Treasures from the Past


One of my greatest blessings while writing The Red Kimono was the dialogue that it opened between my cousins and me about my family’s history.  From them, I have learned some fascinating facts about my maternal grandparents’ beginnings in America.

My Maternal Ancestors:
Great grandfather: Hachitaro Muto (Arrived in San Francisco ,June 21, 1915 at age 44)
Great grandmother: Yone Muto (Arrived in San Francisco, June 21, 1915, at age 42)

Grandmother: Yoi Muto (Arrived in San Francisco with her parents, Hachitaro and Yone, at age 19)
Grandfather:  Fukumatsu Sasaki (Arrived in America approximately 1905, at age 19)

Fukumatsu and Yoi Sasaki

Uncle: Yoshio Sasaki, born April 22, 1916 in Needles, California. First born son of Yoi and Fukumatsu, and the first-born American,  Uncle Yoshio was my Miyoko’s (my mother), oldest brother. Miyoko is the youngest of nine children born to Yoi and Fukumatsu.

Fukumatsu and Yoi Sasaki, and their first-born American son, Yoshio

So, this was new information for me, that my grandmother, Yoi Muto Sasaki, (after whom I was given my middle name, Yoiko), arrived in San Francisco from Japan with her parents. I always assumed she arrived alone, as a picture bride and that my grandparents’ marriage had been pre-arranged.

But, thanks to the Ancestry.com research done by my cousin, Randy, (first-born son of the first-born American in the Sasaki family, Yoshio Sasaki,) I have learned that there are other possibilities, which leads to other questions.

Sadly, our grandparents died before I or most of my cousins were old enough to hear stories of their past. But, my cousin, Steve—Randy’s younger brother—recently scanned several photos from our family ancestry. With these photos and Randy’s research, bit by bit, we are learning more.

Here is some of what Randy has shared:

A ship passenger list indicates that on June 21, 1915, Yoi Muto (our grandmother) arrived in America with her parents when she was 19 years, 8 months old. Each carried only one piece of luggage. Their destination was Needles, California.

Family stories indicate Fukumatsu Sasaki was already living in Needles and worked on the railroad. We are unsure whether or not Yoi and Fukumatsu knew each other prior to actually meeting in Needles, but they were married in Needles, and ten months after Yoi’s arrival in America, their first son, Yoshio, was born on April 22, 1916.

The new Sasaki family–Fukumatsu, Yoi and their son, Yoshio–moved to Sacramento, California, where Fukumatsu became a sailor on a passenger ship. The family remained in Sacramento, where eight more children were born, my mother, Miyoko, being the youngest.

I am grateful that on my father’s side of the family, my grandparents lived long enough to tell old stories of our family history. Those stories continue to be passed down by my uncles and aunts. I’ll admit, when I was younger, I took those stories for granted.

Now, hearing the fascinating tidbits of my mother’s family history, I miss that I could not hear these kinds of stories from her parents.

Thank goodness for the Internet. Not only do sites like Ancestry.com provide invaluable information in researching a family’s genealogy, it makes it much easier to stay in contact with relatives and share these treasures.

Left to right: Fukumatsu Sasaki (grandfather), ??(we think he is one of Fukumatsu’s brothers), Yoi Muto Sasaki (grandmother), Takanori Muto (grandmother’s brother), Hachitaro Muto (great-grandfather), Akiro Muto (granmother’s brother) and Yone Muto (great-grandmother)

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12 Responses to Treasures from the Past

  1. janmorrill says:

    Reblogged this on Jan Morrill Writes and commented:

    A little family history on my Red Kimono blog . . .

  2. Randy says:

    Hi Jan, fantastic! It’s mind-boggling seeing pictures of our great grandparents, when they were younger than us. Your putting family pictures, dates, ages and names in context is like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle fitted together. Based on 1920 US Census, outdoor photos may have been taken in Placer County, an hour east of Sacramento, California, where Janice and Gary live.

    • janmorrill says:

      I agree, Randy. Sometimes when I look at these photos, I feel like our ancestors are talking to me. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, but I sense them saying, “At last you know our story . . . but there’s more.”

  3. Steven says:

    Great work Jan! As a photographer, when I look at the pictures I wonder how they got the dog to pose. 🙂 Even with the camera’s of today it would be difficult to include a picture of the dog like they did in these photos. I also like how the people are spread out in the photos – you don’t see that very much these days. And these pictures do want to speak to me … I wish I could understand.

    • janmorrill says:

      Thanks, Steve. I never thought about the clarity of the dog in the photo, but good point. I’ll bet those photos will talk to you if you listen long enough. 🙂

  4. Wow, how lucky to have these photos! I love them. My own mother didn’t know any of her grandparents and there are almost no photos from when she was a little girl, being from a poor family in Japan. But, at least we have her stories.

  5. tedstrutz says:

    Photos are such a great treasure. Loved seeing yours. I wonder if I knew any of your relatives. One of my best friends in high school was Richard Taketa, and the Land Park area was home to many of Japanese descent. There is a Japanese restaurant that became ‘Chinese’ during the war, and still has the ‘Chop Suey’ neon sign out front.

    I too, found info with my cousins I didn’t know. I wrote a blog about that, if you care to look:
    http://tedstrutz.com/2012/02/10/wedding-day-1914/

  6. Pingback: #AtoZChallenge: O is for Obaasan and Ojiisan | The Red Kimono

  7. Mustang.Koji says:

    Striking parallels to my family history, too. Have you ID’d the car yet? Will help establish the oldest year the picture could have been taken. Great post.

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