Household Registration Records (Koseki)
What they are
Koseki is a registration of the population, which is taken nationwide by the government in Japan. This is a compilation of information about each household, including names of all family members. They are regularly updated. When someone is born, married, or died, citizens are required to report it to the village, town, or city record office.
The first one, the jinshin koseki, was started in 1872 and completed in 1873. Distinctions between the nobility (kazoku), the samurai (shizoku), commoners (heimin) and former outcasts (burakumin) were recorded and the registers perpetuated the class distinctions. The jinshin koseki registration system took the domicile or household (ko) as its basic unit. The format for jinshin koseki was standardized in 1886.
In 1898 they no longer recorded the class distinctions. Also, in 1898 legal status was given to the broader, traditional Japanese family. In this system the household (ie) encompasses all individuals within the family who were legally subordinate to the head of the household (koshu) who was charged with the upkeep of all of the family members. Thereafter, this broader sense of household was established as the basic unit of the koseki.
In 1947, after the Second World War, the new constitution abolished the household (ie) system as a legal entity and the koseki law was amended to place an emphasis on the individual. Information in the post 1947 koseki is limited to the nuclear family (husband, wife, and children).
Before the war, wherever the family lived (current domicile) was also considered the permanent domicile. After the war, the place where a family lives (current domicile) was not necessarily considered the permanent domicile. The place where the family lived before the war is sometimes considered to be the permanent domicile.
After a person has died or been otherwise removed from the koseki, the record is considered a joseki (expired koseki). Direct descendants can get these records from the records office in Japan.
- Permanent domicile (honsekichi)
- Name and birth date of:
- The husband or head of the household (koshu)
- The wife of the head of the household
- The children of the head of the household
- Parents and grandparents of the koshu (if living in the household) and the koshu’s wife
- In some koseki, the children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters of the koshu are listed, with their birth dates and places
- Date of household establishment
- Marriage date and place of:
- The head of the household
- Each of his children
- Date and place of death of household members
Religious Inquisition Census Records (Shumoncho)
What they are
The Religious Inquisition Census is a census that was taken periodically to classify people according to their religion and to detect illegal Christians. The government required that everyone register their religious affiliation with the local Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine. Temple priests were required to give this information to local authorities. They do not include samurai. Some kinds of shumoncho are:
- Religion inquisition records (shumon aratamecho or shumoncho for short)
- Individual Surveillance Registers (ninbetsucho)
- Registers of Five-Household Units (goningmicho)
Goningumi registers were compiled to control the population and to deter misconduct within the neighborhood groups. These groups consisted of the five-household unit, which shared responsibility and accountability for each other’s conduct and non-Christians. Time period of the records is 1640—1872.
Use these records to
These records are used to find the names 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.
- Describe the make up of the local community
- Classify families according to their status as farmers, artisans, merchants, and outcasts
- They do not count samurai or court nobles, and they sometimes omit children and the marginal social groups
- The name of the head of each house and the names of household members
- Sex of each household member
- Relationship to head of household
- Age at the time of census
- Sect affiliation
- Confirmation of temple affiliation
- Location of the family temple
- Number of household residents (sometimes listing of servants, animals owned, and property)
- Give the locality and date of the document created
- Name of household
- Names, ages, sexes, and relationship to head of household
- Status of household members, animals owned, and property and tax notations
- The amount of taxes paid
- Give the names of each of the five household heads and the chief of the group
- Locality, date, the temple seal attesting to religious orthodoxy
- Sometimes the names of the household members
How to obtain them
About 30 percent of the still existing records are available at the Family History Library. Because they are scattered in archives, private collections, in the homes of descendants of village headmen, and even in some Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, you must search them out.
Privacy laws, and 80-year retentions restrict access to koseki.
A Religious Inquisition Census was taken periodically to classify people according to their religion and to detect illegal Christians.
- Dr. Kin-itsu Hirata and Dr. Greg Gubler, "Family and Local History in Japan. Breaking the Impasse: Sources and Options in Japanese Family History Research," 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