Tag Archives: Sun Ning

Benjamin James – 1923 Certificate of Identity sold on EBay

[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 1898 Birth Certificate
“Benjamin James, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1898 birth certificate,” 1908, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Benjamin James file, Seattle Box 109, 734/2-1.”

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 inteBenjamin James photo 1911rviewing 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.

Benjamin James photo 1923
“Benjamin James, form 430 M143 photos,” 1911 & 1923, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Benjamin James file, Seattle Box 109, 734/2-1.

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.]

Look Gom Hong – Son of deceased American-born Chinese citizen who resided in Seattle

Undertaker’s Bill for Look Ah Pong
“Undertaker’s Bill for Look Ah Pong,” 1921, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Look Gom Hong case file, Seattle Box 650, 7030/7291.

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.

Photos of Look Kim York and Look Gom Hong
“Photos of Look Kim York and Look Gom Hong, Affidavit,” 1923, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Look Gom Hong case file, Seattle Box 650, 7030/7291.
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.”

Chin On family file

Chin Jan Affidavid
“Chin Jan Affidavit with photos of Chin Jan and Chin On,” 1933, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Chin On case file, Seattle Box 594, 7030/5510.

Guest blogger –Darby Li Po Price
This week’s blog entry is by Darby Li Po Price. He researched his family in the Chinese Exclusion Act case files at the National Archives-Seattle and found many family files. The following information is from a file on his great aunt, Chin On. It includes an affidavit and testimony by his great grandfather, Chin Jan; Chin On’s application for her certificate of identity and maps of the family home in China.

Chin On Application for Certificate of Identity
“Chin On Application for Certificate of Identity with photo,” 1933, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Chin On case file, Seattle Box 594, 7030/5510.

The 1933 immigration application and photos were submitted by Jan Chin (great grandfather) for his daughter On Chin. She was detained three days. There are diagrams of their house in China which both drew as part of their interrogations. Jan had U.S. citizenship by native birth of immigrants.

Such documents of Chinese women are rare compared to those of men. Even though the subject of the file may be a woman most of the interrogations and affidavits are usually by the men of the family. It is also nice to see Chin On and her family together.

1933 photos of Chin Jan, and daughter Chin On, age 22, for On’s application for admission to the US. Jan requested “to have my said daughter, Chin On, come to America, so that I can give her the benefits of an American education.” Chin On had written her father the year before to ask to come to America. On arrived in Seattle via President Taft June 6, 1933, and was placed in detention.

The affidavit and application are accompanied by 30 pages of testimonies of On, Jan, and Jan’s sister Len Toy, drawings of their home in Sun Woy [Sun Wui], and detention release are in Seattle file no. 7030/5510. Interviews include extensive details on family members’ relations, lives, and homes in China and the U.S.
Jan, age 53, resided at 124 Ninth St., Portland, OR, and was a native U.S. citizen by birth from Joe Jew Chin and Dew Shee. Jan described his wife Hom Shee, age 47, and their sons in Sun Woy as Mon, age 30, Kway, 12, Wing, 7, Haw, 5; and Soon, 29, living in Chicago whose wife with their two sons lived in Sun Ning. Mon lived with his wife and two sons in another house. Mon was admitted to the U.S. in 1922; Soon in 1923. Len Toy was born in Portland, and spent a year and a half with the family in Sun Woy.

Interviews were translated between English and Chinese. The Chins spoke See Yip dialect. There were discrepancies regarding existence or placement of: a house number above the front door, ladders, stairways, doors, windows, a mirror, an alarm clock, Jan’s pocket and wrist watches, where two of On’s brother’s slept, and where Len slept. On did not remember a prior house Jan said they moved from when On was 11. On said Jan’s mother’s name was Yee Shee, Jan said Leung Shee.
On June 9, 1933 Roy Matterson, Chair of the Board of Special Inquiry concluded: “while there are a considerable number of discrepancies in the record that have not been cleared up, applicant testifies in a frank, unhesitating manner and seems to be testifying from facts and not from coached testimony and I am of the opinion that she has established her claim to being a daughter of CHIN JAN, and I therefore move to admit her to the United States as a citizen.” Admission was concurred by inspectors John Boyd and Earl Botts.

House diagrams
“Four house diagrams of house in Sun Woy City,” 1933, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Chin On case file, Seattle Box 594, 7030/5510.


The Reference Sheet in Chin On’s case file contains the file numbers and names of her father, grandfather, three brothers, five uncles, an aunt, sister-in-law, two nephews, cousin, and a niece.
Darby will be telling us more about his family in the coming weeks.