March 14, 2012 by Valerie Elkins
Here are some frequent questions about Japanese family history research that you might have as well. Hope these answers help you in your quest to find your ancestry in Japan.
I can’t find any online sources for my Japanese ancestors. Do you know any I can search?
Unfortunately there are none. Japan has very strict privacy laws and only direct line ancestors can access their records. You can use online sources like Ancestry.com to find your ancestors once they came to America though. This can help you locate their hometown in Japan, which you will need to know to find the family household registers or koseki.
What information do I need to provide to obtain a copy of my family household register or koseki?
In orders to gain access you to your ancestor’s records you to prove that you are in fact a direct descendant of the person you are requesting information about. You will need to provide the following:
- First and last name of the ancestor you are requesting information about.
- The ancestor’s address and hometown city hall of record.
- Picture ID, your passport or driver’s licence are acceptable.
- Your birth certificate (certified copy is fine)
- Birth certificates of your parents and grandparents until the immigrant ancestor. You do not need one if they were born in Japan, but you do if they weren’t.
- Pedigree chart filled out and highlighted on the chart, showing the ancestor you are seeking information on.
- Currently it is $13US for copies and postage of a koseki record. You must use a US Money Order – not your banks!
- A request form and letter regarding what you are requesting and why.
- Return self-addressed envelope
All of these forms should be written or translated into Japanese. If you write them in English, there is no telling when or if you will get a response, even having it written in Japanese a response can take a few weeks to a few months.
I only know the name of my ancestor and that he came from Tokyo? Can I find his record?
Every Japanese citizen has a hometown city hall of record and this central location is were all their family household records are kept.
Tokyo city has over 6o city hall offices and there is no central database that links them or allows searches of other office’s records. You would literally have to contact each and every office.
Also, many Japanese moved to Tokyo for employment, but they were actually born somewhere else and often their hometown is where their records are still housed, even though they moved to Tokyo.
In order to narrow it down you will have to do more searching for the actual address of your ancestor while in Japan. Old passports, old letters or documents could give you this, as well as passenger ship records sometimes hold clues to this information.
Gaining access to your ancestor’s records in Japan can be challenging and difficult, but it can be done. Finding your ancestor’s records are a wealth of knowledge about your family and heritage and worth every effort!
As the Japanese say, ganbatte! Which means ‘hang in there – you can do this!’
Contact me if you need help or have more questions!
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