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.
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.]
In October 1908 May Sophie Lee, age ten, her mother and brother were preparing to leave the United States on the SS Siberia through San Francisco for a trip to China. The Immigration inspector examined May Sophie’s passport no. 64231, two affidavits with photos and a certified copy of her birth certificate. The birth certificate states that she is white.
Mr. and Mrs. Lee’s marriage certificate was examined, authenticated and returned to the Lees. Seven white residents from Philadelphia swore in an affidavit that they were not Chinese; they were well acquainted with Lee Toy, a merchant at Chong Woh Company; May Sophie Lee was his lawful daughter, and that she was born in Philadelphia. The signers of the affidavit were:
Peter Hackett, 50 So. 4th Street
Frederic Poole, Chinese Mission, 918 Race St.
William Gallagher, 1231 Arch Street
Thomas W. Cunningham, 2112 Cherry Street
Katharine A. Lacy, Principal John Agnus School
Florence B. Scott, First Baptist Church, 17th & Samson St.
Neida S. Gilman, teacher in John Agnus School
While in China May Sophie attended school until she was 21 then attended medical school in Canton City and received a medical degree. She practiced as a physician in Shanghai for over a year before returning to the U.S.
May Sophie Lee was admitted to the United States at the Port of Seattle on 15 December 1924 as a returning citizen. She was 27 years old and was on her way to the Chung Wah & Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with plans to continue her medical career.
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.
Lai Ziang was born in Hankow, Hupeh Province, China on 11 May 1897. In 1919 she was living with her mother and sister in Shanghai; her father was deceased. Her sister, Mrs. Joseph D. Jensen, was a widow with children whose Danish husband died about 1915.
On 6 February 1919 Lai Ziang married Charles Robert Snaith Bryant, a master licensed mariner, at the American Consul. He was 42 years old and she was 21. When they arrived in Seattle in April 1919 their marriage certificate was examined by Immigration officials and returned to them. It stated that Charles R. S. Bryant was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and they were united in marriage by Rev. G. A. Fitch, a duly ordained minister of the American Presbyterian Church.
Immigration also examined Mrs. Bryant’s passport, endorsed by J. B. Sawyer, Vice Consul at Shanghai; and a Declaration of Alien About to Depart for the United States, form 228. The items were approved and returned to Mr. Bryant. Bryant was asked why he was bringing his wife to the United States. He said it was to allow her to have his company and to give her an education. In both 1916 and 1917 he was absent nine months, “and she said that was no home life.”
The witnesses for her 1919 application were Neville Craig, U.S. Court for China, and Walter H. Meyers of Seattle, Washington. Her application was approved.
Their travels between 1919 and 1927 are not mentioned in the file. In 1927 Mr. and Mrs. Bryant arrived in San Francisco from Balboa, Panama Canal Zone. Mrs. Bryant was delayed because she did not have a Certificate of Identity. Bryant complained to Immigration Services in Seattle because they were not given the proper documents when she arrived in 1919. He said they were very embarrassed because their landing was delayed until the paperwork could be verified. [The file does not say how long the delay was but it could have been hours or days.]
The Bryants left Seattle again in 1931. A letter in the file says she was identified by photographs and her Certificate of Identity No. 58341. [They made sure they had the paperwork in order this time.] There is no more information in the file after 1931.
Kwong Wen-Yin was born in Canton, Kwangtung, China. She attended Iowa State University, Iowa city, Iowa form 1920 to 1927 and returned to China. By 1929 Fwong was an Assistant Manager of the Foot Ease Hosiery Mill in Shanghai. The firm was capitalized at $1,000,000 Mexican.
In July 1929 Kwong travelled to the United States to purchase hosiery machinery and investigate the hosiery industry on behalf of her employers. Mr. C. Raiford of Iowa State University and Mr. M. C. Chan, the managing director of her firm vouched for her. Her applicant was approved allowing her to stay in the U.S. for one year. She arrived in Seattle on 13 July 1929 in the s.s. President Jackson.
There is no other information on her in the file.
Other information not included in Kwong’s file:
The Foot Ease Hosiery Manufacturing Company, Ltd. was established in 1917 and registered in 1918. It had 35 knitting machines, 10 sewing machines, 12 reeling machines, 20 machines for adorning hose, one machine for polishing, one machine for cleaning and one for ironing hose, all driven by electric motor of 25 h.p. The company employed 250 workers with an annual output of 120,000 dozen pairs of hosiery. Trademarks for the company were “Five Stars,” “Earth,” “Windmill” and “Double Cross.” The company maintained a club and an evening school for the workers. 1