Patternz helps Japanese families find their family crests (kamon)

Patternz helped me find information about my ancestors in Japan.

Patternz helps Japanese families find their family crests (kamon)
Matsunaga from Saga, Japan

Matsunaga Family from Saga

I have been very interested in researching the history of my Japanese mother’s family heritage. Growing up, she told me stories about the Matsunaga family in Japan. The Matsunaga are a samurai clan from historical Japan. Like all other samurai clans, their status was abolished with the elimination of the Han system during the Meiji Restoration in 1868. My Japanese great-grandmother was the last Matsunaga who still followed samurai customs according to my mother. Of course, being a former US Marine, I am intrigued by the warrior side of my Japanese ancestry.

Until last month, I only knew that the Matsunaga family crest, called kamon, was the tsuta-mon.

Matsunaga kamon (tsuta-mon)
Matsunaga kamon (tsuta-mon)

It is an ivy leaf very popular as a family crest and one choice for the Matsunaga clan. I will still personally need to confirm this kamon with my grandfather’s tombstone (all tombstones tend to have the family crest on it). Most likely this is the kamon for the Matsunagas from my mother’s side.

Patternz Japanese Family Crest Services

I still had limited information on the roots of the Matsunagas. Luckily, I found this website by chance, Patternz. The author gives a very good history of the kamons all across Japan. What is unique was that during the Tokugawa Shogunate, only the samurai clan were allowed to have names. The rest of the people needed to use family crests to identify themselves. This is why you tend to see kamons everywhere in Japanese society today.

I decided to use the Japanese Family Crest Services offered by Patternz. I needed to give the researcher a copy of my the family register for the Matsunaga family known as the koseki. I already had a copy since I will need it to obtain a Child of Japanese National visa in the future. I also provided some history and a picture of the kamon that I thought was for the Matsunaga (if you do not have kamon, the researcher will try to find it for you). Based on the koseki, I know that the Matsunaga family were located in the Karatsu at the time of the Meiji Restoration. I also know that my great-grandmother owned several businesses and was considered wealthy in my mother’s hometown, Sasebo. In Kyushu, many samurai were actually poor so the only samurai who could potentially own businesses after the Meiji Restoration were most likely retainers for a daimyo.

History of the Matsunaga Family (Saga)

Matsunaga from Saga, Japan
Image Source: Patternz

Based on the results from the researcher, Hiroko Matsuyama, my mother’s Matsunaga line most likely originated from the following three clans:

  1. Matsunaga Clan in Chinzei (present Fukuoka Prefecture)
  2. Matsunaga Clan in Mikawa-no-Kuni (Mikawa Province, present Eastern Aichi Prefecture)
  3. Matsunaga Clan originated in Yamato-no-Kuni (Yamato Province, present Nara Prefecture)

The first Matsunaga Clan (in Chinzei) was the closest to Saga, Japan. This clan includes a famous Buddhist monk known as Matsunaga Magoshiro Nyudo Shosai at the Tento Shrine. Unfortunately there are no lineage information for this particular Matsunaga clan so the odds that I am related to them are slim.

The second potential Matsunaga Clan originated in the Mikawa Province (Aichi Prefecture today). Their origins go back to the famous Fujiwara clan, the most famous of the samurai clans. Matsunaga Heiza’emon served Matsudaira Kiyoyasu who was the 7th head of the Matsudaira clan and grandfather of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. One of the family crests was the tsuta-mon which is potentially the same kamon from my mother’s side and why the researcher chose this clan as a potential origin of my mother’s family’s line.

Matsunaga Hisahide
Matsunaga Hisahide: Source: Wikipedia

The third potential Matsunaga Clan originated in the Yamato Province (present day Nara Prefecture). This clan produced the most famous Matsunaga, Matsunaga Hisahide. This clan also has roots with the Fujiwara Clan and is the same Matsunaga Clan in Mikawa Province above. Matsunaga Hisahide was a daimyo that used the same tsuto-mon crest. Because of this, there is a high probability that my mother’s family, including me, is a direct descendant of Matsunaga Hisahide.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to establish a positive link without doing actual ground work in Japan. Below is the final thought from the researcher:

The Final Thought

So we have seen three relatable items of the Matsunaga clan to Matsunaga family in Saga Prefecture. It would be very interesting if any new information comes up regarding the Chinzei Matsudaira clan which is the closest to your family in distance wise. What we can assume at least for now is your family can be relatable either the Matsunaga clan from Mikawa Province (present Aichi Prefecture) which served the Matsudaira clan, then the Tokugawa (shogun) clan or the other Matsunaga clan originated in Yamato Province (present Nara Prefecture) which produced
Matsunaga Hisahide in terms of the kamon (Tsutamon).

Moreover, if any of the names we presented as the descendants of Matsunaga Hisahide recognizable to your family members or
relatives as one of the family members, it would be very likely your family has its origin goes back to Matsunaga Hisahide.
Below is the list of the MATSUNAGA family members who claimed to be the descendants of Matsunaga Hisahide.

  • Matsunaga Hikobe’e Ichimaru or Kazumaru (???????)
  • Matsunaga Munetomo (????)
  • Matsunaga Shouemon (??????)
  • Matsunaga Sadaichi (???? [18921965])
  • Matsunaga Ichiro (???? [19192005])
  • Matsunaga Mari (???? [1954])

Matsunaga Mari is interesting since she was born in Sasebo, Japan, my mother’s hometown, before settling in Nagasaki, Japan. She was one of the creators of i-mode in Japan and a potential third cousin. She is also a descendant of Matsunaga Hisahide. Currently, I do not have any information on my great aunts or great uncles in Japan let alone any of my second or third cousins. Since services such as 23andme are not popular in Japan for privacy reasons, I will have to do all the ground work myself.

It will be interesting for me to track down my distant relatives in Japan to get a clearer picture of my Japanese ancestry especially with the Matsunaga Clan.

Overall, I found the service from Patternz very helpful. It definitely put me in the right direction. Visit the Patternz website <> to get more information on how you can find the history of your ancestors and their family crest (kamon) in Japan.

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