Blood Line Adoptions

Traditionally, it is very important to have a son in Korea.  A son carries on the family line in the family registry.  Family registries are paternal – building maternal lines requires multiple registries from each family in the line.  It is particularly important for the eldest son to have a son, as he will inherit leadership of the extended family.  However, there are cases where the eldest son does not have a son of his own.  A common remedy for this problem is a “blood-line adoption” where one of the eldest son’s siblings gives him their second son.  When this takes place, the son of a sibling becomes the son and inheritor of the eldest son.

Family registries record blood-line adoptions.  The adopted son is placed under the eldest son, to designate his new adopted father, but the fact that it is a blood-line adoption is clearly indicated.  The real father is also recorded.

An adopted son’s record has some additional elements that aren’t found in the previous examples.  The son-less father records the adoption of his sibling’s son under his line.  However, instead of the adopted son’s record starting with the HanJa for son子 (자, Ja), as seen in previous examples, it starts with 子系 (자계, JaGyae), literally meaning “child line” or “child connection.”  Next, the adopted child’s given name is recorded.  Following the given name, you will find the HanJa version of the word生父 (생부, SaengBu), meaning “birth father” or real father, and the birth father’s given name.  Since the real father is a sibling of the adopted father (generally the eldest son), you already know the family name of the real father.  They are all from the same family and share the family name that is in the title of the family registry for the clan.  The rest of the adopted son’s record follows the same patterns as previous examples.

The son-less father who adopts the son of his sibling also has a difference in his record.  At the end of the adopting father’s record, instead of recording 一男 (1남, 1 Nam) to indicate one son, the record says (계남, GyaeNam), literally meaning “line son” and indicating a blood-line adoption that continues the family line.

8 thoughts on “Blood Line Adoptions

  1. Korean born American adoptee…curious as to if i am able to trace my heritage of unknown origins…currently nothing known of birthparents names or whereabouts…really would like to know…think it’s time…thanks if there is any knowledge or lead on how to go about finding them…any one of my family of birth…

    • Do you know what adoption agency or do your adopted parents have any paperwork?

      Another route might be DNA testing. The risk it that it would just tell you what you already know — you’re Korean. However, if it could give you a region of Korea that would be an interesting way of knowing what ancestors and history you are connected to. It might be worth asking some of the DNA companies how much a Korean might expect to learn from their tests and reports.

      Maybe we can ask the Koreans who commented on this blog what kind of results they got:
      Based on the comments, it sounds like some companies are better at Asian results than others. Some of them, like, will show possible relatives if they have also taken the test. I’m not sure how many Koreans are in their database, however.

      There are also several Korean adoptee sites and facebook groups. Maybe they have shared some good ideas.

      You could also volunteer for something like this to connect in a different way:

  2. I was adopted through Holt International…Che Chon Children’s Home in South Korea was my orphanage i stayed at for alittle while before being adopted out by American parents…will this information help me to relocate my birthparents…

    • I was also adopted through Holt. I had minimal information, however when I contacted Holt they were able to find some more information about me. We found the city where I was in the baby home/orphanage. A few years ago I was able to go back to Korea for the first time. When we went to the baby home, we were able to find some information I didn’t know existed. Haven’t found any relatives, but cool to know more. So, I’d suggest contacting Holt. Best of luck!

    • There is an adoptee group on facebook for children born in Chechon.

      Korean adoptees from Chechon Children’s home (Jecheon)

  3. We adopted our daughter from South Korea in December 1982 – She was born in Pusan South Korea to a mother around the age of 19 – Her mother brought her to the orphanage when she was around 10 days old from what we were told – Where should we start???

  4. Hi! I didn’t know this website existed! I was also adopted from Holt international from South Korea. Here is a question for all of you. If you had a chance to see your mom or dad if you ever had the chance, would you? Even running the risk that your family never spoke of you?

  5. My great-grandfather Lee Byong-ju was bloodline adopted by his uncle Lee Geung-han. The unusual thing is Lee Geung-han already had several sons. I wonder why Lee Byong-ju could have bloodline adopted. Could it have been the fact that Lee Byong-ju’s parentgs died when he was a young child?

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