Canadian Genealogy · Canadian laws · Chinese Genealogy · Family history stories

The startling details of a Chinese Case File, pt. 3 – stories & tools for analysis

In this post, I share the third and final story from George Sing’s Chinese Case file. As material, I am using one Case File to show the breadth and depth that such a file contains.

If you’d like to read them in order, start with The startling details of a Chinese Case File – the story of Quon Hing, aka George Sing, pt. 1.

The story so far (1900-48)

According to his Chinese Case file, George Sing, fifteen, arrived at Victoria in 1900.1 He paid a head tax and was admitted. During the next fifty years, he established restaurants in Saskatchewan and was considered a model citizen by all except immigration and judicial authorities. In 1922, he had been judged “guilty by association” for being in a building where drugs were found. It’s likely this narcotics conviction gave officials an excuse to deny George’s 1938 application to shelter his teenaged son Quon Yet Gee in Canada. Gee’s fate is unknown. Nine years later, George brought his son Quon Yip Get to Canada, and in the letters we learned about George’s third son, Quon Dong Set, a Canadian war correspondent who died at Shanghai in 1946.

This is the story of Quon Yip Get, aka Earl Quon.

The story of Earl Quon (1957)

George Sing’s Case File ends with four letters in 1957. It is likely the letters are file copies – created to update one file while simultaneously building another. They refer to George obliquely – their main focus is his son, QUON Yip Get. Typical for genealogy, they raise more questions than they answer.

Canadian Citizenship (post-1947)

On 20 Sep 1957, Quon Yip Get – who now goes by Earl Quon – receives a response to his application for Canadian citizenship. Naturally, they can’t find his immigration file and ask for more information: what is the exact spelling of your name at arrival, what is the name of your sponsor to Canada, what is that person’s head tax number? Earl replied the next day.

Aside from the subject of the letter, there’s something deeper. Earl’s Canadian citizenship. Earl doesn’t need to apply for citizenship because he is already a citizen. His Canadian Immigration entry form (1948) said that he was “Admitted as Natural Born Canadian,” and is also stamped “NATURALIZATION.” [Click on the images.]

If you’re confused, so was I. Wasn’t Earl born in China?

This next part is thanks to my friend Carol, who explains that the Canadian Citizenship Act (1947) “…defined a “natural-born citizen” to include a child born outside of Canada before the date of the Act if the child’s father was a British subject domiciled in Canada at the time of the child’s birth.”2

Let’s take that one step at a time:

  • Earl was born outside of Canada – YES
  • Earl was born before the date of the Act (1947) – YES
  • Earl’s father was a British subject – YES. George was naturalized in 1911.
  • Earl’s father was domiciled in Canada at the time of the child’s birth – YES, George was in Canada when Earl was born.

There are no more letters in George’s file about Earl’s citizenship application. The next letters complete the file.

Last entry (Nov-Dec 1957)

The final two letters close George Sing’s Case File. By no means is this all that immigration has about the family, but it appears they are done with George. We learned from Earl that George left Canada in 1948.

Two months after Earl’s inquiry into his citizenship, the Department of Immigration at Hong Kong wrote to Earl’s local Immigration Officer at Val d’Or Quebec. Earl, holding his new Canadian passport, was applying to bring his fiancée to Canada. The last letter completes the correspondence. Earl’s accommodations, assets, friends, future prospects, income, and job had all been investigated. As the officer writes, “The Settlement Arrangements are considered satisfactory.”

The Case File for George Sing, formerly known as Quon Hing, is done.

Select key documents in George’s Case File

Chinese Immigration No. 29 form

Included in George’s file were a few forms I’d never seen before, such as his C.I.29 (1912). [Click on the images.]

A C.I.29 was used to apply for a lost head tax certificate and had an affidavit for four people: the subject, two witnesses, and a legal professional. In addition, a C.I.29 required the names of three other witnesses. The form was clear on what qualified a person to be a witness: the colour of their skin. On page one, George attested “…that I am well known to the following white men…” [Click on the images.]

On page two, two men provided affidavits sworn before a notary public. The bottom of the form states that “Affidavits on this side of sheet should be made by well known and responsible white men.”

George provided the names of his dentist, barrister, and bank manager. His sworn affidavits were from Oliver S. Black and J.C. Underhill.

Application for the Admission to Canada of Immigrants (1947)

Here is the Application for the Admission to Canada of Immigrants (1947) from the Department of Mines and Resources, Immigration Branch. It’s another fascinating form absolutely crammed with genealogical details. Is this form available for other immigrants to Canada? Now I know they exist, I’ll be on the lookout for them. [Click on the images.]

The Chinese Telegraphic Code Index Sheet

George Sing’s Case File contains a curious document: the “Chinese Telegraphic Code Index Sheet.” The codes themselves have been redacted by LAC.

Chinese Telegraphic Code Index Sheet, CH-1-6082, George Sing,
Chinese Telegraphic Code Index Sheet, CH-1-6082, George Sing

Without the information, it’s hard to ascertain what this card does. Is it a cross-referencing card, such as those used in the U.S.? Cross-referencing cards helped immigration authorities keep track of related files. The missing information could be other Chinese Case File numbers.

Another theory is that it helped clerks with Chinese names.

Buried deep in the files at LAC is finding aid 76-51 dated April 1991. This document is not online and does not – as of this writing – appear to be in LAC’s Collection Search. “Chinese Telegraphic Codes” appear to be a phonetic cross-referencing guide for Chinese names spelled in English. If that’s the case, it’s unknown why this information was redacted.

Documents list

Aside from correspondence, there are many documents in a Chinese Case file. It would be indiscreet to post them all here, but I will share a list.

  • File cover, front and back
  • Chinese Family Tree
  • Chinese Telegraphic Code Index Sheet (shown in this series)
  • Canadian Immigration Form and Card (1958)
  • Visa Immigration Form A
  • Canadian Immigration Service [entry form] (partially shown in this series)
  • Application for the Admission to Canada of Immigrants (shown in this series)
  • Application for the Admission to Canada of the Following Described Immigrants, Canadian Pacific Steamships
  • RCMP Questionnaire (1922)
  • C.I.29 Application [application for replacement C.I.5 with affidavits] (shown in this series)

Documents not in the file

As genealogists, we are trained to look for what is missing.

I note that while George Sing’s Case File contains a rich set of records, it is missing his C.I.5, C.I.9s, C.I.28, and C.I.44. This is curious given all the conversations about his supporting documentation. It’s also missing page sixteen. Instead, there is a page stating the document was withheld pursuant to s.19(1) of the Access to Information Act.3 This relates to personal information.

19 (1) Subject to subsection (2), the head of a government institution shall refuse to disclose any record requested under this Part that contains personal information.

Section 19(1) of the Access to Information Act, 1985

Based on its physical placement in the file, I theorize the missing page is circa 1950s.

Two methods for analysis

Printing and Sorting

People have asked me how to process a Chinese Case file.

George Sing's Chinese Case File,
George Sing’s Chinese Case File

I consider these files too important not to give them the full treatment, beginning with printing every sheet in colour, single-sided. Then I sorted and collated all the documents by date. There will inevitably be pages without dates – these should be kept with their cover letters. Finally, I sorted them in three categories: i) letters and memos; ii) immigration forms; and iii) file sheets.

Create a correspondence tracker

My next step is to create a correspondence tracker in Excel. [Click on the image.]

A correspondence tracker helps me make sense of the correspondence and highlights who is writing to whom, where they are based, and what they are talking about. I leave a column to record all the file numbers because every office had multiple numbers. I summarize the intent of each letter – not because I am never referring back to the original – but to ask myself What is the point of this letter? Finally, I record the insights and ideas that come to me.

About this project and going forward

In this series, I have focused on one Chinese Case file as the source material and applied an intensive analysis to the correspondence. I estimate I’ve expended forty hours since receiving the file. This is valuable information for a professional genealogist, above what I’ve learned from the file itself.

My advice to all those who have acquired one or more Case Files: Go slowly. Take your time processing. Write a story.

As family historians, we are addicted to the serotonin hit that discovery brings. As soon as the high wears off, we are back digging for more. Show me a genealogist and I’ll show you a backlog of unprocessed materials. Polar opposite to the fun of discovery is the work of analysis. I hope this series shows the understanding that can only come by going slowly and doing the heavy lifting.


I’m still processing my feelings about successfully acquiring George Sing’s Chinese Case file. About the eight-six pages. The fifty letters and memos. The detailed discussions about a man’s life and the judgement implicit in every page. About how George had to prove himself over and over again. About how he was convicted of being “technically in possession” of drugs merely by being in the building, and how, although he paid his debt, was harshly judged thereafter. I’m so glad this story has a happy ending in the immigration of his son Earl and Earl’s eventual marriage because I’m not sure I could have managed to finish had it gone the other way.

In this series, I have been more discreet about Earl’s details. There is a small chance he and his wife are still living. The Case File has been redacted, meaning I don’t have Earl’s year of birth or age. Like all genealogical cases, one must draw a line somewhere, and I chose to focus my inquiry on the information in this file alone.

Next week: How you can get your family’s case file

Thank yous

For this series, I’d like to thank my teachers, Carol Lee, Marisa Louie Lee (no relation), and Kelly Summers. To Robert Louie, for sharing his research. And to the family of George Sing, thank you. If you are reading this series and are related to this family, I’d love to connect.


1Canada, Department of Citizenship and Immigration, Immigration Branch, Ottawa, Ontario, Chinese case files, File #CH-I-6082 for Quon Hing, RG 76, accession no. 1984-85/041 GAD, Library and Archives Canada, Access to Information Request file no. [redacted], filed 3 Oct 2020, received 1 Aug 2023, 86 PDF pages.

2Daniel Meister et al., “Canadian Citizenship Act, 1947 | Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21,” undated, Museum and archives, Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 ( : accessed 21 Aug 2023); Correspondence among the author and Carol [redacted], 13 Aug 2023.

3Canada, Government of Canada, website, Access to Information Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. A-1), subsection 19(1) Personal information, Ottawa, ON, Justice Laws Website (,Part%20that%20contains%20personal%20information. : accessed 22 Aug 2023).

10 thoughts on “The startling details of a Chinese Case File, pt. 3 – stories & tools for analysis

  1. Hi Linda, thank you for the mention. I like your attention to detail in your analysis and the sharing of your techniques on organizing all of this info. With regards to the telegraph code I can explain this further. It became evident to the government that identifying Chinese people through their Chinese names was important. Romanized names on their own just didn’t cut it because they are phonetic and dialect based. The Chinese telegraph code was created to represent the Chinese written characters themselves with each Chinese character represented by a 4 digit number. This allowed transmission of the Chinese character by telegraph. Nowadays the accepted standard is Unicode and transmission is via the internet. Although I don’t see it in the above IMM 55B form I have seen others with handwritten Chinese names along with telegraph codes.

    1. I agree with you, Robert. Even though the information is redacted, it is possible the archives didn’t understand the codes and was nervous it was releasing more information than it intended. It’s ironic that the redaction of this information causes me to think even more closely about what was left OFF the form.

  2. Although I have no Chinese ancestors, I always read your blogs thoroughly for the process of research & analysis. Yes, sometimes one must do w.o.r.k. to be able to find/recognize the useful details of the correct ancestors. Elizabeth Shown Mills, with her once/month Fridays on Legacy Webinars, uses case studies for examples of the depth of digging one needs. Including learning all one can on the place, culture, habits, naming, etc. She tossed off a brief statement of skim-reading through over 10,000 pages of parish registers in one place in order to learn and be familiar what was necessary…
    This case study is a superb piece of work, Linda.

    1. I’m a huge fan of ESM’s work and to be compared to her is quite a compliment. Thank you, Celia.

      Genealogy is such an ocean of information to absorb that we are all going to be lifelong students. What I love is that each of us has an innate set of skills we bring, which makes each person’s pursuit unique.

  3. Thank you for these incredibly insightful blog posts — especially the case studies. I’m learning tons about the research process, all the hurdles, and about a largely forgotten part of Canadian history. Gratitude and respect to you for your generosity: with your expertise and experience and your ability to communicate with great clarity. I rarely comment, but wanted to acknowledge, as an archivist trying to help those doing genealogical research, how much you’re helping so many, including me!

    1. Equal gratitude to you for sharing your knowledge with me, Blair.

      Sharing my research questions online – and breaking all the rules by writing way more than 500 words at a time – allows me to connect with people I never knew existed who also love the same things I love. History. People. And the reasons why people do what they do.

    1. Sadly, I don’t. It seems authorities have no sense of the art of storytelling. How could they compile all of this and not want to know the end of the story? Sheesh.


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