Japan Research Tips and Strategies
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Japan Research Strategies
Japan Research Tips
The four top sources for Japanese genealogical research are: koseki (household registers), kakochō (Buddhist death registers), Shumonchō (Examination of Religion Register), and kafu (compiled family sources).
If you have Japanese ancestors who emigrated out of Japan, this guide may help you, particularly if they emigrated to the United States or Canada. Even if they emigrated to other countries, the strategies and the kinds of records you use are the same throughout the world. So you could adapt them to your situation.
- 1 Obtain the household register (koseki) of your family.The koseki fills the role of census, birth, death and marriage certificates found in other countries. Registering all family members on the koseki began in the 1870's and is required by law. Even after emigrating to another country, families often sent information of marriages and births back to their city hall to be recorded on their family's koseki. In 1878, legal status was given to the broader sense of household. The household is made up of all the individuals within the family who were legally under the head of the household (koshu) who was charged with the upkeep of all the family members. After 1947, this was changed and only the nuclear family (the husband, wife and children) was then recorded on the koseki.
Here's what information you can find on the koseki: Name and birthdates of the husband or head of the household, the wife, the children, parents and grandparents of the head of household (if living in the household) and the those of his wife. In some koseki, the children, grandchildren, brothers, and sisters of the head of household are listed, with their birthdates and places. (Note about birthdates on older records - the practice once was to record all births as of New Years Day, January 1st. In most casesthis will mean a difference of only a few weeks or months from the the actual date recorded. Whenever a birthdate is shown as January 1st and there is doubt that might not be the actual birthdate, place the word "About" before the date on your record. Marriage dates and place of the head of household and each of his children. (A note about marriages dates, the koseki is usually very accurate in regards to dates - except in the case of marriage dates. The marriage date shown is the date it which it was recorded, which can be days, weeks and in some cases, years between the recorded date and the actual marriage date.) Also found on the koseki are the death dates and place of household members. Heir adoptions and as well as divorces are often recorded as well.Use the koseki to copy the new information onto a Family Group worksheet.
- Study the historical background of your people. Depending on who your ancestors were, where they came from, and what happened to them, you may use different kinds of records.
- Use other records that pertain to the situation of your ancestor to fill out more family group worksheets.
- Use a genealogical computer software, such as Personal Ancestral File (PAF 5), to enter your family information. You can use the English CD and choose Japanese as your language option. (PAF 5 is available in Japanese, English, Portuguese, Spanish, and other languages.)
- Other sources of family genealogy can sometimes be found written on the family tombstones (ohaka).
- Genealogy of the family before the start of koseki record keeping can sometimes be found by contacting the Buddist Temple near the family's hometown (honseki).
- John W. Orton, Basil P. Yang, Ted A. Telford, and Kenji Suzuki, "Panel: East Asian Family Sources: The Genealogical Society of Utah," World Conference on Records: Preserving Our Heritage, August 12-15, 1980, Vol. 11: Asian and African Family and Local History. FHL US/CAN Book 929.1 W893 1980 v. 11 Shumonchō are also known as ninbetuchō and goningumichō. Compiled family sources are also known as keizu.