Ah Soon’s Chinese Exclusion Act case file starts in 1899. His affidavit, sworn on 12 April 1899 to the Honorable Collector of Customs in Port Townsend, Washington, states that he was a laborer applying for a certificate of departure. Ah Soon was a cook living in Helena, Montana when he applied.
He returned to the U.S. on 14 March 1900 with the status of laborer and was admitted.
By 1907 Ah Soon’s life had changed. He was now living in Seattle, Washington, and a merchant at the Ah King Company. In April 1907 he started the process of obtaining the necessary documents to make a trip to China. He swore in an affidavit that he was a bona fide merchant for the Ah King Company and that he had been a member of the firm for one year and did no labor except that was necessary in the conducting of business. He was visiting China to bring his wife, Louis She, and his seven- year-old daughter, Ah Keo, back with him. He would retain his interest in Ah King Company. His photo was attached to the affidavit.
On 26 April 1907, G. W. Upper testified concerning the application of Ah Soon for a certificate of departure and return. Upper lived at 213 18th Avenue, Seattle. His business was in the Colman Building at West and Wheeler. He had been living in Seattle for seventeen years. The Ah King Company was formerly called Wah Yuen Company and Ah King had always been the head of it. Ah Soon managed the company while Ah King was in San Francisco on business. Soon did not do manual labor. Upper was formerly a teller at the National Bank of Commerce where Ah King Company did business and Ah Soon had the authority to sign checks on the company account. Upper did not know the amount of capital stock of the company but Ah King owned the building and paid more than $30,000 for it. They had a wholesale business and supplied Chinese camps throughout the West and Northwest.
The next day, witness Charles I. Lynch was interrogated. He had been living in Seattle for twenty-two years and was employed at the Post Office for the last eight years. He recognized a photo of Ah Soon and identified him as a member of the Ah King Company. He had known him about nine months. Some of the members of the firm were Ah King, Charley Sing, Ah Foon, and Ah Soon. Besides selling Chinese merchandise, they took contracts for cannery help for five canneries. They also sold produce from a 30-acre farm south of Seattle at Duwamish Junction.
Ah Soon was re-interviewed on 2 May 1907. He said he was 44 years old; born at Har Pong Village, San Ning, Canton, China. His other name was Hock Fong. He first came to the U.S. in KS 8 (1882), arriving in California. He was married and had one daughter. He was a laborer working for his brother, Ah King in Seattle for about two years. He was in Helena, Montana before that for over ten years working as a cook at French Charlie’s. He had a $1,000 interest at the Ah King Co. which sold Chinese groceries and general merchandise. He named ten of the members of the firm who each owned a $1,000 interest in the company.
Ah Soon said there were two other people in Seattle who were from his village, Har Pang. They were Hock Hung, in Wah Yuan’s store and Ah King. He said they were cousins. [In other interviews Ah Soon said that Ah King was his brother.] Ah Chung, a farmer, was another cousin from Har Pong living in Waitsburg, Washington.
G. W. Upper was recalled to testify on 6 May 1907. He swore that he had known Ah Soon at least four years and that he still believed that Ah Soon had been a member of Ah King Co. for more than a year. Although he had known who Ah Soon was for four years, he knew him more intimately on a business level for the last two years.
A few days later, Ah Soon was recalled to testify. He was asked how long he knew Charles I. Lynch (about two years) and G. W. Upper (about five years). The Inspector pointed out that in his previous statement, Ah Soon said that he had only known Upper for two years. Ah Soon agreed that two years was incorrect; it was about five years.
Charles I. Lynch was also recalled on 9 May. Lynch was asked about his earlier statement that he knew Ah Soon for about nine months. Lynch said that was incorrect. He knew Ah Soon for more than a year. [To qualify as a reliable witness, the witness was required to know the affiant for one year or more.] He was sure Ah Soon still had an interest in the Ah King Co.
On 10 May 1907 Ah Soon’s Application for Preinvestigation of mercantile status for his trip to China was approved. Two days later Ah Soon left on a train for Vancouver. BC to start his trip.
Ah King, manager of Ah King Company, testified on 16 June 1908 that Ah Soon was still a member of his company. Ah Soon’s re-admittance application was approved.
Ah Soon’s 1909 Application for Admission as a Merchant included the following information: Ah Soon, Hok Fong (marriage name), age 46, height 5 feet 3-3/4 inches, scar on back of left hand, wife and two children born in Har Ping, Sun Ning, China; residence at Ken Chung Lung Company, Seattle, member of company for one and one-half years, $1,000 interest in company, twelve partners, position in firm: “traveling man;”
Mar Hing, a merchant for the Ah King Company, testified that Ah Soon was a member of the company with $1,000 interest whose name appeared on the partnership books. Ah Soon was a temporary salesman, assistant to Ah King, and sometimes a traveling salesman for the store.
Ah Soon returned to the U.S. on 13 March 1909 and was admitted at Seattle as a returning domiciled Chinese merchant.
[Ah Soon’s file from 1912 to 1915 will continue in the next blog entry.]
In January 1938 Lee Yok Tin swore in an affidavit that he was the son of a native of the United States and was last admitted at the port of San Francisco. Photos of Lee Yok Tin and his son were attached to the affidavit. In September 1938 he was applying to have his son, Lee Gum Sing, who was a citizen through him, come to the U.S.
“Lee Yok Tin affidavit with photos of Lee Gum Sing and Lee Yok Tin,” 1938, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, Record Group 85, NARA-Seattle, Lee Gum Sing file, Seattle Box 769, 7030/11419.
Lee Gum Sing, age 5, the son of Lee Yok Tin, a U.S. citizen, arrived at the Port of Seattle on 6 September 1938 with his aunt, Lee Ah Yee, and his father. Their destination was San Francisco. Gum Sing had a scar on his forehead over his right eyebrow, a scar on the back of his right ear and another scar on the right side of his neck. [There was no explanation for the scars, and interrogators did not ask about them in the interviews. THN]
His file contains twenty-nine pages of interrogations. Most questions were directed at his father and aunt but there were four pages of interrogation and two pages of re-interrogation for five-year old Lee Gum Sing. The father and aunt, the son and daughter of Lee Lock, also have separate files.
Gum Sing’s aunt, Lee Ah Yee, was twenty years old when she arrived in Seattle. She had a large brown burn scar on the right side of forehead which she said was from a boil and that no one in the family had had smallpox. She was born on 11 March 1919 in Macao City, China and lived in Sheuk Kee city from the time she was two or three years old. Her citizenship status at her arrival was as the daughter of a native citizen. According to the Chinese Exclusion laws it was necessary for her to prove her right to enter the U.S. She told the interrogator that her father, Lee Lock, marriage name Poy Lum, died in July 1936 at the age of 58. Her father’s funeral was held at their home, but she did not attend it. Her mother, Wong Shee, age 52, had released feet and was still living in the family home in China. Japanese warplanes bombed the business section of their village but not the residential section. [In 1938 the Japanese launched several military campaigns in China.] Ah Yee’s brother brought her to the U.S. to take care of his son, Gum Sing, and told her she could go to school if she was interested.
Lee Gum Sing’s mother, Ow Young Shee, died in 1938. Gum Sing identified his mother’s photo from her San Francisco file #12033/7572 and his father’s photo from his Seattle file 7030/10699. Gum Sing was born in Jung San on 4 October 1933. He had two older brothers and a younger brother. After his mother died his father married again to Leung Shee.
The interrogators asked Gum Sing about his family, home, street, and neighborhood. Gum Sing spoke in a mixture of Heung San and Sam Yip dialect and told them that the family lived in a small house with no upstairs. It had three bedrooms and three parlors, a clock with a pendulum, red tile floors, no courtyard, a toilet near the kitchen, no outside windows, no framed pictures, one outside door in one of the parlors, and a skylight. There was a round wooden table in the kitchen and a clay stove. The house was lit with kerosene lamps at night. He described who slept where. His grandmother had small feet and walked slowly. His father smoked cigarettes. His father’s new wife, Leung Shee, had bobbed hair and wore earrings, rings and bracelets. On their way to Hong Kong to start their trip to the United States they traveled by autobus and boat. The interrogators asked the same questions and more to his father and aunt.
Gum Sing’s father, Lee Yok Tin, marriage name Jock Sang, testified that he was 32 years old and born in Shauck Kee city, Jung San district, China. He was first admitted to the United States at San Francisco in 1922. He lived in Rockport near Walnut Grove. Since then, he had made three trips to China through San Francisco and one through Seattle. His most recent address was at the Hai Goon Grocery Store, 740 Jackson Street, San Francisco. He worked as a truck driver for the store. Lee Yok Tin’s first wife, Ng Shee died in 1923. They had no children together. His second wife, Ow Young Shee died in early 1938. They had four sons and no daughters. Lee Yok Tin married Leung Shee, age 21, a few months after Ow Young Shee died.
Lee Yok Tin explained that his sister, Ah Yee, was not allowed to attend their father’s funeral in 1936 even though it was in the family sitting room, because she was a girl. [Ah Yee would have been about 18 at the time of her father’s death. It is not known If she could have attended if she was older or if she was not allowed to attend simply because she was female; her age may not have mattered. Does anyone know the customs for females attending funerals? TNH]
The interrogator asked Lee Yok Tin why he did not bring his two older sons to the U.S. Yok Tin said he wanted them to attend school in China. The interrogator was also troubled by some of the discrepancies between the family’s description of the neighborhood. The three agreed on most of the details about the house and neighborhood but did not agree on whether the building directly to the right of the family home was an ancestral hall or if a fruit stand and grocery store stood at that place. And they disagreed about how much space there was between the buildings.
When Lee Ah Yee was being reexamined about some of the discrepancies between her statements and her nephew’s, she said Gum Sing’s answers might be different because he was only five years old and probably too young to know the answers.
In the summary of the interrogations by Roy C. Matterson, chairman of the Board of Special Inquiry, he explained the citizenship of Lee Look, the father of Lee Ah Yee and paternal grandfather of Lee Gum Sing. Lee Look’s file stated that when he was leaving San Francisco for China in March 1906, he claimed he was born in San Francisco. An affidavit from his mother and another witness confirmed his birth. After an investigation he was admitted as a citizen. In May 1922 Lee Yok Tin, the son of Lee Look, applied for admittance as the son of a U.S. citizen and was admitted. They both had made several trips to China and were readmitted each time. Although there were several discrepancies in the testimonies for this trip, when all the evidence, testimony and records were reviewed the discrepancies were not enough to detain Lee Ah Yee and Lee Gum Sing. They were admitted to the U.S. on 24 October 1938. Lee Gum Sing received Certificate of Identity #78259. His application includes his photo at age 3.
“Lee Gum Sing, form M143,” 1938, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, Record Group 85, NARA-Seattle, Lee Gum Sing file, Seattle Box 769, 7030/11419.
The reference sheet in the file included file number 7030/12466 for Gum Sing’s older brother, Lee Mai Hing.
Ng Ah Yun was born in Port Townsend, Jefferson County, Washington on 23 August 1889. He was the son of (Ng) Yee Kong and Wong Shee. Yee Kong had come to the United States from China about 1877 and married Wong Shee in San Francisco in 1882. Shortly after they married, they moved to Port Townsend, Washington and resided at the corner of Madison and Water Streets. Their first son, Ah Don Ng, was born there in 1885 or 1886.
Yee Kong operated the Yee Wah Laundry. Its original location was across the corner from the sailors’ boarding house. In December 1888, Yee Kong’s cousin, Charley Quong, who was born in California, joined them in Port Townsend. Charley’s father and Yee Kong’s father were brothers. About 1890 the laundry burned down, and the building was replaced. Eventually that building also burned and the family moved over to the King Tai Company building. About 1892, discouraged after twice losing their business, Yee Kong, his wife, and their two sons moved back to China.
In June 1907 the two brothers, (Ng) Ah Don and (Ng) Ah Yun, returned to Port Townsend on the Ex. S. S. Shawmut and applied to be admitted to the United States as U.S. citizens. Over a ten- day period they were interrogated and eventually admitted.
The file does not indicate where they stayed those ten days. The Port Townsend U.S. Customs House may have made some arrangements for them. Charley Quong, another Chinese man, and two Caucasian witnesses swore in affidavits about their knowledge of the brothers. They were shown photographs and asked to identify each one. Frank A. Bartlett said he had been a resident of Port Townsend for more than forty- two years. He was a member of C. C. Bartlett & Company, his father ’s general merchandise store, and sold laundry supplies to Yee Kong. C. C. Bartlett also rented a lot and a building to Yee Kong. After the building burned down, Yee Kong rented the land from Bartlett and built a two-story frame building for his laundry business. The Bartletts had a good working relationship with Yee Kong, and they both remembered seeing his young sons playing around the laundry.
Joseph Steiner also swore in an affidavit that he was acquainted with Yee Kong. Steiner owned a cigar store and had been a resident of Port Townsend since February 1888. Steiner patronized the Yee Wah Laundry, and Yee Kong brought his sons with him to the cigar store when he came to collect Steiner’s laundry fees and visit with him.
In Eng Yee Tung’s affidavit he testified that he was forty-four years old and was born in Pen On, Har Pang County, Sunning district, Province of Canton, China. He was the manager of the Yee Sing Wook Kee Company in Port Townsend. Around 1885 there were about one hundred Chinese in Port Townsend. Eng Yee Tung testified that he and about thirty or forty other Chinese attended a “shaving feast” to celebrate the birth of each of Yee Kong’s sons. This was a Chinese ritual in which a barber would shave off all but a small tuft of hair on the front of a male baby’s head about a month after the birth, then family and friends would gather to celebrate.
Ah Don, age 21, was interviewed on 13 June 1907. Even though he was only five or six years old when he left Port Townsend for China, he was asked many of the same questions asked of the other adults. He testified that his uncle, Charley Quong, whose Chinese name was Bing Quong, lived next door to his father ’s house in China and that Charley’s father was Jet Hock, the brother of Hen Hock. In the interview Ah Don described his house—it had had two sleeping rooms, two kitchens and a worship room. He stated that his mother had a brother named Wong Sai Chuck, a farmer in China. The interviewer then gave Ah Don a genealogy lesson. He explained that Charley and Ah Don’s fathers were first cousins; therefore, Charley could not be his uncle. When asked if he had any first cousins, Ah Don responded: “Under the Chinese custom I call Bing Quong my uncle, but according to the American custom he is my cousin, but not my first cousin.” (He had learned his genealogy lesson and how to deal with interviewers.) He had no other cousins. His father had given him about $1,000 to come to the United States.
Ah Yun, age 18, was interviewed the next day; ten days after the brothers had arrived in Port Townsend. He was only three or four years old when he left the U.S. for China. He told the interviewer that the family name was Ng, although it was not always used. When Ah Yun called Charley Kong (Quong) his uncle, Mr. Monroe, the interviewer, gave him the same genealogy lecture he had given his brother. Ah Yun gave the same answers to the interview questions as his brother had. As one would expect, they both correctly identified the photographs of each other and of Charley Quong.
On 14 June 1907, the Acting Chinese Inspector in Charge interviewed Charley Quong about Ah Yun and Ah Don. An interpreter was present. Quite a bit of genealogical information was obtained in that interview. Charley Quong/ Bing Quong was by this time thirty-five years old and was working in a saloon in Port Townsend that was owned by Henry Rothschild. Quong was born in San Francisco, the son of Hen Hock and Chin Shee, the former being the son of Mon Fee. Hen Hock was born in China and his mother in San Francisco. His father died in Fresco, California about 1900, but his mother was still living there. His four sisters and three brothers were all born in the United States and were living in Fresno.
Charley Quong had married in San Francisco. Quong had made two trips to China, once in 1895 and again in 1901. He had registered each time before he left the country. The interviewer asked him why he had registered, since he was born in the United States. He replied, “Because every Chinaman was registering, and I thought I would do the same.” [It was odd that the interviewer asked Quong why he had registered, because in 1892 the Geary Act was passed, which expanded the 1882 exclusion act. It now required all Chinese to register and obtain a certificate of identity as proof of their right to be in the United States and to safely return when they left the country.]
The interviewer asked Quong many questions about his family in China. Charley Quong and his cousin Yee Kong had lived in the village of Song Cheong, sometimes called Song Clen, Song Lung or Song Leung. There were only two houses in the village and they each owned one of them. Quong lived there with his wife, his stepmother (his father ’s first wife), and his two sons.
Caucasians were considered more credible witnesses than Chinese, so it was important for returning Chinese to have white witnesses who could swear that they were respectable citizens. Even though information on Caucasians in the files is incidental and rarely indexed, there are sometimes tidbits of information about people who had working relationships with Chinese. Sometimes a witness might tell where they were living in the 1890s when no census records were available. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to find this information.
Three months after Frank A. Bartlett and Joseph Steiner gave sworn statements about their knowledge of Ah Don and Ah Yun, the affiants gave witness testimony. Mr. Monroe asked Steiner how long he had lived in Port Townsend and Steiner replied that it had been a little over twenty years. Monroe came back with, “How much over twenty years?” Steiner replied that it had been twenty years in February. [Monroe was getting testy. He may have been feeling that he was wasting his time trying to disprove that the brothers were U. S. citizens.]
Steiner was asked to give the names of any Chinese that he remembered. He named six Chinese. He said he had never been to Yee Kong’s laundry because Yee Kong always called for it and delivered it back to him when done.
When Yee Kong’s former landlord, Frank A. Bartlett, was interviewed, he reported his occupation as both bookkeeper and merchant. He recounted that Yee Kong had paid various rents to him for his laundry–starting out at $15 a month, then $25 and finally $100, the latter being paid during boom times in Port Townsend. The first laundry was in a one-story building that was about twenty feet wide by 30 feet long. According to Bartlett, that building burned down about 1886. Bartlett then leased the land to Yee Kong for $100 a month and Yee Kong built a new laundry. He was there about five or six years until that building also burned down. [The dates were not always consistent from one person to another, but that did not seem to matter to the interviewer.]
After considering the evidence, Henry A. Monroe decided that Ah Don and Ah Yun were born in the United States. They were admitted to the country as returning native-born Chinese persons.
To be continued in October 2022 blog post.
 “Chinese Customs: Interesting Rites are Connected with Birth—Vary According to Province,” The Burlington Free Press and Times, Burlington, New Jersey, 4 March 1920, p.8; accessed Chroniclingamerica.loc.gov, 22 August 2022.
Waverly B. Lowell, compiler, Chinese Immigration and Chinese in the United States: Records in the Regional Archives of the National Archives and Records Administration, NARA, Reference Information paper 99, 1996, 1.
This case study was originally published in the Seattle Genealogical Society Bulletin. The citation for the complete article is: Trish Hackett Nicola, CG, “Chinese and the Northwest,” SGS (Seattle) Bulletin, 64-1 (Winter 2014) 39-47.
Wing Ung CHIN 陳榮棟 AKA Donald Ung CHIN(1913 – 2005) by Kevin Lee
[Thank you Kevin Lee for sharing your family story.]
Note the English spelling variations of the same Chinese family name陳 of Chin, Chinn, Chan, Chen.
It was eerily quiet in the reference room of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facility in Seattle, as the bound manila folder of # 7031/325 was handed to me by staff on 7 November 2019. There, in front of my eyes, laid 100 years of history, which was of my great uncle (kauh gung) – the younger brother of my maternal grandmother CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen 陳美珍 (who featured in this website on 17 May 2021).
Donald CHIN was the minor son of a merchant (where “M/S/Mcht” was marked on the front of his file) when he arrived in Seattle, from Hong Kong, on 5 April 1926.
Donald was also the grandson of a laundryman Gin Heung CHAN, also known as (aka) Yen Hing CHIN, who arrived in 1880 at the port of San Francisco, and who then lived in Seattle until 1894, however, no NARA file could be found for this gentleman because paperwork generally kept by the U.S. Immigration Service prior to 1895 was sparse.
Donald was named CHAN Wing Dung at birth, and was born on 28 October 1913, in the village of Mi Kong (also spelt Mai Gong), in the town of Hong Gong Lee (also spelt Hin Gong Lee), in the county of Hoiping 开平市 (also spelt Hoy Ping, now Kaiping, one part of Sze Yup – one of the 4 Districts), in the province of Kwangtung (now spelt Guangdong), in the Republic of China – 2 years after the overthrow of the Qing / Manchu Dynasty.
He was the 3rd child of Love SEETO 司徒愛 also known as SEE TOW shee司徒氏,who lived in China throughout her entire life, and (Chear) Cheo CHIN 陳超 aka Don Foon CHIN (NARA file # 39184/2-12, previously 682, 15844 and 30206) – “a well-known domiciled merchant of the city (of Seattle)” as described by Henry A. Monroe on 26 April 1926, a Seattle immigration lawyer and notary public.
Donald was only 5-years-old and living in China when his older brother, CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光 (who featured in this website on 31 July 2021), died in Seattle at the tender age of 18, in late 1918, from an accidental drug poisoning at the Wing Sang & Company premises co-owned by their father, Cheo CHIN 陳超.
Cheo CHIN 陳超 most likely brought the cremated ashes of Wing Quong CHIN 陳榮光 back to China for reburial, during his lengthy trip abroad from May 1919 – September 1921. This was the first time that young Donald had ever met his father.
Donald’s mother, Love SEETO 司徒愛/ SEE TOW shee 司徒氏, was distraught at the loss of the number 1 son, Wing Quong 榮光, and never fully recovered. She was a broken woman and “divorced” Cheo CHIN 陳超.
Cheo CHIN 陳超 wrote to her in 1925 requesting that their 12-year-old son, Donald, join him in Seattle. She relented, knowing that she would never see her son again.
As the Chinese New Year celebrations lasted for 1 week from Saturday 13 February 1926, Donald would have travelled in mid-February 1926 from Mi Kong village to the terminal at Sanbu 三埠 (meaning “ the 3rd district”) for a 4-hour river ferry to British Hong Kong with his cousin CHIN Yin Duk. He was both excited and nervous at what the future lay ahead…
He obtained U.S. immigration visa no. 130 from the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong on 16 March 1926. The next day, he boarded the U.S. steamship “S.S. President Grant” and arrived in Seattle, Washington, 19 days later on 5 April 1926. He then spent 15 days locked-up in quarantine because he had hookworm disease, in a room he shared with 20 other people, and also underwent questioning by Immigration officials – with the assistance of a translator – to verify his status as the son of a merchant. Belatedly, after an arduous trip and then being put in detention, he was finally released into the waiting arms of his relieved father Cheo CHIN 陳超, whom he hadn’t seen for 4½ years, on 20 April 1926.
As a teenager in a new land and to fulfill the huge ambitions/investment by his father, he gradually adjusted to the different language, culture and way-of-life. He began attending English classes at Broadway High Schoolon the corner of Broadway and East Pine Street in Capitol Hill with distant cousin Anne Wing (née Chinn). Anne later became President of the female auxiliary branch of Gee How Oak Tin – the oldest and largest family association in north-west America. Donald also continued his Chinese (Cantonese) studies whilst growing-up in Seattle, as he never forgot his roots.
He resided with his father firstly at 412 (and later across the street at 415) 7th Avenue South, Seattle, in an upstairs apartment of the Wing Sang Company (Wing Sang Tong). He occasionally helped behind the counter, or in the storage basement to unpack boxes of items for sale, in-between his studies.
Nearing adulthood and desiring to get married, as well as desperately missing his mother, sister and (adopted) brother after 5½ years in America, Donald and his father Cheo CHIN 陳超 sought legal advice for a trip back to China. They again approached immigration lawyer Henry A. Monroe, who wrote to the Commissioner of Immigration on their behalf on 5 October 1931. They faced interviews with U.S. Immigration Service inspectors on 13 October 1931 to determine their status. Two days later, the U.S. Immigration Service favourably granted Donald a re-entry permit, enabling him to depart for China but to come back within 365 days.
On 17 October 1931 he sailed out of Seattle on the steam ship “President Taft” to head towards Hong Kong, and onto then a smaller ferry to Sanbu 三埠 in Hoiping / Kaiping city 开平市.
Aged 18-years-old, he married someone whom he had only just met – 17-year-old Suey Tong YEE – at his father’s Mi Kong village house. Donald knew that he had to spend as much time with his new wife as possible, hence they conceived a child quickly. With Chinese Exclusion Act (CEA) restrictions in place, he didn’t know when he could return to China, or if/when the law could be amended to allow him to sponsor his wife to America.
He arrived back in Seattle on 12 October 1932 – just days before his return visa expired – after being on-board 2 steamships (the Empress of Canada and the Princess Alice) over the past 19 days. It was a long, exhausting, cramp journey and he felt reluctant to ever go through this again.
Two months after arriving back, he received the joyous news that his one-and-only child – a son – Ying Keong CHIN aka Kent Ying Keung CHAN was born in Mi Kong village on 19 December 1932.
During that moment in time, with a severe economic downturn worldwide – the Great Depression – leading to high unemployment, he had to put his head down and work very hard in America, to save and send money back to his wife and child in China. He worked as a houseboy for a white family in Seattle, at a fish cannery/processing plant in Bellingham, in Chinese laundries, grocery stores, chicken farms, and as a waiter in restaurants.
Meanwhile, at his father Cheo Chin’s 陳超 Wing Sang & Company, business was very tough, and the partnership unravelled/dissolved. However, Cheo Chin 陳超 was a silent partner in another mercantile business called “Sang Loon Co.”, also known as Sang Yuen Company, since 1923. Cheo Chin 陳超 then became an active partner on 2 June 1930, which operated from 660 King Street, where they both lived in an apartment above the store.
Donald, sometime later, moved into his own apartment within Chinatown.
Other than his father, who lived nearby him in Seattle until dying of bowel cancer on 6 March 1939, Donald wasn’t able to see any other family member for an extremely long time. The following events, one-after-the-other, made it impossible for Donald to visit his family in China:-
the 1882 – 1943 Chinese Exclusion Act / strict U.S. immigration laws,
the 1929 – 1933 Great Depression,
the 1937 – 1945 Sino-Japanese War which meant that China and Hong Kong were occupied, and thus travel was very dangerous,
the 1966 – 1976 Chinese Communist Party’s Cultural Revolution which tightened border controls.
These aforementioned events greatly impacted his life:-
He couldn’t obtain U.S. citizenship based on race and had the threat of deportation hanging over his head, and he couldn’t buy a property or a place to call home but constantly rented. He was a law-abiding resident of the U.S. for a very long 27 years, until he was finally naturalised at the Western District Court of Washington in Seattle on 30 September 1953;
He hadn’t seen his 83-year-old mother Love SEETO 司徒愛/ SEE TOW shee 司徒氏 for 26 years, when she died in Mi Kong village on July 1958;
He had been “separated from my bride for 32 years” (in a speech to family and friends at his 80th birthday party on 12 July 1992), and thus robbed of the prime of their lives together, consequently only producing 1 child. As a U.S. citizen, he still had to wait many years before he could sponsor his wife, Suey Tong YEE, who was 50-years-old when they reunited in 1964.
He hadn’t met his then 33-year-old son before, nor his daughter in-law, and 5 small grandchildren aged between 1-9 years, until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1 December 1965 (the Hart-Celler Act) became effective, and they all arrived in Seattle, from Hong Kong, via plane – not ship like he previously did – on 8 January 1966;
In late 1981, he made his 1st trip back to China in 49 years – almost half a century – to visit his cancer-stricken and beloved 77-year-old elder sister, CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen 陳美珍. Donald loved his sister immensely, as they were both linked by blood, but separated by time apart, the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, and the tight border controls in both the United States and China. She died exactly 40 years ago, on 29 March 1982.
Conclusion: Donald managed/owned the Riceland Caféfor many years, located firstly at 606 12th Avenue, South Seattle, and then moving it to 4144 University Way, Seattle. Early morning trips to the fresh food markets, preparation of ingredients, managing his staff, and cleaning-up after the last diners left late at night, became his regular routine.
He was a pillar of the Chinese community in Seattle, and an active member of the Gee How Oak Tin and Suey Sing Chinese Benevolent Family Associationsfor almost 80 years.
Donald Wing Ung Chin 陳榮棟 passed away peacefully on 5 September 2005 at the Swedish Medical Center, Providence Campus, 500 – 17th Avenue, Seattle, only 1 block away from where his father died 66½ years earlier at the Providence Hospital. He was just a few weeks short of his 92nd birthday, living 79 of those years in the United States, having not gone back to China for 49 years, and despite many hardships and sacrifices, he was determined to prove himself as an inspirational immigrant success story and a proud family man.
[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 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.
[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.
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.]
“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, firstname.lastname@example.org]
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.
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, email@example.com – THN]
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.
[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19. This file was copied before the closure in March 2020. I will let you know when the archives reopens. THN]
Ng Wing Yin arrived at the Port of Seattle on 28 January 1929 was deported after almost two months in detention. He could not prove his relationship to his alleged father, Ng Wah Lai, a U.S. citizen.
His attorney, Hugh C. Todd, wrote to the Bureau of Immigration in Washington, D.C. regarding Ng’s appeal. Ng Wing Yin was first denied admission in January 1927. His 1929 entry was his second attempt to enter the U.S. Todd argued that no one except a father would try to bring his son into the country twice. Anyone else would have given up. This application included a photo taken in 1921 of the father and son when the son was ten years old. Todd pointed out the resemblance between the two—their posture, eyes, nose, ears and chin, even the curl of the mouth. The photograph was not included in the 1927 earlier entry application.
“Ng Wing Yin and Ng Wah Lai photo” 1921 , Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Ng Wing Yin case file, Seattle Box 1118, file 10346/10-12.
[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19. This file was copied before the closure in March 2020. I will let you know when the archives reopens. THN]
In 1929 Ng Wing Yin was seventeen years old and a student. He was born in Woy Lung Lee village, Sun Wei Ning District, China. He was attempting to enter the U.S. as the son of a native. His parents were Ng Wah Lai (marriage name Yuk Moon), and Mar Shee. He presented an affidavit with a photo of him with his father stating that his father was a United States citizen.
Ng Wing Yin was questioned about the first time he tried to enter the U.S. in 1926. He was denied, it was appealed, denied again, and he was deported. He was asked why he was trying to enter again since he was debarred the first time. He did not reply. His only witness was his father.
Ng Wah Lai testified that he was born in Riverside, California and that he had lived in Durango, Colorado for four years and planned to go back there. He was currently working at the Kwong Man Yuen store at 701 King Street in Seattle. He showed his certificate of identity #4188 issued at Boston, Massachusetts in 1911. The only proof he had that Ng Wing Yin was his son was the photo of them together. The immigration authorities agreed that the people in the photo were Ng Wah Lai and Ng Wing Yin but that did not prove their relationship. They had no new witnesses or evidence except for the photo taken of them together in 1921. They asked Ng Wah Lai why he was going through this process again when nothing had changed. Ng said, “He is my son and is anxious to come to the U.S.”
Ng Wing Yin was unable to prove that he was the blood son of Ng Wah Lai so he was denied entry into the U.S. Their attorney appealed, it was denied, and Ng Wing Yin was deported, again.
[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19. This file was copied before the closure in March 2020. I will let you know when the archives reopens. THN]
“Gee Moon Jew, Certificate of Identity” 1930, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Gee Moon Jew case file, Seattle Box 441, file 7030/1001.
Gee Moon Jew 朱文周 was 35 when he applied for a return certificate to allow him to make a trip to China. He was a poultry farmer in Vashon, Washington. He was born about 1897 in Hong How village, Sunning District, China. He came to the U.S. in 1909, at the age of 14, arriving in San Francisco. He was considered a U.S. citizen, the son of a native. His father, Gee Fee Yee, marriage name You Ming, was born in San Francisco. His mother was in China. He had three brothers and one younger sister. His older brother, Gee Moon Bin [sic] and his younger brother Gee Moon Taw, were both living in California. Gee Moon Jew married a Caucasian woman, Charlotte Irene Rogers in Vancouver, Washington in November 1918. After marrying he took the name George W. Jenn. George and Charlotte had six children; Mary Frances, born 1919; George Walton, born 1921; Alice Martha, born 1923; William Lawrence, born 1925; Eugene, also called Wee Jee, born 1927; and Helen Elizabeth Jenn, born 1927. Mary Frances was born in Seattle and the other children were born in Vashon.
Gee Moon Jew was taking his two eldest children, Mary Frances and George Walton, to China so they could attend a private Methodist school in Canton City. He was also going to visit his mother and other relatives and expected to be gone about three or four months. The children would probably stay three years.
Immigration authorities also interviewed Gee Moon Jew’s wife. Charlotte Irene Ward was 28 years old and born in Larned, Kansas. Her stepfather’s surname was Rogers. They could not afford to take the whole family to China, so she was staying home with the younger children. Her mother was coming from California to stay with her. There were short interviews for Mary Frances and George Walton. They identified their parents and their birth certificates were examined.
Roy M. Porter, the Immigrant Inspector, examined Gee Moon Jew’s 1909 San Francisco file. His father, Gee Fee Yee, had a Seattle file showing that he was admitted at Port Townsend, Washington in 1897. He also had a San Francisco file with a discharge statement showing that he was a native-born U.S. citizen. Porter approved the application for a return certificate for Gee Mon Jew and his children. A copy of Gee Fee Yee’s 1909 affidavit was included in the file.
“Gee Fee Yee affidavit with photos of Gee Fee Yee and Gee Mun Gew [sic]” 1909, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Gee Moon Jew case file, Seattle Box 441, file 7030/1001.
The reference sheet in the file included the case numbers for the files of Gee Moon Jew’s father, his brother, Gee Moon Ben; and Ben’s two sons, Gee Quong Sam and Gee Suey Gin.