Linda's Orchard

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Pilgrimage: A Journey with a Purpose

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For more than 250 years, travelers were prohibited from entering or leaving Japan. During the Meiji Restoration, which began in 1868, Japanese were finally permitted to leave the country as “dekasegi,” or temporary workers. As with so many other immigrants, they sought economic prosperity in North America, Hawaii, and, eventually, Latin America and Australia. From 1910 to 1940, the Angel Island Immigration Station was the stopping point for about 85,000 Japanese immigrants, including thousands of picture brides.

On 4 October 2014, the Nichi Bei Foundation hosted a Nikkei Pilgrimage to this site. More than 600 attendees came to honor the immigrants who had been detained and processed on the island. The formal program included poetry, music, awards, and speeches. A reading by poet Hiroshi Kashiwagi and a dramatic performance written by Judy Hamaguchi were my favorite parts of the day. Inside the immigration station’s original Mess Hall were displays, a kids’ corner (sponsored by the Japanese American Museum of San José), and complimentary family history consultations (provided by the California Genealogical Society). Bento lunches were part of the experience as we reflected upon the Issei immigrants who came through Angel Island so many years ago.

Terumi and Ted Okazaki

Terumi and Ted Okazaki

 

A Family Affair

99 Newbury Street

99 Newbury Street

Old Burying Ground, Cambridge MA

Old Burying Ground, Cambridge

My initial introduction into the world of genealogy began in a way familiar to many young parents; the kids each had to complete a family tree for school and I didn’t know the names all my great grandparents. The children are now grown, my interest in family history is at an all time high, and my kids keep moving to great places for research.

The first big move was to upstate New York. My daughter decided to attend Syracuse University and I soon discovered a set of previously unknown second great grandparents who lived and died there. That set off four years of research trips covering courthouses, libraries, cemeteries and historical societies in ten different counties. After graduation, said daughter moved to Washington D.C., where I probably spent more time at Archives I and II than I actually spent with her; she was, after all, working during the day.

And then my son moved to Boston. Of course I had to visit. Last week, while he was otherwise occupied, I had some time to spare. What’s a genealogist to do? Head to NEHGS, of course. I’ve been a member for a few years, but have always researched their materials from a distance. With no laptop, no research plan, just a pencil and pad of paper, I arrived. The weather was unseasonably pleasant, the landscaping was in full bloom, and I entered through gorgeous double doors into a spectacular wood interior. Immediately I went to the 7th floor to look at the books and discovered David Allen Lambert sitting at the front desk assisting patrons. My time was limited so I hurriedly perused the stacks, took some notes on a handful of families, and proceeded to the 4th floor for a quick peek at the microfilm holdings. Sitting at that desk was Rhonda McClure. By this time I was a bit star struck and also out of time.

Lucky for me this was just the beginning. On 13 September 2014, NEHGS will be in Berkeley for an all day event in partnership with the California Genealogical Society. Chris Child and Alice Kane will present four different lectures, followed by dinner at the Hotel Shattuck. And in November, the California Genealogical Society will host a research tour back in Boston. Looks like I get to spend more time in New England visiting my son.

I can hardly wait to find out where the kids will move next.

 

Isla de los Angeles

 

California Genealogical Society Members: Kay Speaks, Grant Din, Linda Okazaki

California Genealogical Society Members:                                                                Kay Speaks, Grant Din, and Linda Okazaki

 

Angel Island is a beautiful place for a picnic, a picture perfect location for tourists and locals alike. But the real beauty lies in its history. I am a fourth generation San Franciscan who grew up in Marin County, but it wasn’t until I was an adult with children of my own that I understood my personal connection to this gem.

The largest island located in the midst of San Francisco Bay, Angel Island has a long and rich history. Occupied first by Coastal Miwok Indians, it was visited and named by Spanish explorers in the 1700′s. Later, there was a cattle ranch. Eventually the U.S. federal government took hold of the island. An army base operated there during the civil war. A quarantine station opened in 1891, and from 1910 to 1940, the government operated an immigration station. Though most immigrants were Chinese, individuals came from all over the world, including approximately 85,000 Japanese. POW’s were detained on the island during World War II, among them, hundreds of Japanese immigrants from Hawaii and the mainland who were declared Enemy Aliens. [i]

Over the past several decades, Angel Island became better known a place for recreation. Fortunately, numerous individuals have worked tirelessly to preserve the historical site. The Immigration Station Barracks now serve as a museum. The former Immigration Station Hospital is currently being renovated.

On July 19, 2014, the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation hosted a Family Reunion Day. Led by AIISF Community Relations Director Grant Din, speakers presented information about Chinese, Japanese and Russian immigrants, as well as employees who lived and worked there. This was particularly personal for me. My English immigrant great grandfather worked as a night watchman in the Quarantine Station for 11 years, during which time many of my husband’s Japanese family members were “processed” through the Immigration Station. My children’s history is two sided; speaking about both sides of their ancestry at this event was truly a privilege.

For additional information regarding the preservation of this historical site, please visit AIISF.org.

The Nichi Bei Foundation will host a Japanese American pilgrimage to the island on October 4, 2014. Please visit NichiBei.org later this summer for details.


[i]Erika Lee and Judy Yung, Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 9-27.

Half-a-Sansei

 

Tabara Village 1947

Tabara Village 1947

 

Those of us connected to the American Nikkei community know the usual vernacular: Issei, Nissei, Sansei, Yonsei and so on. Of course, there are a variety of other terms, Happa being the most prevalent in my family.

My husband recently coined his own term, Half-a-Sansei. You might wonder, shouldn’t that be Happa-Sansei? Well, no. Happa implies that the individual is racially mixed. Hubby is racially Japanese, born and bred in Tokyo, though educated there in American schools.

Is my husband “Nihonjin” or “Gaijin” or something else? His mother was and is a Japanese citizen, or Nihonjin. His father, born in California, WAS an American citizen, or Nissei. Sadly, Ojichan lost that citizenship at the end of WWII. As immigrant Asians, his parents were prohibited from becoming American citizens. After years spent incarcerated at multiple facilities in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, they chose repatriation to Japan when the war finally ended. Ojichan sailed with them aboard the S.S. Matsonia, arriving in Uraga Harbor on Christmas Day, 1945. He was a renunciate who gave up his American citizenship in order to remain with his parents. He was stateless until his U.S. citizenship was restored in 1949 at the U.S. Consulate Office in Kobe, Japan.[i] Ojichan remained in Japan for the next 50+ years, a reinstated American citizen working for the United States government. He married a Japanese citizen and had two children.

They were both born stateless.

When documenting family history, it is critical to understand the laws of the time. The old U.S. law is very clear. From 10 October 1952 until 14 November 1986, children born abroad to married parents consisting of one American citizen and one alien parent were ineligible for U.S. citizenship unless that American parent “was physically present in the U.S. or its territories for a period of at least 10 years at some point in his or her life prior to the birth, at least five of which were after his or her 14th birthday.”[ii] Ojichan left the U.S. just after his 18th birthday, having only lived there 4 years beyond the age of 14. To further complicate the situation, Japan does not recognize dual citizenship. In order for his children to become Japanese citizens, Ojichan would have been required to renounce his American citizenship once again.[iii] And that was out of the question.

At the age of 21, my husband received his American naturalization papers.[iv] He truly was half-a-sansei, with one Japanese parent and one Nissei parent. Our daughter was also born in Japan, but a few years after the 1986 law change. She was granted American citizenship by birthright. Is she Yonsei? Half-a-Yonsei? If I am Hakujin, maybe that makes her Hafu-Happa-Yonsei.

Glossary
Gaijin: Non-Japanese
Hafu: Ethnically half Japanese; term used in Japan
Hakujin: Caucasian
Happa: Ethnically mixed, originally a Hawaiian word
Issei: First generation Japanese immigrant
Nijonjin: Japanese citizen
Nissei: Second generation, born to Japanese immigrants
Sansei: Third generation, grandchildren of Japanese immigrants
Yonsei: Fourth generation, great grandchildren of Japanese immigrants

[i] Terumi Okazaki ([ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Lafayette, California), multiple interviews by Linda Harms Okazaki, 2012-2013; Video and audio recordings, privately held by interviewer, Lafayette, California. 2013.

[ii] U.S Citizenship and Immigration Service, Citizenship Through Parents, Online Instructional Pamphlet, (http://www.uscis.gov/us-citizenship/citizenship-through-parents : accessed 15 June 2014.)

[iii] The Ministry of Justice, The Japanese Nationality Law, Online Descriptive Pamphlet, (http://www.moj.go.jp/ENGLISH/information/tnl-01.html : accessed 15 June 2014.)

[iv] Naturalization Certificate, Okazaki Family Collection; privately held by Okazaki Family, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Lafayette, California, 2014.

A Sense of Community

The Kagami and Umemoto Family

Three Generations

Boy and His Grandmother

A Boy and His Grandmother

Labor of Love

Labor of Love

Japanese Cemetery in Colma

Japanese Cemetery in Colma

Spending a Saturday morning pulling weeds and raking leaves doesn’t sound like much fun. That is, unless you happen to be a cemetery-loving genealogist with a passion for all things Japanese.

On 17 May 2014, the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California held its annual clean-up day at the Japanese Cemetery in Colma. More than just a dusty experience, this event brought together a community of more than 200 individuals  from all over the Bay Area: children with their parents and grandparents, boy scouts, single adults and couples. Throughout the morning, people of all ages and abilities smiled and visited while filling dozens of trash bags. We broke briefly for a bento lunch and group photo before returning to the task of honoring the ancestors.

The genealogist in me was pleased to see the gentle care taken while cleaning the ohaka. No harsh chemicals or scrub brushes, just plenty of water and soft rags. Flowers were placed at many of the sites. Rubish and debris were removed. It was fun for me to combine two of my favorite things: genealogy and Nikkei culture. Along the way I made new friends. All in all, I left the experience dirty, exhausted, content, and pleased to be a part of this community.

What Does mtDNA Really Look Like?

DNA is a popular tool among genealogists. Y-DNA gives us great insight into specific ancestors in a direct male line. I was able to prove a connection to a family in England dating back to 1733 with yDNA. Autosomal DNA is tremendous for looking at ethnic origins. I have learned much about my early northern European ancestors.

mtDNA follows a direct maternal line to ancient origins. So far, I have only proven my direct female line back to Esther Amelia Gillett. Thanks to photography, I know what seven generations of mtDNA looks like. Happy Mother’s Day.

Esther Gillet circasophronia copyHarriet Mae Lane 1906Modeste Etheridge circa 1926 (1)Diane Orchard 1954Linda Harms 1977Samantha Okazaki 2007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

German Americans in U.S. Internment Camps?

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A true but bittersweet tale.

A Lutheran German American who was imprisoned in the U.S. as a very young boy has lunch at a Jewish deli in Manhattan with a Catholic genealogist from California. They talk about internment camps in the United States where Germans, Italians, and Japanese were detained.

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Werner Ulricht in person. He has been pivotal in my understanding of the Enemy Alien Detention Facility in Crystal City Texas. We have corresponded regularly over the past two years, but it’s always rewarding to meet a fellow researcher in person.

Most of us are familiar with the concept of Internment Camps during World War II; 120,000 individuals of Japanese descent were incarcerated. Lesser known is the story of German and Italian internees, thousands of whom were secretly transported (kidnapped) to the U.S. from central and south America. Some of the individuals were not released until more than a year after the end of World War II.

Werner is an American who was born to German immigrant parents; they were legal residents of the United States. His father was arrested during World War II, just as many Japanese immigrants were arrested. He and his family were incarcerated, first at Ellis Island and then Crystal City, Texas.  He is passionate about sharing this segment of history. The federal records of Werner’s family, and the thousands of other incarcerated German and Italian descendants and immigrants  can be found at the National Archives. These include case files, medical records, school records, arrest warrants and more.

Werner has done a magnificent job of teaching others about this dark period in our history. He was instrumental in developing the interpretive panels now on display in Crystal City at the site of that former internment camp. He even created a digitized map of the camp with such detail that the surnames of the families are labeled on each dwelling.

Unlike the Japanese residents of the United States (citizens or aliens), the Germans and Italians never received reparations or even an apology from our government. Why do so few Americans know this part of our history? Those of us who teach about Japanese Internment need to share the entire story and commemorate all individuals who were incarcerated, including the Aleutians, the Japanese Latin Americans (particularly the Japanese Peruvians), and most importantly, the Italians and Germans.

Thank you, Werner, for teaching us to remember.

Public Publication versus Public Domain

U.S. copyright law is pretty straightforward. Original work is copyright protected  until it is in the public domain. Blogs are publications and are (usually) original works of authorship. But publishing in a public venue, such as a blog, is NOT the same thing as public domain. Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, addresses the issue of copyright on a regular basis in her own blog (www.legalgenealogist.com/blog). As genealogists, we learn how important it is to cite our sources. It’s both the legal and the ethical thing to do.

Recently I found numerous pages of my blog “cut-and-pasted” into multiple online trees.  Once something is posted in an online tree, it spreads like wildfire. I’m all for sharing information, but cutting and pasting without asking? That’s just not right. The explanation I received from one “cut-and-paster” was that if I didn’t want my blog reprinted, I shouldn’t have put it on the internet in the first place, because the internet is “public”. Really? Isn’t being public the point of a blog? This blog is public but it is not in the public domain. Blogs are a bit like books. You aren’t supposed to scan an entire book (another topic addressed by Judy Russell) and you are supposed to cite the source. My point is that I want my blog to be public and I am happy to share information if I am asked. But I don’t want to find my work on someone’s public tree unless they have asked for permission to reprint, or at the very least, cited the source. Period.

Okay, I feel much better after that rant.

Adventures in Vancouver: Nikkei Place

Nikkei Place

Nikkei Place

The Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Center is located in Burnaby, Canada, just outside Vancouver. British Columbia has a long history of Japanese immigrants dating back to 1877 when Manzo Nagano first arrived. As in the United States, Nikkei residing in the military exclusion zone of western Canada during World War II were forced to evacuate to interior locations. But there were differences, too. Before the war, the Japanese in Canada  could own land, could marry Caucasians and could become naturalized citizens, though they were not allowed to vote. The  government records were also very different in Canada compared to the US.

Funded in part by redress money, the center serves the entire Nikkei community, from new immigrants and Japanese ex-pats to yonsei, gosei and so on. There is an attached Japanese market and senior housing. There are language classes, judo and kendo classes, a small museum and gift shop, a research room and archival holdings. Best of all, there are Nikkei Family History Workshops led by research archivist, Linda Kawamoto Reid.  A former nurse turned archivist, Linda was kind enough to give me a personal tour of the resource area and also time to do some personal research before the class.

Though I have a good working knowledge of records available for Japanese American research, I was at a loss as to how to search Japanese Canadian records. The pre-World War II Nikkei population in Canada was only about 22,000, as compared to approximately 120,000 in the western US. Racism was rampant in both countries. Ms. Reid explained to the group how to find their records in BC, at the Canadian National Archives and in Japan. She described the 1940 National Registration for all Canadians, the 1941 Enemy Alien Registration, lists of incarcerated individuals by camp, and the case files for those who owned property, businesses, boats and the like. She showed us books of family histories, and lists of residents created in 1920 and 1929 which included names, towns, prefectures of origin, and family members, all in both English and Kanji. I haven’t found anything quite like that in the US. Beyond the local and national records, Linda also taught the class how to access their koseki in Japan.

The class was organized and well planned. The instructor presented a wealth of examples for us to review after the presentation. She explained complex laws and cultural nuances, immigration records, and the plethora of Nikkei documentation unique to Canada. The handouts were invaluable. I am so glad to have attended this class and to have met another researcher interested in Nikkei records.

Linda Kawamoto Reid and Linda Okazaki

Linda Kawamoto Reid and Linda Okazaki

Nihonmachi and the National Archives

National Archives and Records Administration: Pacific Alaska Region

National Archives and Records Administration                     Pacific Alaska Region

For a genealogist, no trip to Seattle would be complete without a visit to the Pacific Alaska Region branch of the National Archives. I spent a full morning scrolling through dozens of rolls of microfilmed immigration records and also had the chance to visit with fellow California Genealogical Society member Trish Nicola. She is a NARA volunteer who specializes in records pertaining to the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Linda Okazaki and Trish Nicola

Linda Okazaki and Trish Nicola

For anyone interested in Japanese American history, the Nihonmachi district of Seattle is a must. This vibrant Japanese community originated in  the late 1800′s. Following World War II, the neighborhood fell into disrepair as the Nikkei were evacuated, first to assembly centers and then to WRA camps. Now the area is experiencing a revival. Shops and restaurants abound. What’s especially interesting is the way the community blends old and new. Stores mix modern clothing and Japanese antiques, long standing restaurants employ new Japanese immigrants, museums house historical artifacts and contemporary art. Even the Panama Hotel, made famous in the book, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, is open for business both as a hotel and tea shop. Everything feels interesting and alive.

Urban Revival in Nihonmachi

Urban Revival in Nihonmachi

Panama Hotel

Panama Hotel

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