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My manager told me today that her husband has a friend who is from Korea (I did not ask but I assume this is South Korea). She said that because that friend is the father's oldest son, the father before his death gave him a thick "book" (from my managers description this book is probably a foot thick).

This book supposedly lists all their ancestors for last 5000 years, and giving it to the oldest son is supposedly a tradition that has been going on for a long time.

The question I wanted to ask is, is this tradition specific to a particular "tribe" (for lack of better word) on the Korean peninsula, and if so, which one?

  • Clan books apparently exist (google korean surname books), but whether they would be in the hands of an individual is outside my findings. Example articles iop.org/news/11/july/page_51585.html & askakorean.blogspot.ca/2010/10/… – bgwiehle Dec 19 '14 at 23:04
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    Wikipedia's article genealogy book says "In Korea the genealogy book is called jokbo or chokbo. Each family has a jokbo which is passed down through generations, and copies are often printed and distributed among family members as necessary. The firstborn son of each family (in a form of primogeniture) inherits the original jokbo (as opposed to the copies) with him and continues the genealogy and family line. It was often used in pre-modern (i.e. post-Joseon period) Korea as proof of being of the yangban class." but does not cite a source. – Jan Murphy Dec 20 '14 at 2:17
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I had never heard of this but it is a fascinating topic:

To specifically answer your question was this specific to a specific tribe or clan, no it was more wide spread.

The book is referred to as a JokBo (族譜, 족보) and is managed and maintained by the eldest son and it is partially related to the practice of Jesa (ancestor worship up to 5 generations). Though it is also about a sense of knowing and maintaining and knowing ones culture, but also proof of 'class' to a degree (but less so these days) from my quick readings about it.

I believe the claim of 5000 years may be a mis-interpretation of the date structure within the book (partially due to lifetime of paper as well as knowledge of writing) and from the investigation I was able to do it seems to be that the oldest known copies of these books date back to the 12th & 13th Centuries A.D.. Also of note, the two separate Korea's is historical quite new and so it is a practice that was practices throughout.

The practice of maintaining them, especially once migrating outside of Korea though I pick up may be waining due to references to challenges of people returning or visiting to Korea and it can be embarrassing for them to know know their families history.

The site KoreanGenealogy.org seems to be an awesome resource for anyone investigating and they have an book online for understanding and reading JokBo's for English Speakers.

Examples: One Two Three

Note: I am not Korean and so I basing my answer based on reading some articles not on personal knowledge.

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    as to "I believe the claim of 5000 years may be a mis-interpretation of the date structure within the book (partially due to lifetime of paper as well as knowledge of writing) and from the investigation I was able to do it seems to be that the oldest known copies of these books date back to the 12th & 13th Centuries A.D.": The information OP posted did not state that the book itself was 5000 years old, just that it merely had information for that time span. Presumably the information could well have been copied multiple times during centuries (although 5KA could still be a bit of a stretch). – user100487 Nov 1 '15 at 16:00
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    It would require between 60-100 "generations-entries" (assuming between 3 and 5 generations for every 100 years) to take us back 2000 years, to year 1. A book that is a foot thick could be expected to easily hold quite a few generation-entries. Not knowing the level of detail of each generation, or the size of the characters used in that book, this is just guess work however. – user100487 Nov 1 '15 at 16:08

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