American Ancestors New England Historic Genealogical Society - Founded 1845 N.E. Historic Genealogical Society Seal View Your Shopping Cart Join NEHGS
Go
  • Japanese-American Genealogy

  • Alice Kane Late 2013 200x260
    By Alice Kane
    Genealogist

    | How-To | Vital Records and Family Genealogies | Immigration Records | Periodicals |
    | Articles & Blogs | Organizations | Websites | Need Help? |


    List of Demands by the Voice of the Nisei, ca1944Introduction

    The original immigrants to the United States, the issei, or first generation, intended to get rich in America and return to Japan. Mostly young men, issei endured hardships as temporary migrant workers, but tenaciously succeeded in acquiring farms and starting businesses in California and Hawaii. Issei women arrived in larger numbers after the 1907 "Gentlemen's Agreement" between the United States and Japan, many as picture brides to established issei men. Nisei, or second generation, are their children who grew up embracing American society and culture. The Sansei, or third generation, are the grandchildren of original immigrants from Japan.

    Japanese American family history research can be conducted using standard genealogical resources such as censuses and city directories, as well as records documenting military service, probate, and land transactions. Laws from the 1920s prohibiting land ownership by Japanese make researching issei owners difficult as they made purchases under their children's names or as incorporated companies. Records related to the internment of Japanese Americans can be found in the NARA branch in San Bruno, California. Investigating local and state legislation for references to Japanese residents may yield record sources specific to Japanese in these jurisdictions.

    How-To and Other Guides

    Asian American Genealogical Sourcebook edited by Paula K. Byers
    NEHGS, 7th Floor Reading Rm E184.O6 A828 1995

    A Student's Guide to Japanese American Genealogy by Yoji Yamaguchi
    NEHGS, 5th Floor E184.J3Y335 1996

    Raking the Ashes: Genealogical Strategies for pre-1906 San Francisco Research by Nancy Simons Peterson
    NEHGS, 5th and 7th Floor Reference F869.S353 P48 2006

    Nyssa OR farm worker_locVital Records and Family Genealogies

    Koseki are registers of Japanese families. Under Japanese law since 1872 (Meiji Restoration), all households are required to report births, deaths, marriages, divorces, adoptions, and acknowledgments of paternity of all Japanese citizens. These registries are located in the city/town halls, so knowing the hometown as well as the family name or household head is helpful in finding a koseki. Consulting the latest Japanese references detailing former and present place names, as well as addresses of the local government offices for those places, will be helpful.

    Joseki are registers of family members withdrawn/removed from Koseki for reasons of death, marriage, or renouncing Japanese citizenship. Such registers are also kept in city/town halls where a particular person or family lived.

    Kakocho are Buddhist death registers which record a person's name and death date, among other data. Such registers are kept in the Buddhist temples near where the deceased person lived. For more information about researching in Japan, visit FamilySearch.org.

    FamilySearch, Clan Genealogies, 1700–1900
    This collection is not searchable by individual name. Images of titles held by the National Archives of Japan in Tokyo are organized first by the family surname and its kanji character(s), then the country/region/town described in the keizu. Genealogies published during the Edo period (1603–1867) have many errors and should be verified.

    Shimyo Maru passengers, Angel Island, 1931Immigration Records

    Ancestry.com
    The major entry points into the United States for Japanese immigrants are Honolulu, Hawaii, and San Francisco, California. Ancestry.com has a large collection of databases containing passenger list images for these and other ports in the United States. Note: Occasionally Japanese passengers were confused with Chinese passengers and may be included in Chinese-specific immigration databases. Use "Chinese" in the keyword field of Ancestry's Card Catalog search to quickly bring up a list of these databases.

    Periodicals

    Nikkei Heritage
    A publication of the National Japanese American Historical Society, its articles provide insight into the Japanese American experience. A list of available issues between 1998 and 2003 is available on the website.

    Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers Directory
    This searchable directory allows users to locate titles by the publication language.

    Tule Lake Relocation Center, Newell, CA_LOCBooks, Articles, Blogs, and Wikis

    Being Japanese American by Gil Asakawa
    Berkeley, California: Stone Bridge Press, 2004

    Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850 by Roger Daniels
    Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press, 1988

    Encyclopedia of Japanese American History edited by Brian Niiya and the Japanese American National Museum
    New York: Checkmark Books, 2000

    Japanese Genealogy Blog by Valerie Elkins

    Organizations

    Japanese American National Museum, janm.org
    National Japanese American Historical Society, njahs.org

    Websites

    National Archives, Japanese American Records
    FamilySearch, Japan Genealogy

    Need help?

    Want to maximize your research? The experts at NEHGS can help! We offer a number of services that can help you break down brick walls and expand your research.

    Meet one-on-one with our genealogists

    Want research guidance from a professional genealogist? Our experts provide 30-minute to two-hour consultations in person or by phone.

    • Find elusive ancestors—Whether you are searching in the U.S. or abroad, in the 17th or 20th century, our genealogists have the knowledge to assist you.
    • Locate and use records—Vital records, military records, deeds, probate, and more—if you’re wondering where to look for them, how to read them, or what data you can find in them, we can guide you.
    • Get more out of technology—Feel like you could be making better use of your genealogy software? Curious about websites and databases that might be relevant to your research? Let us help!

    Schedule your consultation today or contact consultations@nehgs.org.

    Hire our experts in Research Services

    Whether you are just beginning your family research or have been researching for years, NEHGS Research Services is here to assist you. Our team of experts can:

    • Conduct hourly research
    • Break down “brick walls”
    • Retrieve manuscript materials
    • Obtain probate records
    • Research and prepare your lineage society application
    • Organize your materials and files
    • Write narrative biographies about your ancestors
    • Create customized family charts

    Hire Research Services today or contact research@nehgs.org, 617-226-1233.

New England Historic Genealogical Society
99 - 101 Newbury Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02116, USA
888-296-3447

© 2010 - 2014 New England Historic Genealogical Society