Canadian Genealogy · Canadian laws · Chinese Genealogy

Chinese Immigration Act Case Files: Finding aids at LAC

This post is for everyone who has asked me about Chinese Immigration Act (CIA) Case files. It may be that you’re familiar with the Chinese Exclusion Act (CEA) Case Files (USA) or that you’ve found some evidence of the CIA files during your research. I too have been more than curious about these files. This is what I’ve got so far. I have good news and not so good news.

The good news: there is a potential bonanza of Chinese case files to find at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Plus, a number of the finding aids (documents compiled by archivists that help describe the contents of the archive files) are available, and even list the files by name. If you find a name that looks familiar, you can proceed to the next step of trying to acquire a file.

The not so good news: these files are accessible only by an Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) request. Said LAC:

This does not mean that you cannot consult the files, but that they will need to be reviewed to see if access can be given.

Discover the access codes for archival records at Library and Archives Canada, 16 Feb 2012. Library and Archives Canada Blog.

This post will explore what I’ve found and give instructions for filing an ATIP request.

What is a Chinese Immigration Act Case file?

Here is the description for one set of files from LAC:

These records consist of individual Chinese immigration case files in the “CH” series, created by federal officials to screen prospective immigrants to which the Chinese Immigration Act (1885-1947) applied. Many files also contain documentation on immigration of relatives arriving after the repeal of the Act in 1947. The files tend to contain extremely detailed documentation not only on the individual in whose name was opened, but also on the person’s relatives both immediate and distant. The records usually include various C.I. certificates, sponsorship application forms, and correspondence concerning employment and formely relationships both before and after 1947. Some contain extremely detailed genealogical reviews, family trees, interviews describing family life in the home villages in China, and formal documentation for immigration inquiries or Immigration Appeal Board cases. Arrival records for many of these individuals are found in the Registers of Chinese Immigration in RG 76 series VI. 

Library and Archives Canada, Chinese Case Files [textual records]. Reference: RG76. Accession number: 1983-84/348 GAD, Accession number: 1983-84/348 GAD. Accessed 26 Aug 2020.

This is just ONE of the sets of Chinese case files at LAC. There are 98 boxes in this set, which if you stacked them end to end measure out as 29.4 m. How much is 30 m? As tall as a church tower. This tall, in fact. Remember, this is only one of the sets of files at LAC.

St Andrew’s parish church, Cheddar, Somerset, seen from the south. Wikimedia Commons. Dbown100 / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)

Chinese immigration index cards?

If I were able to visit LAC in person, I would first request this file: Chinese Immigration index cards, as it looks like the key to the boxes of files. Naturally, this very intriguing finding aid is not available online, but the description says,

Textual records: (Paper) This finding aid is in the form of a list. It provides the index card box number, as well as the first and last surname of the individuals whose index cards can be found in each box. These index cards are arranged alphabetically, therefore the list indicates which surnames can be found in each box. Due to the presence of personal information. This finding aid is restricted. 76-184

Chinese Immigration index cards [textual record]. Reference RG76. BAN: 1998-01077-5. Library and Archives Canada.

Finding Aids online at LAC

My intent in compiling this list is to illustrate the depth and breadth of files, and as far as possible within the limitations, to give you a sense of what information was collected for the Chinese in Canada.

This is a list of the finding aids (FAs) I’ve been able to locate online at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Please note this is not an exhaustive list of Chinese case files at LAC but rather only a list of the finding aids that are available online. I may consider compiling an exhaustive list of finding aids, online or not, in the future, and if I do, I will update this post.

To use this table, you will need both the FA# and the Title. For some odd reason, the finding aids are not listed with the record information. The Record Group (RG) and Accession #s are those listed at LAC. See the FA for the original RG descriptions.

Finding Aid (FA)Description
76-76Title: Toronto, Chinese Case files.

RG & Accession: RG76. Accession number: 1984-85/003 GAD, OFRC#70-H OFRC

Finding aid description: This is a file list listing all files in each box. The list gives box number, CH file number, name of head of family or individual (or, in some cases where the file relats to persons belonging to a group, the name of the organization or business involved).

Dates of files: 1900-1966

Notes: PDF file, 307 pages. Lists Vol #, File # and Name / title. There are 120 boxes. This is a listing of names.
Access code: 32: Restricted by law.
76-77Title: Chinese Case files

RG & Accession: RG76. Accession number: 1984-85/041 GAD

Dates: 1900-1966

Finding aid description: This is a file list listing all files in each box. The list gives box number, CH file number, name of head of family or individual (or, in some cases where the file relates to persons belonging to a group, the name of the organization or business involved).

Notes: PDF file, 87 pages. Lists CH#, person by name, Box #. Box Range: 1-142.
Access code: 32: Restricted by law.
76-81 Title: Immigration Branch, Victoria Office, Lookout and Hindu and Chinese Case Files.

RG & Accession: RG76. Accession number: 1984-85/279 GAD, VFRC#FAD83-27 VFRC

Dates of files: 1920-1970

Description: This is a file list listing only the first and last files in each box.

Related Finding-Aids: Similar accessions are described in (among others) FA 76-113.

Notes: PDF file, 4 pages. Contains lists of Box #, Dept file #, CH#. No names.
Access code: 32: Restricted by law.
76-84Title: Chinese Case files.

RG & Accession: RG76. Accession number: 1984-85/527 GAD

Dates of files: 1900-1966

Finding aid description: This is a file list listing all files in each box. The list gives box number, CH file number, name of head of family or individual (or, in some cases where the file relates to persons belonging to a group, the name of the organization or business involved). Date: 1 Feb 1989.

Related Finding Aids: Consult Finding Aid 76-50, 76-51, 76-52 (nominal indexes).

Notes: PDF file, 54 pages. Lists CH#, person by name, Box #. Box Range: 1-56.
Access code: 32: Restricted by law.
76-90Title: Chinese Case Files, “F” Sample.

RG & Accession: RG76. Accession number: 1985-86/054 GAD

Finding aid description: This is a file list listing all files in each box. The list gives box number, CH file number, name of head of family or individual (or, in some cases where the file relates to persons belonging to a group, the name of the organization or business involved). Date: 1 Jan 1988.

Dates of files: 1900-1970

Related Finding Aids: The finding aids for other accessions of Chinese case files (RG96 series D2(g) include FAs 76-74, 76-76, 76-77, 76-84, 76-93, and 96-94. Nominal indexes are in FAs 76-50, 76-51 and 76-52.

Notes: PDF file, 5 pages. Lists CH#, person by name, Box #. Box Range: 1-6. All the names in this FA have at leaset one name beginning with “F”, e.g., Fong, Fung, Fee, Fook, Foon.
Access code: 32: Restricted by law.
76-93Title: Chinese Case Files.

RG & Accession: RG76. Accession number: 1985-86/265 GAD

Dates of files: 1900-1967

Finding aid description: This is a file list listing all files in each box. The list gives box number, CH file number, name of head of family or individual (or, in some cases where the file relates to persons belonging to a group, the name of the organization or business involved). Date: Nov 1990.

Notes: PDF file, 53 pages. Lists CH# and person by name. Sorted in order of boxes. Box Range: 1-70. Notation says “1467 files” and “c. 1900-1967”.
Access code: 32: Restricted by law.
76-94Title: Chinese Case files, “F” sample.

RG & Accession: RG76. Accession number: 1985-86/266 GAD

Finding aid description: This is a file list listing all files in each box. The list gives box number, CH file number, name of head of family or individual (or, in some cases where the file relates to persons belonging to a group, the name of the organization or business involved).

Dates of files: 1912-1973.

Notes: Box Range: 1. PDF file, 2 pages. Lists CH# and person by name. All names begin with “F”, i.e., Fong and Fung.
Access code: 32: Restricted by law.
76-101Title: Canada Immigration Centre, Vancouver Metro – Immigration Case Files (5133 and P/PD Series, “F” Sample) and Chinese Immigration Case files.

RG & Accession: RG76. Accession number: 1985-86/474 GAD, VFRC#FAD85-80 VFRC

Finding aid description: This is a file list listing all files in each box by file number only. There is no nominal list or other finding aid. These records are located at the Vancouver Federal Records Centre. They are not available on microfilm. To retrieve a specific file at the VRFC, we suggest you record at least the RG76 accession number, temporary box number, file number, and file part number. Please also check the access status of the files desired. Date: 1 Jan 1988.

Dates of files: 1900-1980

Related Finding Aids: Among finding aids for similar accessions are FAs 76-82, 76-99, 76-100, 76-103, and 76-114.

Notes: Box Range: 1-35. PDF file, 19 pages. Lists Box #’s and file numbers. No names.
Access code: 32: Restricted by law.
76-109Title: Canada Immigration Centre, Vancouver Metro Chinese Case files, XY Series.

RG & Accession: RG76. Accession: 1986-87/218 GAD, VFRC#82-128 VFRC

Finding aid description: This is a file list listing the first and last files in each box, by file number only. There is no other finding aid. These records are held at the Vancouver Federal Records Centre. Consult the archivist for further information. Date: 1 Jan 1988.

Dates of files: 1952-1980

Related Finding Aids: The finding aids for other accessions of Chinese case files in RG 76 series D2(g) include FAs 76-74, 76-76, 76-77, 76-84, 76-90, 76-93, 76-94, 76-101, 76-102, and 76-110. The HQ nominal indexes are in FAs 76-50, 76-51 and 76-52, but it is not clear whether or not they contain entries for these specific files.

Notes: Box Range: 1-38. PDF file, 4 pages. The interior file description says, “These are records of the Employment & Immigration Commission, Immigration Centre, Vancouver Metro, Vancouver, BC.; Examination of immigrants and other persons entering Canada, selection & processing, correspondence with administrative, legal and other decisions, Chinese family files. Box and ID #s. No names listed.
Access code: 32: Restricted by law.
76-110Title: Canada Immigration Centre, Vancouver Metro Chinese Case Files and Subject Files.

RG & Accession: RG76. Accession: VFRC#74-D-3 VFRC, 1986-87/226 GAD

Finding aid description: This is a file list listing the first and last files in each box, by file number only. There is no other finding aid. These records are held at the Vancouver Federal Records Centre. Consult the archivist for further information. Date: 1 Jan 1988.

Dates of files: 1913-1972

Related Finding Aids: The finding aids for other accessions of Chinese case files in RG 76 series D2(g) include FAs 76-74, 76-76, 76-77, 76-84, 76-90, 76-93, 76-94, 76-101, 76-102, and 76-110. The HQ nominal indexes are in FAs 76-50, 76-51 and 76-52, but it is not clear whether or not they contain entries for these specific files.

Notes: PDF file, 3 pages. The interior file description says, “These are records of the Department of Manpower & Immigration Pacific Region. They are filed numerically by groups. Immigration Case files 499412-499434.” Box and file #’s. No names listed.
Access code: 32: Restricted by law.
76-149Title: Chinese case files, Toronto Regional Office

RG & Accession: RG76. Accession number: 1993-94/272 GAD

Dates of files: 1967-1977

Finding aid description: The finding aid is a file list indicating box number, file number, file title and outside dates. The following information is required to order a box: RG #, Accession #, Box #. Date: July 1994.

Notes: PDF file, 6 pages. Boxes 1-2. No names.
Access code: 32: Restricted by law.
76-174Title: Chinese case files, Canadian Immigration Centre, Toronto (CH & XY Series)

RG & Accession: RG76. Accession number: 1996-97/831 GAD, TFRC#81-102 TFRC BAN: 1996-01830-2.

Dates of files: 1970-1980

Finding aid description: The finding aid is a file list indicating box number, file number range for records within each box. The following information is required to order a box: RG#, Accession #, Box #, File #. Date: August 1997.

Notes: PDF file, 6 pages. Boxes 1-114. No names.
Access code: 32: Restricted by law.

Abbreviations used

Access Code 32Restricted by law; may be available with ATIP request
ATIPAccess to Information and Privacy
BAN NumberBranch Accession Number, unique ID assigned to archival material once accepted to archives; establishes intellectual control; supercedes all other control #s
CICCanada Immigration Centre
FAFinding Aid
GADGovernment Archives Division
GAD Reference NumberFile number assigned by GAD to specific files
LACLibrary and Archives Canada
PDFPortable document file
RGRecord Group. In this case, RG76 are the “Records of the Immigration Branch”.
TFRCPossibly Toronto Federal Record Centre
VFRCPossibly Vancouver Federal Record Centre

Q&As with LAC – how to acquire a file

Over the past several months, I’ve been trying to get more information on these files. Here are my questions and the answers I’ve received.

Q: I’m looking into Canadian Chinese Case files. What can you tell me about them?

These accessions form part of a subseries titled Chinese Immigration Case files.

There are currently 55 accessions within this subseries, containing case files from various areas of the country, and with various date ranges. Since these are Government of Canada records, they are subject to the Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) laws, and would require ATIP review prior to consultation and/or copying. Given the personal information contained within case files, the more recent files would likely be restricted, but access may be possible for the earlier records.

As we discussed, the first step would be to request a copy of the finding aid, or to use the Ask Us a Genealogy Question Form to ask if a specific case file exists within these accessions.

Q: Please, how can we access the files listed in Finding Aid 76-84, Record Group 76 (Immigration), Series D 2 (g) – Chinese Case Files, Accession Number 84-85/527, Box Range 1-56?  I’m a genealogist who studies the history and immigration of the Chinese in Canada. I’m not able to travel to Ottawa readily – is there a way to request copies of specific files? What would be the restrictions and requirements?

Please note that this series of files is “Code 32: restricted by law.” This does not mean that you cannot consult the files, but that they will need to be reviewed to see if access can be given. You will need to submit an Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) request in order to determine if these documents can/should be opened to the public. 

You can submit an Access to Information and Privacy request at the following link.

You will need to provide a complete reference number for each of the files in which you are interested.Using the finding aid mentioned above, an example of a complete reference for one of the Chinese Case Files is as follows:”Lee Hee Woo” RG76, Acc No 1984-85/527, Box 1, File 15690 Other examples of references can be found at this link.

Q1: I am wondering if LAC is considering releasing these to the public at a particular date in the future? I realize they are currently classed as Code 32: restricted by law, however, does that law have a time limit?

The release of personal information is allowed 20 years after the death of an individual or, when this date is impossible or impractical to determine, 110 years after its date of birth. It would, therefore, be possible to release information on specific individuals based on these markers. It is also possible to open an entire series when an assessment concludes that the individuals documented in the series were indeed born more than 110 years ago, but the work involved in determining the appropriate date of such release is nonetheless quite important.  The “Chinese case file ” series is one of great interest for LAC’s clients, but its characteristics do not make it suitable for a block review at the time being. Once we will be able to move ahead with a global review and open the series, we will announce it on our Web site and social media platforms to highlight this much-awaited release!

Next steps

I’ve printed all the finding aids I’ve found and have started flipping through them. This week, I’m going to file an ATIP request. This’ll be a long process – I’ll report back.

past-presence.com
Printed binder of finding aids for Chinese Immigration Act case files found at Library and Archives Canada. ©2020 Past Presence.

Thanks

As ever, I could not do this work without the help of many people. Aside from Marisa L., I would like to thank the fine folk at Order in Council Lists, Glenn W., Henry Y., and many archivists at LAC who have patiently answered my questions as I fumbled around the files.

Also, I have a favour to ask you. If you find a link that doesn’t work or takes you to the wrong place, please let me know. I kept getting confused when compiling the table and I have this feeling I’ve messed it up. Thank you!

Postscript

Immediately after publishing this post, I had a brainwave. If you find a name that might be your family member in one of these finding aids, let’s collaborate. I’d like to help you acquire a file, and learn what the process entails.

5 thoughts on “Chinese Immigration Act Case Files: Finding aids at LAC

  1. This is fantastic, Linda! I’m thrilled you’re taking a crack at these records. For your list of abbreviations used, my guess at TFRC and VFRC are that “FRC” is “Federal Records Centre” — see the description for 76-101. So Toronto and Vancouver, respectively? We refer to Federal Records Centers as “FRCs” here in the USA as well. They are records storage facilities for federal records, typically in the active lifecycle of the record (e.g., when they are still owned/controlled by the agency that created them, before they are either permanently transferred to our National Archives or disposed of at the end of their lifecycle.)

    I’ll be in touch with you directly about some of my thoughts about these records and a question about the index cards.

    1. Hi Marisa, thanks so much for the thoughts on abbeviations. They do make sense, so I’ve added them to the post.

      I always enjoy talking to you – connect with me anytime.

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