The Genealogy Records of the Kimhae Kim Family Clan

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Bunseong (盆城, 분성) is the old name for Kimhae (金海, 김해)

Koreans have been keeping genealogical records at least as early as the late Shilla Period (新羅, 신라, 57-935). Although no longer existent, Choi Chiweon (崔致遠, 최치원, 857-?), a famous scholar and bureaucrat, is said to have made a recording of the lineages of the Kings of the Shilla Dynasty. The first known, also no longer existent, full genealogical record in Korea was the Wangdaejongrok (王代宗錄, 왕대종록), which recorded the lineage of Goryeo kings (高麗, 고려, 918-1392) and was published sometime during King Euijong’s reign (毅宗, 의종, 1127-1173, r. 1146-1173). As for non-royals, the History of Goryeo (高麗史, 고려사) states that there was a separate bureaucratic office set up to record the lines of noble family clans. During the Chosun Period (朝鮮, 조선, 1392-1910), members of various family clans kept their own private records. Efforts at centralizing genealogical records for an entire family clan first came in 1476, with the Andong Kwon Clan’s (安東權氏, 안동권씨) Seonghwa Record (成化譜, 성화보). Other family clans soon followed this model.

Like all other family clans, the Kimhae Kim Clan did not originally have one centralized genealogical record; each branch or line had their own private records. Some of the larger branches did have centralized records for the entirety of their own branch. Since the Kimhae Kim Clan was the largest family clan in Korea even during the Chosun Dynasty, efforts to create a systematically arranged genealogical record for the entire family clan came fairly late and did not start until the 17th century, and first came to fruition in 1754 with the publication of the first edition. The express purpose was to encourage fraternal love (悌, 제) and strengthen human relations (人倫, 인륜) among kinsmen. To that end, the Kimhae Kim Clan arranged and published a number of editions of the genealogical records throughout the years: 

As for the historicity of genealogical records, one common claim is that many are fake. It is often noted that the vast majority of the Korean population during the Chosun dynasty were commoners or slave caste, who did not have surnames. Though fake genealogical records were a problem during the Late Chosun Period, it is not true that the vast majority of the Chosun dynasty’s population were commoners and slaves.The problem was actually the opposite and quite complex: by the 19th century, Yangban in fact constituted the majority of the population, and many of them were called “Fallen Yangban” or Janban (殘班, 잔반) because they were impoverished. One famous example is King Cheoljong (哲宗, 철종, 1831-1863, r. 1849-1863), who was a distant relative to the previous King. Before ascending the throne, King Cheoljong lived in squalor like a common farmer on Ganghwa Island (江華島, 강화도) and even had proposed to marry a slave girl. (If he had not become King and married her, their offspring would have been considered Yangban, thus further increasing the percentage of the Yangban population). As for fake records, another express purpose of the Kimhae Kim Clan’s publishing of centralized genealogical records was to respond to these forgeries. The catalogers of the records were quite open about shortcomings in the current edition and errors in previous records, and described what they did to correct them.

This list can be found in the Projects tab above. This blogger will slowly post translations starting with the first edition. It is possible that this listing is incomplete and some of the editions listed are for particular branches of the family clan.


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