[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 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 interviewing 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.
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.]
[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
[There are only a few Chinese Exclusion Act files where one of the parents is Irish. Here is one of them in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day.]
Katherine Lillie Shan applied for her Native’s Return Certificate on 19 June 1930 in Portland, Oregon. She was working for the Orpheum Theatre circuit and they were performing in Canada. She gave the interviewer her Chinese name as Yick May Gum and said she was the daughter of Yick Bing Shan and Gertrude [maiden name not listed]. Katherine was born at 108 third Avenue, New York City on 11 June 1912. Her mother was a white woman of Irish descent who was born in Denver, Colorado. Katherine attended P.S. No. 60 grade school in New York City and then went on to Norfield Seminary [possibly Northfield Mount Herman School]. Her father was a witness for her. Her mother was working in their restaurant on the day of the interview. Katherine had two older brothers back in China whom she had never met.
R. P Bonham, Immigration District Director in Portland sent a telegram to Immigration Service in New York City on June 19 requesting Yick May Gum’s Native Return Certificate but they could not find her file. He interrogated her the next day.
Katherine’s Application of Alleged American Citizen of the Chinese Race for Pre-investigation of Status, Form 430, is included in the file with a note saying “Application withdrawn and birth certificate returned to applicant on June 24, 1930.” Signed: R. J. Norene
[There is no more information in the file. Some files do not tell us very much. This one leaves us with more questions than answers. A cross reference sheet was not included in the file so there is no reference to her father’s file and he wasn’t found in the Seattle index.]
[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 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.
Rose Wong, daughter of Gee “George” Wong and Minnie Lee Wong, was born 3 June 1906 at Reinbeck, Iowa. She married Andrew Kuei Lu on 18 March 1933 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Lu was a Chinese citizen in the United States with a Section 6 student exemption.
Kuei Lu and Rose Wong Lu returned to China in February 1934. Their son Thomas Laurence was born three months later on 20 May 1934 in Shanghai. Alice Catherine Lu was born the next year on 4 August 1935.
In April 1939 Rose and her two children returned to the U.S. through Seattle. They were here to visit Rose’s parents in Minneapolis and would return to China sometime after Christmas. Rose obtained her certificate of identity 79613 when she landed in Seattle.
Thomas was considered a temporary visitor when he entered the U.S. His stay could not exceed one year. He was born four days before the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 24 May 1934 went into effect. The Act would have allowed him to be considered a U.S. citizen if he had been born after 24 May 1934. He missed being considered a citizen by four days. His mother and little sister were citizens.
Mrs. Rose Wong Lu obtained a Report of Birth for Lu Alice Catherine issued by the American Consulate at Shanghai and presented it to Immigration upon their arrival in 1939.
When the family arrived In April 1939, Alice Catherine Lu was reminded that “under the law you will cease to be a citizen if you fail to reside in the United States for at least five years continuously immediately previous to your eighteen birthday and fail to take an oath of allegiance to the United States of American within six months after your twenty-first birthday.”
O. B. Holton, District Director of the St. Paul District Immigration Service noted that the signatures in Chinese on Forms 430 were omitted because Rose Wong Lu, the applicant’s mother, was unable to write Chinese.
Rose Wong Lu, her daughter Alice Catherine Lu; and her son, Hou Chi Thomas Lawrence Lu (Seattle file 7027/819), visited with family in Minneapolis and were approved to leave the United States in April 1940. They left for China from Vancouver, B.C., via Seattle, on the Empress of Asia on 20 April 1940.
Ng Chuen Yong (吳春容) was twelve years old in July 1939. She passed a medical examination in Hong Kong before boarding the Princess Marguerite for her return trip to the United States.
Nl [Normal] Chinese Girl, inoculated against Cholera. Signed V. N. Atienza
Ten years earlier she and her mother, two brothers, Ng Chuck Sang and Ng Jack Sang, and sister, Ng Chuen Moy had left from the port of Seattle to return to their home village of Nom Yung in Hoy Ping District, China. There were only two houses in the village and they were next door to her mother’s parents. Her mother and brother, Jit [Jack] Sang traveled back to the United States about 1931; her brother Chuck Sang returned around 1937. Her sister stayed in China and was going to school in Hong Kong.
Ng Chuen Yong’s mother, Lee Lon, was born in China and was admitted to the U.S. at the port of San Francisco, California in 1923 as the daughter of a merchant. Her husband, Ng Ong Jen, was born in San Francisco. They were married in July 1924 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was a waiter there at the Paris Inn Restaurant. Their children were all born in Pennsylvania. The United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census issued a “Notification of Birth Registration” for Ng Chuen Yong saying she was born on 31 August 1927 at Ellwood City, Pa. The document was signed by Dr. Theodore B. Appel, Harrisburg, Pa.