[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19. This file was copied before March 2020. thn]
In early October 1925, Julian M. Thomas, Counsellor at Law in Paris, France, wrote to the U.S. commissioner of Immigration in Seattle, Washington, requesting the necessary papers to allow Chin Wah to return to the United States. Chin Wah claimed that he was well-known in Seattle, Washington in 1904 by both the Wa Chong Company and the Quong Tuck Company and many other residents of the city including A.W. Ryan, a policeman; Charles Phillips, a detective; Fred Lyson, a lawyer; and Lee Hoey, a Chinese person.
In June 1904, L. Dan swore in an affidavit that he had lived in the U.S. for more than twenty years and that he knew Chin Wah’s parents when their son, Chin Wah, was born. Dan testified that after Chin Wah’s parents died, Chin lived with him. L. Dan’s wife, Wong Sine, was a sister of Chin Wah’s mother. A. W. Ryan and Charles Phillips, both white citizens of the U.S., and residence of Seattle for more than fifteen years also swore that Chin Wah was born in Seattle. These affidavits were drawn up to prove that Chin Wah was a native-born citizen of Chinese parentage.
“L. Dan, affidavit,” 1904, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Chin Wah case file, Seattle RS Box 222, file RS 30543.
In 1913 in his pre-investigation interview to make a trip to China, Chin Wah testified that he was living in Salt Lake City, Utah, and working at the Grand Restaurant at 47 West 2nd South Street as a cook and sometimes a waiter. He said he was born at North 512 [414 in 1925] Washington Street, Seattle, Washington on 15 January 1890, the son of Chin Chung (Ching/Gin/Gen} [the spelling varies throughout the documents] and Wong Shee. His father died in Sitka, Alaska in 1899. He and his mother moved to Portland, Oregon about 1901. She died a year later. After her death, he went back to Seattle and lived over the store of Quong Gwa Lung Company with his uncle, Ng Yee Loots (L. Dan) and his aunt, his mother’s sister. He attended the Methodist Mission school on Spring Street for about two years. Other places he lived in Washington state were Cle Elum, Ellensburg, Yakima, and Pasco before going to Salt Lake City, Utah about 1910. While in Salt Lake City he worked for U.S. District Judge John A. Marshal, Mr. William H. Childs as a cook, and Captain Burt at Fort Douglas.
D. A. Plumly, the examining inspector at Salt Lake City, sent Chin Wah’s application and the original affidavits of the witnesses to Louis Adams, Inspector in Charge at Denver, Colorado. Adams sent everything on to Immigration in Seattle and requested that they re-examine the witnesses since they were residents of Seattle. Adams noted that Inspector Plumly did not expect a favorable report. [There is no explanation of why the documents were sent to Denver.]
J. V. Stewart, the Seattle Chinese Inspector, interviewed all the 1904 witnesses again in 1913. He thought the witnesses only knew someone they thought was Chin Wah as a small child but since they had not seen Chin Wah for many years they could not be sure of his identity. Stewart thought Lee Hoey was a “manufactured witness” and the other witnesses’ information was so vague they could have been talking about several different children. Stewart noted that Chin Wah’s parents did not appear in the 1895 Seattle census of Chinese and rumors said that Ah Dan was known as a gambler and connected with other fraudulent cases. Based on this information Stewart did not approve Chin Wah’s application.
L. Dan was also known as Ah Dan or his married name Ng Yee Yin. He was fifty years old and was born in China. He did not have a certificate of residence. He was living in Port Townsend, Washington and was a merchant with the Yee Sing Wah Kee Company when he was required to register in 1894. [According to the Geary Act of 1892,Chinese who were not registered for a certificate of residence could be arrested and sent to China even if they were born in the United States.] L. Dan lived in Tacoma, Washington, for a year before moving to Seattle where he got to know Chin Gin and his son Chin Wah.
Witness Charles Phillips testified that he was 48 years old and had live in Seattle twenty-six years. He was a city detective. He knew Chin Wah when he was a young child and after being cross examined, he said that he could not state unequivocally if Chin Wah was the son of Chin Ching/Gin.
Witness Lee Hoey, also known as Lee Tan Guhl, stated that he was 66 years old and born in China. He showed the interrogator his certificate of residence. He had lived in Seattle fifteen or twenty years and remember the big fire in June 1889. He identified a photo of Chin Wah although he had not seen him in over ten years. The interrogator asked Lee Hoey how much he was being paid to testify in this case. Hoey denied the charge.
A.W. Ryan, another witness, testified in 1913 that he was 56 years old and a sergeant for the Seattle police force for about twenty years. Although he swore that he knew Chin Wah in 1904, he could not be sure that this was the same person in 1913. Ryan said that at the time of Chin Wah’s birth in 1890 there were only four or five Chinese women in Seattle and maybe twenty-five children. It was his impression that the person he testified in behalf of in 1913 was Chin Wah was the same boy he knew in 1904 but he could not swear to it. Therefore the immigration commissioner, Ellis deBruler, did not approval Chin Wah’s return certification because he did not believe that Chin Wah was born in the U.S.
In October 1925, based on the information and witness statements in Chin Wah’s file, the documents were not approved so were no papers to forward to Paris so Chin Wah could be allowed to return to the U.S.
[This file does not tell us when Chin Wah left the U.S. or why he left when his application for departure was not approved. Without the approval, he would have known that it would be extremely difficult to re-enter the U.S. There are no clues about what he was doing between 1913 and 1925 or why was he investigated in Denver, Colorado, or what was he doing in Paris, France, in 1925. If he had been allowed to arrive at a port in the U.S. and then interrogated, some of these questions may have been answered. Unfortunately, we may never know the rest of Chin Wah’s story.]
CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光 (1900 – 1918) by Kevin Lee, guest blogger [Thank you Kevin Lee for summarizing this massive amount of information on your family and explaining many of the complicated nuances of the Chinese Exclusion Act file.]
CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光, the minor son of a merchant (5 September 1900 – late 1918)
His Chinese Exclusion Act (CEA) case file RS 28104, National Archives-Seattle, was marked on the front “M/S/Mcht”: Minor Son of a Merchant.
His life – and death in Seattle – were a complete mystery. The existence of Wing Quong榮光 was unknown to the descendants of the Chin or Chan family until I read a duplicate copy of a Boxing Day 1925 affidavit in 2009, which had been kept amongst personal papers by my 2nd cousin Julie of Covington, Washington (WA). The original copy of the 26 December 1925 affidavit, with United States seal, was found at the National Archives-Seattle facility in November 2019.
The CEA case file was difficult to locate until I, as a grand nephew, pointed out to National Archives-Seattle staff, from an earlier file I obtained of another great uncle, CHIN Wing Ung 陳榮棟 AKA Donald Ung CHIN (# 7031/325) that quoted an older brother’s immigration file number.
Discovery of an Immigration & Naturalization Service file #28104 belonging to CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光, during an interview with his father (CHIN Cheo 陳超) on 17 April 1926, held inside the National Archives-Seattle file of his brother (Donald CHIN Wing Ung 陳榮棟), #7031/325
CHIN Wing Quong陳榮光 was the first-born child of my great grandfather, CHIN Cheo 陳超 AKA CHIN Gon Foon (# 39184/2-12, previously 682, 15844 and 30206), who was the sales manager / partner of the Wing Sang Company, which was a partnership equally divided amongst 12 owners. The Wing Sang Company sold Chinese and Japanese merchandise, rice, tea and herbal medicines. It was located firstly at 655 Weller Street, Seattle, King County, Washington State, then at 412, 415 and 420 7th Avenue South.
With multiple CEA bills being passed, it became increasingly difficult, for any Chinese person to migrate to the United States. The law, at the time, allowed an unmarried son under 18 years of age to live in the USA if it could be proven that the father ran an active business, was not engaged in labouring work, and had 2 white witnesses to vouch for his business and identity. As part of investigating whether to allow 11-year-old Wing Quong 榮光 to be released into the Seattle community from immigration detention and quarantine, an inspector and an interpreter visited the Wing Sang Company. They found the Wing Sang Company to be a bona fide mercantile establishment, and recommended favourable endorsement of the application of Wing Quong 榮光, as the minor son of CHIN Cheo 陳超
His short life of just 18 years was pieced together from three CEA files (his own one #28104, his father CHIN Cheo’s 陳超, his brother Donald Ung CHIN’s) and from family folklore (his sister CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen 陳美珍, who featured in the 17 May 2021 page of this website).
Names known by (either because of the spoken dialect or a misunderstanding): – CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光 (in the Toisan dialect), CHAN Wing Kwong (in the Cantonese dialect), Wing Gwong (in Cantonese), Wing Quong <Gong> (poorly handwritten by an Immigration inspector in his CEA file to become mis-transcribed onto an affidavit as: Wing Bong), Quang Wing (Ancestry.com ship passenger manifest).
Date of Birth: Year KS 26, 10th month, 5th day. The Chinese Emperor (Kwang-Su) began his reign from 12th January 1875, therefore in Wing Quong’s 榮光 CEA file, it stated his Gregorian Date of Birth as being 5th September 1900. His father – knowing that his mother Love SEETO 司徒愛 / SEE TOW shee/shi 司徒氏 was carrying him in her womb – had already left China to head back to his workplace in Seattle before he was born.
Place of Birth: Mi Kong village, in the town of Hong Gong Lee, Hoi Ping district (part of the Sze Yup – the 4 Districts), Kwangtung Province, Imperial China.
1st time meeting father: From mid-1903 – mid-1904, CHIN Cheo 陳超 left Seattle for no more than 365 days, and was in China for the first time in 3 years, where he was able to see his boy Wing Quong 榮光. In addition, CHIN Cheo 陳超 spent some time with his wife to conceive another baby, who would become my future grandmother, CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen 陳美珍. He would again, as he did in 1900, leave China before the baby was born. This would become the 2nd out of a total 3 occasions, where due to time pressures (the 365-day limit of leave of absence from the USA to maintain residency under the CEA law) meant CHIN Cheo 陳超 would not witness the birth of a child (which was normal practice for a man, at that time). The connection between a parent and child has always been important in society, yet Wing Quong 榮光 – whilst living in China – never really felt that he knew his US-based father. His younger brother, Donald Ung CHIN, also did the same thing – fast forward 3 decades to 1932 – by getting his young wife pregnant in China, and departing for the USA before his only child, Kent Ying Keung CHAN, was born.
Education: From mid-1910 – mid-1911, Wing Quong 榮光 was a 10, almost 11-year-old student in the British Colony (BRC) of Hong Kong (HKG), learning Chinese and English, in readiness to migrate to the USA. CHIN Cheo 陳超, as a Seattle merchant, earned the average 1911 annual income in the United States of $500, was committed to educating his first-born son in the English language by sending US$200-$300 p.a. to him in HKG. He consulted with an immigration lawyer and had mapped out a plan to sponsor him to the United States.
Long journey: On 22 July 1911, the Irish-built steamship the S.S. Bellerophon sailed out of Liverpool, England, and arrived in HKG on 10 September 1911 to pick-up many Chinese passengers, including Wing Quong 榮光 and his fellow villager / companion, 24-year-old CHIN Foo. Wing Quong 榮光 was passenger # 24A and by far-and-away the youngest person on board – all males – as he was the only one with the column “Less than 14 years old” ticked by the purser on the shipping manifest. In cramp conditions and suffering seasickness, the passengers arrived in Tacoma, WA, USA on 29 September 1911.
Mood: After enduring a gruelling 3-week voyage across the North Pacific Ocean, Wing Quong 榮光 would have been quite scared and nervous as a 11-year-old boy coming into a strange land, where the landscape appeared different (such as the snow-capped mountains and luscious green trees), where people looked and dressed differently, and who spoke in a different language. He underwent quarantine for any possible diseases and was subjected to an interview / interrogation by U.S. Immigration officers before being released – after a marathon 1 week on U.S. soil – into the arms of a relieved father on 6 October 1911. Both father and son underwent similar interview questions regarding family members, the layout of Mi Kong village, letters that were written, and photographic likeness , to ascertain whether this was a genuine application of a minor son of a merchant. Wing Quong’s 榮光 clear recollection of people’s names, dates and places, and his sentence structure in answering U.S. Immigration questions was remarkable. The interview he underwent indicated a highly intelligent, articulate young boy with great potential.
Physique: Wing Quong 榮光 was “4 foot 10 inches” (147 cm) tall with a “small mole left side of ear” – a very intrusive physical inspection. His facial features were inherited from his mother.
Love SEETO 司徒愛 , also known as SEE TOW shee 司徒氏 – the mother of CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光 – in Hoi Ping city [photo courtesy of Kevin Lee]
Occupation: After a period of adjustment in a new country, Wing Quong 榮光 began learning on-the-job to be a salesman or storekeeper at the Wing Sang Company. He would have finished his full-time education in the summer of 1911 in HKG, which during that era, was limited to primary school, meaning age 12. He continued night-time English studies in Seattle.
Sudden death: Aged only 18 years old, CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光 passed away in late 1918 in Seattle. No WA Death Certificate could be found to ascertain the exact causes, and where he was buried.
Wing Quong 榮光, according to Kent Ying Keung CHAN, had died at the Wing Sang Company, after attempting to self-medicate for some type of ailment. This was at the time of the Spanish flu, also known as the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed millions around the globe. He had swallowed some herbs from the drugs section of the store, suffered a negative reaction, and most likely went into cardiac arrest. He was taken immediately to the nearby Nippon Hospital – originally named as the Reliance Hospital – on the corner of 12th Avenue and South Jackson Street, where chest compression was performed to resuscitate him, however, sadly he was pronounced dead.
With a heavy heart, total shock and self-blame at the death of his first-born son, CHIN Cheo 陳超 urgently rang from Seattle to Hoi Ping city to leave a message for someone to quickly retrieve his wife from Mi Kong village, and they finally spoke a short time later. CHIN Cheo 陳超 broke the news to Love SEETO 司徒愛 / SEE TOW shee 司徒氏, which broke her heart, and she never fully recovered. It was as if a second death occurred in the CHIN family.
My grandmother – CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen 陳美珍– then 14-years-old spoke to her future children and grandchildren (when they were old enough) about the grief, waling and anger that great grandmother went through.
CHIN Cheo 陳超 organised a small funeral for Wing Quong 榮光 in Seattle, which was most likely a cremation by a crematorium, with his ashes returned in an urn. A few months later, in April 1919, CHIN Cheo 陳超 departed Seattle via a steamship to HKG, and arrived in Mi Kong village to personally explain what occurred, and presumably to bring back his ashes for a proper, final burial in the Too Ngui (in the Toisan dialect) or Foo Ngo(in the Cantonese dialect) foot hills, about 4 – 5 blocks behind Mi Kong village.
Consequences of his short life:
It damaged the mental and physical health of his mother, Love SEETO 司徒愛 / SEE TOW shee 司徒氏, which contributed to her death;
It meant no direct descendants of Wing Quong 榮光 – particularly for his father’s intention to leave a legacy in the US. Had he lived a long life like his siblings, he would have most likely – being the No. 1 son – left behind children, grandchildren and great grandchildren;
He could have made a fortune, as he appeared to be a highly intelligent, young man with enormous potential;
CHIN Cheo 陳超 might never have brought out his No. 2 son, Donald Ung CHIN to the United States, but left him in China to inherit the village house.
CHIN Cheo 陳超 would almost certainly never have adopted a No. 3 son in 1919/1920 from the markets – similarly naming him as Wing Gong – with the intention to become a U.S. paper son to replace Wing Quong 榮光.
CHIN Cheo 陳超 spent so much time, money and effort to plan a future for his first-born, to create a dynasty, to leave a legacy, but it was all wasted in a moment of madness. The hopes, dreams and aspirations of a Chinese man who came to America in 1880 had all but vanished…
First photo of CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光, taken in Hong Kong, aged 10 years old in 1911, attached to a 26 May 1911 affidavit by his father (CHIN Cheo 陳超), held in the National Archives-Seattle file of CHIN Wing Quong #28104.
U.S. Certificate of Identity (C.I.) #4573 of CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光, dated 19 October 1911, held in the National Archives-Seattle file of CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光, #28104
[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19. A few months ago, I emailed the staff at firstname.lastname@example.org with my request for the files for Long Mi-Na and Long Nee-Sa. The request went into the queue and when my number came up a staff member scanned the files and emailed them to me. They are the greatest!]
“Long Mi-Na & Long Nee-Sa correspondence photos,” 1929, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Long Mi-Na and Long Nee-Sa case file, Seattle Box 334, file 7022/18-3 & 7022/18-4.
Long Mi-Na, age 23, and Long Nee-Sa, age 21, were the daughters of Long Tack Sam. They were actresses and members of the Long Tack Sam Troupe who made several tours the United States and Canada. There were twelve members of the troupe. On this trip to Vancouver, B.C. they left Seattle on 23 November 1932 by boat, returned via the Great Northern Railway, and were identified and admitted at Blaine, Washington, one week later.
The troupe was bonded by the National Suety Company granted by Department of Labor.
The initial correspondence in the files was for their 1929 tour. On that tour, they left the U.S. in March for vaudeville engagements at Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver, Canada; and reenter at Seattle in April 1929 to continue their tour in the United States. They were allowed to stay in the U.S. for six months. A bond of $1,000 was paid for each of the twelve members of the troupe. The substantial amount of the bond was to assure that all the members of the troupe would depart the U.S. at the end of the six-month period.
[Unfortunately, files for travelers such as actors, actresses, acrobats, and vaudeville members, usually do not contain much information. Most do not include a photograph. Mi-Na and Nee-Sa’s files were only six pages but each file included a photo.]
In late May David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, announced that the National Archives launched a pilot program to test the policies and procedures that were developed for reopening. A small number of researchers were admitted to the National Archives Building in Washington, DC (Archives I) to start this process. A test launch pilot at the National Archives at College Park, MD (Archives II) was started about June 21. There is a plan to expand the opening of research room services to the rest of the research rooms over the summer, depending on local health conditions, lessons learned and best practices identified in the early stages, and availability of staff. See the update for the complete article.
“Kwan Duck Hing, Passport Identification Affidavit,”1931, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Kwan Duck Hing case file, Seattle Box 325, Seattle file 7022/6-49.
Today’s blog entry was brought to you by Alex Jay. Thank you Alex!
[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19 but the staff is working on a limited basis. They are taking requests for copies of files so get on their waiting list. If you would like a file, call or send your request to Archival Research, 206-336-5115, email@example.com]
Kwan Duck Hing was a member of San Francisco touring opera troupe and star of one of the world’s first Cantonese talkies in the 1930s.
See the complete article on Kwan Tak-hing (Kwan Duck Hing) (Guan Dexing 關德興) on Alex Jay’s blog, Chinese American Eyes: Famous, forgotten, well-known, and obscure visual artists of Chinese descent in the United States
Alex Jay obtained the Chinese Exclusion Act (CEA) file for Kwan Tak-hing from the National Archives at Seattle. Alex has hundreds more articles about Chinese artists on his blog. This article gives us an example of the several names one Chinese individual may have been known as over his lifetime. Those names could be misspelled or spelled phonetically in various documents making the search for someone or their file even more difficult. Alex Jay’s article shows the variety of records that can be used to reconstruct someone’s life after starting with the CEA case file.
A big thank you to Kevin Lee of Australia for today’s blog post. Kevin summarized about 150 pages from three family Chinese Exclusion Act case files to give us a peek into his family history.
[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19 but the staff is working on a limited basis. They are taking requests for copies of files so get on their waiting list. If you would like a file, call or send your request to Archival Research, 206-336-5115, firstname.lastname@example.org – THN]
She was the daughter, the granddaughter, the wife, the sister, the aunt, the great aunt, the grandmother, the great grandmother of Chinese Americans.
One of the significant consequences of Congress passing the 1875 Page Act and multiple Chinese Exclusion Act (CEA) bills in 1882, 1892, 1902 and 1904 was that Chinese women were kept out of the United States. Female immigration to the U.S. was made extremely difficult, and it resulted in families being kept apart for years or decades. Without women, there would not be family, progeny, children, lineage – the Chinese population in the U.S. would just die off, which was the intention of the laws.
I learned more about my grandmother’s life 40 years after she passed away, than when she was alive, by visiting the National Archives at Seattle in November 2019, prior to the Coronavirus shutdown. The National Archives of Australia (NAA) operates similarly to the National Archives and Records Administration in the U.S., and Australia also had the ignominy of slavery (where the Indigenous / Aboriginal population suffered) and the White Australia Act (which excluded non-Europeans from immigrating; a policy just as discriminatory as the CEA).
Chin Cheo 陳超 and his family details, including daughter Chin Hai Soon, on an affidavit dated 26 December 1925, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, National Archives-Seattle, #7031/325.
From these 3 important CEA files in the National Archives facility at Sand Point Way, Seattle:
Great grandfather, CHIN Chear Cheo AKA CHIN Gon Foon (22 August 1871 – 6 March 1939 Seattle), case file no. 39184/2-12 (previously 682, 15844 and 30206)
Great uncle, CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光 (5 September 1900 – 1918 Seattle), case file no. 28104
Great uncle, CHIN Wing Ung 陳榮棟 AKA Donald Wing-Ung CHIN (28 October 1913 – 5 September 2005), case file no. 7031/325 (previously 4985/10-3, 4989/10-3)
I was able to revive family members who had been long forgotten about or completely unknown, by constructing a family tree.
Chin family tree based on three Chinese Exclusion Act case files, National Archives-Seattle
By virtue of these 3 files at Seattle, I was able to establish my grandmother’s:
Real name / birth name: CHIN Hai Soon (pronounced in the Toisan dialect as ‘Ah Soon’) or CHAN Tai Shin (in the Cantonese dialect). She was a member of the Chin or Chan family; the different spellings are used interchangeably.
Mother’s name: Love SEETO, also known as SEE TOW Shee.
Adolescent name: CHAN Mei Chen 陳美珍 meaning treasure, valuable, precious, rare, which she certainly was.
Place of birth: in the village of Mi Gong, also spelled as Mai Kong, in the town of Hong Gong Lee, in the county of Hoi Ping, in the province of Kwangtung, Imperial China
Conception date: December 1903. This was based on CHIN Cheo’s file, as he departed Seattle on 31 October 1903, to sail 3 weeks onto Hong Kong, and then a further day to travel to the village near Canton City, Kwangtung Province, to meet-up with his wife, Love SEETO / SEE TOW Shee, whom he had not seen for over 3 years.
Date of birth: September 1904
CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen did not see her father when she was born, since he had already left Mainland China, travelled onto British Hong Kong in July 1904 to do business, as he was a merchant / co-owner / manager of Wing Sang Company, 412 Seventh Avenue, South, and Sang Yuen Company, 660 King Street, both in Seattle.
CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen grew up with her paternal grandfather CHIN Gin Heung (in the Toisan dialect) or CHAN Yen Hing (in the Cantonese dialect), as the only male influence in her life, because her father CHIN Cheo 陳超 lived 59 out of his lifetime of 67 years in the United States. Her grandfather CHIN Gin Heung / CHAN Yen Hing had come back to Mi Gong village from Seattle, 10 years prior to her birth. He had lived in the USA continuously for 12 to 13 years, firstly in San Francisco, then in Seattle, working as a laundryman from 1880 to 1892/1893, and heading back to the village in China prior to his 50th birthday, to celebrate with his family using his hard-earned wealth, and prior to the law requiring him to hold a U.S. Certificate of Residency. No CEA case file of CHIN Gin Heung / CHAN Yen Hing could be found in either San Bruno, California nor Seattle, Washington, as his arrival and departure dates from the USA were too early for Customs and Immigration to have kept records.
1st time meeting father: 1912 as an 8-year-old girl, when CHIN Cheo sailed out of Mi Gong, via Hong Kong, to procreate again with Love SEETO / SEE TOW Shee to produce a future brother and future Seattle resident CHIN Wing Ung (case file no. 7031/325).
2nd and final time meeting father: 1919 as a 15-year-old adolescent when CHIN Cheo came back with a heavy heart from Seattle to Mi Gong to announce to Love SEETO / SEE TOW Shee of the death of her older brother CHIN Wing Quong (case file no. 28104) in Seattle, and to bring back his remains. CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen remembers the hysteria and grief felt by her mother Love SEETO / SEE TOW Shee over the loss of the number 1 son from accidental poisoning at the drug store co-located within the Wing Sang Company, a business managed and part-owned by her father, CHIN Cheo in Seattle.
Date of marriage: 1925, as a 21-year-old, to YU Fu Lok AKA YEE Wing Hon, of Num Bin / Nom Bing Chuen, who was a resident of Ohio and Michigan (case file not yet found). CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen, being in China, only met her U.S.-based husband 4 times during their marriage, and 3 of those occasions were to conceive a child, with the last pregnancy being the birth of my mother, YU Siu Lung (later known as Siu Lung YU LEE 李余小濃) in 1936.
Date of death: CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen died on 29th March 1982 in Num Bin / Nom Bing village, Hoi Ping county, surrounded by close family members, but separated by distance and time from her U.S.-based father CHIN Cheo, two U.S.-based brothers, CHIN Wing Quong and Wing Ung, and her U.S.-based husband, YU Fu Lok / YEE Wing Hon.
Living in China sadly meant my grandmother did not see these 4 U.S.-based family members for many years:
Father, CHIN Cheo from mid-1904 – January 1913 (the first 8 years of her life); from September 1913 – May 1919 (a gap of 5½ years); from mid-1921 – 6 March 1939 death in Seattle (the last 17½ years of his life)
Older brother, CHIN Wing Quong, from mid-1910 – late 1918 death in Seattle (the last 8 years of his life)
Younger brother, CHIN Wing Ung AKA Donald Wing-Ung CHIN, from September 1932 until late 1981 (a separation of 49 years or almost ½ a century, caused by firstly the Japanese invasion of China, then World War II and then the Communist regime in China closing its borders).
Husband, YU Fu Lok / YEE Wing Hon, from 1938 – 1961 (not seen for 23 years until his death in Detroit).
1982 letter sent from China to Donald Wing Ung CHIN in Seattle to advise of the death of his older sister, CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen (courtesy of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, Seattle, item no. 2001_030_001b)
The damage of 60-plus years of the Chinese Exclusion Act was irreparable, as it split Chinese males living in the USA from their families back home in China. It meant daughters and wives did not have strong male influences, and family sizes were kept small. It was only by uncovering the CEA files at the National Archives that I learnt of the many facts that had been kept secret about my family for 140 years.
[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19. This file was copied before the closure in March 2020. I will let you know when the archives reopens. THN]
Ng Wing Yin arrived at the Port of Seattle on 28 January 1929 was deported after almost two months in detention. He could not prove his relationship to his alleged father, Ng Wah Lai, a U.S. citizen.
His attorney, Hugh C. Todd, wrote to the Bureau of Immigration in Washington, D.C. regarding Ng’s appeal. Ng Wing Yin was first denied admission in January 1927. His 1929 entry was his second attempt to enter the U.S. Todd argued that no one except a father would try to bring his son into the country twice. Anyone else would have given up. This application included a photo taken in 1921 of the father and son when the son was ten years old. Todd pointed out the resemblance between the two—their posture, eyes, nose, ears and chin, even the curl of the mouth. The photograph was not included in the 1927 earlier entry application.
“Ng Wing Yin and Ng Wah Lai photo” 1921 , Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Ng Wing Yin case file, Seattle Box 1118, file 10346/10-12.
[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19. This file was copied before the closure in March 2020. I will let you know when the archives reopens. THN]
In 1929 Ng Wing Yin was seventeen years old and a student. He was born in Woy Lung Lee village, Sun Wei Ning District, China. He was attempting to enter the U.S. as the son of a native. His parents were Ng Wah Lai (marriage name Yuk Moon), and Mar Shee. He presented an affidavit with a photo of him with his father stating that his father was a United States citizen.
Ng Wing Yin was questioned about the first time he tried to enter the U.S. in 1926. He was denied, it was appealed, denied again, and he was deported. He was asked why he was trying to enter again since he was debarred the first time. He did not reply. His only witness was his father.
Ng Wah Lai testified that he was born in Riverside, California and that he had lived in Durango, Colorado for four years and planned to go back there. He was currently working at the Kwong Man Yuen store at 701 King Street in Seattle. He showed his certificate of identity #4188 issued at Boston, Massachusetts in 1911. The only proof he had that Ng Wing Yin was his son was the photo of them together. The immigration authorities agreed that the people in the photo were Ng Wah Lai and Ng Wing Yin but that did not prove their relationship. They had no new witnesses or evidence except for the photo taken of them together in 1921. They asked Ng Wah Lai why he was going through this process again when nothing had changed. Ng said, “He is my son and is anxious to come to the U.S.”
Ng Wing Yin was unable to prove that he was the blood son of Ng Wah Lai so he was denied entry into the U.S. Their attorney appealed, it was denied, and Ng Wing Yin was deported, again.
[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19. This file was copied before the closure in March 2020. I will let you know when the Archives reopens. THN]
Rose Chin had never been out of the United States and in 1927 she and her husband wanted to make a trip to Canada. Rose applied with immigration services to make a temporary visit abroad.
In her application, Rose Chin Kee testified that she was born on 15 April 1911 to Mr. and Mrs. Chin Kee of 219 Washington Street in Seattle. Rose’s father, Chin Kee, was a merchant and interpreter at Immigration Service at Seattle. He died in China about 1920. Her mother was born in San Francisco and had been to China sometime before Rose was born in 1911. Rose’s birth certificate says her mother was born in China, but the interviewer did not ask her about the discrepancy. Evidently Rose was comfortable with the English language; she approved of her interview being conducted in English. Rose had five brothers and four sisters who were all born in Seattle, and one adopted sister. Her oldest brother, Tom Chin Kee, was the only one of her siblings to visit China. He left and returned when Rose was a small child.
Rose married Pong Mon on 15 May 1927 at home in Seattle. They obtained their license from the county clerk and a white man performed the ceremony. Mr. Lysons helped them get their license.
Rose Chin lived in Seattle all her life and knew Inspector Mangels, Interpreter Quan Foy and Mr. Monroe from Immigration Service. She attended Main Street and Pacific public schools. She provided her birth certificate for inspection.
Although the inspectors verified Rose’s birth certificate, knew her family, and knew her since she was a small girl, they could not approve her application. Her husband, a Chinese native, could not prove that he was a U.S. citizen. According to the 1922 Cable Act, Rose Chin lost her U.S. citizenship when she married a Chinese native.
Rose Chin’s application was disapproved.
Additional information not included in the file: The Expatriation Act of 1907 stated that women assumed the citizenship of their husbands. U.S.-born women lost their citizenship when they married non-citizen immigrant men.
The Cable Act of 1922 said that an American woman who married a non-U.S. citizen would no longer lose her citizenship if her husband was eligible to become a citizen. However, if she married a Chinese ineligible for citizenship, she would lose her U.S. citizenship.
The 1931 amendment to the Cable Act allowed women to retain their American citizenship even if they married a person ineligible for naturalization.