Discovery of this 1903 photograph in the belongings of 100-year-old great uncle Kim (right) led to a decades long search for the stories behind the photograph. Shown are the parents, Ah Ying and Lai Wah, with Chun Ngo, Ah Kay, little Gum Toon, Bing, and Kim. The photos was taken in September, 1903. This was the very last time the family was all together.
Dr. Russell Low is a physician with a passion for discovery and storytelling. Discovery of his roots began 30 years ago through the stories of his parents and their siblings. Growing up in Central California, more American than Chinese, his connection to Chinese culture and history was limited and incomplete. In his searches, he came across a 130 year old newspaper notice titled "Villainous-looking Chinese after a Chinese Girl". He recognized his area-grandparents' names in the article and uncovered his family's story on how they became Americans.
“Three Coins” is based upon a true story that touches upon the themes of human trafficking, immigration, cultural and racial discrimination, violence, and romance that are as relevant today as they were 140 years ago.
Attendees learned about the history of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and how it impacted Chinese immigrants and Chinese American families.
The Chinese Exclusion Act signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur on May 6, 1882, was followed by a series of laws that extended the exclusion of Chinese until December 17, 1943, when the Magnuson Act was enacted. The laws made it illegal for Chinese laborers to immigrate to the United States and for Chinese nationals already in the U.S. to become citizens. The Chinese were the only specific ethnic group excluded in the history of the United States. Potential Chinese immigrants were interrogated and many were detained at Angel Island after 1910. Case files of interrogation transcripts and other records, kept at the National Archive and Records Administration (NARA) regional offices, are some of the most valuable research resources for Chinese American family historians today.
Attendees discussed how the Chinese Exclusion Act and feelings toward the Chinese impacted their family members.
PRESENTERS: GILBERT HOM & MICHAEL HO
Gilbert Hom talked about the history of Chinese cemeteries in Los Angeles from the 1860's to the present, including the City Cemetery on Fort Moore Hill where early Chinese residents in Los Angeles were buried and later relocated. Later the Evergreen Cemetery and the Chinese Cemetery of Los Angeles, both in East Los Angeles became available for Chinese burials.
A list of Chinese cemeteries in San Francisco and Honolulu was distributed at the meeting.
Michael Ho discussed common Chinese religions and belief systems and Chinese American burial practices of sojourners versus settlers. He also talked about death records and obituaries. He introduced key Chinese characters often found on Chinese tombstones and how to translate them to English. True surnames and villages of paper sons and daughters may be found on Chinese tombstones. He demonstrated how to convert Chinese dates to the Western Calendar.
DNA BASICS AND WHY YOU MIGHT WANT TO BE TESTED:
Patti Dung discussed basic DNA background information, how DNA is inherited and changed and the amount you share with relatives. She pointed out issues with migration and ethnicity. Reasons why Chinese Americans would want to be tested include finding & confirming relatives, validating Chinese family genealogy books, ancient migrations, and solving family mysteries such as "mystery people", paper sons and daughters and adoptions. Patti is a former high school AP Biology and UCLA Secondary Science Methods Instructor.
Steve Kwok, former CFHGSC President, discussed third party DNA databases, such as GEDmatch and the security of information that you may opt to share. He will share a recent discovery.
WHAT MEMBERS FOUND FROM DNA TESTS:
PRESENTERS: KITTY LEW, RON CHUN & MICHELLE JONG
FACILITATOR: BARBARA LU-BALTAZAR
Genealogy research has been a 25+year hobby for Kitty L. Lew in studying her in-laws' Euro- and Native American heritage to 1720s. In recent years she focused on her more challenging Chinese roots by joining fellow “ABC” CFHGSC members in 2015. She joined Henry Tom's first Overseas Chinese genealogy workshop and village trip. She shared what she learned after she visited three of her four ancestral villages in Taishan, Donguan and Zengcheng with her 90 year-old mother and four generations of her family.
Michelle Jong is a third generation Chinese American who who took you on her journey, which started with six letters and a photograph to her maternal grandfather’s Taishan village. Ron Chun is a third and sixth generation Chinese American. Ron described the process he went through prior to his journey to his ancestral villages in Zhongshan and Foshan and how he continued post tour. Both Ron and Michelle’s detailed their experiences with the Roots Plus program and how their research continues.
PRESENTERS: Trae Nicholson, Barbara Lu Baltazar, and Evelyn Lee
Identities Lost and Found: Bringing Old Family Photos Into Focus: If you have any family photographs with “mystery people” in them – you are not alone. For lack of proper labeling and the passage of time, names and/or the significance of an individual in a family photo album are lost as their image(s) are passed down from one generation to the next.
Trae and Barbara shared various approaches to help move “mystery people” out of the dark and into the light. Over the past 6 years Trae has successfully identified all the 20 “unknowns” in her father’s box of photographs that had been in storage for nearly 45 years.
Preserving Your Family Photos, Letters and Documents: What do you do with the box of old photos and documents? How do you store old letters and documents? Evelyn presented archival materials to preserve your treasured family history.
Trae, Barbara and Evelyn have been members of CFHGSC since 2012.
March 2019 Meeting - FINDING YOUR IMMIGRANT ANCESTORS: WHAT YOU CAN DISCOVER AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORD ADMINISTRATION (NARA)
Marisa Louie Lee is a freelance researcher and genealogist, who specializes in 20th century immigration and naturalization records. She formerly worked as an archivist at the National Archives at San Francisco and is the co-author of the article "The A-Files: Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors", published in the Spring 2013 issue of Prologue magazine. She worked as an archival researcher for the PBS American Experience documentary “The Chinese Exclusion Act” (Steeplechase Films, 2018). A fifth generation Chinese American, Marisa is a proud alumna of the "Roots" program which brought her to her maternal grandfather’s village in rural Kaiping, Guangdong Province.
Marisa demonstrated how to search for records relating to those who immigrated during and after the Chinese Exclusion period. She talkedabout accessing Alien Files (“A-Files”), Chinese partnership case files, and more. She shared records she has discovered on behalf of our own CFHGSC members attending the meeting.
February 2019 Meeting - How To Record Your Family Stories Through Videos & Other Methods With Steve Nagano
Steve presented ways to record your family histories and experiences through videos, taped interviews and paper documentation. He discussed tips and things to consider in the processes. He showed some examples that he has produced, discuss the various ways that one can document your histories, and assess the resources that you have access to.
Steve was a former teacher with most of his teaching years as a computer teacher. His interests in documenting family histories begins in the 1970s with a 2 hour video of his mother’s family consisting of 8 brothers and sisters. He produced a short film on his family through his grandfather’s photo album for “Turning Leaves” a photo album project that opened at the Bancroft Library gallery. More recently, he has been in Visual Communication’s Digital History program, a film program for seniors, and produced 8 short films through the program. His interest in history has led to involvements with the Little Tokyo Historical Society and with chronicling many community events.
Chinese Ancestors and Angel Island: 10 a.m. to 12 noon
Chinese immigrants passed through Angel Island from 1910 to 1940, being detained for days, weeks, and even years, leaving poetry on the walls as well as tens of thousands of case files still in the National Archives in San Bruno. Grant discussed some of the documents that he has found about immigrants' Angel Island experiences.
Chinese New Year Foods 12 to 1 p.m. Celebration of the Year of the Boar by eating and learning about traditional Chinese New Year foods.
Chinese Settlements in the Sacramento River Delta: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Attendees learned about Chinese who settled in the Delta, including Locke, Walnut Grove, Courtland, Isleton, Rio Vista, and nearby towns. Even before Angel Island was in use, Chinese helped build the levees, which turned the Delta into fertile farmland, established communities, and created a rich history in the area. Grant talked about the history of the area, resources that are available, and what you can find if you visit the area.
Grant Din lives in Oakland with his family and is the grandson of a paper son really named Gong. He currently consults with nonprofit organizations and has been doing genealogical research for over thirty years. He worked for eight years with the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, and he still volunteers to oversee its Immigrant Voices website. Grant has a B.A. from Yale University in sociology, an M.A. from Claremont Graduate University in public policy analysis, and a Certificate in Genealogical Studies from Boston University's online program.