Berkeley and National Archives create new database to
help trace individuals' immigration to United States
Berkeley - Searching for information on early Asian
immigrants to the United States recently became much
easier, thanks to a new Web site designed to facilitate
the search of records on people who immigrated to San
Francisco and Honolulu, Hawaii, in the 19th and early
The Early Arrivals Records Search (EARS) database
- available on the Web at http://groups.haas.berkeley.edu/iber/casefiles
- was created by the Institute of Business & Economics
Research, the Haas School of Business at the University
of California, Berkeley, and the Pacific Region of the
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
Until recently, it was necessary to visit the National
Archives in San Bruno, Calif., to determine if a file
existed on a certain individual. But the new EARS database
allows anyone with Internet access to find:
- whether the National Archives has a case file for
a particular individual
- an individual's case number
- basic information about an individual's immigration
to the United States
With the help of a case number, National Archives staff
members can locate the physical case file at their archives
in San Bruno.
The Web site also includes information about the National
Archives, how to search for a file, contact information
and directions to the National Archives, and many other
Several million people passed through the immigration
stations in San Francisco and Honolulu between 1882
and 1955. Asian Americans were often subject to extensive
investigation. Many of these investigations are documented
in nearly 250,000 Immigration and Naturalization Service
(INS) case records maintained at the NARA-San Bruno
regional archives. The documents cover investigations
of people who tried to immigrate during the period of
the Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882-1943.
The Chinese Exclusion Act severely restricted legal
Chinese immigration to the Hawaiian Islands and the
continental United States. Other immigration laws during
the period expanded the restrictions to people arriving
from India, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and other
"The electronic database saves relatives of such
immigrants and social study researchers much time in
determining whether a file on a certain individual even
exists, before they get in the car and drive to San
Bruno," said Robert Barde, academic coordinator
at the Haas School's Institute of Business & Economics
Research, where an investigation of immigration issues
inspired this new Web-accessible database.
"Those interested in seeing a file still need
to drive to San Bruno to do so, but they can save themselves
many steps by using the database first," Barde
The case files are priceless resources for studies
of federal immigration, Asian American and family history.
It is often possible to trace ancestral families back
to their home villages in "the old country."
A typical case file may contain a person's biographical
data and family history and may hold certificates of
identity and residency, correspondence, and coaching
materials used by "paper sons" - immigrants
who gained entry to the United States by posing as sons
of already-admitted immigrants.
A file also may contain INS findings, recommendations
and decisions; maps of immigrant family residences and
villages in China; original marriage certificates; individual
and family photographs; verbatim transcripts of INS
interrogations and boards of special inquiry; witnesses'
affidavits and lawyers' letters.
Daniel Nealand, archival operations director for the
NARA-San Bruno supplied the data to build the project.
Lisa Martin of the Haas School Computing Center developed
the database. Neal Fujioka in the Haas School Marketing
& Communications office is responsible for the Web
programming and site design. Patt Bagdon at the Institute
of Business & Economics Research designed the banner
for the Web page.
Robert Barde served as the project coordinator. His
article, "An Alleged Wife: A Tale of Angel Island,"
is available at http://staff.haas.berkeley.edu/barde/_public/immigration/Passages%20article.pdf.
The files are located at the National Archives and
Records Administration, 1000 Commodore Drive, San Bruno,
NOTE: For more information, contact Ute Frey at the
Haas School at (510) 642-0342 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions about the Web site can be directed to Robert
Barde at email@example.com.
Questions about access to individual case files should
go to the National Archives at (650) 876-9009; e-mail