Out of the Archives: Your Canadian Side

Asian American genealogy is difficult. My experience is mainly with Chinese American genealogy, so I’ll start there. As Chinese Americans immigrated, their names were changed to approximately English phonetics. Or they immigrated under false names, like the paper sons. Or the records were lost in the San Francisco fire, or the Chinese Revolution. Family records were destroyed in the 1950’s as the US government scoured Chinatowns for communist sympathizers.

Asian American genealogy is difficult, but not impossible. For some Chinese Americans, the Canadian government is here to help. The Library and Archives Canada have digitized a good number of immigration records through something they call Ancestor Search. To search for a Chinese Canadian, you can use their special database, aptly called “Immigrants from China, 1885-1949”.

Less genealogical, bust still wonderful is their digital image archive. A search for “Chinese” or “Chinois” brings up pages and pages of picture, like this orpailleur Chinois, vers 1875:


Chinese man panning for gold

Bilingual equivalent: Chinese man washing gold

Date(s): Vers 1875

Place: Rivière Fraser, C.-B.

Place of creation: No place, unknown, or undetermined

Extent1 photograph

Graphic (photo)
90: Open
Graphic (photo)
Copy negative PA-125990
90: Open
Item no. (creator)
Graphic (photo)
90: Open
90: Open
Other accession no.
1981-219 NPC

Terms of use: Mention : Bibliothèque et Archives Canada / PA-125990; Restrictions on use: Aucune; Droit d’auteur : Expiré

Additional name(s): Photographer: Inconnu.

Additional information: Described by the MSTRCAGE project.

Signatures and inscriptions: (Recto:) — /(Verso:) Chinese Man washing gold Fraser River.


Expanding the Archive

Last year, I spent the month of May highlighting Asian American archival collections. I found a lot of very, very cool material, but I also found some very, very large holes in the historical record. How can we study our history if we don’t preserve it? Luckily, the University of Illinois at Chicago is taking action to address some of the missing material– they’re currently in the process of building up an Asian American LGBTQ archive! I cannot stress enough how important it is to be proactive in preserving historical materials. Our lives, no matter who we are, are historical. We represent communities, movements and moments that will become history. And if we don’t value the records of our lives and times, it will be that much harder to recover. What can you do?


Read more about the project or contact UIC to donate materials (call (312) 413-7696 or email fugikawa@uic.edu or lthomson@uic.edu.)


Out of the Archives: Georgia

Today’s edition of Out of the Archives was totally serendipitous. I was browsing down a deep, deep rabbit hole of library/information literacy/digital media resources/human-physical-space-digital-space-interaction when I came across the Digital Public Library of America. And a small slice of this big, big library full of lots and lots of stuff caught my eye. A small, country slice out of Richmond County Georgia:


Descriptive Title:
Photograph of Harry Chung’s Grocery, Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia, 1933
Augusta, 1933. Harry Chung’s Grocery located at the corner of 11th and Hopkins Streets.
Richmond County
Type of original:
Augusta | Asian Americans | Business
Cite as:
Vanishing Georgia, Georgia Division of Archives and History, Office of Secretary of State.
Usage note:
Contact repository re: reproduction and usage.
Held by:
Georgia Archives, 5800 Jonesboro Road, Morrow, GA 3026
Reference URL:


More on the Digital Library of America:

The Digital Public Library of America brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world. It strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science. The DPLA aims to expand this crucial realm of openly available materials, and make those riches more easily discovered and more widely usable and used, through its three main elements:

1. A portal that delivers students, teachers, scholars, and the public to incredible resources, wherever they may be in America.

2. A platform that enables new and transformative uses of our digitized cultural heritage.

3. An advocate for a strong public option in the twenty-first century.

Try searching for Asian America. Then on the subjects box, I chose Asian Americans–Georgia–Augusta, for 30 pictures of the Chinese American community in Richmond County, Georgia from 1914 to 1962. Theoretically these pictures should also be on the Digital Library of Georgia but a preliminary search found me only 10, in the Vanishing Georgia Collection.

Chinatown, Buzz Buzz Buzz

Rounding out this week is a series of images I found on Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed, you say? Yup. Why not. Some staffer over there pulled a nice bunch of lovely pictures from Getty Images of SF Chinatown in the 1950’s. It’s a cool mix of elementary school kids, local economy, and night club dancers, and neon lights. This kid is happy about it:


It’s good timing, too. The National flags and women in cheongsam really set the tone for this week’s post on Shanghai Girls:

ladiesWhat I want to know is, did someone at Buzzfeed compile these into a collection? Or is this a Getty images collection that they posted up because it started making the internet rounds? They don’t really say. But they do include some color photos! So maybe go check it out?


Out of the Archives: Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has  millions of items on all kinds of subjects related to America. That includes Asian America, if only you know what you’re looking for. I’m still trying to figure out the organization of their digital materials myself. My best strategy so far has been to their home page, limit the search results to “Photo, Print, Drawing” and start typing in an ethnicity. At some point, suggested LOC subjects pop up, which may or may not yield results. Alternately, a few collections are highlighted in different places, like Ansel Adam’s Photographs of Japanese-American Internment at Manzanar:


Item Title

Bridge game, Nurse Hamaguchi and friends, Manzanar Relocation Center, California / photograph by Ansel Adams.

Adams, Ansel, 1902-1984, photographer.




Nurse Aiko Hamaguchi, Nurse Chiye Yamanaki, Miss Catherine Yamaguchi, and Miss Kazoko Nagahama seated around a table each holding a hand of playing cards.


Title transcribed from Ansel Adams’ caption on verso of print.
Original neg. no.: LC-A35-5-M-5-Ax.
Gift; Ansel Adams; 1965-1968.
Forms part of: Manzanar War Relocation Center photographs.


Hamaguchi, Aiko.
Manzanar War Relocation Center–People–1940-1950.
World War, 1939-1945–Japanese Americans–California–Manzanar.
Japanese Americans–Women–California–Manzanar–1940-1950.
Bridge (Game)–California–Manzanar–1940-1950.
Gelatin silver prints–1940-1950.
Safety film negatives–1940-1950.


1 photographic print : gelatin silver.
1 negative : safety film.

Call Number

LOT 10479-4, no. 28


LC-DIG-ppprs-00317 DLC (b&w digital file from original print)
LC-DIG-ppprs00105 DLC (b&w digital file from original neg.)
LC-A35-T01-5-M-5-Ax DLC (b&w film dup. neg.)

No known restrictions on publication.

Part of

Adams, Ansel, 1902- Manzanar War Relocation Center photographs


Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Digital ID

(digital file from original printppprs 00317 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppprs.00317
(digital file from original neg.ppprs 00105 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppprs.00105

More on the collection, from the Library of Congress’s American Memory site:

In 1943, Ansel Adams (1902-1984), America’s best-known photographer, documented the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California and the Japanese Americans interned there during World War II. In “Suffering under a Great Injustice”: Ansel Adams’s Photographs of Japanese-American Internment at Manzanar, the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress presents for the first time side-by-side digital scans of both Adams’s 242 original negatives and his 209 photographic prints (with the print on the left and the negative on the right), allowing viewers to see his darkroom technique and in particular how he cropped his prints.

Adams’s Manzanar work is a departure from his signature style of landscape photography. Although a majority of the photographs are portraits, the images also include views of daily life, agricultural scenes, and sports and leisure activities. When he offered the collection to the Library in 1965, Adams wrote, “The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, businesses and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and dispair [sic] by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment…All in all, I think this Manzanar Collection is an important historical document, and I trust it can be put to good use.

Out of the Archives: Unhappy at Disneyland

The next few days will be tough to post, since I’ll be in and out of airports (and therefore in and out of wifi connectivity), but I’ll do the best I can. Today’s edition of Out of the Archives is brought to you by the Los Angeles Public Library and their collection “Shades of L.A.” Technically it’s a multicultural collection, not an Asian American one, but there’s a good amount of Asian American material in it, including Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Americans. I chose this one a) because of the sunglasses and b) because none of these ladies looks very excited to be at Disneyland (maybe one of them):

samoan women at disneyland


Title(s) Disneyland visitors [graphic]
Order Number 00003355
Filing Information Shades of L.A.: Pacific Islander Community
Shades of L.A.: Samoan American Community
S-005-158 120
Date [ca. 1965]
Description 1 photographic print
Summary Women and children at Disneyland. L to R Wendy Ah Soon, her Aunt Manufo, Jackie Wilson, unidentified girl.
Subject(s) Women California Anaheim.
Children California Anaheim.
Amusement parks California Anaheim.
Disneyland (Calif.).
Anaheim (Calif.).
Genre/Format Group portraits 1961-1970.
Portrait photographs 1961-1970.
Shades of L.A. Pacific Islander photographs.
Shades of L.A. Samoan American photographs.

Reference URL: http://jpg1.lapl.org/pics07/00003355.jpg

More on the Shades of L.A. Collection from their website:

In 1991, Photo Friends and the Los Angeles Public Library sponsored the project “Shades of L.A.: A Search for Visual Ethnic History.” The six-year project involved copying thousands of family photographs throughout Los Angeles, thereby broadening the LAPL Photo Collection’s representation of ethnicities within the city.

The contents of this collection are restricted to personal, research, and non-commercial use.  The Library cannot share the personal and/or contact information of the donors, their descendants, or associates who contributed photographs and oral histories to the collection.

Out of the Archives: Communal Lunch

Maybe because I started looking for pictures today while I was eating my lunch, but this picture caught me. So many perms! It’s from USC’s Korean American Digital Archive. It looks like they’ve got some bad links, but nothing that smart members of the general public, or a determined academic can’t get past. Look for the subset of the collection that features people sitting on fences: lunch at pharmacy

Title 17 at lunch in a pharmacy
Description Identification of the people in this photograph can be found here
Publisher (of the digital version) University of Southern CaliforniaLibraries
Type images
Identifying number subset015/photo001
Legacy record ID kada-m13937
Part of collection Korean American Digital Archive
Part of subcollection Korean American Archive Photograph Set
Series Marcella Lim
Rights © 2000 University of Southern California University LibrariesMay not be copied without permission of the Korean Heritage LibraryUniversity of Southern California.; From the photographic collection of the Korean American ArchiveKoreanAmerican Archive
Access conditions Send requests to East Asian LibraryUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles, CA 90089-0154 or kklein@usc.edu.
Repository name East Asian Library, University of Southern California
Repository address Los Angeles, CA 90089-1825
Repository email kklein@usc.edu
Filename KADA-LimMa-002
Archival file kada_Volume6/KADA-LimMa-002.tiff

Reference URL: http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15799coll126/id/16178

More on the Korean American Digital Archive from their site:

The documentary record of the Korean experience in America remains dispersed and difficult to access. The Korean American Digital Archive brings more than 13,000 pages of documents, over 1,900 photographs, and about 180 sound files together in one searchable collection that documents the Korean American community during the period of resistance to Japanese rule in Korea and reveal the organizational and private experience of Koreans in America between 1903 and 1965.