Ng Ah Yun was born in Port Townsend, Jefferson County, Washington on 23 August 1889. He was the son of (Ng) Yee Kong and Wong Shee. Yee Kong had come to the United States from China about 1877 and married Wong Shee in San Francisco in 1882. Shortly after they married, they moved to Port Townsend, Washington and resided at the corner of Madison and Water Streets. Their first son, Ah Don Ng, was born there in 1885 or 1886.
Yee Kong operated the Yee Wah Laundry. Its original location was across the corner from the sailors’ boarding house. In December 1888, Yee Kong’s cousin, Charley Quong, who was born in California, joined them in Port Townsend. Charley’s father and Yee Kong’s father were brothers. About 1890 the laundry burned down, and the building was replaced. Eventually that building also burned and the family moved over to the King Tai Company building. About 1892, discouraged after twice losing their business, Yee Kong, his wife, and their two sons moved back to China.
In June 1907 the two brothers, (Ng) Ah Don and (Ng) Ah Yun, returned to Port Townsend on the Ex. S. S. Shawmut and applied to be admitted to the United States as U.S. citizens. Over a ten- day period they were interrogated and eventually admitted.
The file does not indicate where they stayed those ten days. The Port Townsend U.S. Customs House may have made some arrangements for them. Charley Quong, another Chinese man, and two Caucasian witnesses swore in affidavits about their knowledge of the brothers. They were shown photographs and asked to identify each one. Frank A. Bartlett said he had been a resident of Port Townsend for more than forty- two years. He was a member of C. C. Bartlett & Company, his father ’s general merchandise store, and sold laundry supplies to Yee Kong. C. C. Bartlett also rented a lot and a building to Yee Kong. After the building burned down, Yee Kong rented the land from Bartlett and built a two-story frame building for his laundry business. The Bartletts had a good working relationship with Yee Kong, and they both remembered seeing his young sons playing around the laundry.
Joseph Steiner also swore in an affidavit that he was acquainted with Yee Kong. Steiner owned a cigar store and had been a resident of Port Townsend since February 1888. Steiner patronized the Yee Wah Laundry, and Yee Kong brought his sons with him to the cigar store when he came to collect Steiner’s laundry fees and visit with him.
In Eng Yee Tung’s affidavit he testified that he was forty-four years old and was born in Pen On, Har Pang County, Sunning district, Province of Canton, China. He was the manager of the Yee Sing Wook Kee Company in Port Townsend. Around 1885 there were about one hundred Chinese in Port Townsend. Eng Yee Tung testified that he and about thirty or forty other Chinese attended a “shaving feast” to celebrate the birth of each of Yee Kong’s sons. This was a Chinese ritual in which a barber would shave off all but a small tuft of hair on the front of a male baby’s head about a month after the birth, then family and friends would gather to celebrate.
Ah Don, age 21, was interviewed on 13 June 1907. Even though he was only five or six years old when he left Port Townsend for China, he was asked many of the same questions asked of the other adults. He testified that his uncle, Charley Quong, whose Chinese name was Bing Quong, lived next door to his father ’s house in China and that Charley’s father was Jet Hock, the brother of Hen Hock. In the interview Ah Don described his house—it had had two sleeping rooms, two kitchens and a worship room. He stated that his mother had a brother named Wong Sai Chuck, a farmer in China. The interviewer then gave Ah Don a genealogy lesson. He explained that Charley and Ah Don’s fathers were first cousins; therefore, Charley could not be his uncle. When asked if he had any first cousins, Ah Don responded: “Under the Chinese custom I call Bing Quong my uncle, but according to the American custom he is my cousin, but not my first cousin.” (He had learned his genealogy lesson and how to deal with interviewers.) He had no other cousins. His father had given him about $1,000 to come to the United States.
Ah Yun, age 18, was interviewed the next day; ten days after the brothers had arrived in Port Townsend. He was only three or four years old when he left the U.S. for China. He told the interviewer that the family name was Ng, although it was not always used. When Ah Yun called Charley Kong (Quong) his uncle, Mr. Monroe, the interviewer, gave him the same genealogy lecture he had given his brother. Ah Yun gave the same answers to the interview questions as his brother had. As one would expect, they both correctly identified the photographs of each other and of Charley Quong.
On 14 June 1907, the Acting Chinese Inspector in Charge interviewed Charley Quong about Ah Yun and Ah Don. An interpreter was present. Quite a bit of genealogical information was obtained in that interview. Charley Quong/ Bing Quong was by this time thirty-five years old and was working in a saloon in Port Townsend that was owned by Henry Rothschild. Quong was born in San Francisco, the son of Hen Hock and Chin Shee, the former being the son of Mon Fee. Hen Hock was born in China and his mother in San Francisco. His father died in Fresco, California about 1900, but his mother was still living there. His four sisters and three brothers were all born in the United States and were living in Fresno.
Charley Quong had married in San Francisco. Quong had made two trips to China, once in 1895 and again in 1901. He had registered each time before he left the country. The interviewer asked him why he had registered, since he was born in the United States. He replied, “Because every Chinaman was registering, and I thought I would do the same.” [It was odd that the interviewer asked Quong why he had registered, because in 1892 the Geary Act was passed, which expanded the 1882 exclusion act. It now required all Chinese to register and obtain a certificate of identity as proof of their right to be in the United States and to safely return when they left the country.]
The interviewer asked Quong many questions about his family in China. Charley Quong and his cousin Yee Kong had lived in the village of Song Cheong, sometimes called Song Clen, Song Lung or Song Leung. There were only two houses in the village and they each owned one of them. Quong lived there with his wife, his stepmother (his father ’s first wife), and his two sons.
Caucasians were considered more credible witnesses than Chinese, so it was important for returning Chinese to have white witnesses who could swear that they were respectable citizens. Even though information on Caucasians in the files is incidental and rarely indexed, there are sometimes tidbits of information about people who had working relationships with Chinese. Sometimes a witness might tell where they were living in the 1890s when no census records were available. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to find this information.
Three months after Frank A. Bartlett and Joseph Steiner gave sworn statements about their knowledge of Ah Don and Ah Yun, the affiants gave witness testimony. Mr. Monroe asked Steiner how long he had lived in Port Townsend and Steiner replied that it had been a little over twenty years. Monroe came back with, “How much over twenty years?” Steiner replied that it had been twenty years in February. [Monroe was getting testy. He may have been feeling that he was wasting his time trying to disprove that the brothers were U. S. citizens.]
Steiner was asked to give the names of any Chinese that he remembered. He named six Chinese. He said he had never been to Yee Kong’s laundry because Yee Kong always called for it and delivered it back to him when done.
When Yee Kong’s former landlord, Frank A. Bartlett, was interviewed, he reported his occupation as both bookkeeper and merchant. He recounted that Yee Kong had paid various rents to him for his laundry–starting out at $15 a month, then $25 and finally $100, the latter being paid during boom times in Port Townsend. The first laundry was in a one-story building that was about twenty feet wide by 30 feet long. According to Bartlett, that building burned down about 1886. Bartlett then leased the land to Yee Kong for $100 a month and Yee Kong built a new laundry. He was there about five or six years until that building also burned down. [The dates were not always consistent from one person to another, but that did not seem to matter to the interviewer.]
After considering the evidence, Henry A. Monroe decided that Ah Don and Ah Yun were born in the United States. They were admitted to the country as returning native-born Chinese persons.
To be continued in October 2022 blog post.
 “Chinese Customs: Interesting Rites are Connected with Birth—Vary According to Province,” The Burlington Free Press and Times, Burlington, New Jersey, 4 March 1920, p.8; accessed Chroniclingamerica.loc.gov, 22 August 2022.
Waverly B. Lowell, compiler, Chinese Immigration and Chinese in the United States: Records in the Regional Archives of the National Archives and Records Administration, NARA, Reference Information paper 99, 1996, 1.
This case study was originally published in the Seattle Genealogical Society Bulletin. The citation for the complete article is: Trish Hackett Nicola, CG, “Chinese and the Northwest,” SGS (Seattle) Bulletin, 64-1 (Winter 2014) 39-47.