The National Association of Japanese Canadians recognizes that there is growing interest on the part of Japanese Canadians in exploring their family history and roots. There are a number of resources that one can access to seek out information about their families, so we have created this page as a resource for Japanese Canadians to consult when exploring their history. We have identified two categories of resources – Canadian History and Japanese History.
Japanese Canadian Legacies Society Grants
The Japanese Canadian Legacies Society is providing funding of up to $5000 for eligible applicants who (among other things) may be pursuing family history or genealogy research. The application deadline is December 15, 2023:
CATEGORY 1 І FAMILY SHARING & HEALING
- Projects that facilitate collective sharing within the family and therefore promote intergenerational healing.
- Projects that encourage active participation of multiple generations of Survivors and Descendants within the family.
- Eligible sharing activities that may include, but are not limited to: • Self-published books, self-made art projects, digital scrapbooks, reflective storytelling, oral histories, family genealogy, internment camp tours, family counselling.
- If you are unsure if an activity qualifies, please contact the JCLS Community Fund Manager at email@example.com.
- Eligible project costs that may include: honoraria for people outside the family who provide specialized assistance, materials and supplies.
- Eligible Family Sharing & Healing projects that can be completed by December 31, 2024.
Japanese Canadian History
1. LOI Database
This is the link to the database developed through the Landscapes of Injustice project, in conjunction with the Nikkei National Museum. The link gives you the background to the development and contents of the database, which is focused on records relating to the dispossession of Japanese Canadians due to the acts of the Canadian and British Columbian governments during World War II:
The actual searchable database (by name) can be found here:
For families that did not talk about the incarceration/dispossession of Japaense Canadians, this database can be used to identify where families were before the war, where they were relocated to during the war, what possessions were lost, etc.
2. National Digitization Strategy
The Nikkei National Museum, in conjunction with the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, is working on a National Digitization Strategy. That strategy is designed to make more resources available online to more people. The details of the strategy can be found here:
The museum does have a searchable database of its own collection that can be searched/accessed here: https://nikkeimuseum.org/. You can choose to select a search across all participating organizations (including the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre)
3. Sedai Project
The Sedai Project is dedicated collecting, documenting, preserving and sharing the history of the Japanese Canadians. It was set up under the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto and the contents of its collection can be searched here:
4. Simon Fraser University Database
Some oral histories collected by the Nikkei National Museum from Japanese Canadians have been digitized and can be searched here:
5. Galt Museum Archives
The Galt Museum is a museum in Southern Alberta (Lethbridge) which houses a pretty extensive collection about Japanese Canadians, especially those that were relocated to the Southern Alberta sugar beet farms after being forcibly removed from the west coast of British Columbia. For those families that were in the area, they can search their online archives here:
6. BC Historical Signage Project
A few years back members of the Japanese Canadian government worked with the Government of BC to research and erect highway signage to commemorate internment, road and self-supporting camps that were set up to house Japanese Canadians that were relocated from the West Coast. A description of the project, camp locations and the signs that were erected can be found here:
7. Family History Research
The Nikkei National Museum lists this service on their website – not sure if that needs to be updated though:
8. New Denver Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre
The New Denver Nikkei Interment Memorial Centre is a centre that has preserved buildings and artifacts from an internment camp that was located on the site.
They reference some digital resources that are located on some other sites.
Japanese Family History
Japanese Family History Facebook Group
We recommend that if you want to get detailed information about your family roots in Japan, then join the Japanese Family History Facebook Group. There are currently slightly more than 1,000 members. It is a great source of information and encouragement. Because of security considerations, please answer ALL of the screening questions.
The link is here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/japanese.family.history
Requesting your Family Records from Japan
The mykoseki.com lookup database is an extremely useful and valuable resource that can tell you where you can submit a request for family records. This resource links 15,000+ villages from 1889 (more or less the time of emigration) to the 1,900 current-day municipalities. This was about a 2-year effort to compile this.
If you know the village name where your ancestors came from, you can just input the village name (without the “-mura” suffix) to find out where your records can be requested from:
- If you do not know where your ancestors came from in Japan, and if your family was in Canada in 1929, then the missing information may be found in the 1929 Directory of Japanese Living in Canada. If you do not have access to this publication, you can contact the National Association of Japanese Canadians at firstname.lastname@example.org and we may be able to assist you in finding this information out.