Linda's Orchard

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Church Camp? No, Not Exactly

Linda Harms Okazaki, Sumi  Utsushigawa Shimatsu, Maru Okazaki Hiratzka, Jan Jarboe Russell

Linda Harms Okazaki, Sumi Utsushigawa Shimatsu, Maru Okazaki Hiratzka, Jan Jarboe Russell

 

Most Americans know something about the internment of Japanese (immigrants and Americans) during World War II. Most of those incarcerated during this time were held first at Assembly Centers (primarily animal quarters at racetracks) and then sent to one of ten camps run by the War Relocation Authority. Few people know about the camps run by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Fewer still realize that those camps also held Germans and Italians, their American families, and Japanese Latin Americans who were predominately from Peru. Crystal City was one of those camps. Located in south central Texas not far from the Mexican border, it was chosen for its distance from either coast. Created as a way to reunite enemy aliens with their families, the camp also served as part of an exchange program to bring Americans back to the United States. [i]

On 8 March 2014 I had the pleasure of attending a presentation and book signing by author Jan Jarboe Russell whose book, “The Train to Crystal City”, was published by Scribner in January of this year. She has toured the U.S. promoting this book. I was delighted to know that Northern California and Honolulu were on her schedule. Russell’s non-fiction book is noteworthy because in it she included all ethnic groups incarcerated in the U.S. during WWII. She not only described the events leading up to the detention of individuals, but she focused on the lives of two American girls, one of German ancestry and one of Japanese. Russell conducted many interviews in her research, but the lives of Sumi and Ingrid took center stage in the book. Russell also brought to light a different side of the prisoner of war exchange as she described the family of Irene Hasenburg, a Jewish woman who survived the horrors of Bergen-Belsen entirely because of this prisoner of war exchange program.

I was intrigued as Russell described her research to the audience of mostly Nikkei (people of Japanese ancestry) at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California. Russell explained how, as a student at the University of Texas at Austin, she met architecture professor, Alan Taniguchi. He was the first Asian person she had ever met. When she asked him how his family came to Texas, he said they were “in camp”. Anyone familiar with Japanese American history knows the meaning of “camp”, but she innocently asked if he meant church camp? No, it wasn’t exactly church camp.

This early encounter with Taniguchi set the stage for what would eventually become a book about Crystal City. The events Russell wrote about are historically accurate, but the author created a work that also captivated me. As Russell described her book that sunny afternoon in March, her voice faltered, her emotions were palpable. This project touched Jan Jarboe Russell in unimaginable ways; she explained that during the writing process she found herself “weeping at the terrible injustice.”

Following Russell’s presentation of the book, two former internees participated in a panel discussion. Americans by birth, Nob Fukuda and Sumi Shimatsu both were detained at Crystal City; they and their families were featured prominently in the book. In addition, Irene Hasenburg’s son (she of Bergen-Belsen) was in the audience. There were 18 former Crystal City internees in attendance, all Nikkei, though Germans have attended other book signings. For many, it had been decades since they had seen one another. The passage of time made it difficult for some to recognize one another, but as the conversations bloomed, so did old friendships. Sumi has been instrumental in maintaining communication among these people. She has published a newsletter for Crystal City detainees for decades. For the Germans, there is a website that promotes communication about the experience: http://www.gaic.info/camp_doj.html.

Unfortunately, Crystal City did not close her doors until 1948, a concept difficult for many of us to imagine, considering that the war “ended” in August 1945.

From the perspective of a book lover, this was an interesting read. From the perspective of a genealogist, I found Russell’s method of citations to be interesting and unconventional. She chose to annotate her sources and notes at the end of the book, divided by chapter. Though unusual, I found this format to be academically useful; I can look back to her sources quickly and easily. As a genealogist, the first part of a book that I generally review is the index; I was not disappointed.

My ties to Crystal City are personal. My father-in-law was detained there, along with his siblings, parents, aunt and uncle. Except for one sibling, the family was repatriated to Japan at the end of the war. The consequences of this matter have impacted the family for decades. Due to laws of the time, my husband and his sibling were born stateless. The “Train to Crystal City” helps to explain this tragic time in our history.

This book is a must read for those who have ties to Crystal City, but also for anyone researching Alien Enemy records in the United States. Be prepared to weep at the injustice, just as the author did.

The Train to Crystal City panel discussion with Sumi Shimatsu, Jan Russel and Nob Fukuda

The Train to Crystal City panel discussion with Sumi Shimatsu, Jan Russel and Nob Fukuda

18 Former incarcerates from Crystal City Texas

18 former internees from Crystal City

 

 

[i] Texas Historical Commission, Crystal City Family Internment Camp: Enemy Alien Internment in Texas during World War II, 2011, (http://thc.state.tx.us/public/upload/crystal-city.pdf : accessed 16 March 2015); The Texas Observer, The Legacy of Crystal City, 14 January 2014, (www.texasobserver.org/otherness-among-us/ : accessed 16 March 2015); Denshō: The Japanese American Legacy Project, (www.densho.org: accessed 16 March 2015).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am SO there!

 

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Last year I attended the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree as a first-timer. Smaller than national conferences and less demanding than institutes, Jamboree was casual, fun and educational. Most of the speakers were nationally recognized. The icing on the cake? This event was and is held in my home state of California. I’ve registered for Jamboree 2015 and can hardly wait to attend, but I have to wonder, will there be another fashion show? Be sure to check out the website: http://www.genealogyjamboree.com.

 

 

 

 

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.

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