In keeping with Japanese tradition, the New Year is an opportunity to start fresh. Your house is clean, bills have been paid, nengajo or holiday cards have been sent, the kadomatsu and kagami mochi are displayed prominently, and you’ve enjoyed the toshikoshi soba, ozoni and osechi ryori. It’s time to consider extending this spirit into your family history. Why not weave a New Year’s resolution into the fabric of your genealogy?

While New Year’s resolutions are often viewed as a Western concept, they can seamlessly be applied to your Nikkei genealogy. Even if you don’t typically make New Year’s resolutions, consider making an exception for your family history journey. What goals do you want to accomplish? Be realistic.

If the prospect of a genealogy resolution feels daunting, reflect on where you have fallen behind. Did you forget to transcribe that interview with your aunty? Do you still need to order some vital records? Are there family papers that need to be translated?

The key to a successful resolution lies in setting realistic goals — avoid overwhelming yourself with an extensive list or unachievable expectations. Start with a list, then narrow it down to one to three specific goals.

Here are some suggestions to get you started on developing your own genealogy resolutions:

Interview Your Eldest Living Relative(s)
Set a date to connect so you can explore the wealth of knowledge held by this person or people.

Use audio or video recording equipment to preserve their voices and recollections for future generations.

Preserve, Restore, and Organize Family Heirlooms
Scan your photos or ensure that those already scanned are appropriately labeled.

Digitize your home movies.

Preserve and restore heirlooms such as letters, artifacts, vintage textiles or furniture. Proper preservation ensures these items remain a tangible link to the past.

Create a digital archive to preserve these memories and items for future generations.

Document Your Life Story
Begin writing your autobiography.

Create a calendar to keep yourself organized and on track.

Ancestral Biographies
Write brief biographies for each of your direct ancestors, beginning with your parents, then grandparents, great-grandparents and so on.

Create a Family History Book
Compile the information gathered throughout the year into a family history book.
Include narratives, photos, and relevant documents to create a physical legacy for your descendants and for the Japanese American community.

Collaborate and Share with Relatives
Establish regular communication with extended family members.

Send a pedigree chart or family group sheets to all your relatives.

Encourage the sharing of stories, photos, and documents, fostering a collaborative effort in piecing together the family puzzle.

Document Culinary Heritage
Collect family recipes and compile them into a meaningful book.

Develop a Research Calendar
Set aside one day a week (or month) to write and research.

Educational Pursuits
Join a genealogical society; visit a library, historical society, or archival repository; attend classes; participate in conferences.

Commit to attending at least one genealogy workshop, Webinar, seminar, or conference during the year.

Embrace Technology
Start a genealogy blog to chronicle your discoveries.

Enter your data into a software program.

Back up your data to the cloud.

Purchase devices to assist with your project such as a scanner, flash drives or a software program.

Genetic Genealogy
Take a DNA test and evaluate your results.

Heritage Travel
Plan trips to the towns or counties where your ancestors lived.

Explore local archives, cemeteries, and historical sites to deepen your understanding of their lives.

Consider a journey to Japan or another ancestral country to further immerse yourself in your roots and walk in the footsteps of those who came before you.

Record Retrieval
Order and translate your koseki for each branch of the family.

Targeted Research
Choose one line or branch in your family tree and dedicate the year to researching and documenting the stories and histories associated with the lineage.

Engage with experts and fellow enthusiasts who can provide valuable insights and tips.

Identify a specific skill or research technique that you haven’t mastered and dedicate time to learning it.

Whether it’s deciphering old kanji or learning to use a new gadget, expanding your skill set enhances your research capabilities.

And if none of these resolutions appeal to you, finish one dangling project!

The beauty of genealogy resolutions lies in their measurability and achievability. Craft resolutions that resonate with your journey. Each resolution should align with your personal interests and the unique aspects of your family history. Tailor these suggestions to fit your journey. The path will twist and turn but will also be filled with exciting discoveries and connections.

Be a dragon as you embark on your genealogy journey. Happy New Year!

Nichi Bei News columnist 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 of the Nichi Bei News.

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