All posts by Trish Hackett Nicola

Closure of the National Archives in Seattle

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.

More background information on the closure can be found at Save National Archives at Seattle.

For a thorough discussion of the proposed closure and updates go to Feliks Banel’s My Northwest online column

See Public Buildings Reform Board (PBRB) for the complete report. Submit your comments to the PBRB at  fastainfo@pbrb.gov

Call the National Archives at 1-86-NARA-NARA (1-866-272-6272) or contact them at archives.gov/contact

Please call your senators, congressional representatives and let them know you want these records to remain at the National Archives in Seattle.

Thank you.
Trish Hackett Nicola
Blog Editor

 

 

Hom Sit – many details about his home and village in China

Hom Sit, Form M143 photo, 1938

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.

Map of Ung Sing Village
Map of Ung Sing Village

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.

Photos of Hom Tin and Hom Sit, 1938 Affidavit

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.

Chin Hing Yee – File photos from 1901 to 1923

Chin Hing Yee Collage 1901 1923“Chin Hing Yee file photos, 1901-1923, and Partnership lists,” Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Chin Hing Yee case file, Seattle Box 162, file 2355/21-16. 2006

The first document in Chin Hing Yee’s file is his July 1900 Application for Readmission of Chinese Merchant form. It includes an affidavit by John Thompson and Edward Maus. They swore that they were citizens of the United States and residents of the State of Washington; that they had been residing in King County more than ten years; that they personally knew Chin Hing Yee 陳天宇, whose photograph was attached to the affidavit; that Chin was thirty years old; that he resided in Seattle for more than six years in the past; that he was not a laborer; that he was a merchant at Coaster Tea Company; that he had a $500 interest in the company; that prior to his departure for China he was engaged in the business of buying and selling merchandise for the firm; and he did not perform manual labor in the twelve months before his departure.

When Chin Hing Yee returned the U.S. In November 1901 John Thompson and Edward Maus again swore in an affidavit to the same information they had sworn to when Chin left for China in 1900.

Thomas M. Fisher, Chinese Inspector for the Customs District of Puget Sound, Washington, reported to Col. F. D. Huestis, the customs collector in Port Townsend, Washington, that he had examined the witnesses for Chin Hing Yee and believed the applicant was entitled to admission. Chin Hing Yee was readmitted in November 1901 at Port Townsend.

In 1909 Chin Hing Yee, sometimes known as Chin Hing, applied to go to China again. He swore in an affidavit that he was born about 1870 in Chin Bing village, Sun Ning District, China. He had been a resident of Seattle for many years and that he was a merchant doing business at Bow On Drug Company at 216 Washington Street. He was formerly a member of the Coaster Tea Company at 1305 Second Avenue. Fred R. Harvey and Edward Mauss [sic] swore in an affidavit that they were white citizens residing in Seattle for several years; they knew Chin was a merchant at a fixed place of business; he was not a laborer; and for the last twelve months he had not perform any manual labor. Edward Mauss was in the fire insurance business and had lived in Seattle since about 1888. He had known Chin Hing Yee fifteen years. Fred Harvey, a resident of Seattle for ten years, was a contractor at the Collins block and knew Chin for about five years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chin Lai, a manager of Bow On Drug Company, was asked to draw up a partnership list for the company. He swore that Chin Hing Yee invested $500 in the company and became a partner. Other partners were Louie Hay, Chin Sang, Hong Sing and Toy Sam. Sales were about $600 or $700 a month and rent on the store building was $120 a month. They rented out part of the building for a restaurant and receive $60 a month in rent.

In 1911 Chin Hing Yee was working as a bookkeeper and was admitted as a returning merchant.

Chin Hing Yee was asked to prepare a partnership list also.

Chin Hing Yee signed his name in English and Chinese on all of his documents.
When Chin went back to China in early 1915, he was a laundryman and was owed $1,000 by Chin Lai. When he returned to Seattle in October 1915, he claimed he had two sons and one daughter, and his wife was “in the family way.”

In 1919 Chin Hing Yee testified that he was originally admitted in the United States in 1885 at the Port of San Francisco as the minor son of a merchant. He was 14 or 15 at that time. Henry A. Monroe, the examining inspector in Seattle, thought Chin must be mistaken “because that was before the court had decided that minor sons of exempts could be admitted without being in possession of the certificate required by Section 6 of the Act of 1884.” Monroe thought Chin was first admitted in 1901 as a member of the Coaster Tea Company. Monroe suspected that Chin was still a laborer but since Chin had previously been admitted as the son of a merchant, a laborer, and as a merchant; Monroe could only recommend that his application be approved.

When Chin Hing Yee applied to leave in 1919 he had been issued Certificate of Identity No. 4416. He was applying for a return certificate as a laborer. He had $1,000 on deposit in the University State Bank of Seattle and showed his bank book as proof. Chin was reminded that he would be entitled to readmission only if the money was still on deposit upon his return.

Before making another trip to China in 1923, Chin Hing Yee testified that he was fifty-three years old, his wife’s name was Lim Shee and they had five children, four sons and a daughter. Their ages ranged from four to twenty-four. Two sons were living in Canada. He was unable to return within the allotted year because his wife was seriously ill so he obtained a Chinese Overtime Certificate that allowed him to stay up to one more year. Chan Yee and Chan Go gave corroborating statements and Maurice Walk, American Vice Consul at Hongkong approved Chin’s overtime certificate. Chin Hing Yee returned to Seattle in September 1924, just two months over his original one-year deadline. He was admitted. There is no mention of the health status of his wife.

 

Proposed 492% fee increase for USCIS documents – Submit comments before 16 December 2019

U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently proposed a 492% increase in fees required to access historical records held by the USCIS Genealogy Program. Many of these records should already be publicly accessible.

  1. These include the A-files for records numbered under 8 million.
  2. Current fee $65 for a search, which has no guarantee of results
  3. Proposed fee $240! + $385 for the paper file.

1912 Gong Kay photo1912 Photo of Gong Kay from A-File at National Archives at San Francisco

Summary of the Issues:

  • Access: Fees – starting at $240 and up to $625 for a single file
  • Transparency: USCIS proposes a raise in fees with virtually no explanation.
  •  Efficiency: These files should already be at the National Archives (NARA). Some already exist at NARA but are withheld from the public due to restrictions placed by USCIS.
  •  Visa Files and Registry Files, both subject to the proposed $625 total fee, became eligible for transfer to NARA in April 2019. These records should already be available to the public at NARA.
  •  Alien Registration Forms, subject to the proposed $240 fee, exist on microfilm at NARA but remain unavailable because of a USCIS restriction. A-Files of immigrants born more than 100 years ago should be at NARA, as per its 2009 schedule.

Make your voice heard in 3 easy steps:

Step 1: Review the proposed rule here, and jump to the Genealogy Program section here.

Step 2: Write your comments on the issues. See https://www.recordsnotrevenue.com/#conversationstarters for thoughts on how to begin.

Step 3: Send your comments BEFORE 16 December 2019 to

AND
• Send a copy of your comments to your US Senators and Representative, and refer to DHS Docket No. USCIS-2019-0010. Tell them you care about preserving access to federal records!

Sign up to stay informed on this important effort: and learn more at  https://www.recordsnotrevenue.com/

Update from the Save Our National Archives group, led by Jeanie Low and Jennie Lew: USCIS has finally released the A-files for people born between 1911 and 1915 to the National Archives at San Bruno. NARA already has all the A-files for people who passed through San Francisco and were born from 1910 and earlier available, and they are indexed at NARA’s website.

Write your comments to USCIS then request your ancestors’ A- or C-files in case the price does skyrocket!

 

David Loo – Passport, father’s Hawaiian birth certificates & family photo

David Loo Passport photo 1941

David Loo, (Chinese name Lu Min-i), age 21, and his sister, Mimi Loo, age 19, arrived at the Port of Seattle, Washington, on 7 June 1941 and were admitted as U. S. citizens two days later. David and Mimi would temporarily be staying with their sister, Marion Loo, in Hollywood, California. Their father, Teddy Loo-Tin (Loo Ping-Tien or Loo Chit Sam), was born in Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, on 16 August 1884. Their mother, Chen Kwan Har, remained in China.
Loo Chit Sam Hawaii Birth Cert 1898

Loo David's father's Hawaii Birth Cert 1894

David Loo was born in Tientsin, China on 8 September 1919. Before leaving China, David completed two years of study at the University of St. Johns in Shanghai. During his interrogation, he testified that their home had thirteen or fifteen rooms and they had three servants. (The Japanese tore down two rooms and the garage when they widened the street in front of their house leaving them with two less rooms.) They had owned a 1932 Ford V-8 but sold it about 1938. Whenever they stayed in Peking, they all rode bicycles. David’s father was an agent for a rug company. He smoked Camel cigarettes and currently had a beard and sometimes a mustache. The family traveled a good deal and two on the brothers were born in Australia. David’s witnesses were his sister, Marion, and Mrs. Bessie C. Jordan of Seattle. Jordan was his teacher at the American School in Peking for two years. David’s file includes a photo of him with his six siblings: Susane, Milton, Minto, Michael, Marion, and Mimi. David was the second youngest.
Loo David Family photos group

 

 

 

 

 

 

In April in preparing to leave China, Mimi Loo wrote to the Commissioner of the Immigration Bureau in Seattle, Washington, to inform them that she and her brother were planning on traveling to the U.S. with Mr. and Mrs. R. A. Drews, her teacher at the American School in Peking. The American Embassy had advised them to leave for the United States. Their father had registered his children at the American Consulate General in Tientsin and Shanghai and filed their records with the State Department. Their brother, Michael Loo was admitted to the U.S. at San Pedro, California, in September 1935 (file #14036/87-A) and their sister, Marian Loo, was admitted at San Francisco in May 1940 [file # not included].

Marion Loo swore in an affidavit that David Loo and Mimi Loo, the children of Loo Tim, were her siblings,

David was issued Certificate of Identity No. 84834 upon arrival. Once David was settled, he registered for the draft for military service.

[A copy of Mimi Loo’s interrogation is included in David Loo’s file. Mimi Loo’s Seattle file is #7030/13572. There is no further information in the file.]

“David Loo passport photo, ca. 1941; Loo Chit Sam & Loo Tim, born 1884, copies of Hawaiian birth certificates, 1898 & 1901; Loo family photo, ca. 1926,” Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Loo David case file, Seattle Box 825, file 7030/13566.

Lee Chung – Ashland, Oregon

“Lee Chung, Form 432 photo,” 1912, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Lee Chung case file, Box RS 215, file RS30227.

In Lee Chung’s December 1912 application for a laborer’s return certificate he testified that he was single, had no other names, and was 46 years old, a cook in Ashland, Oregon for Mr. Wolf, Mr. Hardy and Wah Chung. He was born in China. Lee presented a Chinese memorandum book to R. P. Bonham, the examining inspector, which showed an entry for a loan Lee had made to Wong Gon Szue.

Wong Gon Szue, marriage name Leong Jee, was a witness for Lee Chung. Wong was 60 years old, born in China and a railroad labor contractor in Ashland, Oregon. He arrived in San Francisco in 1871 and had never been back to China. His wife, Jin Shee, age 29, had released feet, and was born in San Francisco. They had a son, Wong Gim Men, born in 1910 in Ashland and a daughter, Wong Loy Hai, born about 1892 at Happy Camp, California. He owed Lee Chung $1,000 in gold coin with an interest rate of 4%. The loan was made at his store, Wah Chung Company, in Ashland and was to be paid to Lee Ching when he returned from China. Wong Sheh Hen and Ng Dock were witnesses to the loan.

[The Scott Act of 1888 “…forbade the immigration of all Chinese laborers for twenty years, including prior residents unless they had parents, wives, or children living in the United States or property or debts worth at least $1,000.”]1

Lee Chung 李昌 arrived at the Port of Seattle on 1 December 1913 on the S.S. Titan and was admitted the same day, as a returning registered laborer of Ashland, Oregon. His certificate of residence was No. 130341. While in China he married a 24-year-old woman from the Ng family with bound feet. His marriage name was Sing Jock. They had a son born four days before he returned to the U.S.

[There is no more information in the file.  The interrogation of the witness is longer than the interview of the applicant. THN]

 

  1. Lucy Salyer, “Chew Heong v. United States: Chinese Exclusion and the Federal Courts,” Federal Trials and Great Debates in United States History (2006); Federal Judicial Center (https://www.fjc.gov/sites/default/files/trials/exclusion.pdf : accessed 28 October 2019), 42.

 

Tam Sing – native-born U.S. citizen returns after 31 years in China

In May 1894 Tam Sing 譚勝 registered in the first district of California as a native-born Chinese person and received certificate of residence No. 81,385.

In 1897 Tam Sing visited China and married Wong Shee at Wing Wah Toon village. His marriage name was Hoy Gui. He returned to the U.S. four years later. In 1902 he visited China again.Tam Sing 1902 MerchantBefore he left San Francisco in 1902, Tom Sing [this is the only document where he is referred to as Tom instead on Tam] swore in a Declaration of Chinese Merchant that he was

“a merchant in good standing, and a member of the firm of Lun Chong & Company, engaged in buying and selling Chinese Mdse. and Provisions, at a fixed place of business, to wit: at 819-821 Dupont Street, San Francisco…”

His witnesses were Henry Mohr, Charles N. Peck, and William M. Dye.

Tam Sing returned to the U.S. in 1905.

Tam Sing [of the Hom Clan] swore in an affidavit in Salt Lake, Utah in July 1908 to the following information:

Tam Sing, son of Tam Shuck Dip, a San Francisco merchant, and Lee Shee, was born in San Francisco on 29 September 1876.  He stayed in the U.S. when his parents returned to China with his brother in 1886. His father died at his home in Wing Wah Toon, Sun Ning, Canton, China the following year. His mother and brother remained in their village.

On this trip to China Tam Sing was hoping to bring back his two minor sons. Unfortunately, his wife and two sons died in 1908 during an epidemic. It isn’t clear if Tam Sing arrived in their village before or after their deaths.

Later Tam Sing married Jee Shee. They moved to Toy San City and had five sons and two daughters. He worked at Sai Ning market.

Thirty-one years later Tam Sing was applying to return to the United States.

When he arrived in Seattle in 1939, he was interviewed before a Board of Special Inquiry. Tam Sing testified that when in the U.S. he lived mostly in San Francisco but was in Ogden, Utah and Montello, Nevada from 1906 to 1908. He satisfied his interrogators by answering several questions about the history and topography of San Francisco. Because he had been away in China for so many years, Tam Sing did not have any witnesses who could vouch for him. He presented a 1908 certificate of membership in the Native Sons of the Golden West with his photo attached; a letter from the Citizens Committee dated 1906; a receipt for Red Cross funds dated 1906; and a 1906 acknowledgement receipt of money from Chinese residents of Montello, Nevada.

After careful consideration the Board members believed the applicant to be the same person as the photograph and description on his certificate of residence. Tam Sing was admitted thirty-seven days after he arrived in Seattle on the Princess Marguerite on 23 August 1939. He surrendered his 1894 Certificate of Residence and was issued a Certificate of Identity in 1941 when he was planning a temporary trip to China.

Tam Sing’s Form 430, Application of Alleged American Citizen of the Chinese Race for Preinvestigation of Status, lists his San Francisco file number 53828.

“Tam Sing/Tom Sing, photos and documents” 1902, 1908, 1941; Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Tam Sing case file, Seattle Box 794, file 7030/12347.