Here’s a guide to resources for researching Angel Island immigrants and others from the early-mid 20th century, and many videos that tell stories about Angel Island immigrants. Feel free to contact me if you have any trouble getting these resources.
There are many resources available for Angel Island immigrant research. Here are a few:
Ship Manifests on Ancestry.com or familysearch.org provide information on arrivals to San Francisco and a potential case file number (Ship number which is usually on the upper right of second sheet of manifest, page number also in that location, row number). For example, 18045/3-5 refers to someone traveling on ship number 18045, page 3, row 5.
Records of the Board of Special Inquiry. Sometimes immigrants will have both a ship manifest record and a board of special inquiry record. The latter have information such as if people were initially scheduled to be deported, any appeals, hospitalization for treatment of diseases, etc. Most likely if any of these things happened for someone immigrating through San Francisco between 1910 and 1940, the immigrant was detained on Angel Island. These records show up in Ancestry searches.
These file numbers can lead to case files at the National Archives in San Bruno. Many case files are listed on Ancestry with links on where to get them and you can also download a 60,000+ record database compiled by volunteers here: https://www.chinesefamilyhistory.org/san-bruno.html. There are people from at least 80 countries listed on the database.
If a person is not listed there, there are often other locations for their files. To ask questions or to schedule an appointment at the Archives, email firstname.lastname@example.org. They are open five days a week when there is no pandemic. Ancestry.com has uploaded these spreadsheets as part of their holdings, and links researchers to how to get the files.
If the person became a naturalized citizen or participated or was named in the “confession” program in the late 1950s or 1960s, it is likely that the file became an “A-file” (“A”=”Alien”) and could be in other physical locations. Many of these files are making their way to San Bruno and being released 100 years after people are born, but the process is lagging behind. If they are in San Bruno, you will be able to find them in the National Archives index at https://catalog.archives.gov/. A-file numbers are on naturalization petitions and certificates, among other places.
Other A-files are available from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services and the National Archives, depending on the A-file number. Marisa Louie Lee recommends making a Freedom of Information Act request first, which you can do at https://www.uscis.gov/records/request-records-through-the-freedom-of-information-act-or-privacy-act.
A-file numbers under 8 million can also be requested here: https://www.uscis.gov/history-and-genealogy/genealogy/files-numbered-below-8-million, but USCIS is greatly increasing the fees.
Erika Lee and Judy Yung’s Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America is the definitive book on Angel Island immigrant history. It has a general overview plus sections on Chinese, Japanese, South Asian, Korean, Russians and Jews, Mexican, and Filipino immigrants. Available at local bookstores and online.
Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung’s Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island 1910-1940 has most of the Chinese poems on the island in Chinese and English, along with oral histories and other immigration sites where poems were found.
Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation’s website is at www.aiisf.org. Visit the Immigration Voices website at www.aiisf.org-immigrant-voices to browse through the over 220 stories, most of which are about Angel Island immigrants, and are searchable by country of origin, age at immigration, and many other factors. You can also visit AIISF’s Youtube page here: https://www.youtube.com/user/AIISFYT. Here are some of the stories and videos AIISF has made available.
A tour of the Angel Island Immigration Station https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnpgiUY5ip4&t=127s
Eliseo Felipe’s story and video about his immigration from the Philippines: https://www.immigrant-voices.aiisf.org/stories-by-author/angel-island-profile-eliseo-felipe/
Nick Friesen’s story and video https://www.immigrant-voices.aiisf.org/stories-by-author/364-remembering-nick-friesen-1913-2011-3/
Rosa Ginsberg’s story and a link to her YouTube trailer https://www.immigrant-voices.aiisf.org/stories-by-author/830-looking-for-loveor-just-a-better-life/
Kou Kitano’s arrival as a picture bride https://www.immigrant-voices.aiisf.org/stories-by-author/609-kitano-kou/
Jiro Dick Kobashigawa’s wait on the island as a U.S. citizen https://www.immigrant-voices.aiisf.org/stories-by-author/614-kobashigawa-jiro-dick/
Mrs. Lee Yoke Suey’s 15 month detention on Angel Island. https://www.immigrant-voices.aiisf.org/stories-by-author/967-mrs-lee-yoke-sueys-fifteen-month-detainment-on-angel-island/
The Nikonenkos, who got married on a ship on their way to Angel Island https://www.immigrant-voices.aiisf.org/stories-by-author/1007-the-nikonenkos-married-at-sea-on-the-way-to-angel-island/
Rose Young Soon Park’s story https://www.immigrant-voices.aiisf.org/stories-by-author/699-two-korean-woman-and-a-child-at-angel-island/
Dalip Singh Samra’s story and a video visit of his family to the National Archives https://www.immigrant-voices.aiisf.org/stories-by-author/933-from-punjab-india-to-angel-island/
Kehar Singh’s story as told by granddaughter Valarie Kaur. https://www.immigrant-voices.aiisf.org/stories-by-author/946-becoming-american-the-journey-of-early-sikh-pioneer-kehar-singh/
Li Keng Wong’s story and video https://www.immigrant-voices.aiisf.org/stories-by-author/882-li-keng-wong/
Li Keng’s book: Good Fortune, published by Scholastic, is available in many bookstores and online.
Tyrus Wong’s story and video https://www.immigrant-voices.aiisf.org/stories-by-author/587-wong-tyrus-3/
Angel Island: The Story Behind the Poems (scenes from the restoration of the barracks) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_EQY-0ThOM&t=7s
PORTS (Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students) – online classes about Angel Island http://www.ports.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=27693
Links to all the Korean immigration case files at NARA San Bruno: https://catalog.archives.gov/search?q=*:*&f.parentNaId=296445&f.level=fileUnit&sort=naIdSo rt%20asc&tabType=image
You can also see my website (in great need of updating): www.tonaidin.net. I have several documents from my ancestors’ case files on it. Please feel free to email me at email@example.com if you have any questions about how to find Angel Island immigration records or about Angel Island in general.