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Family Registries

Family Registries:
Gene Montgomery

Fellow researcher Gene Montgomery was nice enough to both write to us and allow us to post his experience of trying to obtain copies of his wife's koseki in Okinawa-ken. Thanks so much, Gene!

"A couple points, based on my experience getting married to an Okinawan bride, some 40 years ago.

1. As part of a lengthy process in military, civil and US consular offices, it was necessary to obtain a "birth certificate" for her, and to have it translated to English for consumption by the American military and diplomatic authorities on Okinawa. Not knowing any better, when I was asked whether I wanted a koseki tohon or a koseki shohon, I said "better get both, just in case". The shohon is a family register which lists all of the members of the household, while the tohon lists the parents and the subject individual, but not the siblings. I mention this because it would seem to me that if the only thing one is interested in is the equivalent of our birth certificate (tohon), that the likelihood of rejection of a request is lower.

2. I have the sense that (at least in the prefecture of Okinawa), the city offices are highly interested in correct records, and might take kindly to anyone providing corrections, additions, which would make their records more accurate. Corrections to house numbers, restorations of the records after war damage, and the like are reflected on the family register of my wife. It would seem possible to obtain a copy of a corrected document, particularly if the correction is provided and attested to by the applicant. Traditionally, the "Head of Household" takes care of reporting births, deaths, etc. And the Okinawan tradition is that when a head of household passes on, a new head of household (usually the first-born son, who usually lives in the family domicile) takes on that responsibility. In our case, since the only son was killed in the war, my father-in-law "adopted" one of his grandchildren, who changed his name so as to have the surname of the patriarch, and inherited the household responsibilities and the limited wealth and thus became the new head of household. Regarding officialdom, it may be that the Okinawans are somewhat more open than the officials in Japan proper, and it may be that the war destroyed so much that they "opened up" in a desperate attempt to reconstitute the records. But I found the Okinawan system to be quite amenable, as I recall some 40 years later."

Thanks for the input! If you have tips, experiences, or information about obtaining a copy of a koseki from Japan, please drop us a line.

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