Bruce Lee (Lee Jun Fon) was born on 27 November 1940 in San Francisco, California. In order to establish his son’s right to his United States citizenship and before the family returned to China in April 1941, his father, Lee Hoi Chuen, filed a Citizen’s Return Certificate on his son’s behalf. This would document his son’s birth, his American citizenship and enable him to return to reside in the United States at a later date. His father was an actor at the Mandarin Theatre in San Francisco; he was 27 years old and was born in Fat San City, Nom Hoy, China. He testified that he and his wife, Ho Oi Yee, were married ten years and had four living children—one son died in Hong Kong and one daughter was adopted. Ho Oi Yee’s mother was English. Lee Jun Fon (Bruce Lee) was the only child born in the United States. The doctor gave Bruce Lee his American name. His father couldn’t pronounce it but went along with it.
A copy of Bruce Lee’s birth certificate and a corrected copy are included in the file. In the original document, Item 3B stated that his mother’s usual residence was China. This was corrected to say that she had been a resident of California for one year, two months.
[Bruce Lee returned to the United States at age 18 and attended the University of Washington in Seattle for three years. He became a celebrated actor and martial artist. Lee died of a brain edema on 20 July 20 1973 in Hong Kong and buried in Lakeview Cemetery, Seattle, WA.]
Little Dancie Wong and her mother obtained an affidavit for the purpose of identification. They were applying to the U.S. Immigration authorities at Angel Island, California in 1933 for a Return Certificate, form 430, which would enable them to re-enter the U.S. after a trip to China.
Ng Dancie Yet, her husband, and several white witnesses were interrogated. Some of the information from the interrogation: Henry Wong, also known as H. Wong and Wong Ge Ye, was born in Gilroy, California on 22 Jan 1908. He and Ng Dancie Yet were married in Ft. Worth, Texas on 17 April 1925. He was a merchant at grocery and meat market called Wong Company in Rosedale, Mississippi.
One of their white witnesses was Dr. Charles W. Patterson, a practicing physician in Rosedale and a graduate of Tulane University. He delivered the Wongs’ three children: Pershing, born in 1926; Kellogg, born in 1928 and Little Dancie, born in 1931.
G. W. Heckert, the Immigration Inspector reviewed the Wongs’ marriage certificate and noted that it was recorded in the Ft. Worth, Texas 1925 marriage records, volume 58, page 242, number 59881. Heckert asked if they could keep the certificate in their permanent files. Ng Dancie Wong refused and the certificate was returned to her. She stated that she was born 18 January 1905 at Fort Worth, Texas.
[According to Heckert, they were trying to determine if H. Wong was Ng Dancie Yet’s first and only husband. They wanted to make sure she had not lost her U.S. citizenship by marriage to an alien ineligible to citizenship. ]
During Ng Dancie Wong’s interrogation she was asked if she was “an expectant mother.” She said that she was four or five months pregnant. Ng Dancie Yet was also known as Ng Yook Hong or Mrs. H. Wong.
Ng Dancie Yet provided Little Dancie’s birth certificate. It says the Little Dancie’s father was born in Getlow, California instead of Gilroy. Ng Dancie said that the doctor “put it down Getlow because it sounds like that when we pronounce it.”
More about Little Dancie next week…
Leong Yuen and Leong Hoey at Leong & Co. store, 230 1/2 Third St., Portland, Oregon
According to a newspaper article included in the file [Oregon Journal, Portland, Oregon, Nov, 11, 1923, p. 1, col. 1] a gang robbed the store and shot, Leong Hoey, the proprietor, early in November. Judge Stapleton sentenced C. H. Jackson, leader of a gang, to ten years in the penitentiary and Vito Dellino received a 2-1/2 year sentence.
In October 1932 Leong Hoey [sometimes spelled Huey or Houie] applied for a laborer’s return certificate. He owned a $1000 Fourth Liberty Loan Bond, worked in a fish cannery, was married, and had a son, See Gok, who was 8 years old. Leong Hoey arrived in the U.S. in 1910 and was admitted as the minor son of a merchant.
His file also contained a letter from his brother, Leong Yuen, answering a charge by the city Attorney that the store at 230 1/2 had been used for gambling. He explained that the rear of the building had been leased to a Chinese society to be used as a meeting place.
Leong Hoey’s application was denied. He appealed and it was approved. He left for China from Seattle on 7 October 1932 and returned the following year.
[More about the robbery and the gambling charge next time…]
Jick Chan [James Jick Chan] was a Cantonese translator/interpreter for the U. S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in Seattle for many years. The obituary for his son, Warren Chan, who died in Seattle on 15 June 2015, mentions his father’s service.
See Obituary: “Former judge Warren Chan, 92, Wing Luke Museum co-founder” for more information on the family.
Warren Chan’s obituary appeared in The Seattle Times on Monday, June 29, 2015, page B1 & B2.
As a laborer, Ham Go received Certificate of Residence #143225 in 1894 when he was living in Boston, Massachusetts. He owned a $1000 Liberty Loan Bond that he purchased on 8 August 1933, one day before filing his application for a laborer’s return certificate.
Rhonda, one of National Archives at Seattle’s volunteers, has been looking for documentation on her Chinese/Native American father for years hoping to prove his Native American heritage. While processing records from the Chinese Exclusion files, Rhonda came across a case labeled “Low Yow Edwin” and checked to see if it could possibly be about her father.
Her father, Edwin Law Yow, was a mechanic for the Flying Tigers during the World War II. Before he enlisted he applied for permission to travel abroad, and during the application process his stepmother, Mrs. Law Yow, and other witnesses were called to testify on his heritage. Listed below is his and his stepmother’s testimony where she speaks of her husband’s deathbed confession—just the information Rhonda had been seeking. The interrogation also references a birth certificate in Alaska.
The Seattle file also lists a National Archives at San Francisco file number. Rhonda quickly emailed a request for the search. John Seamans, Archive Technician, at the San Bruno facility found the file. It contained the birth certificate for Low Yow Edwin!
[The Chinese Exclusion Act case files frequently contain a variety of spellings for an individual’s name. Sometimes one of the names might be left out. The Chinese custom is to list the surname first before the other names. At different times an individual may have been referred to by another name–sometimes a school name, a married name, an alias, or an Americanized name.]