Category Archives: Certificate of Identity

Chin Wah Pon (Frank) – School teacher, Portland, Oregon

Chin Wah Pon Birth Certificate 1916“Chin Wah Pon birth certificate,” 1916, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Chin Wah Pon  (Frank) case file, Seattle Box 810,file 7030/13041.

In 1921, Wong Ah Look applied for a return certificate for her son, Chin Wah Pon 陳華泮. She presented his Oregon State birth certificate stating that he was born on 6 July 1916 in Portland. She was leaving for China with Chin Wah Pon and her other children, Chin Wah Ching (James), age 3; and Chin Oy Gim (Marguerite), age 2 months. It was alleged that her husband, Chin Ten/Ton, the father of the children, absconded with a large sum of money and his whereabouts were unknown. Wong Ah Look did not plan on returning to the U.S. so she gave the immigration office her Certificate of Identity to be cancelled. Chin Wah Pon 1921

“Chin Wah Pon Form 430 photo,” 1921, CEA case files, RG 85, NA-Seattle,  Chin Wah Pon  (Frank) case file, Seattle file 7030/13041.

Their applications were approved and they left for China on 15 October 1921.

James Chin and Marguerite Chin both returned to the U.S. in 1939; were married and living in Seattle, Washington. Chin Wah Pon, also known as Frank Chin, [marriage name Moon Sin] arrived in the United States via Seattle in June 1940. He was a school teacher in China and hoped to continue teaching in the U. S. He married Wong Shee and they had three sons. J. P. Sanderson, Immigration Inspector, asked the following questions about their sons:
“Is it your understanding that it is customary for American Citizen Chinese to claim that all their children are sons, until after five sons are born?” [Answer: “I don’t know about that.”]
“What are the names of your three alleged sons?”
“Do you expect that another son will be born to your wife in the near future?” [Answer: “No.”]
Chin Wah Pon was admitted to the U.S. at Seattle. The Immigration Chairman concluded that his birth certificate was legitimate; he had some of the same identification marks as the person in the 1921 application; and the ears in the 1921 photo appeared to be the same as those of the applicant in the 1940 photo.Chin Wah Pon 1940

“Chin Wah Pon Form M143 photo,” 1940, CEA Act case files, RG 85, NA-Seattle,  Chin Wah Pon  (Frank) case file, Seattle 7030/13041.

The reference sheet in his file includes the file numbers for his parents, three brothers and a sister.

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.]

Chin Wong Kee -1901 Discharge Certificate

Chin Wong Kee 1901 Discharge Certificate
“Chin Wong Kee, Discharge Certificate” 1901, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Chin Wong Kee case file, Seattle Box 1396, 41560/24-3.
Chin Wong Kee 陳黃記 was born in Watsonville, California in 1879. He was the son of Chin Din Ling and Wong She. About 1884 he went back to China with his parents and younger brother, Chin Loy Foo, to Bok Wut village. Chin Wong Kee (marriage name Chin Ai Goon) married before he and his brother returned to the United States in 1901. They landed at Vancouver, B.C., travelled to Montreal, then entered the United States at Rouses Point, New York. [south of Montreal]
They were immediately arrested. They were sent by train to jail in Plattsburg, NY. [about 24 miles south of Rouses Point]. They were in jail there for about four months. They received their discharge papers at Port Henry [about 54 miles south of Plattsburg] from Fred W. Dudley, U.S. Commissioner, Northern District of New York in August 1901. Their father’s younger brother, Chin Don Suey, was a witness for the brothers. The discharge papers enabled Chin Wong Kee to obtain his Certificate of Identity #20529.

His adult son, Chin You Dick, was admitted at the Port of Seattle in 1915 and was living and working in Mount Vernon, New York. Chin Wong Kee was working nearby in a restaurant as a waiter. His wife died in China in 1919.

Chin Wong Kee, Form 430 photo 1920;
Chin Wong Kee, Form 430 photo 1920; Seattle Box 1396, 41560/24-3.
Chin Wong Kee applied to return to China in 1920. His application was approved and he left via Boston, Massachusetts. Chin Wong Kee returned to the U.S. at the Port of Seattle on 21 June 1923 and was admitted.

Look Fee – Columbus, Ohio

Look Fee Look Yuen Affidavit 1938
“Look Fee and Look Yuen, affidavit photos” 1938, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Look Fee case file, Seattle Box 794, 7030/12331.

In October 1938 Look Yuen 陸元 swore in an affidavit that he was a citizen of the United States who was admitted at the Port of San Francisco in October 1922 and granted Certificate of Identity 40415. His son Look Fee wanted to come to the United States to live with him. Photos of father and son were attached to the affidavit.

Look Fee 陸惠 arrived in the Port of Seattle on 23 August 1939 on the SS Princess Marguerite with the status of a son of a citizen. He was admitted to the U.S. almost two months later. He was a student, age 18 years Chinese reckoning; 16 years 9 months per American calculation. He would be joining his father, Look Yuen, in Columbus, Ohio. Look Fee was born in Sun Chong City, Toy Shan District, China on 4 January 1923. His family lived there one year and then moved to Sam Gong in Hoy Ping. His father was born in Look Bin village and had six brothers and one sister. During his interview Look Fee enumerated all of his father’s siblings, the names of their spouses and children and where they were living. He described his paternal grandfather and gave the names of his paternal great grandparents. His mother, Lee Shee, was the daughter and only child of Lee Wah and Chin Shee. Her parents both died prior to 1939. Look Fee was questioned about the village, the location of his neighbors’ houses and details about their extended families.

Some of the questions during the interview were: Who lives in the 8th lot, 3rd row from the east? What is his occupation? Who lives with him? What are their ages? Where do you get the water which you use for household purposes? Is there any space between the houses in the rows other than the cross alleys? Do you cross any streams or bridges going to the market? Which way does the door in the ancestral hall open? His interrogation was over seven pages long.

Look Fee’s father, Look Yuen, (marriage name Look Wing Bing) waited in Seattle almost two months for his son to be admitted. Look Yuen testified that he was a part owner of the Nan King restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. He first arrived in the U.S. though San Francisco in 1922 three months before Look Fee was born. He made one trip back to China in May 1929, returning to Ohio in September 1930. His other son, Look Wee, was born in March 1930 and was presently attending school in their home village. Look Yuen was asked many of the same questions as his son but in more detail about his siblings. Look Fee was called back to clear up some discrepancies. Although his father had left China sixteen years previously and had only spent one year there, six years prior to this interrogation, the interviewers expected their testimony to agree in most aspects.

Look Fee and Look Wee
“Look Fee and Look Wee photo” ca. 1934, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Look Fee case file, Seattle Box 794, 7030/12331.

Look Yuen gave the interrogators this photo of Look Fee and his brother Look Wee which was taken about 1934 or 1935. They wondered why Look Fee had a tennis racket and Look Wee had a basketball. Look Fee explained that their mother had a photographer at the Shung Sar Market take the photo. The props were just for fun.

After the interrogations the chairman of the immigration committee concluded that the relationship between the alleged father and his son was satisfactorily established. They were impressed that the father came from Ohio to testify for his son and stayed so long. They discounted the minor discrepancies because it had been so long since the father had been in China. They were satisfied that Look Fee knew when and where the photo of him and his brother was taken. Look Fee was admitted into the United States as a U.S. citizen.

Won Suey Yuan – Certificate of Identification stolen – The Dalles Farmer

Won Suey Yuan Sheriff letter
“Letter from the Sheriff of Wasco County, The Dalles, Oregon,” 1939, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Won Suey Yuan case file, Seattle Box 1367, 40718/12-28.

On 24 September 1938 the home of Won Suey Yuan, a farmer in The Dalles, Oregon since 1923, was broken into and his Certificate of Identity was stolen. Won immediately filed a claim with Harold Sexton, the Sheriff of Waco County in The Dalles and reported it to Immigration Inspector Howard P. Swetland, Portland, Oregon. The sheriff visited the scene of the robbery, believed the claim was legitimate and filed a report. Won testified that on the evening 24 September 1938 between six and eight, he took his son, Won Loy Duck, to town for a haircut. Upon their return he saw that someone had entered the house by cutting the screen in the back door. The house had been ransacked but the thief only took a black tin box which contained Won’s valuables– his Certificate of Identity, a New York Life insurance policy and a gold nugget watch charm. The certificate was by far the most valuable item in the box. Without it Won could not travel outside the U.S. and could be deported if he could not prove his right to be in the United States. The investigator asked Won Suey Yuan if he thought the robber specifically wanted his certificate. Won was the only Chinese person within eight or nine miles of his house so he did not think the robber was Chinese or that he wanted his Certificate of Identity or would know how valuable it was to a Chinese person. Shortly after the robbery Won had a friend, Ralph Welborn, notify the Seattle Immigration office of the incident.
When Won Suey Yuan applied for a duplicate certificate his case files were thoroughly investigated. He did not have a problem getting a replacement certificate but it created a great deal of paper work.
Won originally entered the United States through San Francisco in 1907 and that file, number 19768/12-7, was reviewed. It confirmed that he received his original certificate on 20 December 1920. Won Suey Yuan’s file showed that he had made several trips to China since his original entry at San Francisco as the son of U. S. citizen. His San Francisco file lists his father’s name, Won (Woon) Tong Wing, file 17472/20-8, and the San Francisco file numbers for three of his six brothers. Won also made a trip to China in 1921 departing and re-entering through Seattle and that created a Seattle file, number 35100/4302.
Won Suey Yuan’s marriage name was Won Suey Hop (Hock). He was born in Wun Bin Village, Sun Ning District, China on 28 March 1895. He and his wife, Seid Shee, had three sons, Wong Loy Duck (file 7030/4513), living in Portland or Salem, Oregon; Won Loy Sing (file 7030/12118), in the process of coming to the United States in 1939; and Won Lum Bing, in China.
On 29 August 1939 Won Suey Yuan was issued Certificate of Identity No. 80068 in lieu of his lost certificate No. 32415.