Records about Japanese Americans relocated during World War II
Electronic database made up of data from Form WRA-26, collected from inmates soon after their arrival at War Relocation Authority (WRA) camps in 1942. Publicly accessible and searchable through the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) website since 2003, the database includes information on nearly 110,000 individual inmates entering WRA camps and has been used by thousands of people for both genealogical type information and as a source for statistical information about large groups of inmates.
The roots of the database stem from Form WRA-26 ("Individual Record"), a census type form completed for all inmates in WRA camps in 1942–43. The form includes basic information such as birthdate and place of birth, address prior to removal, occupation, educational attainment, language ability, ties to Japan (schooling, residence and visits in/to Japan), as well as incarceration specific information such as the "assembly centers", WRA concentration camps resided in and the individual/family number. Inmate interviewers canvassed the camps to complete the forms, finishing by April of 1943. The data was subsequently transferred to two sets of punch cards to facilitate analysis. This process began in the WRA's Washington, DC, office, but was later transferred to Topaz in November 1943, where fifty inmates were hired to do much of the work in the camp's "statistical laboratory" located in block 2, barracks 9. Once transferred, the WRA used the data to prepare a master file of inmates and for tables of demographic information included in its 1946 report, The Evacuated People: A Quantitative Description. James Sakoda, a fieldworker for the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study (JERS) also reports that their project was also able to acquire a copy of the data through a connection between JERS project director Dorothy Swaine Thomas and WRA statistical head Evelyn Rose, a former student of Thomas's.
After the war, one set of punch cards went to NARA and the other to the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, along with other material from the WRA. In the 1960s, staffers at the Bancroft migrated the punch card data to magnetic tape. With the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, the Office of Redress Administration (ORA) acquired the tapes from the Bancroft and used the data to help identify and verify individuals for reparations payments. When it opened in 1992, the Japanese American National Museum also acquired the data file where it became a popular attraction for former inmates and their family members upon their visits to the museum. Finally, in 2003, NARA made the records publicly accessible and searchable as part of its Access to Archival Databases (AAD) project.
For More Information
Finding aid and link to search form, Access to Archival Databases. The National Archives. http://aad.archives.gov/aad/series-description.jsp?s=623&cat=WR26&bc=,sl.
Adams, Margaret O'Neill. "Analyzing Archives and Finding Facts: Use and Users of Digital Data Records." Archival Science 7.1 (2007): 21–36.
The Evacuated People: A Quantitative Description. Washington, DC: United States Department of the Interior, 1946.
Hansen, Arthur A. "An Interview with James M. Sakoda." August 9–10, 1988. In Japanese American World War II Evacuation Oral History Project, Part III: Analysts. Edited by Arthur H. Hansen. Munich: K.G. Saur, 1994. 343–446. http://www.oac.cdlib.org/view?docId=ft0p30026h;NAAN=13030&doc.view=frames&chunk.id=d0e33713&toc.depth=1&toc.id=d0e33713&brand=oac4.
Sakoda, James M. "Reminiscences of a Participant Observer." In Views from Within: The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study. Edited by Yuji Ichioka. Los Angeles: Asian American Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles, 1989. 219-45.
- Topaz Times Nov. 13, 1943, 1, and Nov. 18, 1943, 2. James Sakoda, who was a supervisor of the interviewing unit at Tule Lake also recounts that he and other inmates transferred data to punch cards at that camp. See James M. Sakoda, "Reminiscences of a Participant Observer," in Views from Within: The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study, edited by Yuji Ichioka (Los Angeles: Asian American Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles, 1989), 237–38. See also the Densho interview with Chiyoko Yano by Megan Asaka, August, 1, 2008. An inmate recruited to work in the lab, she recalls her work there in segment 10 of the interview, http://archive.densho.org/Core/ArchiveItem.aspx?i=denshovh-ychiyoko_2-01-0010.
- Sakoda, "Reminiscences," 237. See also correspondence between Thomas and Rose and other WRA officials in "Miscellaneous" documents, BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder W 1.45:3, Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study Collection, Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley, downloaded at http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/28722/bk001310n8c/ on May 14, 2014.
- Some information concerning military service, public assistance, and physical defects were masked in the AAD version.