Category Archives: Birth Certificate

Benjamin James – 1923 Certificate of Identity sold on EBay

[Amy Chin brought this to my attention in a few weeks ago. The Certificate of Identity for Benjamin James was being offered for sale on Ebay. She did a quick Ancestry search and found a ship manifest and a U.S. Consular application. Mr. James’ record showed that he was born in Philadelphia. His Certificate of Identity was issued in Seattle so she thought there may be a file at Seattle NARA on him. The indexes for San Bruno and NY show they both have files on him.  Amy searched the Social Security Death Index and found a Benjamin James who died July 1969. NARA-NY has files on Benjamin and siblings Harry, Lillie and Arthur. In 1911 Benjamin and at least 2 other siblings returned to China for 10+ years.]

[Amy asked if I could check the Seattle files to see if we could connect a descendant to Benjamin James so they could obtain the Certificate of Identity from Ebay. Unfortunately the certificate sold quickly, before I had a chance to make this blog entry on Benjamin James’ file. ]

Benjamin James 1898 Birth Certificate
“Benjamin James, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1898 birth certificate,” 1908, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Benjamin James file, Seattle Box 109, 734/2-1.”

Benjamin James was born 6 July 1898 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Joe and Tillie James. His birth certificate was presented to immigration in 1911 as proof of his U.S. citizenship before the family left for China.

Instead of inteBenjamin James photo 1911rviewing each of the children individually only Benjamin’s parents were interviewed before they left the U.S. in 1911. Joseph James’ Chinese name was Chu Gee Cim [Gim] and his married named was Chu Chuck. He was born in Ling Yung village, Sun Ning, China about 1852 and came to the U.S. through San Francisco in 1868. He stayed there about eleven years working as a merchant and sometimes a laborer then went to New York City until 1880. He lived in Atlantic City, New Jersey; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; New York, New York; and Paterson, New Jersey. He was in Atlantic City in 1894 when he registered as required by the Chinese Exclusion Act and obtained his merchant’s papers. He married Chung Suey Ping, (English married name: Tillie James). She was born in California. They had three sons and five living daughters and a daughter, Sou Ying, who died at age four. Their children, all born in the United States, were Lillie James (Mrs. Lee), Mamie James (Mrs. Bing), Harry James, Annie James, Margaret James, Benjamin James, Alice James, and Arthur James. In 1911 the older children stayed in the U.S. and Joseph and Tillie took Harry, Benjamin, Alice and Arthur to China so they could attend school there.

Benjamin James photo 1923
“Benjamin James, form 430 M143 photos,” 1911 & 1923, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Benjamin James file, Seattle Box 109, 734/2-1.

In 1923 Benjamin James informed Immigration that he would be returning to the U.S. via Seattle in the near future. He gave the immigration officer three photos for his certificate of identity and asked that the certificate be sent to him in San Francisco. In January 1924, writing on stationery from Washman Co., importers and Exporters at 259 Fifth Avenue in New York City, he requested that the certificate be sent to the Washman address. His Certificate of Identity #49650 was forwarded to him there.

[There is no more information in the file.]

Harry Chinn – WW II Veteran and POW in Germany

Harry Chinn, a World War II veteran, died in 1951 from complications of frostbite of both feet and pulmonary tuberculosis which he developed when he was a prisoner of war in Germany.

Chinn Harry Birth Cert 1922
“Harry Chinn – Seattle, Washington Birth Certificate of Birth,” 1922, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Harry Chinn file, Seattle Box 734, 7030/10246.

Harry Chinn 陳光漢 (Chin King Ging), son of Shaw Chinn (married name Chin Shu Num 陳召南) and Moy Shee (Moy King Sam or May Sem), was born in Seattle on 25 August 1922. He attended Bailey Gatzert School, Washington School and Broadway High School in Seattle. Harry, his parents, and his four brothers and sister visited China in August 1937 and returned in November 1938. While in China Harry married Til Wui Lee (Lee Tie Win) according to the old Chinese custom in May Hong Tune, How San Province in January 1938.
Harry Chinn obtained his Certificate of Identity in 1942 a few days after he enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Harry Chinn – Certificate of Identity
“Harry Chinn – Certificate of Identity #84891,” 1942, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Harry Chinn file, Seattle Box 734, 7030/10246.

Mrs. Chinn arrived at the Port of San Francisco on 6 March 1947 as the wife of a U.S. citizen and a war veteran. She was admitted twenty-two days later. Harry Chinn was a patient in the U.S. Marine Hospital in Seattle when she arrived so his father and brother went to San Francisco to meet her. They asked Immigration Services to expedite their investigation of Mrs. Chinn. They had been waiting three weeks for her release and it was very expensive for them to stay in San Francisco. Paul D. Mossman, Medical Director of the U.S. Public Health Service in Seattle verified that Harry Chinn, a patient in the hospital since 2 January 1947, was bed-ridden and unable to leave the hospital. His prognosis was guarded and it was expected that he would be in the hospital for some time.

[There is no information in the file about Harry Chinn’s length of time in the hospital but he died in July 1951.]
The Reference Sheet in the file contains the name and file number for Harry Chinn’s grandfather, parents, four brothers, one sister, and his wife.

[Information not included in the file: According to The Seattle Daily Times, Seattle, Washington, 21 July 1951, page 4: Harry Chinn, age 30, of 1 Canton Alley, Seattle, died 18 July 1951 in Vancouver, Washington. The funeral was under the direction of the Cathay Post No. 186 and burial was in Washelli Cemetery. He was survived by his wife and parents and six brothers, Howard Chinn, Haley Chinn, Hopkin Chinn and Hansing Chinn, all of Seattle and Horace Chinn, Fort Lewis; and Henning Chinn, Fort Hood, Texas; and two sisters, Hannah Chinn, Seattle; and Toy Su Chinn, China.]

Lynne Lee Shew – Heung Shan Benevolent Hospital

Shew Lynne Lee collage
“Lynne Lee Shew photos, Form 430,” 1922 -1939, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Lynne Lee Shew case file, Seattle Box 796, 7030/12446.

Lynne Lee Shew 蕭悔塵 was born in San Jose, California on 27 September 1890 to Chu [Chew] Wing Shew and Shee Nee. Her Chinese name was Shew Fuey Chun. She attended public grammar schools at San Jose and Pajaro, California; high school at Watsonvillage, and received her B. A. and M.A. degrees at University of California at Berkeley, majoring in education and philosophy. Her brother, George Shew, a medical student at the University of California at Berkeley, was killed by an automobile in 1917 when he stepped from a street car. He planned to give medical treatment to the poor in China. Miss Shew gave up her advanced studies at Berkeley to obtain funds for Heung Shan Benevolent Hospital, a hospital to carry out his goals.
Miss Shew made several trips from the U. S.—three to Canada and one to Cuba. She traveled throughout the United States and Canada to raise funds to build the Heung Shan Benevolent Hospital at Shekki, Heung Shan District, Kwang Tung Province, China.
Shew was well known to the immigration officials and she was readily re-admitted on each of her trips. She obtained U.S. passport No. 4031C and Certificate of identity No. 49662 in 1924. She had files in Seattle, Cleveland, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Jacksonville. She showed the immigration inspector a certified copy of her birth certificate but requested that it be returned to her so no copy is in her file. In February 1925 Miss Shew made her first trip to China with a layover in Honolulu, Hawaii and did not return to the U.S. until June 1939. While in China she helped build and manage the Heung Shan Benevolent Hospital.

Letterhead for Heung Shan Benevolent Hospital Fund in San Francisco, California and Vancouver, B. C., Canada

Letterhead for Heung Shan Benevolent Hospital Fund
“Letterhead for Heung Shan Benevolent Hospital Fund,” 1923 & 1924, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Lynne Lee Shew case file, Seattle Box 796, 7030/12446.

Yale University Library has information about Heung Shan Benevolent Hospital at http://www.ulib.iupui.edu/wmicproject/node/2279
Western Medicine in China, 1800-1950 Guide to Collections at Yale University
Additional reports related to hospitals, medical schools, and organizations:
Heung Shan Benevolent Hospital.  Records of the Heung Shan Benevolent Hospital, (Proposed) n.d. Yale Divinity School Library HR547

[Unable to find any information on Lynne Lee Shew after 1943.]
[This file was researched by Hao-Jan Chang, Volunteer at National Archives at Seattle.]

Hazel Ying Lee – Portland Female Aviator

Hazel Ying Lee – Portland Female Aviator
“Lee Yuet/Yut Ying (Hazel) Affidavit photo” 1937, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Lee Yuet Ying (Hazel ) case file, Seattle Box 582, 7030/5149 & Box 710 7030/10411.

[The amazing thing about Hazel Lee’s file is that it does not mention that she was a member of the Chinese Flying Club of Portland and graduated from aviation school at Swan Island, Portland, Oregon in 1932. Hazel Ying Lee was one of the first female pilots in the United States. Her file ends in 1938. After she returned to the United States in 1938 she became one of the first Chinese-American female military pilots. See the links at the end of this article to find out more about her. The blog entry for Virginia Wong tells how the connection was made between Virginia Wong and Hazel Ying Lee, Arthur Chin and the other Chinese-American pilots.]
The file for Hazel Ying Lee (Lee Yut-Ying 李月英) tells us that she left for China on 4 March 1933 and returned on 12 December 1938. While she was visiting her father’s village in the Toyshan District, Kwangtung Province, she received word that her Form 430, Citizen Return Certificate, was destroyed in a fire in Hong Kong. When Lee wanted to return to Portland she went to the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong for help with her documentation of her U.S. citizenship. They advised her to obtain an affidavit with a current photo swearing to her citizenship.

Hazel Lee’ s brother [the file does not say which brother] went to the Immigration office in Portland to assure that the paper work was in proper order so that Hazel Lee would be admitted when she arrived in the Port of Seattle. The Portland immigration office had a copy of Hazel’s original approved 1933 Form 430 on file. When Hazel arrived in Seattle in 1938 the 1933 information was compared to the new affidavit prepared in Hong Kong and Hazel Lee was admitted to the United States.

Hazel’s 1933 interrogation stated that Hazel attended Atkinson school and High School of Commerce; she was employed at H. Liebes & Company doing stock work and elevator operation; her father, Lee Yet 李乙died in 1930; and her mother was living in Portland. Hazel had nine siblings: Harry Lee, Victor Lee, Howard Lee, Daniel Lee (Lee Wing Doong 李榮宗), Rose Lee, Florence Lee, Gladys Lee, Frances May Lee. Harry and Rose were born in China and the others were born in Portland. Hazel was going to Canton City to visit and study.
Hazel’s mother, Wong Shee, maiden name Wong Seu Lan, was a witness for her. Dr. Jessie M. McGavin, a Caucasian female physician, attended to Wong Shee for Hazel’s birth on 25 August 1912. Her birth certificate is included in the file. The reference sheet in Hazel’s file includes the name, relationship and file number for Hazel’s parents, four brothers and three sisters.
To find out more about Hazel Ying Lee go to:
1. Oregon Encyclopedia
2. First Chinese-American Woman to Fly for Military
3.Historical Amnesia
4. Wikipedia

May Sophie Lee – Physician from Philadelphia

May Sophie Lee 1924
“May Sophie Lee, Form M143 photo” 1924, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, May Sophie Lee case file, Seattle Box 178, 2850/6-2.May Sophie Lee 李美(Chinese name Lee Soon Wah) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 18 May 1898. Her parents were Lee Toy 李才and Chee Fung. She had a younger brother named John Paul Lee 李進普, born on 9 May 1900.

In October 1908 May Sophie Lee, age ten, her mother and brother were preparing to leave the United States on the SS Siberia through San Francisco for a trip to China. The Immigration inspector examined May Sophie’s passport no. 64231, two affidavits with photos and a certified copy of her birth certificate. The birth certificate states that she is white.

May Sophie Lee passport

May Sophie Lee passport seal
May Sophie Lee’s passport
1908 Affidavit with photos of Lee Toy and May Sophie Lee
1908 Affidavit with photos of Lee Toy and May Sophie Lee
May Sephie Lee's 1898 birth certificate
May Sephie Lee’s 1898 birth certificate

Mr. and Mrs. Lee’s marriage certificate was examined, authenticated and returned to the Lees.  Seven white residents from Philadelphia swore in an affidavit that they were not Chinese; they were well acquainted with Lee Toy, a merchant at Chong Woh Company;  May Sophie Lee was his lawful daughter, and that she was born in Philadelphia.  The signers of the affidavit were:

Signatures on Affidavit
Signatures on Affidavit

Peter Hackett, 50 So. 4th Street
Frederic Poole, Chinese Mission, 918 Race St.
William Gallagher, 1231 Arch Street
Thomas W. Cunningham, 2112 Cherry Street
Katharine A. Lacy, Principal John Agnus School
Florence B. Scott, First Baptist Church, 17th & Samson St.
Neida S. Gilman, teacher in John Agnus School

While in China May Sophie attended school until she was 21 then attended medical school in Canton City and received a medical degree. She practiced as a physician in Shanghai for over a year before returning to the U.S.

May Sophie Lee was admitted to the United States at the Port of Seattle on 15 December 1924 as a returning citizen. She was 27 years old and was on her way to the Chung Wah & Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with plans to continue her medical career.

[There is no further information in the file.]

Yee Mollie – Ambridge, Pennsylvania

Yee Mollie Form 430 1923 photo
“Yee Mollie, Form 430 photo,” 1929, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Yee Mollie case file, Seattle Box 773, 7030/11550.
[The complete Form 430 includes Mollie’s finger prints.]

Yee Mollie (余瑪琍) arrived in the Port of Seattle on the Princess Marguerite on 4 October 1938. She was with her parents, brother and two sisters. They were on their way home to Ambridge, Pennsylvania.

Molly’s mother, Chin Shee, (陳氏), [SF file 16954/4-1], whose maiden name was Chin Ah Yee, was born in Hung Gong village, Hoy Ping district, China on 10 April 1895. She married Yee Doo Coon (余祖群) on 25 November 1913 in her village. Her husband was born in San Francisco [SF file 13955/11-36]. After they married they lived in his village, Au Mee in Sunning district. Chin Shee came to the United States in 1917 with her husband. His marriage name was Lim Wah.

The family lived in the United States until August 1929 when they left for China with their four U.S. born children–three sons and daughter Mollie. Mollie’s 1927 birth certificate was used as proof of citizenship when the family left in 1929.

Yee Molllie Birth Certificate 1929
“Yee Mollie, State of Pennsylvania Birth Certificate,” 1927, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Yee Mollie case file, Seattle Box 773, 7030/11550.
Yee Doo Coon returned to the U.S. through Seattle in January 1938 with his second and third sons, Yee Ning Young and Yee Ning Don. His eldest son, Yee Nin Yum, had returned to the U.S. in October 1937. Four more children were born to the Yee family while they were in China. Yee Doo Coon made a special trip to China in June 1938 to accompany his wife, daughter Mollie and the three youngest children, Yee Ma Soo (余瑪素), Yee Ning June (余年注) and Yee Ma Far to the United States. Their son Yee Ning Foo was staying in China with his aunt.

There were twenty pages of interrogation of the family upon their arrival in Seattle in November 1938. The questioning of Mollie, age 11, went on for four pages. She gave many details of their life in China and told how they moved from Canton City to Ai Hong Fong village because of the Chinese Japanese war. They heard the bombing but did not see it. They lived there until they could return to the U.S.

Although the interrogations were lengthy, the board concluded that the testimony from all parties agreed and the relationships claimed were reasonably established. The Yee family was admitted to the United States one month and four days after their arrival.

Robert Eugene Lee – Chinese/African American of Philadelphia

Lee Robert Eugene 1916 Aff
“Robert Eugene Lee and Lee Chong, affidavit photos ,” 1916, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Lee Quock Bong (Robert Eugene Lee) case file, Seattle Box 686, 7030/8391.

Robert Eugene Lee (Lee Quock Bong) was born on 24 February 1897 at 208 North 9th Street in Philadelphia. His parents were Lee Chong and Musetta Lee. His father was Chinese and his mother was “a negress.” In 1902 Lee Chong and his family visited his home village, Dong Nom Ho Village, Hok Dan District, China. Mrs. Lee died two months after arriving in China. Lee Chong returned to Philadelphia in 1903 and the children stayed in China with their father’s family.

In 1916 Lee Chong was applying to have his son, Robert Eugene Lee, join him in Philadelphia. He swore in an affidavit that he was a laundryman at 1939 East Sargent Street, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; a widower and father of three American-born children, Robert Eugene Lee, aged 18; Mable Luella Lee, age 16, and Gum Len Lee, age 13, who were living in China. His son was married but his wife would be staying in China.

Mary E. Moy, age 45, was a witness for Lee Chong and his son. She testified that her sister and Dr. Bates attended Musetta Lee at Robert’s birth. Mrs. Moy, a Caucasian, was married to a Chinese, Goon Moy. Her husband and Robert’s father, Lee Chong, were close friends.

Other witnesses were Lee Tong, manager of Chong Woh Company in Philadelphia and Agnes A. Ming, a Caucasian who knew Robert’s parents well. She testified that she had known Lee Chong since she was twelve years old and that Lee Chong married Zada Brown, “a colored girl,” who lived over his laundry at 18th and Wharton streets. After their three children were born the Lee family moved to China and Zada died there in 1903. Agnes went to school with Zada, a mulatto. Agnes’ husband was Chinese and a friend of Lee Chong. The Mings lived in Albany, New York.

Lee Chong (American name Joe Lee), (marriage name Lee See Tai), was 49 years old, a laundryman. He received his certificate of identity or residence 107002 in Philadelphia in March 1894. [The file sometimes refers to the certificate as identity and sometime as residence.]
In a letter recommending approval of Robert’s documents, Charles V. Mallet, Chinese and Immigrant Inspector at Gloucester City, New Jersey stated,

“The witnesses Mary Moy and Agnes Ming are both white women
who are or have been married to Chinese, and both of them
convince me of their credibility in connection with their
testimony affecting the applicant; Mrs. Moy being a woman
whose personality should place her way above the status of
one who ordinarily consorts with Chinese. I personally know
something about this witness and have to say for her that
she has raised a family of boys in a manner which should do
credit to any mother. The Chinese witness, Lee Tong, is one
of the most responsible and respected merchant in
Philadelphia Chinatown, and his testimony should be
accorded corresponding weight. The alleged father of the
boy gives the impression of one who is disposed to tell the
truth with his knowledge, and manifests a true parent’s
interest in the applicant…”

In a 1916 statement approving Robert Eugene Lee’s arrival, H. W. Cunningham, Chinese and Immigrant Inspector, Vancouver, B.C. said, “…the claims made are genuine, and in addition applicant’s features plainly indicate an admixture of negro blood. Applicant is admitted and furnished a certificate of identity.”

The file lists the following documents were examined: the baptismal cards for Robert Eugene Lee and Mabel Luella Lee at Philadelphia, 12 December 1901; a 1911 copy of a birth certificate for Chinese female Lee, [Gum Len Lee] born 21 July 1902; and passport 62682 issued 9 October 1902 to Musetta Lee accompanied by her three minor children. [Unfortunately these documents are not included in the file.]

Robert lost his certificate of identity in 1921 but was able to get it replaced.

Robert Eugene Lee made two more trips to China. He was gone from 1922 to 1924. His son, Lee Tong Chee, arrived in the U.S. in 1928. His wife, Chong See, and his other son, Lee You Kue, stayed in China. In 1936 Robert, age 39, applied to visit China and was approved. He returned in June 1937.