American historian Erika Lee found her Chinese grandmother’s file while doing research at the National Archives in San Bruno, California.
When 27-year-old Wong Lan Fong and her new husband, Yee Shew Ning, traveled to the United States, they were aware of anti-Chinese prejudices. They took measures to emphasize their respectability and economic status. They delayed their departure for the United States until they had enough money to travel in first class. They also submitted a letter from the clergyman who performed their wedding ceremony, attesting to their good character.
Immigration officials seized further evidence when they confiscated the couple’s wedding photograph as proof of their marriage. The couple’s strategy worked. They were detained on Angel Island only one day before being allowed to land.
Some 70 years later, their granddaughter, American historian Erika Lee, was conducting research for her book on Chinese immigration at the National Archives in San Bruno, California, when she discovered her grandparents’ wedding photograph in her grandmother’s immigration file. Since the photo was not returned and her grandparents could not make a copy, she had never seen it before.
Our “Attachments” exhibit closes September 4, so catch it while you can (http://www.archives.gov/nae/visit/gallery.html)!