“A-Files” at the National Archives

This past May, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) announced the release of new immigration files at their San Francisco branch (located in San Bruno).  Called the Alien Files, or “A-Files,” these documents consist of immigration records originally from The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).  These A-Files were transferred to NARA ownership 100 years after the immigrant’s year of birth, and will continue to be transferred from USCIS every five years.

What’s significant about these files is the content. Many of the A-Files belong to the first wave of immigrants to the U.S. from Asia.  So far, 52,000 A-Files are available.  VC spoke to Marisa Louie, NARA archivist, who told us more about the value and significance of these files.  In an email (to us!), she wrote,

What’s relevant to Asian American history about the 52,000+ A-Files we have gotten in San Francisco is that there are many persons of Asian descent documented in the A-Files. For example, 19,446 (37%) of the A-Files we currently have  relate to persons born in the Philippines and 20,679 (40%) relates to persons born in Japan. All of the A-Files we have are for people who were born in 1910 and before. We feel that these records will be a boon for Asian American genealogists and researchers once the community learns that they are available to the public!

Wow– we concur!  That’s a huge resource to people interested in immigration, personal family history, and Asian American history.  What’s in the files, exactly?  Well, according to the NARA website, the A-Files are a “wealth of data, including visas, photographs, applications, affidavits, correspondence, and more.”

I hope NARA is ready for the slew of researchers headed their way!  If you’re interested in searching for a particular file, you can search the Archival Research Catalog or contact NARA staff at Afiles.SanBruno@nara.gov.  Happy researching!

UPDATE:  We’ve updated our post to showcase the gems NARA sent over to us to share with you!  Enjoy.

Umeyo Kawano (A-File A002579173)

Umeyo Kawano (nee Nakahara) was born March 3, 1889 in Hiroshima, Japan. In 1913, at the age of 24, she came to the United States as the picture bride of Saikichi Kawano, a farmer in Tulare, California. The Kawanos raised a family of three sons and five daughters in Selma, California. They were interned in World War II at Jerome War Relocation Center in southeastern Arkansas, returning to Selma after the war. Umeyo’s son Tom Kawano served in World War II while his family was interned. Umeyo Kawano died in October 1972 in Selma, California.

Picture bride hotographs of Umeyo Kawano and Saikichi Kawano, 1913. National Archives.

Alien Registration Form of Umeyo Kawano, October 1940. National Archives.

Alien Registration Form (page 2) of Umeyo Kawano, October 1940. National Archives.

Ok Nam Shin (A-File A008964764)

Ok Nam Shin, born May 26, 1901 in Pusan, Korea, came to Hawaii in 1920 to work at his father’s grocery store. By 1933 he was married with four children, all born in Hawaii. The family left for Korea and spent five years there caring for Ok Nam Shin’s parents. When Ok Nam Shin attempted to return to the United States in 1938, he was denied entry because his return permit had expired while he was in Korea. With the help of lawyers in Hawaii, he appealed the decision and was granted reprieve. He became a naturalized citizen in September 1962 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Nonquota Immigration Visa of Ok Nam Shin, issued September 27, 1937. National Archives.

Certificate of Naturalization of Ok Nam Shin, September 6, 1962. National Archives.

Antonina Lite Sanchez (A-File A014528076)

Antonina Lite Sanchez was born May 8, 1903 in Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, Philippines. In 1928, she married Paulino Sanchez, who later immigrated to Guam and opened a barber shop in Agat, Guam. Antonina remained in the Philippines and worked as a housekeeper. In 1965, Antonina received a visa to join her husband and two sons in Guam. Her Alien Case File includes copies of her birth certificate and baptismal record from her hometown in the Philippines. Antonina Sanchez died in 1994 in Santa Rita, Guam.

Visa issued to Antonina Sanchez, February 18, 1965. National Archives.

Abstract of baptismal record for Antonina Sanchez. National Archives.


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