Linda Kawamoto, now Linda Reid, found a story written by a woman with the same name as her grandmother.
The story, which won first place in a historical-writing contest, chronicled a young Japanese woman’s journey of coming to Canada from Japan in 1907 as a “picture bride” “When I saw this story, I thought ‘Could this be my grandmother?’” said Reid in a telephone interview from her office at the Nikkei Nation Museum in Burnaby, B.C.
A curious Reid did some investigating and discovered that the story was indeed written by her grandmother, Koto Kawamoto.
“I thought, ‘Wow, this is really cool. Here she is talking about all the things that she would have never told me,’” explained Reid, who was very close to her grandmother.
Eager to learn more about her family history, Reid began the task of tracing her family’s roots, starting in 1902 when her young grandfather, Sansuke Kawamoto, travelled across the ocean from Meiji, Japan, to Victoria, B.C., in the hopes of finding a more prosperous life in Canada.
For five years the young man worked hard, tilling land in B.C.’s Fraser Valley.
When he earned enough to buy his own land, Reid’s grandfather built a little home and began cultivating farmland on his property to make a living.
After his new picture bride — he selected her through a photo shown to him by a matchmaker — arrived in 1907, she joined in on the long hours of work. The young couple established a good life for themselves in Canada.
During the Second World War, like most Japanese people in B.C., Reid’s grandparents were placed in Japanese internment camps. Everything they’d worked so hard for was lost; their 10 acres of land, their home, and all of their belongings were all taken and auctioned off by the B.C. Security Commission.
“It was a really painful time for Japanese people in Canadian history,” Reid explained, adding many people to this day still don’t like to talk about it.
“Thankfully my dad has always been very good about talking about it.”
For Reid, learning about her grandparents’ journey has created a whole new journey for herself. “It was my grandmother’s story that really peaked my curiosity,” Reid explained. “I started reading a lot of books and doing research like that. I didn’t get into genealogy until the 1980s.”
The research archivist has taken trips back to her grandparents’ homeland, in search of learning more. She is also a longtime member of Ancestry.ca, where she has found documents and information that has helped in her research.
Reid’s interest and curiosity in genealogy and family research has not only helped her find her roots, it has also been key in assisting others in their search to learn about their family’s histories.
“It’s like a passion for me,” she said. “It’s taken me into a number of wild directions.”
Read more stories like these at Who Are You