Gaijin Genealogist

by Linda Okazaki

Researching my husband’s Japanese American ancestry is proving to be challenging and interesting. I have some of the basics already including his grandfather’s immigration records, the World War I draft registrations of his great-grandfather, grandfather and two great uncles. I also have census records, directory entries, family letters, photos, ephemera and a transcribed interview from 1988 in which his grandfather gave an autobiographical account of life in America. But there is more to the story. In April I met Valerie Elkins, considered by many to be the expert in Japanese and Japanese American genealogy. She gave me great advice for starting on this path. She also arranged for translation of numerous family records. Last week I went to the National Archives in San Bruno to find the original immigration records for Sasanji Okazaki who supposedly came to the United States in 1898. While I didn’t find what I was looking for, I did establish that this was in fact the likely year of his immigration. I also was able to meet Marisa Louie, an archivist there. I ordered the A-files for Ichimaru, Okazaki from the archives in Kansas City, MO. Yesterday I met with Kathy Urban, an author who gave me advice about creating the narrative for this tale. Next week I will embark on my maiden voyage to the National Archives I and II, in Washington D.C. and College Park, MD, respectively. There I hope to secure the assorted Okazaki records which will further document the experiences of various family members before, during and after World War II. This is going to be quite a journey.