We began 2023 with about forty-eight thousand C.I.9s and we end with almost double. The questions that come up for me are: Is this it? Do we have all the C.I.9s now?
A love of art has enriched my life in countless and unexpected directions. When I remember those long, slow, frequently wet days spent at galleries, it's with a sense of peace and quietude that is missing from my normal life. Greg's work reminds me of all of it - from gallery to street - and underneath all of that, to my family.
This is the follow up post to "Chinese Immigration Act Case Files: Finding aids at LAC," written exactly three years ago. In that post, I'd hoped to one day acquire a Canadian Chinese Case file. Now I have seen four and they are everything I'd hoped - and feared - they would be. For my community, simultaneously ignored by some systems while being overdocumented in others, it feels right that we reacquire the information collected about us.
In this series, I have focused on one Chinese Case file as the source material and applied an intensive analysis to the correspondence. My advice to all those who have acquired one or more Case Files: Go slowly. Take your time processing. Write a story.
When I reflect on this story about George Sing's ten year battle to bring his sons Gee and Get to Saskatchewan set against the backdrop of the Second Sino-Japanese War where twenty million Chinese died, I'm reminded of another sorry tale in Canadian immigration history. A high-level immigration official, when asked how many Jews should be admitted to Canada during the Second World War, said, “None is too many.” This xenophobic quote has been ascribed to Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King and Immigration Director Frederick Blair and is probably neither but shows the attitude at the highest levels of government. Canadian Immigration, helmed by Blair, was deaf to the pleas of Canadians desperate to shelter their relatives living under the threat of war and too many died as a result of his "careful control" of Canada's borders.
I received my first Canadian Chinese Case file this summer. And it's everything I hoped (and feared) it would be. For some time my research into the records of the sixty years of the Chinese Immigration Act (1885-1947) has been hinting at something bigger. And that the currently available bits and pieces refer to an even bigger genealogical treasure in Chinese Case files.
Censuses are considered some of the foundational record collections in genealogy. However, as comprehensive as they are, they are not a full picture of who was in the country. Gaps include the people of all underrepresented populations. In this post, guest Carol F. Lee shares her story about looking for – but not finding – her grandfather Quan Gow in the 1931 Canada census.
I've been working on Chinese Canadian genealogy for almost three decades. It's almost laughable how forgotten our history has been. I think of how I have spent twenty years visiting used bookstores looking for any mention of Chinese Canadian history. The idea that it was possible for one person to collect nearly all significant titles in this genre speaks volumes about its underrepresentation. But no longer. There are entire groups across Canada, the United States, and in Jiangmen, Guangdong, that are devoted to the study of Chinese diasporic history. Our rich stories are being uncovered, our records released.
I haven't had a moment to find my own families in the 1931 census and of course the moment I started looking, I ran straight into another genealogical mystery.
In this post I'd like to talk about navigating a "common record" set - voters lists - when the population was disenfranchised. There's an assumption in genealogy of "common records." Voters Lists fall in this category, along with censuses, vital records, and city directories. Chinese, Japanese, South Asians, and Indigenous were disenfranchised for decades, meaning that entire record sets that would generally be available for others have gaps for these groups. Knowing when this does and does not apply is important work for a genealogist.