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16 October 2015

Nikkei Pilgrimage to Angel Island

It was a beautiful day for a pilgrimage. 

Angel Island Immigration Station 
On 3 October 2015, the Nichi Bei Foundation hosted the second annual Nikkei Pilgrimage to Angel Island, in honor of the Japanese immigrants who arrived there between 1910 and 1940. An emphasis was placed on the women who immigrated, specifically the picture brides. There were over 300 attendees who journeyed by ferry to enjoy the music, dramatic presentation, speeches, bento lunches, and family history stations.

Kenji Taguma, Nichi Bei Foundation
Picture Bride, Produced by Judy Hamaguchi, SF JACL
Linda Harms Okazaki and Karen Korematsu
Learning about Picture Brides inside the Immigration Station 
There were honored guests and special speakers, including Karen Korematsu, who is perhaps best known as the daughter of civil rights activist, Fred Korematsu. On this day, however, she spoke about her grandmother, Kotsui Aoki, who arrived on Angel Island on January 12, 1914 as a picture bride. Karen addressed the importance a discovering family roots and understanding the experiences of our immigrant ancestors.

Following the formal program, six volunteers from the California Genealogical Society provided research consultations, including Todd Armstrong, Grant Din (also of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation), Fatima Ogihara, Linda Okazaki, Jim Russell, and Adelle Treakle. By far the most frequent question among the consults was "Did my ancestor come through Angel Island?"

Though most of the participants were of Japanese ancestry, there was a definite mix of ethnic groups represented. Guests had ancestors from Korea, China, Latin America, Canada and Europe. The genealogists were rewarded every time someone "found" an ancestor on an immigration record or census document. Those asking questions ranged in age, as well. One woman was 97 and had been incarcerated in an internment camp. Another young man was eight years old and very interested in family history. His parents listened intently as he asked questions about his great grandmother, who was born in Mexico and was currently living in California. It was a teachable moment when he discovered the importance of interviewing the eldest living relatives. He is most definitely the "NextGen" in genealogy.


California Genealogical Society Volunteers
Grant Din, Fatima Ogihara, Adelle Treakle, Todd Armstrong, Linda Okazaki, Jim Russell

Note: This article first appeared in the blog "Linda's Orchard" and has been republished with permission. 
Copyright © 2015 by California Genealogical Society