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.



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.

Out of the Archives

Vintage photographs are great–the clothes, the hair, the nostalgia, the historical magnitude of it all.

What isn’t great? The invisibility of Asian Americans. It makes sense, kind of, if you think of Asian Americans has a recent development in American history, or think that maybe a lot of the early photographers were white folks who weren’t interested in portraying Asian Americans as American, or maybe historians collecting the stuff were interested in perpetuating a certain narrative that didn’t include Asian Americans.

Those might be valid points, but Asian American history exists. In all kinds of formats. And there are some fantastic groups of people all around the country working to preserve that history and make it accessible to a wider audience. These people are called archivists. And for the month of May, I’m going to highlight archival material from Asian American organizations and archives with Asian American collections, in celebration of Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month.

I have several goals: first, to encourage the use of Asian American archival material. We have a rich history, and we ought to go back to primary sources more often; second, to promote the work that Asian American communities are doing to preserve our communities’ histories; third, to highlight the intersections of libraries/archives and ethnic studies because those are my disciplines of choice.

Without further ado, I present the first entry for “Out of the Archives”:



Title Boy Scout Troop 54Seattle1927
Photographer Unknown
Date 1927
Caption Troop 54 was a segregated troop established in 1923. In this photo, the troop is posing in front of the Chinese Baptist Church on S. King Street.
Notes Front row: Herman FoyPaul LouieJames Lukeunidentifiedunidentified. Middle row: unidentifiedMing ChinnMoses KayHenry LukeBung ChinnHubert Foy. Back row: unidentifiedHarry T. ChinnDaniel Hong LewDavid WoounidentifiedCharles ChinnHingChinnTim ChinnGeorge P. Woo.
Subjects Chinese Americans–Washington (State)–Seattle
Uniforms–Washington (State)–Seattle
Children–Washington (State)–Seattle
Boy Scouts of America
Places United States–Washington (State)–Seattle
Chinatown/International District (SeattleWash.)
Digital Collection Wing Luke Asian Museum Photograph Collection
Image Number 1999.006.
Ordering Information To order a reproduction or inquire about permissions contact: bfisher@wingluke.org. Please cite the Image Number.
Credit Line Wing Luke Asian Museum Photograph Collection
Repository Wing Luke Asian Museum
Physical Description 1 photographic print: b&w; 2 3/4 x 4 in.
Type Image
Digital Reproduction Information Scanned as a TIFF image at 300 dpi, in 8-bit grayscale. The image was converted into JPEG format using PhotoShop, and was resized to 640 pixels in the longest dimension.

Reference link: http://content.lib.washington.edu/u?/imlswingluke,16

I got this photograph from the University of Washington’s Wing Luke Asian Museum Collection.  The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience here in Seattle has a great collection of  images, newspaper clippings, books, and past exhibit information on Asian American communities, especially in the Pacific Northwest. The images selected and scanned for UW’s Digital Collection include Asian American people, clubs, and businesses in Seattle’s International District, and King County residents interned at Minidoka during World War II.

Do You Love Old Stuff?

The nerd in me is very happy with this NWPR piece, even though it is very, very short. I’m happy because I believe in the importance of historical archives. Knowing that there are other people who want to preserve Chinese American history, who want this document to be both preserved and shared, makes me happy. The document is a record of the bodies of Chinese laborers that were dug up to be sent back to China, but weren’t.

Do documents like this go on ancestry.com? Is it easy to use genealogical sites if you don’t have a well established genealogy already (like people whose families have lived in an American town for a few hundred years and came to the US on a very documented ship)?

I only wish the piece said a little bit more.