May 18, 2022

New Online From Bancroft Library: “Chinese Immigration to the United States, 1884-1944: A Digital Archive”

Released online last week by The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley.

From the Digital Archive’s About Page:

Over 250,000 people who entered the United States through San Francisco or Honolulu left records of their entry.   These “investigation case files” are stored in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) branch at San Bruno, CA.  NARA has made an index to these records—the Early Arrivals Records Search (EARS)—available on the web, in conjunction with the Bancroft Library, at

Since 2002, volunteers at NARA have expanded this on-line index to include the records of over 91,000 people and researchers can now save their search as an excel file.  It is a helpful, free resource for doing research on immigrants and immigration history.



The files may contain certificates of identity and residency; correspondence; coaching materials used by “paper sons;” 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; and witnesses’ statements and affidavits.  One of the most voluminous—and dramatic—files was that of Quock Shee, detained for 22 months.

While most of the files concern arrivals from China, Hong Kong and Japan, there are files on people from over 80 countries.  There are now indexes to 66,000 case files for people who entered through San Francisco 1884-1939, and 25,500 case files for Honolulu 1904-1952. Note that scans of the actual case files are not accessible on this website; for that, one has to travel to the NARA office in San Bruno. But the website will show whether NARA has a case file for a particular person, a bit of information about that person, and—the essential piece of information needed to retrieve the file—the case file number.

While case file information is still being incorporated to the database, and there is no guarantee that all names will be present, the EARS website is a helpful starting point for family history research. Using it could lead to discoveries that are important for you.

Direct to Chinese Immigration to the United States, 1884-1944: A Digital Archive

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.