Korean Genealogy Guide


A resource to help English speakers
discover Korean ancestors…

by Jason Howard

Copyright © 2012 Jason Howard

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 1475050151

ISBN-13: 978-1475050158

Printed Edition

The printed edition of this book is available for purchase at at



This book is dedicated to my precious children. May you and your decedents continue the journey we started to discover and remember your ancestors…



Korean family registries are great treasures. They contain precious genealogies that help families remember their ancestors. They also preserve the history and culture of the Korean people. They are treasured by individuals seeking to discover their own roots and historians wishing to discover the carefully preserved history of Korea.

This book is intended to help those who want to research Korean ancestry. Korean language fluency would certainly aide in a quest to discover Korean roots, but it is not a requirement. This guide provides the information necessary for an English speaker to parse and interpret basic genealogical information from Korean family registries (JokBo). The instruction, definitions, and tables that follow provide a solid foundation for Korean genealogy research. Additionally, the tools necessary to launch deeper studies into the language and family histories are introduced.

Interpretation of genealogical information in Korean family registry records is the goal of this book. This goal is realized in the last chapter. Sample records are explored to introduce common structures and patterns in Korean family registries.

There are a few concepts that must be understood to accomplish successful interpretation of family registries. For example, JokBo records are written in HanJa characters. Accordingly, this guide starts with an introduction of basic concepts about the Korean language, including HanJa and HanGul writing. Techniques for looking up definitions via the internet are introduced. Additionally, tables of the most frequently used HanJa characters are provided. The tables serve as a reference that will enable beginners to immediately begin exploring and understanding genealogical records even before mastering the language. The tables are also quite useful for fluent Korean speakers, too, as they cover concepts and HanJa characters that are not commonly used in daily life but are essential for interpreting family registries.

Korean names can be written in HanJa characters, which reveal beautiful meanings. They can also be written in HanGul characters, which reveal the Korean pronunciation. Tables of Korean family names and the HanJa characters used in Korean names are provided. Generally the genealogical records are in HanJa, and these tables can aide in discovering pronunciations and the easily typed HanGul version that can be used to search online dictionaries for meanings.

The dates and numbering systems used in family registries are not the common western systems used in daily life today. Tables enabling translation of HanJa numbers are provided. Additionally, the concepts and tables necessary to decipher lunar calendar years are provided. Even those fluent in Korean will find this reference particularly useful. The lunar year tables simplify genealogical research dramatically.

A basic knowledge of Korean history is needed both to appreciate and to understand older genealogical records. Knowing the history enriches an understanding of the lives of the ancestors recorded in family registries. In some cases just discovering the years in which the ancestors lived requires recognizing the names of monarchs and knowing the years they reigned. For example, some years are recorded in terms of a king or emperor’s reign, such as “the 10th year of the reign of king SaeJong” or “the 39th year of the 60-year lunar cycle under the reign of king JongJung.” A table of monarchs and their ruling years is provided to help genealogists convert these records into western solar calendar years.

The tables and information provided are a solid foundation upon which to begin interpreting genealogical records. The locations of growing online databases of Korean genealogical records are also provided as a great starting point.

Readers are encouraged to collaborate online. A growing community of Korean genealogy enthusiasts can share discoveries, share additional resources, submit and answer questions, and help each other discover Korean roots.

A good starting point is


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