Chinese Exclusion Act cases in Pennsylvania

In December 1906, the case of Mrs. Endicott came before the Commissioner-General of Immigration, Department of Commerce and Labor, in Washington, D.C.

It seemed that this widowed mother was en route to the United States from England and “proposes to join seven children who have resided here for some time.” She planned to live in Pennsylvania.

And there was a major question as to whether Mrs. Endicott would be admitted to the United States.

Because, the record shows, Mrs. Endicott was — at least in part — ethnic Chinese.

That time was a dark era of United States history, when people were turned away just because of the color of their skin.

It was the era of the Chinese Exclusion Acts, first adopted in 1882,1 then extended in 1892 for 10 years,2 and then in 1902 indefinitely.3

The first of those statutes began with the conclusion that “in the opinion of the Government of the United States the coming of Chinese laborers to this country endangers the good order of certain localities within the territory thereof,” and provided that “it shall not be lawful for any Chinese laborer to come, or, having so come … to remain within the United States.”4

The extension act in 1892 required Chinese persons in the United States to “apply to the collector of internal revenue of their respective districts, within one year after the passage of this act, for a certificate of residence…” and often required supporting evidence from “at least one credible white witness.”5

And the indefinite extension in 1902 continued the requirement for a certificate of residence.6

The Chinese Exclusion Act wasn’t repealed until 1943,7 and the quotas established under the repeal — just 105 persons a year — were not adjusted to conform to those from the rest of the world until 1965.8

About the only good that can be said about the entirety of the decades of Chinese exclusion is one that’s appreciated most by genealogists.

Because any legislative scheme like this one creates records. Records of the Chinese nationals who sought admission to the United States. Records of the American citizens of Chinese extraction who needed documents to prove their citizenship. Records of their neighbors of all backgrounds who supported the applications of these persons.

And a whole bunch of them — some 60,000 pages of records — the Case files for Chinese immigrants arriving through Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1900-1923, from the National Archives microfilm publication M1144, Case Files of Chinese Immigrants, 1895-1920, from District No. 4 (Philadelphia) of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, are online at FamilySearch.9 The Legal Genealogist was poking through those records last night, thinking ahead for this weekend’s Family History Conference of the Centre County Genealogical Society in State College, Pennsylvania.

Including the case of Mrs. Endicott.

It’s case no. 583C, “Re: Admission Chinese Women, Children in U.S.”10

She was the wife of Henry B. Endicott, a Massachusetts-born businessman who’d lived in Shanghai for years. The case was handled by a Philadelphia attorney, H. M. Albertson, who’d noted in November that “things look blue for this Chinese mother” but that he “would not care to stir up any question which might involve … how these children came into the country.”11

The record shows that three of the children — James, Margaret and Mabel — had been admitted to the United States in October 1903 as American citizens, aged, 12, 10 and 8 at the time.12 Four older children had entered around 1896 as the children of an American citizen.13

The Commissioner of Immigration at Philadelphia, John J.S. Rodgers, advised his superiors that it was “alleged the father of the children was Henry B. Endicott, (of the well-known Endicott family of the New England States) an American citizen, who conducted an extensive business in Shanghai, China, prior to his decease.”14

He reported that the children all lived in Merion, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and one was a graduate of Yale but noted: “If the mother was not married to Endicott, of course, the children are illegitimate.”15

He went on: It is claimed the mother was the daughter of a Scotch merchant, a Mr. Cock, who lived in China and married a Chinese woman. Her features are distinctly those of a Caucasian, but she can only converse in Chinese. And, he said, “In as much as the children, the mother and the grandmother were all born in China, it would appear that the person in question is barred from admission to the United States” unless she could obtain a required certificate for immigration.16

He submitted two affidavits in support of Mrs. Endicott. One, from Thomas Cock, a British subject living in Shanghai, said that Henry Bridges Endicott was an American citizen and his son Henry Jr. was then studying at Yale.17 The second, from James Ambrose, was to the same effect.18

The Bureau concluded ultimately “that the question of this woman’s citizenship was virtually settled by the admission of her children as American citizens. She has quite evidently been recognized as the wife and the children as the legitimate offspring of Mr. Henry B. Endicott, deceased, and the Bureau does not think that any objection should be made to her landing, even though she may not be in possession of (the required ) certificate.”19

And that’s how you will find Mary Cock Endicott living on Highland Avenue, Lower Merion, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, in 1910 — all recorded as American citizens.20

A dark era, for sure, but a gold mine for genealogists.


SOURCES

  1. “An act to inaugurate certain treaty stipulations relating to Chinese,” 22 Stat. 58 (6 May 1882).
  2. “An act to prohibit the coming of Chinese persons into the United States,” 27 Stat. 25 (5 May 1892).
  3. “An Act To prohibit the coming into and to regulate the residence within the United States, its Territories, and all territory under its jurisdiction, and the District of Columbia, of Chinese and persons of Chinese descent,” 32 Stat. 176 (29 April 1902).
  4. §1, “An act to inaugurate certain treaty stipulations relating to Chinese,” 22 Stat. 58-59.
  5. §6, “An act to prohibit the coming of Chinese persons into the United States,” 27 Stat. 25-26.
  6. “An Act To prohibit the coming into and to regulate the residence within the United States, its Territories, and all territory under its jurisdiction, and the District of Columbia, of Chinese and persons of Chinese descent,” 32 Stat. 177.
  7. “An Act To repeal the Chinese Exclusion Acts, to establish quotas, and for other purposes,” 57 Stat. 600 (17 Dec 1943).
  8. See generally “Chinese Immigration and the Chinese in the United States,” Research Our Records, U.S. National Archives, Archives.gov (https://www.archives.gov/research/ : accessed 13 May 2018).
  9. “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Case Files of Chinese Immigrants, 1900-1923,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 13 May 2018).
  10. Case File No. 583C, Re: Admission Chinese Women, Children in U.S.; “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Case Files of Chinese Immigrants, 1900-1923,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 13 May 2018).
  11. Letter, 28 Nov 1906, H.M. Albertson, attorney, to John J.S. Rodgers, Commissioner of Immigration, Philadelphia.
  12. Ibid., telegram, 13 Dec 1906, T.M. Crawford, Acting Commissioner INS, San Francisco, to Immigration Service, Philadelphia.
  13. Letter, 14 Dec 1906, John J.S. Rodgers, Commissioner of Immigration, Philadelphia, to Commissioner-General of Immigration, Department of Commerce and Labor, Washington, D.C.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid., Affidavit, 2 Nov 1905, Thomas Cock, before U.S. Deputy Consul-General, Shanghai.
  18. Ibid., Affidavit, 28 Oct 1905, James Ambrose, before U.S. Deputy Consul-General, Shanghai.
  19. Ibid., Letter, 17 Dec 1906, Commissioner-General of Immigration, Department of Commerce and Labor, Washington, D.C., to Commissioner of Immigration, Philadelphia.
  20. 1910 U.S. census, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Lower Merion, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 90, p. 7A (stamped), dwelling 106, family 110, Henry B. Endicott household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 May 2018); citing National Archive microfilm publication T624, roll 1378.
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