Chinese American Citizens Alliance records now open for research

September 14, 2021
Alyssa Tou
Invitation to grand opening of CACA headquarters

The Chinese American Citizens Alliance records (M2078) have been processed and are now open for research. I wrote a blog post about my progress on this collection last May, with a brief overview of its contents covering immigration, identification, and political involvement, which can be found here.

As I've received a few inquiries from individuals looking into family history, I will show here some of the membership records and how they are organized. Knowing the name of the person in question, as well as the branch of the CACA to which they belonged, are important to this process. I have selected an individual, one Quan Get, to follow for the purposes of demonstrating a search for materials. You would go to the member register, which is ordered by surname and points to the membership number by which you can find the application. In the bottom corner there may be the character 恤, which shows whether that person took out a life insurance policy with the CACA. Then you could go to the membership register for the death benefit, also ordered by surname, to look up the policy number for that person.

An image of the CACA Los Angeles Lodge membership register open to the Quan surnameImage of membership application for Quan Get

Not all files may be as detailed as the one shown here. Some of these applications only have the first two columns filled out, along with the name of the sponsor, the English name of the applicant, and the date of admission. Other applications also have images appended, as in the membership application I showed from the previous blog post.

Below are a page from the ledger of insurance membership and one of the variety of death benefit documents that the CACA records contain. This particular department of the organization was instituted in 1920 and discontinued in 1947, though payouts were still made for preexisting certificates. This ledger is also ordered by lodge, and then by surname, showing the insurance identification number and whether the member had died.

An image of the CACA death benefit membership register open to the Quan surname under Los Angeles LodgeImage of death benefit certificate stub for Quan Get

There are a number of different death benefit records. The one I've shown here is the certificate stub, listing the member's name, the date he joined the CACA, the date he registered for the death benefit, and where the payment will go if he dies, including the names of his beneficiaries, often a wife and children. Other papers reveal dates of death, and dates from the payout proceedings.

This is just a small part of the collection, though it is by no means an insignificant portion. In addition to these and the previously mentioned immigration, identification, and political records, there are also, among others, meeting minutes, newsletters, convention documents, financial records, records relating to the administration and dissolution of the Chinese Times Publishing Company, collected publications and periodicals, local scholarship and contest information, and papers relating to the construction of the headquarters and chartering of early branches.