chinese women in Seattle and maybe twenty-five children. It was his impression that the person he testified in behalf of in 1913 was Chin Wah was the same boy he knew in 1904 but he could not swear to it. Therefore the immigration commissioner, Ellis deBruler, did not approval Chin Wah’s return certification because he did not believe that Chin Wah was born in the U.S.

In October 1925, based on the information and witness statements in Chin Wah’s file, the documents were not approved so were no papers to forward to Paris so Chin Wah could be allowed to return to the U.S.

[This file does not tell us when Chin Wah left the U.S. or why he left when his application for departure was not approved. Without the approval, he would have known that it would be extremely difficult to re-enter the U.S. There are no clues about what he was doing between 1913 and 1925 or why was he investigated in Denver, Colorado, or what was he doing in Paris, France, in 1925. If he had been allowed to arrive at a port in the U.S. and then interrogated, some of these questions may have been answered. Unfortunately, we may never know the rest of Chin Wah’s story.]

CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光 (1900 – 1918)

CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光 (1900 – 1918) by Kevin Lee, guest blogger
[Thank you Kevin Lee for summarizing this massive amount of information on your family and explaining many of the complicated nuances of the Chinese Exclusion Act file.]

CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光, the minor son of a merchant (5 September 1900 – late 1918)

His Chinese Exclusion Act (CEA) case file RS 28104, National Archives-Seattle, was marked on the front “M/S/Mcht”: Minor Son of a Merchant.

His life – and death in Seattle – were a complete mystery. The existence of Wing Quong 榮光 was unknown to the descendants of the Chin or Chan family until I read a duplicate copy of a Boxing Day 1925 affidavit in 2009, which had been kept amongst personal papers by my 2nd cousin Julie of Covington, Washington (WA). The original copy of the 26 December 1925 affidavit, with United States seal, was found at the National Archives-Seattle facility in November 2019.

The CEA case file was difficult to locate until I, as a grand nephew, pointed out to National Archives-Seattle staff, from an earlier file I obtained of another great uncle, CHIN Wing Ung 陳榮棟 AKA Donald Ung CHIN (# 7031/325) that quoted an older brother’s immigration file number.

Discovery of an Immigration & Naturalization Service file #28104 belonging to CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光, during an interview with his father (CHIN Cheo 陳超) on 17 April 1926, held inside the National Archives-Seattle file of his brother (Donald CHIN Wing Ung 陳榮棟), #7031/325

CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光 was the first-born child of my great grandfather, CHIN Cheo 陳超 AKA CHIN Gon Foon (# 39184/2-12, previously 682, 15844 and 30206), who was the sales manager / partner of the Wing Sang Company, which was a partnership equally divided amongst 12 owners. The Wing Sang Company sold Chinese and Japanese merchandise, rice, tea and herbal medicines. It was located firstly at 655 Weller Street, Seattle, King County, Washington State, then at 412, 415 and 420 7th Avenue South.

With multiple CEA bills being passed, it became increasingly difficult, for any Chinese person to migrate to the United States. The law, at the time, allowed an unmarried son under 18 years of age to live in the USA if it could be proven that the father ran an active business, was not engaged in labouring work, and had 2 white witnesses to vouch for his business and identity. As part of investigating whether to allow 11-year-old Wing Quong 榮光 to be released into the Seattle community from immigration detention and quarantine, an inspector and an interpreter visited the Wing Sang Company. They found the Wing Sang Company to be a bona fide mercantile establishment, and recommended favourable endorsement of the application of Wing Quong 榮光, as the minor son of CHIN Cheo 陳超

His short life of just 18 years was pieced together from three CEA files (his own one #28104, his father CHIN Cheo’s 陳超, his brother Donald Ung CHIN’s) and from family folklore (his sister CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen 陳美珍, who featured in the 17 May 2021 page of this website).

Names known by (either because of the spoken dialect or a misunderstanding): – CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光 (in the Toisan dialect), CHAN Wing Kwong (in the Cantonese dialect), Wing Gwong (in Cantonese), Wing Quong <Gong> (poorly handwritten by an Immigration inspector in his CEA file to become mis-transcribed onto an affidavit as: Wing Bong), Quang Wing (Ancestry.com ship passenger manifest).

Date of Birth: Year KS 26, 10th month, 5th day. The Chinese Emperor (Kwang-Su) began his reign from 12th January 1875, therefore in Wing Quong’s 榮光 CEA file, it stated his Gregorian Date of Birth as being 5th September 1900. His father – knowing that his mother Love SEETO 司徒愛 / SEE TOW shee/shi 司徒氏  was carrying him in her womb – had already left China to head back to his workplace in Seattle before he was born.

Place of Birth: Mi Kong village, in the town of Hong Gong Lee, Hoi Ping district (part of the Sze Yup – the 4 Districts), Kwangtung Province, Imperial China.

1st time meeting father: From mid-1903 – mid-1904, CHIN Cheo 陳超 left Seattle for no more than 365 days, and was in China for the first time in 3 years, where he was able to see his boy Wing Quong 榮光. In addition, CHIN Cheo 陳超 spent some time with his wife to conceive another baby, who would become my future grandmother, CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen 陳美珍. He would again, as he did in 1900, leave China before the baby was born. This would become the 2nd out of a total 3 occasions, where due to time pressures (the 365-day limit of leave of absence from the USA to maintain residency under the CEA law) meant CHIN Cheo 陳超 would not witness the birth of a child (which was normal practice for a man, at that time). The connection between a parent and child has always been important in society, yet Wing Quong 榮光 – whilst living in China – never really felt that he knew his US-based father. His younger brother, Donald Ung CHIN, also did the same thing – fast forward 3 decades to 1932 – by getting his young wife pregnant in China, and departing for the USA before his only child, Kent Ying Keung CHAN, was born.

Education: From mid-1910 – mid-1911, Wing Quong 榮光 was a 10, almost 11-year-old student in the British Colony (BRC) of Hong Kong (HKG), learning Chinese and English, in readiness to migrate to the USA. CHIN Cheo 陳超, as a Seattle merchant, earned the average 1911 annual income in the United States of $500, was committed to educating his first-born son in the English language by sending US$200-$300 p.a. to him in HKG. He consulted with an immigration lawyer and had mapped out a plan to sponsor him to the United States.

Long journey: On 22 July 1911, the Irish-built steamship the S.S. Bellerophon sailed out of Liverpool, England, and arrived in HKG on 10 September 1911 to pick-up many Chinese passengers, including Wing Quong 榮光 and his fellow villager / companion, 24-year-old CHIN Foo. Wing Quong 榮光 was passenger # 24A and by far-and-away the youngest person on board – all males – as he was the only one with the column “Less than 14 years old” ticked by the purser on the shipping manifest. In cramp conditions and suffering seasickness, the passengers arrived in Tacoma, WA, USA on 29 September 1911.

Mood: After enduring a gruelling 3-week voyage across the North Pacific Ocean, Wing Quong 榮光 would have been quite scared and nervous as a 11-year-old boy coming into a strange land, where the landscape appeared different (such as the snow-capped mountains and luscious green trees), where people looked and dressed differently, and who spoke in a different language. He underwent quarantine for any possible diseases and was subjected to an interview / interrogation by U.S. Immigration officers before being released – after a marathon 1 week on U.S. soil – into the arms of a relieved father on 6 October 1911. Both father and son underwent similar interview questions regarding family members, the layout of Mi Kong village, letters that were written, and photographic likeness , to ascertain whether this was a genuine application of a minor son of a merchant. Wing Quong’s 榮光 clear recollection of people’s names, dates and places, and his sentence structure in answering U.S. Immigration questions was remarkable. The interview he underwent indicated a highly intelligent, articulate young boy with great potential.

Physique: Wing Quong 榮光 was “4 foot 10 inches” (147 cm) tall with a “small mole left side of ear” – a very intrusive physical inspection. His facial features were inherited from his mother.

Love SEETO 司徒愛 , also known as SEE TOW shee 司徒氏 – the mother of CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光 – in Hoi Ping city [photo courtesy of Kevin Lee]

Occupation: After a period of adjustment in a new country, Wing Quong 榮光 began learning on-the-job to be a salesman or storekeeper at the Wing Sang Company. He would have finished his full-time education in the summer of 1911 in HKG, which during that era, was limited to primary school, meaning age 12. He continued night-time English studies in Seattle.

Sudden death: Aged only 18 years old, CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光 passed away in late 1918 in Seattle. No WA Death Certificate could be found to ascertain the exact causes, and where he was buried.

Wing Quong 榮光, according to Kent Ying Keung CHAN, had died at the Wing Sang Company, after attempting to self-medicate for some type of ailment. This was at the time of the Spanish flu, also known as the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed millions around the globe. He had swallowed some herbs from the drugs section of the store, suffered a negative reaction, and most likely went into cardiac arrest. He was taken immediately to the nearby Nippon Hospital – originally named as the Reliance Hospital – on the corner of 12th Avenue and South Jackson Street, where chest compression was performed to resuscitate him, however, sadly he was pronounced dead.

With a heavy heart, total shock and self-blame at the death of his first-born son, CHIN Cheo 陳超 urgently rang from Seattle to Hoi Ping city to leave a message for someone to quickly retrieve his wife from Mi Kong village, and they finally spoke a short time later. CHIN Cheo 陳超 broke the news to Love SEETO 司徒愛 / SEE TOW shee 司徒氏, which broke her heart, and she never fully recovered. It was as if a second death occurred in the CHIN family.

My grandmother – CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen 陳美珍– then 14-years-old spoke to her future children and grandchildren (when they were old enough) about the grief, waling and anger that great grandmother went through.

CHIN Cheo 陳超 organised a small funeral for Wing Quong 榮光 in Seattle, which was most likely a cremation by a crematorium, with his ashes returned in an urn. A few months later, in April 1919, CHIN Cheo 陳超 departed Seattle via a steamship to HKG, and arrived in Mi Kong village to personally explain what occurred, and presumably to bring back his ashes for a proper, final burial in the Too Ngui (in the Toisan dialect) or Foo Ngo (in the Cantonese dialect) foot hills, about 4 – 5 blocks behind Mi Kong village.

Consequences of his short life:

  • It damaged the mental and physical health of his mother, Love SEETO 司徒愛 / SEE TOW shee 司徒氏, which contributed to her death;
  • It meant no direct descendants of Wing Quong 榮光 – particularly for his father’s intention to leave a legacy in the US. Had he lived a long life like his siblings, he would have most likely – being the No. 1 son –  left behind children, grandchildren and great grandchildren;
  • He could have made a fortune, as he appeared to be a highly intelligent, young man with enormous potential;
  • CHIN Cheo 陳超 might never have brought out his No. 2 son, Donald Ung CHIN to the United States, but left him in China to inherit the village house.
  • CHIN Cheo 陳超 would almost certainly never have adopted a No. 3 son in 1919/1920 from the markets – similarly naming him as Wing Gong – with the intention to become a U.S. paper son to replace Wing Quong 榮光.

CHIN Cheo 陳超 spent so much time, money and effort to plan a future for his first-born, to create a dynasty, to leave a legacy, but it was all wasted in a moment of madness. The hopes, dreams and aspirations of a Chinese man who came to America in 1880 had all but vanished…   

First photo of CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光, taken in Hong Kong, aged 10 years old in 1911, attached to a 26 May 1911 affidavit by his father (CHIN Cheo 陳超), held in the National Archives-Seattle file of CHIN Wing Quong #28104.

U.S. Certificate of Identity (C.I.) #4573 of CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光, dated 19 October 1911, held in the National Archives-Seattle file of CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光, #28104

Long Mi-Na and Long Nee-Sa — Long Tack Sam Troupe

[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19. A few months ago, I emailed the staff at seattle.archives@nara.gov with my request for the files for Long Mi-Na and Long Nee-Sa. The request went into the queue and when my number came up a staff member scanned the files and emailed them to me. They are the greatest!]

“Long Mi-Na & Long Nee-Sa correspondence photos,” 1929, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Long Mi-Na and Long Nee-Sa case file, Seattle Box 334, file 7022/18-3 & 7022/18-4.

Long Mi-Na, age 23, and Long Nee-Sa, age 21, were the daughters of Long Tack Sam. They were actresses and members of the Long Tack Sam Troupe who made several tours the United States and Canada. There were twelve members of the troupe. On this trip to Vancouver, B.C. they left Seattle on 23 November 1932 by boat, returned via the Great Northern Railway, and were identified and admitted at Blaine, Washington, one week later.

The troupe was bonded by the National Suety Company granted by Department of Labor.

The initial correspondence in the files was for their 1929 tour. On that tour, they left the U.S. in March for vaudeville engagements at Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver, Canada; and reenter at Seattle in April 1929 to continue their tour in the United States. They were allowed to stay in the U.S. for six months. A bond of $1,000 was paid for each of the twelve members of the troupe. The substantial amount of the bond was to assure that all the members of the troupe would depart the U.S. at the end of the six-month period.

[Unfortunately, files for travelers such as actors, actresses, acrobats, and vaudeville members, usually do not contain much information. Most do not include a photograph.  Mi-Na and Nee-Sa’s files were only six pages but each file included a photo.]

See more information about Long Tack Sam from an earlier post.

When will the National Archives reopen?

An Update for Researchers From the Archivist (May 24, 2021)

The National Archives Building in Washington, DC. (National Archives file photo)

In late May David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, announced that the National Archives launched a pilot program to test the policies and procedures that were developed for reopening. A small number of researchers were admitted to the National Archives Building in Washington, DC (Archives I) to start this process. A test launch pilot at the National Archives at College Park, MD (Archives II) was started about June 21. There is a plan to expand the opening of research room services to the rest of the research rooms over the summer, depending on local health conditions, lessons learned and best practices identified in the early stages, and availability of staff. See the update for the complete article.

Kwan Tak-hing (Kwan Duck Hing) – Member of SF touring opera troupe & and star of Cantonese talkies in the 1930s

“Kwan Duck Hing, Passport Identification Affidavit,”1931, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Kwan Duck Hing case file, Seattle Box 325, Seattle file 7022/6-49.

Today’s blog entry was brought to you by Alex Jay. Thank you Alex!

[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19 but the staff is working on a limited basis. They are taking requests for copies of files so get on their waiting list. If you would like a file, call or send your request to Archival Research, 206-336-5115, seattle.archives@nara.gov]

Kwan Duck Hing was a member of San Francisco touring opera troupe and star of one of the world’s first Cantonese talkies in the 1930s.

See the complete article on Kwan Tak-hing (Kwan Duck Hing)  (Guan Dexing 關德興)  on Alex Jay’s blog, Chinese American Eyes: Famous, forgotten, well-known, and obscure visual artists of Chinese descent in the United States

Alex Jay obtained the Chinese Exclusion Act (CEA) file for Kwan Tak-hing from the National Archives at Seattle. Alex has hundreds more articles about Chinese artists on his blog. This article gives us an example of the several names one Chinese individual may have been known as over his lifetime. Those names could be misspelled or spelled phonetically in various documents making the search for someone or their file even more difficult. Alex Jay’s article shows the variety of records that can be used to reconstruct someone’s life after starting with the CEA case file.

Go to Alex Jay’s blogger profile for a comprehensive list of his blogs.

Chin Hai Soon AKA Chan Mei Chen (1904 – 1982) by Kevin Lee

A big thank you to Kevin Lee of Australia for today’s blog post. Kevin summarized about 150 pages from three family Chinese Exclusion Act case files to give us a peek into his family history.

[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19 but the staff is working on a limited basis. They are taking requests for copies of files so get on their waiting list. If you would like a file, call or send your request to Archival Research, 206-336-5115, seattle.archives@nara.gov – THN]

Chin Hai Soon, also known as Chan Mei Chen (photo courtesy of Kevin Lee)

Chin Hai Soon AKA Chan Mei Chen 陳美珍, home domestic (September 1904 – 29 March 1982)

She was the daughter, the granddaughter, the wife, the sister, the aunt, the great aunt, the grandmother, the great grandmother of Chinese Americans. 

One of the significant consequences of Congress passing the 1875 Page Act and multiple Chinese Exclusion Act (CEA) bills in 1882, 1892, 1902 and 1904 was that Chinese women were kept out of the United States. Female immigration to the U.S. was made extremely difficult, and it resulted in families being kept apart for years or decades. Without women, there would not be family, progeny, children, lineage – the Chinese population in the U.S. would just die off, which was the intention of the laws.

I learned more about my grandmother’s life 40 years after she passed away, than when she was alive, by visiting the National Archives at Seattle in November 2019, prior to the Coronavirus shutdown. The National Archives of Australia (NAA) operates similarly to the National Archives and Records Administration in the U.S., and Australia also had the ignominy of slavery (where the Indigenous / Aboriginal population suffered) and the White Australia Act (which excluded non-Europeans from immigrating; a policy just as discriminatory as the CEA).

Chin Cheo 陳超 and his family details, including daughter Chin Hai Soon, on an affidavit dated 26 December 1925, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, National Archives-Seattle, #7031/325.

From these 3 important CEA files in the National Archives facility at Sand Point Way, Seattle:

  • Great grandfather, CHIN Chear Cheo AKA CHIN Gon Foon (22 August 1871 – 6 March 1939 Seattle), case file no. 39184/2-12 (previously 682, 15844 and 30206)
  • Great uncle, CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光 (5 September 1900 – 1918 Seattle), case file no. 28104
  • Great uncle, CHIN Wing Ung  陳榮棟 AKA Donald Wing-Ung CHIN (28 October 1913 – 5 September 2005), case file no. 7031/325 (previously 4985/10-3, 4989/10-3)

I was able to revive family members who had been long forgotten about or completely unknown, by constructing a family tree.

Chin family tree based on three Chinese Exclusion Act case files, National Archives-Seattle

By virtue of these 3 files at Seattle, I was able to establish my grandmother’s:

  • Real name / birth name: CHIN Hai Soon (pronounced in the Toisan dialect as ‘Ah Soon’) or CHAN Tai Shin (in the Cantonese dialect). She was a member of the Chin or Chan family; the different spellings are used interchangeably.
  • Mother’s name: Love SEETO, also known as SEE TOW Shee.
  • Adolescent name: CHAN Mei Chen 陳美珍 meaning treasure, valuable, precious, rare, which she certainly was.
  • Place of birth: in the village of Mi Gong, also spelled as Mai Kong, in the town of Hong Gong Lee, in the county of Hoi Ping, in the province of Kwangtung, Imperial China
  • Conception date: December 1903. This was based on CHIN Cheo’s file, as he departed Seattle on 31 October 1903, to sail 3 weeks onto Hong Kong, and then a further day to travel to the village near Canton City, Kwangtung Province, to meet-up with his wife, Love SEETO / SEE TOW Shee, whom he had not seen for over 3 years.
  • Date of birth: September 1904
  • CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen did not see her father when she was born, since he had already left Mainland China, travelled onto British Hong Kong in July 1904 to do business, as he was a merchant / co-owner / manager of Wing Sang Company, 412 Seventh Avenue, South, and Sang Yuen Company, 660 King Street, both in Seattle.
  • CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen grew up with her paternal grandfather CHIN Gin Heung (in the Toisan dialect) or CHAN Yen Hing (in the Cantonese dialect), as the only male influence in her life, because her father CHIN Cheo 陳超  lived 59 out of his lifetime of 67 years in the United States. Her grandfather CHIN Gin Heung / CHAN Yen Hing had come back to Mi Gong village from Seattle, 10 years prior to her birth. He had lived in the USA continuously for 12 to 13 years, firstly in San Francisco, then in Seattle, working as a laundryman from 1880 to 1892/1893, and heading back to the village in China prior to his 50th birthday, to celebrate with his family using his hard-earned wealth, and prior to the law requiring him to hold a U.S. Certificate of Residency. No CEA case file of CHIN Gin Heung / CHAN Yen Hing could be found in either San Bruno, California nor Seattle, Washington, as his arrival and departure dates from the USA were too early for Customs and Immigration to have kept records.
  • 1st time meeting father: 1912 as an 8-year-old girl, when CHIN Cheo sailed out of Mi Gong, via Hong Kong, to procreate again with Love SEETO / SEE TOW Shee to produce a future brother and future Seattle resident CHIN Wing Ung (case file no. 7031/325).
  • 2nd and final time meeting father: 1919 as a 15-year-old adolescent when CHIN Cheo came back with a heavy heart from Seattle to Mi Gong to announce to Love SEETO / SEE TOW Shee of the death of her older brother CHIN Wing Quong (case file no. 28104) in Seattle, and to bring back his remains. CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen remembers the hysteria and grief felt by her mother Love SEETO / SEE TOW Shee over the loss of the number 1 son from accidental poisoning at the drug store co-located within the Wing Sang Company, a business managed and part-owned by her father, CHIN Cheo in Seattle.
  • Date of marriage: 1925, as a 21-year-old, to YU Fu Lok AKA YEE Wing Hon, of Num Bin / Nom Bing Chuen, who was a resident of Ohio and Michigan (case file not yet found). CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen, being in China, only met her U.S.-based husband 4 times during their marriage, and 3 of those occasions were to conceive a child, with the last pregnancy being the birth of my mother, YU Siu Lung (later known as Siu Lung YU LEE 李余小濃) in 1936.
  • Date of death: CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen died on 29th March 1982 in Num Bin / Nom Bing village, Hoi Ping county, surrounded by close family members, but separated by distance and time from her U.S.-based father CHIN Cheo, two U.S.-based brothers, CHIN Wing Quong and Wing Ung, and her U.S.-based husband, YU Fu Lok / YEE Wing Hon.

Living in China sadly meant my grandmother did not see these 4 U.S.-based family members for many years:

  • Father, CHIN Cheo from mid-1904 – January 1913 (the first 8 years of her life); from September 1913 – May 1919 (a gap of 5½ years); from mid-1921 – 6 March 1939 death in Seattle (the last 17½ years of his life)
  • Older brother, CHIN Wing Quong, from mid-1910 – late 1918 death in Seattle (the last 8 years of his life)
  • Younger brother, CHIN Wing Ung AKA Donald Wing-Ung CHIN, from September 1932 until late 1981 (a separation of 49 years or almost ½ a century, caused by firstly the Japanese invasion of China, then World War II and then the Communist regime in China closing its borders).
  • Husband, YU Fu Lok / YEE Wing Hon, from 1938 – 1961 (not seen for 23 years until his death in Detroit).

1982 letter sent from China to Donald Wing Ung CHIN in Seattle to advise of the death of his older sister, CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen (courtesy of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, Seattle, item no. 2001_030_001b)

The damage of 60-plus years of the Chinese Exclusion Act was irreparable, as it split Chinese males living in the USA from their families back home in China. It meant daughters and wives did not have strong male influences, and family sizes were kept small. It was only by uncovering the CEA files at the National Archives that I learnt of the many facts that had been kept secret about my family for 140 years.