Every so often, someone will ask me, “In your travels, do you find documents about Japanese Canadian genealogy?” And I promise, “Not yet. But I will let you know when I do.”
Well, this week, I did. In this post I’ll tell you about how I found The Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property, what records are available, where they are located, and most importantly, a finding aid for navigating the files. The records handled by the secretive and shadowy Office included property held by all persons considered suspicous: Japanese, Chinese, Germans and likely more.
But let’s start at the beginning.
What is the Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property?
From 1916-1985, the Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property oversaw the seizure and liquidation of enemy property. Initially, it was set up to handle reparations for property owned by Germans, but then its scope broadened with the seizure, property confiscation and internment of Japanese Canadians. Here is a Wikipedia article.
I found it at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) when I was looking for my grandfather’s company, Wing Wah Company. I thought: What is that?
Then I hit the jackpot. I found a paper written by Judith Roberts-Moore on Archivaria, The Journal of the Association of Canadian Archivists: Studies in documents: The office of the Custodian of Enemy Property: An overview of the Office and its Records, 1920-1952. This paper established the framework for my understanding the documents, without which I wouldn’t have been able to draft a Finding Aid.
Where are the fonds of the Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property?
Library and Archives Canada
I spoke with Library and Archives Canada on 14 Feb 2020 about these fonds, listed as “RG117-A-3“. There are 100 metres of files, and 183 reels. I requested the Finding Aid which as of this writing hasn’t yet arrived. Note that LAC has done an excellent job of describing these fonds and organizing them into categories, however, there are no digital fonds available to view online. [EDIT: I spoke in haste about what is and what isn’t findable at LAC. I’ll keep you updated in a future post.]
I also located fonds relating to the Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property at Héritage Canadiana. You will find 25 reels comprising just over 59K documents. It is not text searchable. There is no finding aid (that I can find).
Here is their description of the fonds:
The Canadian Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property existed between 1916 and 1985. It derived its authority from the War Measures Act of 1914 and the Trading with the Enemy regulations. It dealt with the property of Canada’s enemies in both World Wars as well as with the seized property of Japanese Canadians. Generally, during the two World Wars, the office’s functions included the seizure and liquidation of enemy property. Between 1919 and 1939, it served the function of administering war claims and reparations. After the Second World War, the Custodian had the responsibility for resolving Canadian war claims.
And here is the site:
Finding Aid – Reels 9299 – 9304
Before I go too much further, let me define the term “finding aid.” From Wikipedia comes this excellent description:
A finding aid, in the context of archival science, is a tool containing detailed, indexed, and processed information about a specific collection of records within an archive. Finding Aids often consist of a documentary inventory and description of the materials, their source, and their structure.
Here is my finding aid to the first section of reels.
To draft this Finding Aid, I have scrolled through and made notes of every reel in groups of 500, including the first and last viewable images in each reel. As of 15 Feb 2020, I have reviewed 6 reels with 25,940 documents. They are filmed more or less in order, with notes about the beginnings of new record sets. These notes are below. These documents are in English.
How to use this Finding Aid
To find your people, use the notes below, then go to the reel on Heritage Canadiana and the closest image number. Surnames are listed in capitals. For example, if you were looking for MISUKO, look for the names beginning with “M” below, which is listed in Reel #C-9301. MISUKO would be between images 2500-3000.
To navigate the reels, use the image dropdown. There is no text search available.
Reels C-9299-9304: Alphabetical listings of Japanese Canadians
The first 5 reels are a card catalog, ending in the 6th reel. They are organized from ABE to ZIEGLER. With rare exception, they are cross-referenced with the names and file numbers of their closest family members. They may also list addresses. Most are from BC but there are some from Alberta. There are men, women, children and businesses listed. The 6th reel begins the “X.I. ###” files. See below for more information.
C-9299 – 5044 images – ABE to INOSE
- Image 2: file 14775, ABE Akira (see image above)
- image 500: AOKI Midori, file 6827
- image 1000: BANNO M.
- Image 1050 – Cameron Lake Logging Co.; Japanese owned
- image 1500: file 1542, ERAUT, Edith Maude
- image 2000: file 420, [hard to read] FUJIWARA, Toshiyuki
- Image 2500: file 13236, GOTO Shosuke
- image 3000: file 811, formerly file 586, HARADA Yoshio, Terra Nova Cannery
- image 3500: HAYASHI Tsunejiro
- image 4000: file 13236, HIRONAKA Yoshino
- image 4500: file 9691 IDE Mutsu
- image 5000: file 13212 INAMOTO Mitsu
- image 5044 [last image in reel set]: file 13255 INOSE Shiosaburo
C-9300 – 3335 images – INOSE to KOBAYASHI
- Image 2: INOSE Taiji, file 2996
- image 500: GARROW, George and MENZIES, Hal, both of Pacific Co-Operative Union [scanned upside down]
- Image 1000: KABAYAMA Eiko, file 941
- image 1500: file G/191, KANAI Nobuye
- image 2000: file 2368 KAWAGOYE, Kiyoshi, E
- image 2500: [no file number] KIKUCHI, Shuzo
- image 3000: file 7675 KITAGAWA Yoshio
- image 3355 last image in set: [blurred, hard to make out]
C-9301 – 5219 images – KOBAYASHI to NAKAO
- image 2: KOBAYASHI Seijiro file 14788
- image 500: KONO Satsu, no file #
- image 1000: file 7361, KAMAMOTO [blurred]
- image 1500: file 13236 MAEHARA Ayame
- image 2000: image 2000: file 9887, [name beginning with M, blurred]
- image 2500: file 6602, MIKI, Kiyo
- Image 3000: file [blurred] MIYASHITA Mitsuo
- image 3500: file 7365 [blurred]
- image 4000: file 1364, MURAKAMI K
- image 4500: file [blurred] NAGATA Harunori
- image 5000: Int. 1303, NAKAMURA Shizue
- image 5219 [last image in reel set]: file 3043, NAKAO, Yuriko
C-9302 4153 images – NAKASHIBA to SANO
- image 1: file 3387, NAKASHIBA Kumazo
- image 500: [no file #, reg#15429] NICOLAU Chika
- image 1000: file 10918 NISHIMURA, Hideo
- image 1500: file 5430, NOMURA, Toshiharu
- image 2000: file 9306, OHASHI, Toki
- image 2500: file 8318, OKAZAKI, Shinako
- image 3000: file 8716, YAMAMOTO, Utaro [card upside down but may be turned to read]
- image 3500: file 11596, RYUJIN, Takeharu [card upside down but may be turned to read]
- image 4000: file 2901 SAKI, H
- image 4153 [last image in reel set]: file 7374, SANO, Aiko
C-9303 5222 images – SANO to URASE
- image 2: file 7853, SANO Chiyoko
- image 500: [no file #] SEKITANI Mrs. H.
- image 1000: file 12814 SHIMOKURA, Mitsugi Harold
- image 1500: file 11902, SOMIYA, Masao
- image 2000: file 1421, SUZUKI Itaro
- image 2500: file 4486, TAKAHASHI Sai
- image 3000: file 9410, TAKEUCHI Yonekichi
- image 3500: file 13236, TANAKA Sono
- image 4000: file 2371, TERAKAWA Tadaji
- image 4500: file 444, TSUBONE, Todon
- image 5000: file 310, UEDA, Isosaburo
- image 5222 [last image in reel set]: image 6446, URASE, Toki
C-9304 3011 images – URASE to ZIEGLER
- image 2: URATA Kisaburo
- image 500: [file #blurred] WASHIMOTO Miss Lily
- image 1000: file 2635, YAMAMOTO Haruye Mrs. Katsuchi
- image 1500: file 4695, YAMASHITA Sumie
- image 2000: file 4437, YOSHIDA Kiyoko Miss (now Mrs. Juichi TSUJI)
- image 2348 [last of the card catalog by alphabetical names]: file 1544, ZIEGLER Gustav
The “X.I.###” Files
The “X.I. ###” files are collected forms and documents pertaining to the intake and internment of Japanese Canadians. They may contain police and RCMP reports, statements of property, mortgage documents, probate, insurance, internee files, storage invoices, transport invoices, letters, legal correspondence, business documents, Property Loss Claims, newspaper clippings, Lists of chattels sold, handwritten notes, documents vary by file. These files are not in alphabetical order.
- image 2349: “X.I. 122” – NAKA Tsuneo (see image above)
- image 2358: “X.I. 133” NAKA Masao
- image 2363: “X.I. 137” KANESASHI Kisao
- image 2390-2710: “X.I. 139” IWASHITA Kesahiro [320 pages]
- image 2711: “X.I. 149” KOYANAGI Kuichi
- image 2719: “X.I. 153”NAKAGAWA Kotaro
- image 2733: “X.I. 154” ATAGI Kakugoro
- image 2759: “X.I. 155” ISOMURA Hisokichi
- image 2793: “X.I. 158” KODAMA Masayoshi
- image 2804: “X.I. 159” NAGATA Shichitaro
Notes: Reel C-9310 continues with “X.I” files. Reels 9305-9309 presumably also contained “X.I” files and are not available on this site.
I was reflecting on why I am so motivated to spend the hours putting this information together, and it comes down to three main reasons:
- Making it easier for people doing Japanese Canadian genealogy to find their families;
- Directing traffic to Héritage Canadiana to show our support for free, online, digitized archives; and
- By improving the metrics of sites like Library and Archives Canada and Héritage Canadiana, we improve the chances of more funding being directed there.
We live in a digital age. One of the major metrics for websites is the number of visits a site gets – NOT how important we think the content may be. What gets counted gets funded. Our archives are precious and, as we are finding, extremely vulnerable to sudden funding cuts.
Also, we live in the age of Google. Google is our first and favourite search engine. But Google doesn’t search the deep web like these archives, and doing a Google search for your relatives’ names is like searching for book contents by only reading the titles. By listing the names here, I make them easier for Google to find. And if Google can find it, then maybe somewhere, somehow, I can make it easier for Japanese Canadians looking for their family documents.
I transcribed these names. There will be errors.
My thanks go out to Kimiko Karpoff, Mika Local, Linda Harms Okazaki and Marisa Louie for their comments and thoughts this week in my Facebook Group Genealogy for Asian Canadians. Come join the conversation.
Also thanks to SLIG and my course on Chinese Ancestry in January, where Marisa Louie taught us about archive structure and organization. It was an eye-opener.
Well, I can hardly stop now, can I?
Stay tuned for more finding aid notes on the other 19 reels. I promise you, it’s worth sticking around. Sign up to get emails alerting you to the next post.
7 thoughts on “The Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property – genealogical documents for Japanese Canadians”
Very interesting Linda. That’s not my area of research, but it’s nice to know what I can recommend to others.
That’d be fantastic. Thank you, Laura.
It must have been very unsettling for ordinary immigrants to have been deemed ‘suspicious’ in their new home.
Heartbreaking. I’ve gone through thousands of documents at this point and together they paint a picture that brings tears to my eyes.
I look forward to your Finding Aid posts in the future.
SLIG is amazing, glad to read you had a great experience.
I’ve been distracted by these fonds since finding them on the 11th. I also found a second set, so it looks like I’ll be focusing on Japanese Canadian genealogy for the next few posts. Stay tuned!
I checked out your site too BTW – it’s beautiful.