Born and living in California, actor and activist George Takei was only four years old when Pearl Harbor was bombed in December of 1941. Two short months later, on February 19, 1942, in reaction to that event, President Franklin D Roosevelt issued an Executive Order that allowed approximately 120,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese residents to be rounded up into “War Relocation Camps.” Of those interned, 62% were American citizens.
“I was only a small child when the government sent soldiers to remove my family from our home in Los Angeles,” Takei recalled. “We could only take what we could carry. First we were sent to the horse stalls of Santa Anita racetrack and then to government-run prison camps in both Arkansas and California.”
This week, as we mark the 70th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, Ancestry.com is offering free access to our extensive Japanese internment camp record collections. These records, contained in two databases, will be available for free from February 16th-23rd.
Not all records on Ancestry.com are “searchable.” We have many databases that are valuable both for genealogy research and for family history context that will never surface in search results. They are “image only” collections that must be browsed. This is one of those collections.
I spent a few hours immersed in this collection over the past couple of days. I have read through dispatches and reports. I have looked a journals and newspaper clippings. I have read through numerous complaints and charges made in letters to Congress and the investigative reports created as a result.
I won’t color your perceptions with my own commentary but I will direct you to a few things in this collection that might help you gain a greater understanding of what went on during this time in our nation’s history. (Be sure to click the next image arrow to read through some of these documents.)
Letter from a young man who wants to enlist, but can’t because he is the “enemy”
Statement from a center counselor regarding the effects of the conditions internees are living under
Report of an internee killed while trying to leave a camp
Mementos from the youth at Tule Lake
This searchable database contains the names, birth records and place, educational achievement, marital status and other information about those who were placed in the internment camps. I quickly found the record for my favorite landscape architect, Mr. Robert Murase and the record for Mr. Takei.
“My hope,” George Takei states, “is that all Americans will learn about the unfair treatment visited upon Japanese Americans like my family and will ensure it never happens again to any other group.”
Not all in our past is noble and good. But, I have discovered that by uncovering it and taking the time to learn about it we gain a greater ability to move forward and to create a better world.
Until next time…