FINDING YOUR NIKKEI ROOTS: A global pandemic equals a family history opportunity


We certainly are living through unusual times. With the pandemic, most of us are still sheltering in place, wearing masks to the market, and desperately missing physical contact with our closest friends and extended family members. What’s interesting to me is that while many people are stressed with the changes, others are thriving. I’m a thriver. Perhaps my glass is perpetually half full. Or perhaps I’m naturally a homebody.

Although I miss going to the National Archives and researching in-person, staying home has become the perfect opportunity for me to work on my own family history, or at least my husband’s Nikkei ancestry. is a tremendous resource for family history research. Their library edition is operated by “ProQuest” and that collection of records is typically available “in-person” at various libraries and archives. During shelter-in-place, the library edition is being offered remotely for FREE to many library patrons. If you are a card-holding patron of a library which subscribes to Ancestry Library Edition, you can access the material remotely (for FREE) through at least July 31. The San Francisco Public Library and the Seattle Public Library are two examples of facilities where patrons can remotely access this treasure trove of data.

Many of us are disappointed to miss the assorted 2020 Obon festivals, as well as the annual pilgrimages to the sites of confinement. Fortunately, the plethora of remote activities combined with 21st century technology are helping to ease the situation. The previous edition of the Nichi Bei Weekly highlighted many of the virtual Bon Odori celebrations. Be sure to refer back to that issue so you can join the fun of dancing by Zoom!

While our annual pilgrimage season has been impacted by the coronavirus, dedicated volunteers are working hard to make the virtual pilgrimage experience meaningful through nine weeks of activities. Densho is a participant, as is the California Genealogical Society. Densho is offering a 10-part genealogy series. These sessions are FREE and will be recorded, but registration is required for participation in the live events. Additionally, genealogists from the California Genealogical Society will provide FREE genealogy consultations throughout the virtual pilgrimage. Be sure to contact to schedule your consultation. Some smaller organizations are providing their own family history sessions. For example, the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California has a series of recorded family history Webinars for its members this summer.
There are so many opportunities to jump start your family history research during these strange times. The bottom line is to START NOW so that the many generations of your descendants can benefit from your research!

Linda Harms Okazaki is a professional genealogist who is past president of the California Genealogical Society. She specializes in Japanese American records. If you have a genealogical question which might be answered in this column, send an e-mail to The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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