Chinese American Genealogies and the California Railroads


Thursday, April 18, 2019 6:00PM

Chinese American Genealogies and the California Railroads
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Chinese American Genealogies and the California Railroads


Please reserve prior to the event. Our space has limited capacity.

Where: California Historical Society Headquarters, 678 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

Cost: $10 General Admission, Free for CHS Members, plus one guest per membership.

Chinese railroad workers were integral to the building of railroads in California and across the country during the latter half of the 19th century. For many years the identities, experiences, and contributions, of these Chinese immigrants went largely unknown and unrecognized. Chinese Americans in California have worked to discover the histories of these workers, some with great success and some without. Join us for short presentations led by individuals who have discovered a family history relating to the building of the railroads in California, as well as those who have searched and not found what they were looking for. After the presentations, we will hold an session for questions and comments.

About our Speakers:

Grant Din has been researching his and other families’ histories for over 35 years. His research has taken him from Oakland to San Bruno, the Sacramento Delta, China and Japan. He has worked most of his life in the nonprofit sector, including for the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, and currently consults on historic, philanthropic, and genealogy projects. Grant completed the Certificate in Genealogy Research from Boston University and moderates an online group on Chinese American family history research. He has spoken to organizations and libraries throughout California on genealogy research and loves to help others find their roots.

Albert Cheng is a fourth generation American of Chinese descent, renowned for his 45 plus years of community involvement. In 1991, he and the late renowned Chinese American historian Him Mark Lai co-founded the Friends of Roots program that takes Chinese Americans back to their ancestral villages in the Pearl River Delta and other regions of Guangdong Province, China. Over the past 28 years, over 500 individuals have participated in this journey, visiting hundreds of villages. In 2001, the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (OCAO) of Guangdong Province awarded Cheng the title, "Searching for Chinese Roots Pioneer”. And in 2006 KQED Public Television recognized him as a local San Francisco Bay Area hero. In 2011, Mayor Ed Lee and the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco, declared April 9 as Albert Cheng Day. In 2012, Cheng received the "Grand Charity/Humanitarian Award 2012" from the OCAO of Guangdong Province. In 2016, the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation awarded Cheng the Immigrant Heritage Community Leader Award. Cheng was featured in a national 2012 PBS documentary, "Searching for Roots in Canton.”

Today, Cheng continues to volunteer for the Friends of Roots and lead several groups back to China. As an educator of over 30 years, Cheng believes that strong roots build strong character, strong character creates strong communities, and strong communities give us a strong country. He is guided by the Chinese saying, yinshui siyuan, "when drinking water, remember the source."

Paulette Liang is a life-long artist working in clay and occasionally collaborating on mural projects. During her younger years she was an activist against the Vietnam war and the struggle to save the International Hotel in San Francisco's Chinatown/Manilatown. She worked with her husband on video productions documenting anti-imperialist and social justice issues. She was also an elementary school teacher specializing in teaching “hands on science”. She and her husband reside in San Francisco enjoying retired life with their children and grandchildren.

Sue Lee retired as Executive Director of the Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA), the oldest organization in the country dedicated to the interpretation, promotion, and preservation of the social, cultural and political history and contributions of the Chinese in America in June 2017. During her tenure at CHSA, the museum thrived and expanded its audience with enhanced museum and traveling exhibits, public and educational programs, collections, and publications. In 2016, she acquired the New-York Historical Society’s ground-breaking exhibition “Chinese American Exclusion/Inclusion” which is currently on view at CHSA.

In 2014, she documented the US Department of Labor’s induction of Chinese Railroad Workers in its Hall of Honor, the first government recognition of Chinese contribution to building the Transcontinental Railroad. She also co-edited “Voices from the Railroad,” oral histories from descendants of three Central Pacific Railroad workers. She is currently working on an expanded volume, which will cover the stories of nine descendent families.

In Partnership with Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA)

In Partnership with the California Geneaological Society (CGS).

Citatiin for Photo: Photographer unknown, Building the Loma Prieta Railroad, 1882, albumen print, California Historical Society


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