Korean Genealogy Guide
A resource to help English speakers
discover Korean ancestors…
by Jason Howard
Copyright © 2012 Jason Howard
All rights reserved.
The printed edition of this book is available for purchase at amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Korean-Genealogy-Guide-resource-ancestors/dp/1475050151.
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 http://KoreanGenealogy.org.
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You don’t have my family name of Choo on the list.
My grandfather, Young Han Choo came from Yanggu, Kangwon which is now Gangwon.
He was Korean Counsel General in San Francisco.
I’m trying to find my Korean family.
There are many possible ways to write Korean names in English. Several lists on this site spelled your father’s Surname as “Chu,” but you are correct that it is also spelled “Choo” in Enlish. Everywhere you see “Chu” on this site it could also be referring tot he “Choo” family. In either case, the family name written as 추 in Korean.
In your case, you are looking for the YanGu Choo family, which is not on the list of clans at http://koreangenealogy.org/book/online-addendum/surnames-clans/ . That simply means that the YangGu Choo clan wasn’t reported in the 2000 South Korean Census. There could be several reasons for this. For example, many families have many possible clan designations at various levels of their family tree. For example, I researched the some Pak family lines that had over 20 possible clan names at various levels of the family tree. In other words, it is not surprising if the clan designation you are seeking wasn’t on the list because the broader and more ancient clan name or a more recent and specific clan name for a sub-branch could have been used instead during the census. Another possibility is that the clan name could have been changed. I have come across clans that changed their name, sometimes due to the discovery and validation of records that justified merges in the records of two clans.
I searched for the clan name you mentioned in a few ways. http://gok.kr/ helps search for online JokBo records. I didn’t find that clan there, but there are a lot of other Choo records there, some of which may be for branches of your family. Next I did an internet search for “양구추씨” (yanggu choo family). http://www.surname.info/chu/ingu/choo1-1985.html listed for four Choo families living in YangGu Gun in GwangJu. It did not say what their clan name was, however. http://surname.info/chu/choo1.html lists known Choo clan names, but it doesn’t include a YangGu clan.
Next steps: If you have any family records, it would be most useful to know if the HanJa version of your family name is 鄒 or 秋 . Next we need to find your clan (본), which can be found on some Korean family records. The clan name is what will ultimately help you find your JokBo record with your family history.
I’m sorry I didn’t see this reply earlier. There’s no way for me to find any more information on clan names. I found the Yanggu information on the internet.
Thanks for your help.
Is it possible that because he was Consul General in San Francisco, there might be a record of his clan?
Aloha Rosemary Williams – My sister and I were working on our genealogy and found your post. Our mother and Young Han Choo had the same mother – but different fathers. We are certainly interested in speaking with you.
As far as I know, my great grandmother No Soon Shin Choo had only 2 children: my grandfather Young Han and his sister Young Soon. My grandfather Hark Sang Choo returned to Korea with his brother (unknown name) and was never heard from again.
I didn’t know my grandfather had another sister until now. He never spoke of her.
I found No Soon’s Death Certificate, and she is listed as Kim.
On her grave in Akron her last name is Choo.