Family History Program

Finding Your Nikkei Roots in the U.S. and Japan: Digital Genealogy Series

Densho partnered with Linda Harms Okazaki, noted expert in Japanese American genealogy, to present a 10-part webinar series to help families research and preserve their history. Go in-depth on one subject like records in Japan, navigating genealogy websites, or doing your own oral histories. Watch one or all 10 and get ready to dive into your own research. 

*This series originally aired between April and August 2020. You can view recordings for all of the webinars using the links below.

1. Introduction to Genealogy: Densho Family History Program with Tom Ikeda, followed by a discussion by Linda Harms Okazaki about the importance of family history and tips for getting started with your search. Run time: 01:09:39

>> Access Webinar Recording <<
>> Getting Started with Genealogy Handout <<

2. Navigating Websites: So much of our research requires knowing how to navigate websites. Although not everything is online, there are a lot of resources available at our fingertips which can help the family historian. Caitlin Oiye Coon will show you how to navigate the resources on the Densho website. Linda Harms Okazaki will help you with strategies for successful research utilizing,, and more. Run time: 01:14:57

>> Access Webinar Recording <<
>> Navigating the Densho Digital Repository <<
>> Advanced Search Techniques <<
>> Densho Names Registry <<

3. U.S. Records: It’s important to understand where records are located, how to find or order them, and how to extract critical data. Learn about some of the most important documents for your family history journey, including vital records, census, land and more. Some of the information is necessary for jumping the pond and researching in Japan. Run time: 00:56:41

>> Access Webinar Recording <<

4. Immigration Records: Have you always wondered when your ancestors first immigrated? Did you know that Japanese immigrants and their Nisei children often traveled back to Japan to visit relatives, maintain businesses, or to be educated. Learn how to search a variety of immigration records in this session, beginning with passenger manifests and moving on to Immigration Investigative Case Files, A-files and more. Linda Harms Okazaki will be joined by Marisa Louie Lee, archival researcher specializing in federal records. Run time: 01:14:38

>> Access Webinar Recording <<
>> Immigration & Naturalization Records Handout <<

5. Incarceration Camp Records: Most Nikkei from the western states were incarcerated during WWII. Some individuals came from other states and even Latin America. You will learn about the abundance of archival material at the National Archives pertaining to the War Relocation Authority and the Department of Justice. Linda Harms Okazaki will be joined by Brian Niiya, Densho’s Content Director. Run time: 00:56:20

>> Access Webinar Recording <<

6. Military Records: Many Nikkei registered for the draft in WWI and WWII. Some of them served. During this session, we will cover how to go about finding U.S. military records for your ancestors. Linda Harms Okazaki will be joined by Jonathan Webb Deiss, professional researcher, military historian and genealogist.  Run time: 00:56:42

>> Access Webinar Recording <<
>> WWII Nikkei Veterans Handout <<

7. Records in Japan: Privacy laws in Japan, coupled with the language barrier, makes searching for Japanese records seem impossible. It might be daunting, but it is absolutely possible! Learn what records are available in Japan, and how you can use the documents found in your US research to obtain those Japanese materials. Run time: 01.05.37

>> Access Webinar Recording <<
>> Records in Japan Handout <<

8. Preserving Your Family Archives: Everyone has their own family archives. They can be as simple as the photos on your phone or as sprawling as the boxes and boxes of materials spread across your extended family. Join Densho staff to learn family archives essentials, such as how to decide what to keep, best ways to preserve items, and how to digitize. Run time: 01:07:02

>> Access Webinar Recordings <<
>> Preserving Your Family History Handout <<
>> Preserving Your Family History Powerpoint <<

9. Writing Your Family History: What do you do with all the research you conduct and the stories you collect? Your family history should be shared but don’t let it daunt you. Linda Harms Okazaki will share tips and strategies on writing your family’s history. Run time: 00:59:15

>> Access Webinar Recordings <<
>> Writing Your Family History Handout <<

10. Recording Oral Histories: An essential way to preserve your family’s stories is through oral history. It is one thing to look through your grandmother’s photo album, it is so much richer if you can record your grandmother telling you about the pictures. Learn best practices for conducting and recording your own oral history interviews with Tom Ikeda. Run time: 01:14:07

>> Access Webinar Recordings <<
>> Recording Oral Histories Handout <<

Linda Harms Okazaki is a fourth-generation Californian, active in the genealogy and Japanese American communities in California and beyond. She is passionate about teaching Nikkei to research, document, and share their personal family histories, and has been researching her husband’s ancestry since 2012, documenting his family in the incarceration camps and in Japan. Linda is a charter member of the Nikkei Genealogical Society and a contractual genealogist with’s ProGenealogists, and has a bimonthly column, “Finding Your Nikkei Roots” with the Nichi Bei Weekly.

Funding for this workshop series was provided by the Terasaki Family Foundation.

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