Genealogy and Art of Yoko Ono Shows Hope Out of Tragedy

The awful things that have happened in Yoko Ono’s 80+ years long life have been difficult. Those disasters are easy to find because, as the genealogy researcher knows, disasters are documented. For Ono, they are documented in records–official and audio–as well as in her art.

As every genealogy researcher knows, disasters and difficult life events provide documentation for our ancestor searches. Why? Because disasters and difficult life events are most often recorded.

Take Yoko Ono.

Yoko Ono, whose name means Ocean Child in Japanese, was born on February 18, 1933 in Seitama, Japan. She was the oldest child born to Eisuke Ono, who is reported to be a descendant of a 9th Century Emperor of Japan and Isoko Yasuda Ono, who was the granddaughter of Zenijiro Yasuda, the founder of Yasuda Bank. Her siblings are brother, Keisuke, and sister, Setsuko.


Yoko lived her earliest life in Japan. At age 2, she moved to San Francisco following her father’s business transfer.

After the bombing at Pearl Harbor and affected by the anti-Japanese sentiment that swept America, the family returned to Japan. Japan had had been ravaged by war. The genealogy researcher will find that records abound regarding the horrendous conditions and events in Japan during WWII. Yoko was in Japan in March 1945 for the firebombing of Tokyo. She is reported to have stayed with family members during that time both in the surrounding area as well as in the mountains away from the city.

The genealogy researcher may use travel records, a country’s national registries and newspapers for details of the family. For the Ono family in post- war Japan, they had difficulties, even though they had been wealthy.  Yoko has detailed periods in which the family was forced to beg for food and keep all their belongings in a simple wheelbarrow.


The genealogy researcher may consult medical records for details on what happened to an ancestor. In Ono’s case, her family brought her back to Japan after her first marriage to a musician the family did not prefer. After she became depressed and suicidal back home, they committed her to a mental institution for a period of time. Medical records may be public after a certain time. The genealogy researcher should check locale and rules.


Police records, interviews with private detectives and newspaper accounts may provide details for those who have had troubling conflicts during divorce. In 1969, after Yoko and John Lennon became high profile war protestors and shortly after Ono finalized her divorce from her second husband, that man, Anthony Cox, was awarded custody of her daughter Kyoko based on his claims about Ono’s drug use and history of depression. Cox then disappeared with her child into a Christian fundamentalist community called The Walk and kept the child from seeing her mother for 25 years. It was a heart-breaking tragedy for Ono who was not reunited with Kyoko until 1998.


Every genealogy researcher most likely knows the details of Yoko Ono’s husband John Lennon’s very public murder. This next tragedy struck on December 8, 1980, when Lennon was shot by a deranged fan and killed outside their New York Dakota apartment building in front of her.

Like many other tragic events that hit families, these are well documented in press reports. High crimes such as murder will always have police details and often will have newspaper and television press reports.

  • Husband: Toshi Ichiyanagi (m. 1956-d.1962)
  • Husband: Anthony Cox (m. 28-Nov-1962, annulled 1-Mar-1963, m. 6-Jun-1963, div. 2-Feb-1969, d. 1975, one daughter)
    • Daughter: Kyoko Chan Cox b. 8-Aug-1963, kidnapped 1971, reunited 1998)
  • Husband: John Lennon (m. 1963-1980)
    • Son: Sean Taro Ono Lennon (b. 1975-  )

      The genealogy researcher  will find life details in Yoko Ono's art and documents.

      The genealogy researcher will find life details in Yoko Ono’s art and documents.

Sometimes, the genealogy researcher will find details of an ancestor’s life in that person’s artwork. For example, Yoko Ono’s latest artwork is a tableware collection called Yoko Ono: Mended Cups – illy Art Collection. It is a set of six espresso cups that feature the dates and places of six tragic events. On each cup, written in her handwriting, are words detailing the one of these events. two of which include the above difficult events in her life—the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima and the 1980 murder of her husband John Lennon.

With a new retrospective of 175 of her creative works opening in May 2015 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and an ever-present wise presence on the internet through her ImaginePeace website, Ono seems to have moved on from the difficult times to a quiet, informed creative life that is stable and filled with art and family.

RecordClick genealogy experts can find the documented incidents in your family.