05:19 AM

Japan Earthquake and Genealogy Records Preservation

Author: Kathy Warburton

I have watched the continuing news reports of the terrible damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Sendai, Japan. And, like you, I have felt horror and sorrow over the tremendous devastation and loss of life and property. It will take many years to rebuild this area, and much of historical and cultural value has been lost and can never be replaced.

While I have no Japanese ancestry, as a genealogist, I feel another loss for a story we may never read in the Sindai headlines—the irreplaceable historic and family records that have been destroyed. These records include relevant genealogy records maintained by government and church archives, as well as the family records, photos, and heirlooms that are gone forever. While this loss is secondary to the loss of life and homes and the immediate need for food and shelter for the Japanese people, this loss of records will have repercussions for generations to come.

This reiterated for me the importance of keeping copies of important documents, photos, and other items offsite, to increase the chances of these irreplaceable items surviving a major disaster. Gary Wright’s article on how to digitally preserve your family history records is a great source. The good rule of thumb preservation strategy is “multiple copies in several locations.” I will be reviewing my personal records to see what I need to make copies of and share with others to increase the chances that these items will survive.

While it will not bring back the lives that were lost or the homes that were destroyed, I am grateful that some records from this area have been preserved and will still be available to the survivors and to future generations, thanks to the efforts of FamilySearch International. FamilySearch has microfilmed some records from Sendai and surrounding areas in previous years, preserving this information and making it available to researchers all over the world. The microfilmed records from the Sendai area include Buddhist and Shinto records, census, cemetery, and land and property records.

To see what records have been preserved by FamilySearch, search the classic version of the Family History Library Catalog for Sendai, Japan.
I sorrow with the people of Japan over their great loss, but I am grateful that a small portion of their heritage and records have been preserved.