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.
Henry White, alias Lim Kok Heng, became a naturalized citizen effective 25 August 1942, the date he arrived in New York City on the exchange ship MS Gripsholm. Private law 380 of the 78th Congress was approved by the President on 27 September 1944 to allow him to be naturalized. The Secretary of State was instructed to have “the proper quota-control officer to deduct one number from the quota for the Chinese of the first year that the said quota is available.” “Henry White (Lim Kok Heng) was paroled to the custody of Mr. Kenneth M. White upon posting a public charge and departure bond in the amount of $500.”
[This was significant because after the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in 1943, the quota of Chinese entering the United States was 105. This extremely restrictive quota was in place until the Immigration Act of 1965.]
Henry White was originally excluded from entering the United States; his case was appealed, then he was paroled to the custody of Kenneth Matchitt White, his adoptive father, who posted a bond of $500. His Ellis island file was #174/405.
The file includes a copy of a 20 October 1943 Seattle Times newspaper article, titled “Chinese Orphan is Permitted to Stay.” Kenneth Matchitt White of Portland, Oregon found Henry, age 9, in a bar in Singapore in 1935. White placed the boy in a Chinese school, but Henry was interned when the Japanese captured Hong Kong.
Louis C. Hafferman, Immigrant Inspector investigated the case. He found that Lim Kok Heng (Henry White) was born in Singapore, Straits Settlement on 2 April 1926.
The father of Kenneth M. White, F. Manson White, was interviewed. He stated that he was born in Derby, England in 1868 and arrived in the United States in 1875. He had been living in Portland since 1888 and was a naturalized citizen. He was employed by the Portland School District as an architect with a salary of $3,000 per year. He had four children: Dr. Randall White, a Portland physician; Frederick M. White, editor on the Oregonian newspaper; Kenneth M. White, the adoptive father; and Katherine White, a former schoolteacher working in the defense industry in Los Angeles. Kenneth owned a farm in Springfield, Oregon a few years before becoming an electrician and currently he was a chief refrigeration engineer in the U.S. Army Transport Service. F. Manson White learned from his son that Lim Kok Heng was sold into slavery as a baby and mistreated. Kenneth felt sorry for him. Because Kenneth thought Lim Kok Heng was intelligent, he wanted him to receive a good education. Eventually Kenneth went through the adoption process. After Lim arrived in New York he was paroled under bond and went to live in Los Angeles with Kenneth’s sister, Katherine. The father, F. Manson White, stated that his assets were worth $10,000 in 1943 and that before the depression they were worth about $150,000. If anything happened to Kenneth, Manson would have the means to support Lim Kok Heng (Henry White).
Kenneth’s brother, Dr. Randall F. White, testified that he had been the Multnomah County physician for two years. He was not interested in Lim Kok Heng and would not want to accept any responsibility for him. Randall had only seen his brother three times in the last four years. As far as he knew the adoption papers were drawn up in Portland after Kenneth returned from the south Pacific war zone. Randall believed that his brother was mentally stable; a generous person who was fond of the subject and wanted to see that he was properly educated. Kenneth M. White sent Lim to Diocesan Boys School at Hong Kong. After the city was captured by the Japanese, Lim was interned. Other internees were Walter F. Frese, of Arlington, Virginia; John N. Raymond, of San Francisco, California; and M. B. King, of Salem, Ohio. Lim Kok Heng was taken aboard the Asama Maru and transferred to the MS Gripsholm with a group of American internees returning to the U.S. In 1943 Lim Kok Heng registered under the Alien Registration Act of 1940.
In a letter to the New York City Immigration Service from Kenneth White’s lawyer, Simon Hauser, he mentioned that White’s aunt, Mrs. Grace Calkins, the widow of a Rear Admiral, was willing to care for the boy at her home in Berkeley, California. Kenneth’s job required him to be at sea most of the time. Henry (Lim Kok Heng) completed most of his elementary school subjects in a year and a half in Hong Kong and was due to graduate from Virgil Junior High School with the highest possible grades in all his studies. He spoke English and “perfect Malayan and his services have been offered to Mr. Davis of the Office of War Information and to the CBS monitor station in San Francisco.”
Private bills S.1103 and H.R. 2707 were introduced by Senator McNary and Representative Angell.
There is no additional information and no photo in the file.
Li Kuo Ching (K. C. Lee 李國欽) received his Section Six certificate issued by Edwin S. Cunningham, Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, American Consulate-General, Shanghai, China, on 5 January 1926. His class status was “Traveler.” He was traveling with his wife, Grace Kuo Li, age 26 and their children, Majorie [sic], Mildred, Kuoching Jr., and Marie.
Li graduated as a mining engineer in 1914 from the Royal School of Mines of London University. He completed one year post graduate course before becoming the director of Hunan Mining Board, Changsha, China in 1915. He was president of Wah Chang Trading Corporation in Shanghai from 1916 to 1920. The company had branch offices in Tientsin and in the Woolworth Building in New York City. Li was going to visit the office in New York and return to China within six months. His expenses would be paid for by the company. He was worth about $750,000 Mexican and had an income of $25,000 a year. He had letters of recommendation from M.D. Currie, vice-president of the International Banking Corporation, S. C. Chu, P. V. Jui, David Z. T. Yui, F. R. Sanford, Jr., and J. B. Sawyer. F. W. Schmid and M. D. Currie were also witnesses for Li.
Li Kuo Ching’s was first admitted to the U.S. at San Francisco in 1916. He presented his “Form of Chinese Certificate” with his photo attached and signed by the Consul General of the U.S.A. It gave his date of birth as K.S. 16-9-24 (November 6, 1890).
In 1920 Li arrived on a diplomatic passport and the head tax was not assessed. T. S. Pierce, Immigrant Inspector, wrote a letter of introduction to Henry R. Monroe, immigration inspector in Seattle for Li’s wife, Mrs. Grace Kuo Li. She was taking the train from Santa Barbara, California to Seattle on her way to meet her husband in Victoria or Vancouver, British Columbia. Mrs. Li was staying at the El Mirasol Hotel in Santa Barbara.
The file contains an undated newspaper article from The [Seattle] Post-Intelligencer, ca. 1926, with a photo of Li. The headline is, “Li Luo-Ching, Prominent Chinese Financier, Here; Youthful Marvel of Celestial Kingdom Pays Visit to City With Wife En Route to New York from Orient.
[Volunteers Lily Eng brought this file to my attention and Hao-Jan Chang provided the Chinese characters for Li Kuo Ching’s name.]
Ng Lee Fung 伍李芳 was born in San Francisco on 13 July 1879, the son of Ng Dong Ming and Yee She. He travelled to Gon Hon village, Sun Ning district, China, with his parents and older brother, Ng Hock Sing, when he was nine years old. Lee Fung returned to the United States with his brother in 1900 coming through Montreal, Canada via Vancouver, B.C. From there they took a train to Malone, New York. They were arrested on 9 July 1900 for entering the U.S. without the certificate required of Chinese persons when they stepped off the train near Burke, New York and taken to jail. They were kept there over four weeks.
Ng Lee Fung, age 22, and Ng Hom Sing, age 29, appeared in court with their attorney R. M. Moore with the charge of illegal entry into the U.S. Mr. S. C. Chew was their interpreter. Their uncle Ng Wai Ming, age 54, was a witness for them. He was living with his brother in San Francisco at the time of his nephews’ birth. He testified that both were born at 744 Sacramento Street. The uncle stayed in San Francisco when the rest of the family went to China and he eventually moved to the New York City area.
Ng Lee Fung and his brother were found not guilty of the charge since they were U.S. citizens and had a lawful right to be and remain within the United States. They received their Discharge Certificates on 11 August 1900 following the trial by U.S. Commissioner Paddock at Malone, NY. After they were discharged they went to Newark, New Jersey.
In 1912 Lee Fung received his Certificate of Identity #9803 at the Port of Seattle. In 1920 he submitted certified copy of the 1900 docket entries by the Clerk of the U.S. Court at Utica and certified copy of the testimony which took place before Commissioner Frederick G. Paddock at Malone, NY. He testified that he had registered for the military draft; presented his registration card showing that he was Class 1A. Ng Lee Fung visited China in 1922 and again in 1927 with his son Ng Jim. Before and after each trip out of the United States, Lee Fung submitted his documents and was interrogated. Each time his paperwork was approved.
Lee Fung made his final to trip China in March 1940 at age 61. His original certificate of identity is included in the file so he probably did not plan on returning to the U.S. His wife died in Gim Sim Village, Sun Ning District, China in September 1939. Lee Fung has a thick file with many interviews, documents and photos—almost forty years of his life.
[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.]
[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.]
Look Ah Pong, an American-born Chinese citizen died on 7 January 1921 and was buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Seattle, Washington on 10 January. His son, Look Gom Hong, born at Sing Shu Village, Fook Chung, Sun Ning, China, originally entered the United States through the Port of Seattle in 1923. He received his Certificate of Identity #50610 upon arrival. After his entry was approved he joined his older brother, Look Gim Yook (York), in New York City.
In 1935 Look Gom Hong filled out his Form 430, Application for Pre-investigation of Status, for his upcoming trip to China. He was 25 years old and a waiter at Li Chee Gardens Restaurant in New York City. In over five pages of interrogation Look Gom Hong described his father’s and mother’s siblings, his grandparents on both sides of the family, their extended families, and many details about their village.
Look Gim Yook (York) testified on behalf of his brother. He swore that he was with their father when he died at Hai Ping Fong in Seattle. He did not have his father’s death certificate but he gave the interrogator a bill addressed to the Hip Sing Company from Collins Brothers Undertaking Company for $125 for the burial of his father. He surrendered his father’s Certificate of Identity #2671 which was issued in 1911. The interrogators then asked Look Gim Yook (York) the same questions about the family and village as his brother. [His father’s Certificate of Identity was valuable proof of the family connection.]
Look Kim Fun who was admitted to the U.S. in 1922 was from their village and testified for Look Gom Hong. He was asked the same questions about the family and village and also stated that the village had thirteen houses and a watch house. [Since it was such a small village everyone knew each other’s families making Look Kim Fun a credible witness.]
The Inspectors reviewed the interrogations and decided that the testimony of the three witnesses agreed. Look Gom Hong made a favorable impression; the brothers resembled each other and they were prompt and frank in their testimony. Look Gom Hong’s application was approved.
The Reference Sheet in the file includes the names, relationships and file numbers for Look Gom Hong’s father, brother, two nephews, two uncles, two cousins, and a “distant relative.”