Linda's Orchard

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A Reference Guide to Finding Your Japanese Roots

Finding Your Japanese Roots

I’m excited to announce that the second edition of my 6-page laminated quick guide to Japanese and Japanese American Genealogy is now available! The first edition sold out quickly. Order yours today for $12 plus shipping (8.5% sales tax in California). Aimed at those who are new to Nikkei genealogy, as well as seasoned genealogists who are new to these records, this guide provides a basic introduction to get you started and includes:

  • A brief historical overview and timeline of laws and events which impacted Nikkei (those of Japanese Ancestry) in the U.S. and in Japan
  • Clues in Conventional U.S. Records
  • Records Unique to Japanese Americans
  • Clues in Conventional Japanese Records
  • Glossary of Japanese Words Related to Family History
  • Online Resources
  • Bibliography

Contact to place your order. Payable through Paypal.

It was a Beautiful Day for a Pilgrimage!

Second Annual Nikkei Pilgrimage to Angel Island

Angel Island Immigration Station

Angel Island Immigration Station

On 3 October 2015, the Nichi Bei Foundation hosted the second annual Nikkei Pilgrimage to Angel Island, in honor of the Japanese immigrants who arrived there between 1910 and 1940. An emphasis was placed on the women who immigrated, specifically the picture brides. There were over 300 attendees who journeyed by ferry to enjoy the music, dramatic presentation, speeches, bento lunches, and family history stations.


Kenji Taguma, Nichi Bei Foundation


Picture Bride, Produced by Judy Hamaguchi, SF JACL

Linda Harms Okazaki and Karen Korematsu

Linda Harms Okazaki and Karen Korematsu


Learning about Picture Brides, inside the Immigration Station Barracks

There were honored guests and special speakers, including Karen Korematsu, who is perhaps best known as the daughter of civil rights activist, Fred Korematsu. On this day, however, she spoke about her grandmother, Kotsui Aoki, who arrived on Angel Island on January 12, 1914 as a picture bride. Karen addressed the importance a discovering family roots and understanding the experiences of our immigrant ancestors.

Following the formal program, six volunteers from the California Genealogical Society provided research consultations, including Todd Armstrong, Grant Din (also of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation), Fatima Ogihara, Linda Okazaki, Jim Russell, and Adelle Treakle. By far the most frequent question among the consults was “Did my ancestor come through Angel Island?”

Though most of the participants were of Japanese ancestry, there was a definite mix of ethnic groups represented. Guests had ancestors from Korea, China, Latin America, Canada and Europe. The genealogists were rewarded every time someone “found” an ancestor on an immigration record or census document. Those asking questions ranged in age, as well. One woman was 97 and had been incarcerated in an internment camp. Another young man was eight years old and very interested in family history. His parents listened intently as he asked questions about his great grandmother who was born in Mexico and was currently living in California. It was a teachable moment when he discovered the importance of interviewing the eldest living relatives. He is most definitely the “NextGen” in genealogy.








California Genealogical Society Volunteers Gran Din, Fatima Ogihara, Adelle Treakle, Todd Armstrong, Linda Harms Okazaki, Jim Russell


Author’s Note: This blog publication can also be viewed at, where it was republished with permission.

Japanese Genealogy

Finding Your Japanese Roots in Japan and in the U.S.
August 29, 2015
At the California Genealogical Society and Library

Shichi Go San

Shichi Go San

Are you a Nikkei who is ready to document your family history? Do you want to find those WRA camp files, Enemy Alien files or other records from WWII? Do you wonder if Obāchan was a picture bride? Or if Ojīchan was arrested and sent to a Department of Justice camp? Are you a genealogist who wants to know about different record groups? Or are you helping a Japanese American friend with their genealogy? Come learn how to find your Japanese roots.

Saturday, August 29, 2015
12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

California Genealogical Society and Library
2201 Broadway, Suite LL2

$30 for non-members (non-refundable)
Free for CGS members

Register on Eventbrite

Manzanar Cemetery

Manzanar Cemetery

Lordsburg, New Mexico

Lordsburg, New Mexico

Part I of the three-hour seminar will be a brief overview of Japanese culture, history and language as it pertains to family history. Records available through the National Archives, USCIS,, and will be covered.

Topics will include:

  • the early political climate in the U.S. and laws of the time
  • internment camps
  • post WWII experiences, repatriation, resettlement, and  redress

The second half of the seminar will focus on documenting your ancestors in Japan, from using the information in the American records to finding your koseki, understanding ohaka and kakocho, plus visiting relatives, cemeteries and temples.

This seminar is suitable for all levels of research experience. Limited to thirty participants; the fee may be applied towards membership on the day of the class.

Traditional Marriage

Traditional Wedding


Please visit our Eventbrite page to register for this seminar. Preregistration is required. Confirmations and a parking permit will be sent to the first thirty registrants.

Participants are invited to come early and meet others who share an interest in Japanese research. Use our computers, browse in our library, or bring a bagged lunch and meet at the library before the session. The library is open from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.


Republished with permission by
California Genealogical Society and Library
Copyright © 2015



Who Are These People?


Isn’t this photo spectacular?

The handwriting on the back is in Japanese and only identifies the date and the location: 5 December 1956, Wedding Place, Shimo cho, Kita ku, Tokyo.

The background appears to be a studio.

Wedding venues are common in Japan. No venue specifically for weddings appears to still exist in this town.

The groom and the young boy are dressed in western clothing, while the others are in Japanese attire. The young man in the back row on the right is dressed in a Japanese school uniform.

Who are the people in this photo? Why was this photo found in the United States?

My colleague who was possession of this photo has no additional information. She would like to return it to the rightful family.

So, genealogists and Japanese American friends, are you up for the challenge? Can you identify the people in the photo?

Send me your input.




Northwest Genealogy Conference: An Opportunity for Nikkei to Find their Roots

This summer there will be a genealogy conference held in the Pacific Northwest, just outside of Seattle. Aside from Jamboree, which is held every June in Southern California, this is the largest genealogy event in the west. There will be some BIG name speakers including Lisa Louise Cooke, Luana Darby, Cindy Ingle, Angela Packer McGhie, CeCe Moore, Elissa Scalise Powell, Judy Russell, and many more. Classes are suitable for a variety of levels. This event combines the best of genealogy, from beginning classes to DNA to understanding the law. On top of that, there will be two classes geared for just Nikkei. The first lecture is “Finding Your Japanese Roots in the US” and the second lecture is “Finding Your Japanese Roots in Japan.” Bring your JA friends, and learn all about documenting your heritage. Come for a day or two or three. There are even some free beginning classes before the event. Registration opens April 15. See Northwest Genealogy Conference for more details.

Combined Flyer Low Res (1)

Church Camp? No, Not Exactly

Linda Harms Okazaki, Sumi  Utsushigawa Shimatsu, Maru Okazaki Hiratzka, Jan Jarboe Russell

Linda Harms Okazaki, Sumi Utsushigawa Shimatsu, Maru Okazaki Hiratzka, Jan Jarboe Russell


Most Americans know something about the internment of Japanese (immigrants and Americans) during World War II. Most of those incarcerated during this time were held first at Assembly Centers (primarily animal quarters at racetracks) and then sent to one of ten camps run by the War Relocation Authority. Few people know about the camps run by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Fewer still realize that those camps also held Germans and Italians, their American families, and Japanese Latin Americans who were predominately from Peru. Crystal City was one of those camps. Located in south central Texas not far from the Mexican border, it was chosen for its distance from either coast. Created as a way to reunite enemy aliens with their families, the camp also served as part of an exchange program to bring Americans back to the United States. [i]

On 8 March 2014 I had the pleasure of attending a presentation and book signing by author Jan Jarboe Russell whose book, “The Train to Crystal City”, was published by Scribner in January of this year. She has toured the U.S. promoting this book. I was delighted to know that Northern California and Honolulu were on her schedule. Russell’s non-fiction book is noteworthy because in it she included all ethnic groups incarcerated in the U.S. during WWII. She not only described the events leading up to the detention of individuals, but she focused on the lives of two American girls, one of German ancestry and one of Japanese. Russell conducted many interviews in her research, but the lives of Sumi and Ingrid took center stage in the book. Russell also brought to light a different side of the prisoner of war exchange as she described the family of Irene Hasenburg, a Jewish woman who survived the horrors of Bergen-Belsen entirely because of this prisoner of war exchange program.

I was intrigued as Russell described her research to the audience of mostly Nikkei (people of Japanese ancestry) at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California. Russell explained how, as a student at the University of Texas at Austin, she met architecture professor, Alan Taniguchi. He was the first Asian person she had ever met. When she asked him how his family came to Texas, he said they were “in camp”. Anyone familiar with Japanese American history knows the meaning of “camp”, but she innocently asked if he meant church camp? No, it wasn’t exactly church camp.

This early encounter with Taniguchi set the stage for what would eventually become a book about Crystal City. The events Russell wrote about are historically accurate, but the author created a work that also captivated me. As Russell described her book that sunny afternoon in March, her voice faltered, her emotions were palpable. This project touched Jan Jarboe Russell in unimaginable ways; she explained that during the writing process she found herself “weeping at the terrible injustice.”

Following Russell’s presentation of the book, two former internees participated in a panel discussion. Americans by birth, Nob Fukuda and Sumi Shimatsu both were detained at Crystal City; they and their families were featured prominently in the book. In addition, Irene Hasenburg’s son (she of Bergen-Belsen) was in the audience. There were 18 former Crystal City internees in attendance, all Nikkei, though Germans have attended other book signings. For many, it had been decades since they had seen one another. The passage of time made it difficult for some to recognize one another, but as the conversations bloomed, so did old friendships. Sumi has been instrumental in maintaining communication among these people. She has published a newsletter for Crystal City detainees for decades. For the Germans, there is a website that promotes communication about the experience:

Unfortunately, Crystal City did not close her doors until 1948, a concept difficult for many of us to imagine, considering that the war “ended” in August 1945.

From the perspective of a book lover, this was an interesting read. From the perspective of a genealogist, I found Russell’s method of citations to be interesting and unconventional. She chose to annotate her sources and notes at the end of the book, divided by chapter. Though unusual, I found this format to be academically useful; I can look back to her sources quickly and easily. As a genealogist, the first part of a book that I generally review is the index; I was not disappointed.

My ties to Crystal City are personal. My father-in-law was detained there, along with his siblings, parents, aunt and uncle. Except for one sibling, the family was repatriated to Japan at the end of the war. The consequences of this matter have impacted the family for decades. Due to laws of the time, my husband and his sibling were born stateless. The “Train to Crystal City” helps to explain this tragic time in our history.

This book is a must read for those who have ties to Crystal City, but also for anyone researching Alien Enemy records in the United States. Be prepared to weep at the injustice, just as the author did.

The Train to Crystal City panel discussion with Sumi Shimatsu, Jan Russel and Nob Fukuda

The Train to Crystal City panel discussion with Sumi Shimatsu, Jan Russel and Nob Fukuda

18 Former incarcerates from Crystal City Texas

18 former internees from Crystal City



[i] Texas Historical Commission, Crystal City Family Internment Camp: Enemy Alien Internment in Texas during World War II, 2011, ( : accessed 16 March 2015); The Texas Observer, The Legacy of Crystal City, 14 January 2014, ( : accessed 16 March 2015); Denshō: The Japanese American Legacy Project, ( accessed 16 March 2015).










I am SO there!


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Last year I attended the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree as a first-timer. Smaller than national conferences and less demanding than institutes, Jamboree was casual, fun and educational. Most of the speakers were nationally recognized. The icing on the cake? This event was and is held in my home state of California. I’ve registered for Jamboree 2015 and can hardly wait to attend, but I have to wonder, will there be another fashion show? Be sure to check out the website:





Pilgrimage: A Journey with a Purpose


For more than 250 years, travelers were prohibited from entering or leaving Japan. During the Meiji Restoration, which began in 1868, Japanese were finally permitted to leave the country as “dekasegi,” or temporary workers. As with so many other immigrants, they sought economic prosperity in North America, Hawaii, and, eventually, Latin America and Australia. From 1910 to 1940, the Angel Island Immigration Station was the stopping point for about 85,000 Japanese immigrants, including thousands of picture brides.

On 4 October 2014, the Nichi Bei Foundation hosted a Nikkei Pilgrimage to this site. More than 600 attendees came to honor the immigrants who had been detained and processed on the island. The formal program included poetry, music, awards, and speeches. A reading by poet Hiroshi Kashiwagi and a dramatic performance written by Judy Hamaguchi were my favorite parts of the day. Inside the immigration station’s original Mess Hall were displays, a kids’ corner (sponsored by the Japanese American Museum of San José), and complimentary family history consultations (provided by the California Genealogical Society). Bento lunches were part of the experience as we reflected upon the Issei immigrants who came through Angel Island so many years ago.

Terumi and Ted Okazaki

Terumi and Ted Okazaki


A Family Affair

99 Newbury Street

99 Newbury Street

Old Burying Ground, Cambridge MA

Old Burying Ground, Cambridge

My initial introduction into the world of genealogy began in a way familiar to many young parents; the kids each had to complete a family tree for school and I didn’t know the names all my great grandparents. The children are now grown, my interest in family history is at an all time high, and my kids keep moving to great places for research.

The first big move was to upstate New York. My daughter decided to attend Syracuse University and I soon discovered a set of previously unknown second great grandparents who lived and died there. That set off four years of research trips covering courthouses, libraries, cemeteries and historical societies in ten different counties. After graduation, said daughter moved to Washington D.C., where I probably spent more time at Archives I and II than I actually spent with her; she was, after all, working during the day.

And then my son moved to Boston. Of course I had to visit. Last week, while he was otherwise occupied, I had some time to spare. What’s a genealogist to do? Head to NEHGS, of course. I’ve been a member for a few years, but have always researched their materials from a distance. With no laptop, no research plan, just a pencil and pad of paper, I arrived. The weather was unseasonably pleasant, the landscaping was in full bloom, and I entered through gorgeous double doors into a spectacular wood interior. Immediately I went to the 7th floor to look at the books and discovered David Allen Lambert sitting at the front desk assisting patrons. My time was limited so I hurriedly perused the stacks, took some notes on a handful of families, and proceeded to the 4th floor for a quick peek at the microfilm holdings. Sitting at that desk was Rhonda McClure. By this time I was a bit star struck and also out of time.

Lucky for me this was just the beginning. On 13 September 2014, NEHGS will be in Berkeley for an all day event in partnership with the California Genealogical Society. Chris Child and Alice Kane will present four different lectures, followed by dinner at the Hotel Shattuck. And in November, the California Genealogical Society will host a research tour back in Boston. Looks like I get to spend more time in New England visiting my son.

I can hardly wait to find out where the kids will move next.


Isla de los Angeles


California Genealogical Society Members: Kay Speaks, Grant Din, Linda Okazaki

California Genealogical Society Members:                                                                Kay Speaks, Grant Din, and Linda Okazaki


Angel Island is a beautiful place for a picnic, a picture perfect location for tourists and locals alike. But the real beauty lies in its history. I am a fourth generation San Franciscan who grew up in Marin County, but it wasn’t until I was an adult with children of my own that I understood my personal connection to this gem.

The largest island located in the midst of San Francisco Bay, Angel Island has a long and rich history. Occupied first by Coastal Miwok Indians, it was visited and named by Spanish explorers in the 1700’s. Later, there was a cattle ranch. Eventually the U.S. federal government took hold of the island. An army base operated there during the civil war. A quarantine station opened in 1891, and from 1910 to 1940, the government operated an immigration station. Though most immigrants were Chinese, individuals came from all over the world, including approximately 85,000 Japanese. POW’s were detained on the island during World War II, among them, hundreds of Japanese immigrants from Hawaii and the mainland who were declared Enemy Aliens. [i]

Over the past several decades, Angel Island became better known a place for recreation. Fortunately, numerous individuals have worked tirelessly to preserve the historical site. The Immigration Station Barracks now serve as a museum. The former Immigration Station Hospital is currently being renovated.

On July 19, 2014, the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation hosted a Family Reunion Day. Led by AIISF Community Relations Director Grant Din, speakers presented information about Chinese, Japanese and Russian immigrants, as well as employees who lived and worked there. This was particularly personal for me. My English immigrant great grandfather worked as a night watchman in the Quarantine Station for 11 years, during which time many of my husband’s Japanese family members were “processed” through the Immigration Station. My children’s history is two sided; speaking about both sides of their ancestry at this event was truly a privilege.

For additional information regarding the preservation of this historical site, please visit

The Nichi Bei Foundation will host a Japanese American pilgrimage to the island on October 4, 2014. Please visit later this summer for details.

[i]Erika Lee and Judy Yung, Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 9-27.


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