Family Matters and Personal Legacy


What do you know about your family history?  How far back does your family tree go?  Unfortunately, my family doesn’t have a whole lot of information about my relatives beyond my grandparents.  And even that is fairly sparse, especially since my grandparents didn’t talk to much about their pasts when they were alive.

Fortunately, last year my auntie discovered some old family photographs on my dad’s side.  Above are my dad’s mom’s parents.  The Nishioka’s owned a barber shop in Seattle.

When my parents were visiting last week, I asked them what else they knew about our family history or who was in these photos.  I wish that they knew more.  This makes me appreciate the blogging world even more as it captures our day-to-day routines, our thoughts, our dreams.  We get snapshots into each other’s lives and read the stories that go along with them.

Here are my great-grandparents again a little older along with my grandmother (the younger girl) and her sister.  The females are wearing traditional Japanese kimonos.


This is a photo of my dad’s dad, Howard Lee, and his parents.  My grandfather is the tallest boy standing in the back right between my great-grandmother and great-grandfather.  This was taken in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  My parents had a hard time identifying who all the other children were in the photo.  Despite not knowing much about who these people were, I’m grateful to at least have these family portraits.


A few years ago I created an art book in honor of my grandpa Ernest Fukuda (my mom’s dad).  He was the first Japanese-American to be employed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.  We’re fortunate that my grandpa wrote up his life story and was interviewed in 1991 by the L.A. DWP for a series of oral histories of the DWP.  Along with the interview transcripts are several letters from 1943 through 1984 documenting how the internment impacted his career and how he advocated for reparations for Japanese-Americans who were sent to internment camps during the war.  My grandpa worked with then councilman Tom Bradley on a charter amendment which was passed in 1967 to permit the DWP retirement plan to honor years of continuous service for four Japanese-American employees, including my grandpa, who were removed from their jobs during the war.

I started this post yesterday and actually did a search to see if there was anything written online about my grandpa.  I discovered a photo of him in the Japanese American National Museum archives which my family had not seen yet.  And as I worked on this post today, I realized that yesterday, July 14th, was his birthday.  I didn’t even realize that until now.  He passed away 10 years ago and would’ve been 106 yesterday.

He closed his life story with, “I ask for nothing more than peace for all mankind.”

What legacy do you wish to leave?  What are the stories you want future generations to know about you?

10 thoughts on “Family Matters and Personal Legacy”

  1. Jenn, These photos are fantastic and a true treasure.

    Our history is so important. I’m not into the whole family tree thing (details, details, details) BUT I am so into the STORIES. They are so important and can teach us much about ourselves.

    A novel never interests me if it doesn’t have back story so why would our lives be interesting without this depth? 🙂

  2. I loved this post. I have always found such joy looking at old pictures of my family and asking them about the people in the pictures. It makes me want to do a better job of documenting every day life for my own children. The curse of digital photography is we don’t print things out anymore. I honestly am thinking about dusting off my film camera and shooting just for the paper images. There is nothing like it.

    You have a wonderful legacy here and I so appreciate you for sharing this post.

  3. Amazing! What a great post. It’s inspired me to look into my family some more. I always thought my dad’s side was German but it turns out their Swiss. No wonder I love that country so much.

  4. Wow, what an amazing group of pictures you have! So fascinating. Thanks for sharing a bit of your history, Jenn!

  5. Ms. Lee,
    i was recently directed to your site by my life coach, Pete Lee, since i am an artist and all about creativity in its many forms and i have been enjoying your recent posts on ‘wreck this journal’ but i truly enjoyed your ‘digital’ collage book as this is my favorite media to work in…

    family history is so important but i have found that our elders (or parents) upon coming to this country did not realize how important their stories were and still are. i do hope you will be able to find a way to uncover some more family history and i hope that you might create another collage book of the recent photos that have been uncovered and shared here – they are fantastic!

    i look foward to more of your stories and art and i also hope to purchase your ‘unfolding vision’ kit very soon!!

    thank you for sharing your amazing work and discoveries =-)
    monica moran

  6. I love this post! I was just talking to some friends recently about learning more about my family history. I had shared that on a trip to NYC a few years ago, I did a census search at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to see if I could trace my grandparents. I did find information about my grandparents on my Dad’s side but not my mother’s. Recently, I was in the suburban Philadelphia area where my Dad grew up and became interested in learning more about that side and how they came to live in the “Main Line” area(which unfortunately information is sketchy at best). Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos and reminding me how important it is to get more information.

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