Linda's Orchard

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Category: Nkkei Genealogy

Northwest Genealogy Conference: An Opportunity for Nikkei to Find their Roots

This summer there will be a genealogy conference held in the Pacific Northwest, just outside of Seattle. Aside from Jamboree, which is held every June in Southern California, this is the largest genealogy event in the west. There will be some BIG name speakers including Lisa Louise Cooke, Luana Darby, Cindy Ingle, Angela Packer McGhie, CeCe Moore, Elissa Scalise Powell, Judy Russell, and many more. Classes are suitable for a variety of levels. This event combines the best of genealogy, from beginning classes to DNA to understanding the law. On top of that, there will be two classes geared for just Nikkei. The first lecture is “Finding Your Japanese Roots in the US” and the second lecture is “Finding Your Japanese Roots in Japan.” Bring your JA friends, and learn all about documenting your heritage. Come for a day or two or three. There are even some free beginning classes before the event. Registration opens April 15. See Northwest Genealogy Conference for more details.

Combined Flyer Low Res (1)

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.

German Americans in U.S. Internment Camps?

IMG_1433

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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.

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