Gaijin Girl at the National Archives: Day 1

by Linda Okazaki

This morning I took the metro and arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed at the National Archives in Washington DC. Before even walking in the door I was awe inspired, but I was also armed with a research plan. I had done my homework. First, I had to register, get a pass and go through some hoops. Next, I had to request the records. Archives I is going through a renovation. Not everything is where it used to be or where archivists think it might be. The golden rule: be patient, it will serve you well. I really wanted documents from Record Group 210. Everything at NARA is defined in terms of Record Groups (RG’s). My goal was to obtain records on the Okazaki and Osuga families. Lucky for me, archivist Bill Creech was on hand to clarify some of the peculiarities of this particular family. Not all Japanese internment camp records are the same. Fortunately, I was well armed with assorted pieces of information, including   surviving family members authorizing my perusal of and complete access to their records. This is key. Privacy   restrictions are in place but if living relatives want you to obtain these records and declare so in writing, access is virtually unlimited. And I hit the jackpot! I read letters from family members whose handwriting I recognized in a heart beat. I saw photos of internees. I viewed their letters of inquiry searching for their lost personal possessions, medical records and more. The impact this had upon me was unexpected. It’s one thing to find documents pertaining to long deceased ancestors. It’s entirely different to look at papers documenting the legal injustices perpetrated upon family. I was completely unprepared for the wave of emotion as I read about the incarceration of men who were detained by the FBI and all that happened as a result. Tomorrow I am headed to Archives II. In the meantime, I have been told that the A-files for my grandfather-in-law have arrived via USPS at my home in California. Is the puzzle nearly complete? Or will I have more questions  than answers as I maneuver my way through the Japanese American experience?