On Monday, January 13, 2020, the staff at the National Archives at Seattle received notification that within the next four years, the facility will be closed, and the records will be transferred to the NARA facilities in Kansas City, Missouri or Riverside, CA.
The National Archives at Seattle has 50,000 case files from the Chinese Exclusion Act from Chinese who entered the U.S. through the ports of Seattle, Sumas, Port Townsend, Washington; Portland, Oregon; and Vancouver, B.C. from 1882 to 1943. A dedicated staff of local volunteers is indexing these files. If these records are moved 1,000 miles away, this valuable work will end.
Anyone who has ever gotten research assistance from the National Archives staff appreciates their vast institutional knowledge of the records. This will be lost if the National Archives is closed and moved from the Pacific Northwest.
U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently proposed a 492% increase in fees required to access historical records held by the USCIS Genealogy Program. Many of these records should already be publicly accessible.
These include the A-files for records numbered under 8 million.
Current fee $65 for a search, which has no guarantee of results
Proposed fee $240! + $385 for the paper file.
1912 Photo of Gong Kay from A-File at National Archives at San Francisco
Summary of the Issues:
Access: Fees – starting at $240 and up to $625 for a single file
Transparency: USCIS proposes a raise in fees with virtually no explanation.
Efficiency: These files should already be at the National Archives (NARA). Some already exist at NARA but are withheld from the public due to restrictions placed by USCIS.
Visa Files and Registry Files, both subject to the proposed $625 total fee, became eligible for transfer to NARA in April 2019. These records should already be available to the public at NARA.
Alien Registration Forms, subject to the proposed $240 fee, exist on microfilm at NARA but remain unavailable because of a USCIS restriction. A-Files of immigrants born more than 100 years ago should be at NARA, as per its 2009 schedule.
Make your voice heard in 3 easy steps:
Step 1: Review the proposed rule here, and jump to the Genealogy Program section here.
Update from the Save Our National Archives group, led by Jeanie Low and Jennie Lew: USCIS has finally released the A-files for people born between 1911 and 1915 to the National Archives at San Bruno. NARA already has all the A-files for people who passed through San Francisco and were born from 1910 and earlier available, and they are indexed at NARA’s website.
Write your comments to USCIS then request your ancestors’ A- or C-files in case the price does skyrocket!
CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT CASE STUDY with Trish Hackett Nicola, CG Thursday, October 10, 6:30-8:00 PM at the Oakland FamilySearch Library, 4766 Lincoln Ave, Oakland, CA Saturday, October 12, 1:00-3:00 PM at the California Genealogical Society Library, 2201 Broadway LL2, Oakland, CA Go to CaliforniaAncestors.org for more information and to register
The following is an example of how a Chinese Exclusion Act case file can add to your family history. Cathy Lee had numerous family stories about her great-aunt, Grace Chen, but there were many dates and places missing. Once Grace’s Chinese Exclusion Act file was found, Cathy searched additional archives and libraries and found more documents about her aunt. The article below is the culmination of the Cathy’s research and the fascinating story of the life of Grace Chen. Go to article at Grace Chen by Cathy Lee
“Grace Chen, Section Six Precis photo”1928, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Grace Chen case file, Seattle Box 1102, file 9666/2-7.
“Chinese Builders of Gold Mountain” View the Video on the KVIE (PBS) WEBSITE (26:56 minutes) Celebrate the hard work, courage, and determination of the Chinese pioneers who helped build California. Visit historic Chinese temples, Gold Rush sites, and the levies the Chinese built.
The Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project will capture, preserve and aggregate the names of those Chinese Americans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces—Army, Army Air Corps, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine—and create the only database of its kind of the achievements and contributions of Chinese Americans during the Second World War. The perpetuation of their legacy enriches the history of this country.
If you have stories, documents, or other materials about the Chinese Americans in WWII, contact Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project https://www.caww2.org/preservation to help preserve these memories.
See the website for registration instructions and contact information.