By now you’ve likely seen the flurry of information about USCIS. Our records are at risk! RecordsNotRevenue is a grass roots campaign trying to stop the potential 492% increase at USCIS. If the fee hike passes, our records will be virtually inaccessible due to cost. These include A-files, C-files, Registry files, Visa files, and Alien Registration forms. And if these records are inaccessible, what’s next?
For anyone researching late 19th and 20th century immigrants, this is a HUGE roadblock. This impacts all of you researching Asians (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, etc.) who immigrated during this time frame, Italian Americans seeking dual citizenship, Jewish Americans, Mexican Americans, War Brides, immigrants who were interned during WWII (Japanese, Germans, Italians), and others.
This is personal for me. My husband’s immigrant grandfather was incarcerated during WWII at Tuna Canyon, Lorsdburg New Mexico, Santa Fe New Mexico, and Crystal City Texas. His A-file was hundreds of pages long. Fortunately, I ordered his A-file a number of years ago. Last January, I had the opportunity to speak with Marian Smith. She advised me that my husband also had an A-file! What a surprise. It cost me $65, but if the fee increase is approved, it would become cost prohibitive.
I urge you to share this information with as many people as you know. Encourage them to post their comments to the USCIS portal NO LATER THAN DECEMBER 16. Please contact your senators and representatives, as well. We’ve only got 10 days left to comment.
The Washington Post published an article on this matter just yesterday, as did the board of directors at the Nichi Bei Foundation (Nichi Bei Weekly 5 December 2019).
Dear Friends in the Genealogy and Research Community,
U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently proposed a 492% increase in fees for access to historical records held by the USCIS Genealogy Program. Many of these records should already be publicly accessible. USCIS is essentially holding the documents hostage, demanding individuals pay exorbitant fees to access documents of our immigrant ancestors. This has a tremendous impact on anyone engaging in 20th century immigration research, most notably Asian immigrants.
Please share this post with genealogical societies and historical organizations and every family historian and researcher you know. Become part of the national effort among the genealogy community to fight these increases by sharing your opinions and a link to the www.recordsnotrevenue.com on Facebook, twitter, and other social media.
The price increases apply to the A-files, such as the one excerpted below. Instead of paying an already high $65 for a search, which has no guarantee of results, we would have to pay an exorbitant $240! If there is a paper file to be copied, it would be additional $385!
NOW is the time to make your voice heard! By submitting a comment, you can help prevent this unjust fee hike from becoming a reality. All researchers should care about the issues involved, even if your research does not include these records. What can be done to one set of records can be done to others!
Summary of the Issues:
Access: These fees – starting at $240 and up to a whopping $625 for a single file – are beyond the means of most researchers, and in fact, most everyday Americans. The fees are even more inexplicable given that USCIS refers most genealogy record requests to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) program for processing. How can this be legal? If these requests are FOIA requests, researchers should not pay any fees other than standard FOIA fees. When we pay these fees to request our ancestors’ A-files, there is no guarantee we will get anything back, so paying $240 is outrageous.
Transparency: USCIS proposes a raise in its two Genealogy Program fees from $65 to $240 and $385 but gives virtually no explanation. These same fees already tripled in 2016! How can this agency say such fees are necessary to cover costs when they do not identify nor breakdown the costs of the program? Fee increases of 269% and 492% require an explanation; in this regard the proposed rule is wholly inadequate.
Efficiency: Why is USCIS still holding on to and charging fees for access to records that should already be at the National Archives (NARA), or which already exist at NARA but are withheld from the public due to restrictions placed by USCIS? Do USCIS and NARA have any plans to transfer these historical records and make them available at NARA?
Visa Files and Registry Files, both subject to the proposed $625 total fee, became eligible for transfer to NARA in April 2019. Where are they? Does USCIS plan to collect $625 apiece when these records should already be available to the public at NARA?
Alien Registration Forms, subject to the proposed $240 fee, already exist on microfilm at NARA but remain unavailable because of a USCIS restriction. A-Files of immigrants born more than 100 years ago should be at NARA, as per its 2009 schedule. Why must we still request A-files from USCIS for new fees of up to $625?
can you do? Make your voice heard in 3 easy steps:
Step 1: Review the proposed rule here, and jump to the
Genealogy Program section here.
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.
DNA is the hottest topic in genealogy. It seems that everyone I know is testing. I’ve got kits from several different companies ready to go when the relatives show up for the holidays. I even tested my dog! But do you wonder what the results actually tell you? Are the admixture (ethnicity) estimates accurate? What about the cousin predictions? What kinds of tools are available to help you understand your results? Are there ethical considerations with testing? Do you worry about privacy? Disclaimer: I don’t.
There are two big DNA events planned in northern California in 2018. The first is “A Day with the Genetic Genealogist: Blaine Bettinger.” Held at the David Brower Center in Berkeley on March 3, the day will feature four lectures and a catered buffet lunch by Greenleaf Platters. This seminar is sure to sell out and is one of the signature events planned in honor of the 120th anniversary of the California Genealogical Society. In November, the San Mateo Genealogical Society will host Genetic Genealogist, CeCe Moore, who will present a different line up of lectures.
Whether your ancestors came from Europe, Asia, Africa, the Pacific Rim, or the Americas, whether you can trace your ancestors back dozens of generations or you were adopted and don’t know your biological family, DNA has something for everyone. Join the fun and add DNA to your genealogy tool box.
Yoko Okazaki passed away peacefully on 2 December 2016 at the age of 85. She endured Parkinson’s disease for many years. Although her health declined, her spirit never did.
Yoko was born 21 November 1931 in the village of Yorishima, along the Inland Sea of Japan. Her parents were Tomoharu Miyake and Ocho Nakamura. Yoko was the third child of six. Her younger siblings, Kazumi and Akimasa, predeceased her. The family moved to Kurashiki when Yoko was about 3 years old. Her sisters recalled that she was outgoing and social as a child, and always eager to be photographed. Yoko met Tee in 1946, when she was 15. They married in 1952, when she was 20. He was the athletic American, a renunciate who moved to Japan with his Issei parents following their incarceration during WWII.
As a young woman, Yoko was trained and licensed in Ikenobo, a traditional form of Japanese flower arranging. Later, she developed a passion for both singing and gardening. While living in Japan, she especially enjoyed cultivating tomatoes and zucchini.
Tee and Yoko moved to California in 2001, living first in Moraga and then in Walnut Creek. Even in the final weeks of her life, Yoko found tremendous pleasure in her Walnut Creek garden
Yoko is survived by her two sons: Ted (Linda) and Denis (Denise); five grandchildren: Matthew, Samantha, Bryce, Mariko, and Carson; three sisters: Kyoko Ogo, Shoko Miyake, and Mayumi Miyake; sister-in-law Maru Hiratzka; brother-in-law Sid Okazaki (Yuki); and many nieces and nephews. Her husband, Tee, passed away in 2014.
A celebration of Yoko’s life will be held at Hull’s in Walnut Creek on Thursday December 29 at 11:00, followed by a luncheon. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a contribution to J-Sei (J-Sei.org/donate or 1285 66th St., Emeryville, CA 94608).
I’m excited to announce that the second edition of my 6-page laminated quick guide to Japanese and Japanese American Genealogy is now available! The first edition sold out quickly. Order yours today for $12 plus shipping (8.5% sales tax in California). Aimed at those who are new to Nikkei genealogy, as well as seasoned genealogists who are new to these records, this guide provides a basic introduction to get you started and includes:
A brief historical overview and timeline of laws and events which impacted Nikkei (those of Japanese Ancestry) in the U.S. and in Japan
Clues in Conventional U.S. Records
Records Unique to Japanese Americans
Clues in Conventional Japanese Records
Glossary of Japanese Words Related to Family History
On 3 October 2015, the Nichi Bei Foundation hosted the second annual Nikkei Pilgrimage to Angel Island, in honor of the Japanese immigrants who arrived there between 1910 and 1940. An emphasis was placed on the women who immigrated, specifically the picture brides. There were over 300 attendees who journeyed by ferry to enjoy the music, dramatic presentation, speeches, bento lunches, and family history stations.
Kenji Taguma, Nichi Bei Foundation
Picture Bride, Produced by Judy Hamaguchi, SF JACL
Linda Harms Okazaki and Karen Korematsu
Learning about Picture Brides, inside the Immigration Station Barracks
There were honored guests and special speakers, including Karen Korematsu, who is perhaps best known as the daughter of civil rights activist, Fred Korematsu. On this day, however, she spoke about her grandmother, Kotsui Aoki, who arrived on Angel Island on January 12, 1914 as a picture bride. Karen addressed the importance a discovering family roots and understanding the experiences of our immigrant ancestors.
Following the formal program, six volunteers from the California Genealogical Society provided research consultations, including Todd Armstrong, Grant Din (also of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation), Linda Okazaki, Jim Russell, and Adelle Treakle. By far the most frequent question among the consults was “Did my ancestor come through Angel Island?”
Though most of the participants were of Japanese ancestry, there was a definite mix of ethnic groups represented. Guests had ancestors from Korea, China, Latin America, Canada and Europe. The genealogists were rewarded every time someone “found” an ancestor on an immigration record or census document. Those asking questions ranged in age, as well. One woman was 97 and had been incarcerated in an internment camp. Another young man was eight years old and very interested in family history. His parents listened intently as he asked questions about his great grandmother who was born in Mexico and was currently living in California. It was a teachable moment when he discovered the importance of interviewing the eldest living relatives. He is most definitely the “NextGen” in genealogy.
Author’s Note: This blog publication can also be viewed at blog.CaliforniaAncestors.org, where it was republished with permission.
Finding Your Japanese Roots in Japan and in the U.S.
August 29, 2015
At the California Genealogical Society and Library
Shichi Go San
Are you a Nikkei who is ready to document your family history? Do you want to find those WRA camp files, Enemy Alien files or other records from WWII? Do you wonder if Obāchan was a picture bride? Or if Ojīchan was arrested and sent to a Department of Justice camp? Are you a genealogist who wants to know about different record groups? Or are you helping a Japanese American friend with their genealogy? Come learn how to find your Japanese roots.
Saturday, August 29, 2015
12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
the early political climate in the U.S. and laws of the time
post WWII experiences, repatriation, resettlement, and redress
The second half of the seminar will focus on documenting your ancestors in Japan, from using the information in the American records to finding your koseki, understanding ohaka and kakocho, plus visiting relatives, cemeteries and temples.
This seminar is suitable for all levels of research experience. Limited to thirty participants; the fee may be applied towards membership on the day of the class.
Please visit our Eventbrite page to register for this seminar. Preregistration is required. Confirmations and a parking permit will be sent to the first thirty registrants.
Participants are invited to come early and meet others who share an interest in Japanese research. Use our computers, browse in our library, or bring a bagged lunch and meet at the library before the session. The library is open from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
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.