February 26, 2011 by Valerie Elkins
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 obtain a copy of the record – provided you can prove your direct lineage. This record 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,in grandma’s trunk, etc.) and see if someone already has a copy and will make you a copy. If they do – do the happy dance!
Check out this link to view an image of an actual koseki.
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 or Tokyo, you will need to know the ward or village. You can find this information in several ways:
a. Personal knowledge of relatives, written information, correspondence 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 immigrate 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 misspelled. When searching for the wife be sure to use her married name – often you can find the ‘husband by searching for the wife or vice 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 at www.familysearch.org/eng/Library/FHLC/frameset_fhlc.asp 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 found here:www.familysearch.org/eng/library/FHC/frameset_fhc.asp. 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.
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