National Archives and Record Administration

Early Arrivals Record Search (E.A.R.S.)

What's in a Case File?

A typical investigation case file contains the individual's name, place and date of birth, physical appearance, occupation, names and relationships of other family members, and family history. Specific INS proceedings are also documented. Because of the nature of INS investigations, case files also provide links to file numbers for related cases, including those of other family members.

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.

Most early files document the investigation of people arriving from China to determine their eligibility for admission under the Chinese exclusion laws. By the early 20th century the scope of individuals investigated expanded to include people arriving from India, Japan (including picture brides), Korea, the Philippines, other Asian countries, and Russia.

Before 1944 each INS district office developed its own filing systems. Name indexes to case files exist for only a few of the offices. NARA volunteers and students are gradually creating a database index to the case files of the INS San Francisco District Office; the case files of the INS Honolulu District Office have already been indexed up to 1944.

Search for case numbers now.

Next Steps

Learn More About the NARA Files. Find out what's in a case file and how to do a search.

Start a search. Search for case numbers now.

Make an appointment. To see the records at the NARA office, it is best to make an appointment by calling (650) 238-3501 or sending an e-mail to sanbruno.archives@nara.gov.

Volunteer to help. NARA has thousands of case files that need to be indexe so that they can be searched. If you would like to volunteer to assist with this public service project, contact the archives at (650) 238-3501 or send an e-mail to sanbruno.archives@nara.gov.


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