Difference between revisions of "Japan Genealogy"

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'''<u>RESEARCH GUIDES</u>'''  
'''<u>RESEARCH GUIDES</u>'''  
*[http://net.lib.byu.edu/fslab/researchoutlines/Asia/Japan.pdf BYU Research Guide for Japan] (Annotated edition of ''Major Genealogical Record Sources in Japan'' (1974) by the Genealogical Society of Utah)<br>  
*[http://files.lib.byu.edu/family-history-library/research-outlines/Asia/Japan.pdf BYU Research Guide for Japan] (Annotated edition of ''Major Genealogical Record Sources in Japan'' (1974) by the Genealogical Society of Utah)<br>  
*[http://net.lib.byu.edu/fslab/researchoutlines/Asia/Asia.pdf BYU Research Guide for East Asian Researchers]
*[http://files.lib.byu.edu/family-history-library/research-outlines/Asia/Asia.pdf BYU Research Guide for East Asian Researchers]
== <center>Did you know?</center>  ==
== <center>Did you know?</center>  ==

Revision as of 12:57, 21 January 2015

Asia Gotoarrow.png Japan

Guide to Japan Genealogy ancestry, family history and genealogy parish registers, transcripts, census records, birth records, marriage records, and death records.

Getting started with Japanese research

Cliff in Okinawa.jpg

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).[1]

800px-Japan flag - variant.png


Hokkaidō RegionTōhoku RegionKantō RegionChūbu RegionKansai RegionChūgoku RegionShikoku RegionKyūshū RegionKyūshū RegionHokkaidō RegionTōhoku RegionKantō RegionChūbu RegionKansai RegionChūgoku RegionShikoku RegionKyūshū RegionJapan.prefectures.png

Japan is divided into a number of areas called Prefectures. These are analogous to states or provinces in other countries. They were created after the Meiji Restoration (1868) by consolidating feudal domains.[2] Some include a city by the same name within their boundaries.


Chūbu · Chūgoku · Hokkaidō · Kansai · Kantō · Kyūshū · Shikoku · Tōhoku


Aichi · Akita · Aomori · Chiba · Ehime · Fukui · Fukuoka · Fukushima · Gifu · Gunma · Hiroshima · Hokkaidō · Hyōgo · Ibaraki · Ishikawa · Iwate · Kagawa · Kagoshima · Kanagawa · Kōchi · Kumamoto · Kyōto · Mie · Miyagi · Miyazaki · Nagano · Nagasaki · Nara · Niigata · Ōita · Okayama · Okinawa · Ōsaka · Saga · Saitama · Shiga · Shimane · Shizuoka · Tochigi · Tokushima · Tōkyō · Tottori · Toyama · Wakayama · Yamagata · Yamaguchi · Yamanashi

Cities, Towns, and Villages

Within each prefecture is a number of cities, towns and villages, The larger cities are very populous, while many towns and villages are quite small and often can border each other in a way that they are at times considered part of a larger city. Most though have some space between them.

Research Tools

See these web sites also:

The Japanese Genealogy Blog http://www.AdvantageGenealogy.com/blog

Tips for Obtaining a Copy of Your Japanese Family Registry (courtesy: JapanGenWeb)

A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:

Japan, Clan Genealogies (FamilySearch Historical Records)

How to Obtain Your Family's Koseki (Family Registration):

Searching for your Japanese ancestors cannot be done the same way you would research for someone from  non-Asian countries. The main reason is that Japan has very strict privacy laws and access to Vital Records is carefully protected. That being said, the Japanese are wonderful record-keepers and the koseki or Family Registration is the record on which births, deaths, marriages and divorces of Japanese nationals are kept and is a rich source of genealogical information. A child is listed on his or her parent's koseki until they create their own.

The koseki is kept and protected by the city hall in the hometown (honseki) or permanent address of the head of household. If your ancestor was listed on a koseki, you can get a copy of the record. This is the best resource for finding your ancestors, as often many generations are included. Obtaining your family's koseki requires some effort but it is worth every bit of it.

The best and easiest way to get your koseki is check with other family members, (i.e.cousins still in Japan, etc.) and see if someone already has a copy and will make you a copy. If they do - do the happy dance!

If not, continue with the steps below:

1. Make a pedigree chart with all the information you know and determine who was the 1st generation (issei) to leave Japan.

2. Locate the address of the honseki or hometown of where your ancestor came from. You will need their address or you cannot locate their city hall. If they came from a large city like Hiroshima, you will need to know the ward or village.You can find this information in several ways:

a. Personal knowledge of relatives, written information, correspondense or a copy of their passport.
b. Search Passenger List databases on line. A good resource is: http://stevemorse.org/. Sometimes the hometown    address is recorded. HINT: Look for other family members who might have traveled with them. Often the husband would imigrate to another country, work for awhile and then come back for his wife - or if he was single, he would return to marry a hometown girl arranged for by his family. Check later years for the family returning to visit relatives and bringing their children to meet the grandparents, etc. Be creative in your spelling as often the names are horribly mispelled. When searching for the wife be sure to use her married name - often you can find the 'husband by seraching for the wife or vise versa.
c.  Obtain the passport information from the Japanese Consulate (must follow same rules as for obtaining a koseki), though this is often slow and unsuccessful.
d.  Search the  Family History Catalog  and view microfilms. Look in the "Subject" catagory under Japan immigration, or just Japan. Microfilms can be ordered and viewed  at local Family History Centers.  When searching for information on Passenger Lists try to determine where their first Port of Entry was located. HINT: Do not assume that because they ended up in California that their Port of Entry was in California. They may have first gone to Seattle or Canada first. Be very creative and open minded in your searching.

Once you know the address of the 1st generation (issei) to immigrate, you must check to see if the village or hometown's name is still in existence. Many villages merged into others, names changed etc. Try using google or wikipedia.com to determine the address of the city hall for the town you are searching for. HINT: Try www.google.co.jp/  which is the Japanese version of Google if you can't locate it on the English version. You may need someone who can read kanji to translate if the translate version does not work. Most city hall's have a web page and their address is usually located on the bottom of the page.

Now that you know the name of the ancestor, his estimated birth year, and his address and city hall's information you are ready to contact the city hall.

How to Write City Hall for Your Family's Koseki

In order to receive your koseki you will first have to prove your lineage to the person for whom you are requesting. The following information will be needed:

     1. A copy of your photo ID (Driver's license, Passport, etc.)

     2. A copy of your birth certificate and a copy of for each set of parents until you reach the ancestor in question. For example, if you want your great grandfather's koseki and he was born in Japan, you would need yours, your parent's on whose line he is on - so if it is your father's line, you would need your father's birth certifcate and both of his parent's birth certificate. You don't need your great grandfather's because his information is recorded on the koseki in Japan.

     3. A pedigree chart with your lineage written out with information that you have. Highlight the line you are seeking information on.

     4. A koseki request form filled out.

   5. Currently the cost for a copy of a koseki and postage is about $13 US dollars. Japanese City Halls will only accept Interational Money Orders from US Postal Service. DO NOT send money orders from banks as it will be returned. Make the International Money Order payable to the City Hall.

     6. Enclose a self-addressed envelope.

     7. If you cannot write in Japanese, see if you can find someone who can. It will be most helpful if you write the family's name in kanji, as the characters can be very necessary in distingushing your family. All Japanese names can be pronounced several different ways, so a request written only in Romanization - containing what you think is the correct pronunciation of the name - may be hard to determine accurately. It is worth trying, even if you don't know the Japanese characters. Try checking with other family members to see if they know it if you do not. If not you can write it in Roman letters, but it will greatly slow things down. 

The City Hall is not required to give you a copy of your famil's koseki, even after you prove your lineage. You want to make sure you have everything in order and make it as simple as possible for them to respond to your request. Be patient. It can take a couple of weeks, to many months to receive a response. Any $ change from the transaction will be given in Japanese postage stamps - which you can use again as partial payment on your next request. When you receive your family's koseki it is time for another happy dance!

It will be necessary to find someone to translate the koseki for you if you cannot read kanji (Japanese character writing). Kanji has changed over the years, so you will need to use the handwriting charts on this page for help. HINT:If there is a kanji you cannot read, download a free language bar from Microsoft.On the Japanese language bar there is an IME pad, using the mouse you can copy the mystery kanji in stroke order and the program will read the kanji in Roman letters. Of course, this is only helpful for someone who knows kanji stroke order.

Once you have the translated copy of your family's koseki, it is time to input that information onto your Family Group Sheets and Pedigree chart. Using a software program is highly recommended as you will quickly see how complicated Japanese lineage can be because of heir adoptions and name changes. (That is explained further down.) You can download a free copy of thePAF genealogy software program. PAF (Personal Ancestrial File) is excellent to use as you can choose Japanese or English versions or both.

Female Lines: Women are found on koseki under the male head of household. Usually on a father's koseki until she is married. If her father dies before her marriage it will be under his male heir's name. When you receive your family's koseki you can then request the koseki for your ancestor's wife, as her maiden name, the head ofhousehold's name on whose koseki she is found on and the address of where she is from, are all usually recorded on her husband's koseki. This is all the information you will need to now follow all the steps above to now request her family information.

Japanese Adoption and Name Changes:

It was common practice for Japanese to adopt another male young adult or older children, if no male heirs were present in a family. Often a son who was not his family's heir would marry a daughter of a man with no male heirs. Upon their marriage, the groom would take the bride's maiden name as his and would become her father's heir. If they divorced, his rights to her family's estate would be returned, he would resume his own name and return to his family and again be recorded under the head of his household's koseki. These changes that are recorded on the family's koseki can quickly become confusing. Using a software program like PAF is helpful to keep track of these changes and distinguish between direct lineage and adopted lineage. Adoptions were very common and frequent in all families and for varied reasons. A good explanation of this practise can be found here: www.alanmacfarlane.com/savage/A-ADOPT.PDF and here:books.google.com/books.[1]

Other records you can search:

(Many of these records are on microfilm at the Family History Library. These records are written in old Japanese, so being able to read and search them you will need a knowlege of written Japanese and as well as a good kanji dictionary that will be necessary to decipher them. In order to find these records in the FamilySearch Catalog, it will be necessary to use the language bar on the computer and type in the Japanese characters under the "Keyword" tab to locate these records in the catalog.)

Religious Inquisition Census Records - This is a census which was used to detect illegal Christians. The government required that everyone register at their religious affliation temple or Shinto shrine. Temple priests were required to give this information to the local authorities. They do not include Samurai. Some kinds of census records are:

      * Religious Inquisition Records.                                  

      * Individual Surveillance Registers

      * Registers of Five-household Units

Use these records to:

Find the name of the head of the household and family members. Because they were created before the time when surnames were used, they do not include surnames.

Featured Content

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. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Use other records that pertain to the situation of your ancestor to fill out more family group worksheets.
  4. 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.)
  5. Other sources of family genealogy can sometimes be found written on the family tombstones (ohaka).
  6. 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).


Did you know?

That you can decipher "old" kanji, by using the IME pad on the Language Bar on your computer? Draw the kanji - in stroke order, then move your curser over the corresponding kanji on the right. It will reveal the different options of how to read/speak the kanji.

Christian Church records (Kirisuto Kyokai Kiroku) of baptisms, marriages, and deaths were kept by church clergy. They include the parish registers of Roman-Catholic and various protestant churches. They cover the time period of 1873 to the present.

Did you know many Japanese emigrated to Peru? The Family History Library has microfilmed records of these emigrants.

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Help Wanted

In order to make this wiki a better research tool, we need your help! Many tasks need to be done. You can help by:


  1. 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.
  2. Wikipedia Contributors, "Meiji Restoration," Wikipedia, accessed 15 June 2011.

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