The purpose of this blog is to
showcase the variety of information found in the Chinese Exclusion Act case
files and to give guidance on how to locate information in the files. The focus
is the files at the National Archives-Seattle from Record Group 85 pertaining
to Seattle, Port Townsend, Washington and Portland, Oregon. Although these
files are located in Seattle, the subject of the file may have lived anywhere
in the United States—Seattle, San Francisco, Buffalo or Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
Volunteers have been working on
indexing these files for many years. It is a long, slow process. Recently, to
speed things up, instead of indexing a wide variety of data fields, we decided
just to record the box and file number and name of the subject of the file. We have
finished about 850 boxes of Seattle files (about 30 files in each box) and we
have about 475 boxes to go. You do the math. After we have entered the minimal
information we will go back and add the other data fields. This basic
information will make it easier for people to find the file they are searching
for. We now have a team of five volunteers working on the indexing.
The website contains a short
history of the Act, National Archives contact information to get assistance in
finding a case file, and links to resources. Blog entries are made once or twice a
week and contain examples of information that may be found in the case files.
Here’s a list of items on the
blog so far: a 1904 San Francisco marriage license, witness affidavits with
photos, information about a Seattle Chinese interpreter, an application for a laborer’s
return certificate, a pre-investigation form with photo, a list of the applicant’s family members
in the United States and their file numbers, a Chinese woman attending nursing
school in Illinois, the file of the father of one of our volunteers, a certificate of residence, passport, 1918 draft registration card, and family group
photos, Chinese business cards, a 1904 San Francisco birth certificate, a list of
Caucasian witnesses, and a certificate
of identity. Many of these files contain photos; some over a period of years.
The Chinese Exclusion Act was
in effect from 1882 until 1943. Thousands upon thousands of records were created
during this time. It is unfortunate how these files came about, but the information
found in the files is priceless.
If someone in your family or a
friend may have a case file, take a look at the blog and start the search for
their case file.
Volunteer and Blog Editor