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Family History Day 2013

Today I am speaking on Chinese American immigration and genealogy at California’s Family History Day in Sacramento!

Remembering 1882 free events @Alameda County Fremont Library

Starting tomorrow, January 5, the Alameda County Fremont Main Library will be hosting a special one-month event and exhibit in honor of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and its reversal. Catch four free lectures (one per weekend) that touch on various aspects of Chinese American history. I will be lecturing on January 19 about genealogy research for Chinese Americans. Hope to see you there!

Fremont Main Library

2400 Stevenson Boulevard, Fremont, CA 94538

(510) 745-1424


San Francisco passenger lists 1893-1953 online

San Francisco passenger lists 1893-1953 online

“Passenger lists of vessels and alien manifests arriving at San Francisco, California, 1893-1953 : NARA publication M1410” is available online via the Family Search website.

Why: most often, the way to find any record of alien files or other Chinese immigration case files via NARA or USCIS, the researcher must have a record of entry to the United States, basically a passenger list you can refer to in order to provide dates, places, manner or mode of entry, name of the carrier, and the name used by the ancestor or subject you seek. The quickest and easiest way to seek these are by using, or your local library, institution, or other subscriber service (such as through NARA or Family History Center computers). The one caveat to finding passenger lists on is that they often do not include the secondary page of a two-page passenger list, which can provide lots of extra information! If you are curious about the second page, here is what it can contain:

Column 17: the name and complete address of nearest relative or friend in country whence alien came, or if none there, then in country of which citizen or subject.

Column 18: final destination: foreign country or U.S. state and city/town

Column 19: Whether having a ticket to such final destination

Column 20: By whom was passage paid?

Column 21: Whether in possession of $50, and if less, how much?

Column 22: Whether ever in the United States before, and if so, when and where?

Column 23: Whether going to join a relative or friend; state name and complete address, and if relative, exact relationship

Column 24: Purpose of coming to the United States

Column 25: Ever in prison…

Column 26: Whether a polygamist

Column 27: Whether an anarchist

Column 28: Whether you believe in overthrowing the government (paraphrased)

Column 29: Whether coming by offer or solicitation (paraphrased)

Column 30: Whether excluded and deported within one year

Column 31: Whether arrested and deported at any time

Column 32: Condition of health, mental and physical

Column 33: Deformed or crippled…

Column 34: Height

Column 35: Complexion

Column 36: Color of hair, eyes

Column 37: Marks of identification

Soooo, if you are interested in the items above, you will likely want to see the second page of the passenger list you find your subject on. If it is not available on, use the vessel information to find the corresponding page in the Family Search website — note this is not for the faint of heart! There is no searching by name, just think of it as browsing as you would spin a reel of microfilm, in reverse chronological order. You can get your alien files without a problem without the second page, but it is interesting to see to get a fuller picture of your ancestor at the time of travel.

Check it out here:

Coming up: Bok Eye festival in Marysville, California

This February 25-26, the town of Marysville, California will come alive in their annual Bok Eye or Bok Kai (the North god) festival and parade. Additionally the Chinese American Museum of North California will be hosting a lecture series.

Learn more about the festival and the temple HERE
and watch this video for a bit more about the Chinese American Museum of Northern California (warning, this starts a little loud!):

LDS aka resources for Chinese genealogy

I gave a little presentation today at the local Family History Center about finding Chinese genealogies in the catalog. I used Prezi for the first time, I think it went pretty well. Here is my first Prezi:

You are invited…

to my next Chinese genealogy workshop! This is a little last minute, but why not share, I figure.

Saturday, November 12, 2011
12:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Oakland Regional Family History Center
4766 Lincoln Avenue
Oakland, CA 94602, USA

Are you curious about what Chinese resources are available at the Oakland Regional Family History Center but haven’t had the chance to check it out? Come learn from Assistant Director Marge Bell of the center and Kay Speaks and Christine DeVillier as they tell us how they have used the resources of the center and its Salt Lake City parent, the Family History Library, to research their Chinese roots. Kay will be covering research techniques at the center and Christine will talk about using the FamilySearch catalog and Chinese databases. All are welcome to attend – you don’t have to be a church member.

12 noon – Bring a bag lunch to talk story with the group. Bring your discoveries or share any roadblocks you are facing in your research so the group can brainstorm some research options.

1:30 to 3:30 p.m. – Orientation to the center by Marge Bell, examples of research by Kay Speaks and Christine DeVillier, experienced genealogists.

The classroom has seventy seats and about sixty computers, so we will take the first 60 respondents, and then have a wait list.

Cost: Free!

RSVP by emailing Kay Speaks. When you respond, if you wish, please list your name, city of residence, village, surnames, etc. Depending on response, we may limit the number of attendees from each family.

Sponsored by Oakland Regional Family History Center and Chinese-American Family History Yahoo Group is going down the drain

I have long enjoyed using to host my family tree online, but recently, they have made changes that render near completely ridiculous. They have restricted basic/free account holders to a limit of 100 profiles. Now, anyone serious about family history is going to have a LOT more than 100 family members, dead or alive. They have removed monthly membership options for their so-called “Plus” and “Pro” level accounts, leaving one to fork out a hefty fee for annual, bi-annual, or lifetime membership. Keep in mind, does not actually give anyone something they did not already have — it’s not a record center. It’s a platform to build a tree, enter the info you already know, and hopefully connect your tree to long distance relatives or ancestors (but you have to pay for that too!) and it’s only as useful as the number of connections you can make, unless you are satisfied at capping your tree at 100 entries, which IMHO is not worth the time to even start the tree. By contrast, allows people to start family trees for free, no limit to number of entries, and then when you want to find records for your relatives, you can start paying, and you will get actual sources. You can start and stop, month to month, whenever you need. You can search other member trees for clues. No one can hijack your tree, and you can make it “private” if you like, no questions asked.

Why is this related to Chinese genealogy? I can find things on Ancestry for Chinese relatives and ancestors that give me immigration, residence, names changes, citizenship and naturalization, and death information. Geni does not have this. If you are trying to find clues on Geni, you will only luck out if you have Chinese relatives who have also entered their family tree information on the site, and even then, neither of you will be able to connect or even see each other to verify the connection, unless you shell out $119.40 at the minimum for a one-year membership, which comes out to $7.95 a month (but they don’t let you purchase it month to month). That’s right, you cannot use all the features of the site unless you hand over $119.40 for a one-year Geni Pro membership. At, the lowest single payment you could make is $19.95, which gets you one month of U.S. record searching and downloading, and ability to get clues from other member trees. Comparing one-year rates, you can also choose to buy a one-year Ancestry membership for a flat fee of $155.40, which comes out to $12.95 a month. If you are choosing to pay for a service and expecting actual service or results, Ancestry wins my credit card payment by a landslide.

Sorry, you have indulged yourselves enough, time for a reality check.

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