Monday, February 27, 2017

The Challenges of Charting a Chinese Family Genealogy

After I had worked on my own family tree for a few years, I began charting my husband Mike's Family Tree, when someone was asked how certain family members were related to others. 

What that led to, in addition to the usual surprises, was an education about the affects of the Chinese Exclusion Act on his family. 

The Chinese Exclusion Act was a United States federal law signed by President Chester A. Arthur on May 6, 1882, prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers. 

This law was not repealed until 1943 - that is 61 - sixty-one years of what was, in the words of Republican Senator George Frisbie Hoar of Massachusetts "...nothing less than the legalization of racial discrimination." 
In addition, interracial marriages of Whites and Chinese was not made legal in the United States until 1948, which affected other members of the family. 

I found that Mike's grandfather Sam entered the US from China through Seattle, Washington, on September 10, 1920, in the midst of this restriction.  He jumped through some hoops, for sure. He didn't want his children to have to go through this experience, so once he was established, brought his wife Law Moy to the United States, and they had their children in Utah and Wyoming.  

Ways around the Chinese Exclusion Act necessitated smuggling, false documentation, and what were referred to as "paper sons" - Chinese sons of American citizens, at least on paper.  Since Mike's grandfather Sam was not an American citizen at the time, this did not include him, but it may have affected some of the documents that were found for other family members.

Sam and his wife Rose set up a restaurant in Rock Springs, and later in San Francisco, building their own rich family history as American citizens. Sam petitioned to be a citizen in 1948, and became a naturalized citizen in 1950.

Sam Chan, in front of his On Rock Lo restaurant, Rock Springs, 1940s.
The challenges of determining the real ages and names of some of Mike's family members is ongoing. As Michael's cousin told me:  "The Chinese, sign Last Name, Generational Name, Name.  This is the order for caricatures in a name.  All of the girls in the same generation have the same Generational Name and all of the boys have the same Generational Name, but it's different from the girls.  So, for instance, all of the girls, who are my first cousins have the same generational name,"Sook" as me.  All the boys have the same generational name as my brother, "Hing".  It's the duty of the male grandparent, from the husband's side to do this, so Paul Tung named all of us."   She added: : "It's tricky trying to define names that are phonetically written in English, because if you use a mandarin dictionary for a Cantonese pronunciation, it won't be correct, and visa versa. The paternal grandfather gives the names."

Thus explains why "Chin" is also "Chan" in the charts.   

Another great challenge for me is that there is very little about Mike's ancestors on the net.  In essence, I am creating the database for his family, in Ancestry, Wikipedia, and other sites, so that others in his family - or future generations - can access that information. This includes data and photos. 

When I added Mike and his American-born family members, my job became much easier.  Documentation is more available.   Though the Wong-Chan chart does not go back further than 5 generations, I am content to leave it at that.  It is a good start for future generations, considering the affects of our country's discriminatory practices had on Mike's ancestors.  My Irish family members faced their own discrimination two centuries ago, so it does seem to be par for the course. Once we are here...we are HERE.     

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Two Trees, Many Branches

History is the recorded story of our species - it has always been an interest of mine.  Family history is personalized, and even more interesting.  Native Americans passed their stories down through the generations, written & verbal.  That is a tradition which we all could benefit from.

I believe that each of us is writing the story of our lives.  Every day, we write a new page, until our last chapter. If we are not famous enough to make the history books, one way to achieve immortality is through our genealogical records and stories.
 My parents never talked about their ancestors.  Living for today, which is what most of us have to do, consumed their lives.  There were very few stories about their origins, save for when my grandfather got drunk, and spilled all about our Cherokee great-grandmother (later found this not to be true), or his friendship with Ima Hogg, Texas royalty (possible).  

For several years, I have worked on my family tree, reaching back in some places to the 1100s. There have been fascinating discoveries.  One branch leads to another...etc. 
When doing my tree, there were (and are) challenges, but I was helped by so many others related to me who were also keeping records.  Our family, for the most part, has been in the USA for centuries, so it was relatively easy to find information. There is a book about my paternal ancestors called: "Trail of the Haglers", by Travis Jackson Hagler (my maiden name is Hagler), and piles of documentation on, and other sites. is a great free site to keep your tree.   

It also helps that I have had four DNA tests taken, which are cross-referenced with others who match, and their family connections. This is part of our "DNA Circle".  Right now, I have 29 matches for specific ancestors, through my DNA circle. Example: There is one goes back to Samuel Harrison Bowen, who fought in the Revolutionary War:

 I am even part of a study about genetics and inherited characteristics.  After finding so many farmers in my background - on both sides - I figured that my early-to-bed-early-to-rise temperament was inherited.  This is my great-great grandfather James Samuel Bowen (1861-1923), on his farm in Mt Vernon, Texas:

 I think I inherited his sense of style, too. 

You get the idea. I have a riches of documentation, connections, DNA evidence, and photos.  I guess I got spoiled by that, because when I began Mike's genealogy, I was presented with many challenges, some specific to the Chinese culture that I hadn't anticipated. I decided to work on Mike's family tree, when we weren't sure how some family members were related to the others.  

Even though both of Mike's parents were born in the USA, Chinese traditions still hold.  For instance, both of Mike's grandmothers had the name "Shee" in them, which went back to Chinese tradition. I found out that "Shee" just means: "Family of" for women who are married in China and immigrate here. Others whose surnames were Moy (Mei, Moi), went back to the Shang Dynasty, etc.   It is also Chinese tradition to call elders "Aunt" and "Uncle", whether they were blood-related or not. Sign of respect. Since we didn't do that in my European-background family, it took some getting used to.  I had to also separate out the blood-related uncles and aunts, which is necessary for a family tree which traces back to ones' origins, etc.

I also learned a lot about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the first significant law restricting immigration into the United States. In the spring of 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Chester A. Arthur. This act provided an absolute 10-year moratorium on Chinese labor immigration.   The effects of that Act on my research is worthy of a blog in itself:

This made it difficult to emigrate to the USA if you were Chinese, but did not stop many - including Mike's ancestors.

Mike's family are some of the most hard-working American citizens I've ever met (or learned about), and many had to fight for the right to stay in this country, one way or another.  They have been resourceful, successful and productive citizens. 

Several of Mike's family served in the military,fighting for the USA., including Uncle Pongee, Uncle Warren, and Uncle Richard Tung. Uncle Richard was honored for his service in the 491st bomb group in WWII; here is a link to an article about one of his experiences during that war:

Some of the veterans in our families
Another challenge in Mike's tree is that Chinese had to be self-protective when entering our borders, which included many name changes, and discrepancies in the ages and other details of those entering the US. Where I could go back many centuries in my own family tree, I am content to trace back 5 generations in Mike's.  That his parents and many other relations were born here made it easier to find records on them, but the clues vanish as soon as I "cross" the border into China-records territory.

However, I was able to contribute photos and stories to Mike's tree on Ancestry, which were provided by Mike's mom, uncle, and other family members. Mike's Uncle Richard wrote his life story, which was a great resource for filling in a lot of the blanks. These are gifts for future generations. 

Mike's maternal grandmother Rose was an actress in Hong Kong, and also a beloved citizen in Rock Springs, Wyoming, where Mike's mom and siblings were born & grew up. Rose liked to celebrate International Day by shooting fireworks off of the roof of the family restaurant. 
Rose Chan
There are many fascinating stories in our families, ones which would make great films!  But some family members might not wish certain stories to be made public.  I don't think that anyone in my family cares anymore that my great-grandfather Edward Wayne was shot and killed as he was coming out of a bar on Mission Street in S.F., by gang members in 1923, when he was 39.  He was with another man's wife at the time (married to my long-suffering great-grandmother), so it is suspected that the hit was arranged by the woman's husband.  

There are also San Quentin prison records for my two great-uncles in the archives, mostly for armed robbery, 1940s.  Although they were recidivists, eventually both became solid citizens, and the family just didn't talk about "those things".  

Mike's family has surprises in that regard, as well.  One example is a news story about an explosion which happened in 1939, which in a way was connected to one of his family members, that might be told, now.  That accident made all of the newspapers at the time.

Types of records used in genealogy include birth, marriage, baptism, death, immigration, pension, draft registration and military, school, news stories, census, voter, Social Security (numbers only provided for the deceased), city directories, and records provided by other relations.  My father's family kept very good records. I was able to scan and archive/upload my Civil War Union soldier 2nd-great- grandfather William J. Bartell's records, photos, and documents, such as this roster of his unit: 

There were also a few Confederates among my ancestors - this from my 3nd great-grandfather Thomas Cox Bowen:

Cemeteries are also a great resource, including photos of headstones of ancestors to add to the tree.  My Bowen grandparents and great-grandparents had the open book theme on their headstones, befitting the "story of life" concept. 
I realize how much the past generations tie into the future.  It is this continuum of life, which flowed through our ancestors' veins, and continues in the succeeding generations, which keeps me going at this crazy "hobby". Until I am gone, I'll keep building on. At least, making a good be continued........

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

From Dance Contest Winner to Dated Freestyler

I used to win prizes in dance contests in school, and at the American Legion Hall, Rockaway Beach, Pacifica, CA.  I knew all of the latest styles - the Jerk, Mashed Potato, Twist, Swim, Pony, the Shake, Watusi, the Hully-Gully, and the Funky Chicken...for starters.  I had energy and commitment, while looking like an escapee from an insane asylum, in my performances. 

There was also a group participation dance called: "The Continental", which involved numerous people dancing in step with each other, in a long line. That was fun, as there was a team of us dancing in a cool, way, not like the "Bunny Hop" of our parent's era.

In the 1960s, dancing partners were optional, which was a good thing for our pre-high school crowd, because the boys rarely participated.  They either sat in chairs that lined the wall, hung around the iced barrel of soft drinks, or played Ping-Pong, while the rest of us tore up the floor. 

The rest of us - girls, that is -  and one or two brave males - usually the best dancers in the school -  rocked the scene with movement.  In our school, the boys were Bill Keach and Alford Patrick.  Here is a picture of me with Alford (he's the dude in the center of the shot), and yes, we were dancing together -  but you can't tell that from the photo.  Truly, we were all really in our own worlds, grooving to the tunes. I'm the girl on the right, with my head turned around.  Who needed to look at our dancing partners, anyway?

Slow dances were an exception for some of the boys, who either liked a girl, or liked to feel up a girl, or both.  We didn't follow any specific rules. However, I was accused by several male partners that I was "leading", which was a no-no.  I'm still unclear on that concept.

Some of the dance contests were based upon style.  There were others which had nothing to do with dancing technique.  For instance, there was the "freeze" contest, where, when the music played, you froze instantly when the music was stopped.  A pre-pubescent teenage boy who wouldn't be on the dance floor in a million years enjoyed holding the phonograph arm, pulling it up to stop the music at various times, as we dancers became his puppets.
Prizes ranged from school supplies to games or candy, etc.  Once, I won a box of Raisinettes - my favorite candy - and I was THRILLED with the prize......

.................until I remembered that I had given up candy for Lent, so gave the box to a friend. 

Dancing for me was always informal - I could never get into square dancing or "Dancing with the Stars" kind of stuff.  It was just a way to express myself when hearing music.  Outdoor or indoor, every dance move I do screams my age.

At my step-daughter's wedding (see below), the moves are familiar.  That is my husband behind me...we didn't have to look at each other.  Same M.O. as in my teens.  I have not progressed in style, just years.

These days, more often than not, I am carrying a camera while dancing. Here I am with another lively soul, at a 4th-of-July event a few years ago(American Legion again - this one in HMB).

Of course, it helps to dance with someone who enjoys the art of the free-form dance, like Tom here. The ladies love this guy, and why not? He DANCES!

I guess the point is that, even though I lack style, referring back to ancient moves, I'm having fun re-living my youth and also my oldth, shaking more than I ever could have when young. Well........there's a lot more to shake these days!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Large Family Dynamic

Growing up in a large family can be challenging.  For instance, there were so many of us, that occasionally one would get lost.  One memorable instance was when we all went grocery shopping with my mom at the Super-X Market.  After we did our shopping, we loaded up the car, and came home.  As we were unloading the groceries, Mom asked: "Where's Ben?"  "I dunno....around here somewhere..." 

 We looked everywhere, and then Mom asked if anyone remembered if (2-yr-old) Ben was in the car coming home from the store?  None of us could recall Ben's presence in the car...., panic time!  Mom called the store, and they said that yes, Ben was there, and having quite a time.  The clerks had bought him ice cream, and were fussing over him, when Mom arrived to bring him home.  He hadn't even missed us. 

 I could see the wheels turning in our heads.  How to get lost ourselves next time, so we could score some ice cream?

Another thing about large familes is that you are noticeable when you are all together. You are part of your own army.  Every time we would go out, people would stare at us.  We became accustomed to being looked at, when we were out.  

When there were just 7 of us.

The advantages were that we always had someone to play with.  Some disadvantages were that we had to share - food, space, talk-time.  There was never enough food; if one of us was unwise enough to leave their plate for a second, someone else would consume the rest of our meal!  We all learned to eat fast.   

Speaking of food... There were times when there was nothing but vinegar and sugar in the house, so we made taffy. We had dogs, and if the dogs were hungry, I remember dipping old lettuce in the coffee can filled with bacon grease on our stove, and feeding it to them. 

There wasn't just competition for food, that extended to  "talk-time", as well.   Arlo would really become frustrated, because his thoughts were so many and so long,  that when he paused in the middle of one of his monologues, another of us would jump in to comment.  "Stop interrupting me!" Us:  "Stop interrupting my interruption!"  

Later, as the older sister, I had young siblings hanging onto me, trying to get their own words-in-edgewise.  Sometimes it felt like "Night of the Living Dead", with all the little hands reaching up.   But the need for talk-time was always there.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Brakeless in Pacifica

Our car accident in 1963 made all the newspapers even as far as Bakersfield!

I was 11 at the time, and my mom was driving us to church. We were at the top of steep Manor Drive, a 3-mile-winding road. The brakes went out on our 1951 Studebaker at the top of the hill, and my mom didn't know anything about the overdrive feature on the car, which rendered the gears useless. She told us that we were all going to die, and needed to say the "Act of Contrition" (the prayer that Catholics say to get into Heaven, if they think they are going to die soon).
Pretty terrifying!   Arlo was in the front seat of the car, facing Laurie and I in the back, screaming his head off, Laurie on the floor, me holding on to the back seat.   Miraculously, mom drove that car like a champion, and dodged everyone and everything in her path, as that car took on speed.

We hit the beach, flipping over the the dunes three times, and miraculously, we all survived that accident. Mom had a cut finger, I had glass in my legs, along with bruises, Laurie had to stay in the hospital for a few minor injuries, while Arlo didn't even have a scratch. Here are some of the news clippings (some are embellished for dramatic effect, but the basic story is there).


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Watts Happening!

Arlo loved to listen to late-night radio, long after the rest of us had gone to bed.  I would get up in the middle of the night, look downstairs, and see a light under his door.  He liked to listen to far-off stations, like XERB in Tijuana, Mexico, with Wolfman Jack.

 Arlo & I used to put together crystal set radios, mostly for the novelty of being able to produce our own radios.  They didn't pick up much signal, but they were fun, nonetheless, and magical, when we heard real stations broadcasting over our creations. Never mind that they sounded distant enough to be broadcasting from Mars!

Arlo enjoyed messing with electronics, in spite of numerous mishaps with electricity.   One memory that stands out is when he was about 11, and I asked him to test some Christmas lights for me.  When he plugged them in, a huge spray of sparks flew out of the socket, sending my brother reeling back with several loud shrieks.

On an unrelated note, sparks flew another time, when one of my brothers lit a Piccolo Pete on the kitchen stove, to bring back outside (we had run out of matches!), which went off prematurely on the kitchen floor.  There was a black hole in the tile from then on.

Arlo's interests in electronics and radio continued; as an adult, he was a licensed electrician, and radio host for KMUD radio in Humboldt County, California, which he started, and which continues to this day.  Arlo also hosted the "Environment Show", with current news about recycling, clean energy, and environmental issues.  He had his own music show, called Random Axxes, for many years.  It didn't hurt that my brother was also a musician, who interviewed many famous musicians and others through the years, on his show.
  Each show had a web page that Arlo built himself. 
 The name of his electrical repairs business website was "Watts Happening". He used Hunter S. Thompson's line: "Electricity is neutral. It doesn't want to kill you, but will, if you give it a chance" on his website and ads. 

Arlo built his own computers, what I called: "Franken-computers", back when most people didn't have them in their homes.  I often wonder what he would be doing today, as he was always ahead of the crowd.  His spark of interest as a child led to his vocations and passions.  I think he'd continue to be an advocate of alternative energy, and other ways to protect the well as continue to be the town electrician, and musician.  For more about Arlo, go here:

Monday, December 26, 2016

Kiddie Shows

In late May of 1965, my brother Arlo sent a postcard to the Mayor Art Show, a popular local kiddie show of the time.  Mayor Art had a big drum that the postcards went into, and those whose postcards got picked from the drum got to be guests on the show. We were in shock when, two days later, we got a phone call that Arlo's postcard was picked for him to be a guest on the show the next day!  The next day also happened to be Arlo's 12th birthday!
Mayor Art, with fans

Mayor Art Finley, with two kids on his show.
  My mom took my brother Tom and myself, along with Arlo, to the studio. As we sat in the audience, one of the show's crewmen came out, and asked all of the kids in the audience to join the Mayor on the stage, as part of the City Council.  Arlo and Tom went up there, but I stayed behind - after all, I was 13 years old, certainly not a kid anymore! But the crewman didn't see me that way, and cajoled me into joining the kids on the stage. 

Word had gotten out that it was Arlo's birthday, so Mayor Art let Arlo ride his big tricycle. Arlo had a bit of trouble handling the trike, and crashed it into one of the cameras.   Oops! For myself, I was just proud (and relieved) that when the microphone was put in my face, I remembered my name!

At the end of the show, as always, the Mayor looked into the television camera, and said: "We'll be seeing you...." and we all joined in: "SUBSEQUENTLY! 

 After the show, we all lined up to leave, and Mayor Art (Art Finley) gave us each a box of Capn' Crunch cereal (which was new at the time) and a colorful cellophane top hat.

 When we got home, we had to share the cereal with our other siblings, which was o.k., because we were minor celebrities when we went to school (all of our classmates had seen us on t.v.)

My father was friends with another local kiddie-show celeb, Marshal J. (Jay Alexander).  My sister Laurie and I went to visit Marshal J at his studio barn.  His dog Rowdy was nowhere to be found, but the barn set looked the same.

Click here for more information about Marshal J. 

 We also briefly met Captain Satellite (Bob March), another local kiddie host, who was giving out Milk Duds at the Westlake shopping center. 

 The Captain was a lot shorter than I had expected, and quite likeable.

   Many years later, my husband and I took our daughter to meet Captain Cosmic (Bob Wilkins), which was just as exciting for me as meeting Mayor Art.

Wilkins was pretty funny; every time he would announce prize winners, everyone would clap, and he would exclaim: "And the crowd is alive!" Captain Cosmic had a robot named 2T2, which Kelly loved so much. that she dressed up as a robot that Halloween.

Here we are with "Captain Cosmic", a.k.a.   Bob Wilkins

I should mention the local Kiddie Show hosts we didn't meet - Bob March, with his puppets "Charlie & Humphrey" on KTVU Channel 2,  and "Skipper Sedley", who later became "Sir Sedley", on KRON Channnel 4 TV.   Skipper Sedley showed Popeye cartoons every day, and for a long time, Popeye was my favorite.