Snakebyte Snakebyte - 6 months ago 389
JSON Question

How to implement custom JsonConverter in JSON.NET to deserialize a List of base class objects?

I am trying to extend the example given here

I have another sub class deriving from base class/Interface

public class Person
public string FirstName { get; set; }
public string LastName { get; set; }

public class Employee : Person
public string Department { get; set; }
public string JobTitle { get; set; }

public class Artist : Person
public string Skill { get; set; }

List<Person> people = new List<Person>
new Employee(),
new Employee(),
new Artist(),

How do I deserialize following Json back to List< Person >

"Department": "Department1",
"JobTitle": "JobTitle1",
"FirstName": "FirstName1",
"LastName": "LastName1"
"Department": "Department2",
"JobTitle": "JobTitle2",
"FirstName": "FirstName2",
"LastName": "LastName2"
"Skill": "Painter",
"FirstName": "FirstName3",
"LastName": "LastName3"

I don't want to use TypeNameHandling JsonSerializerSettings. I am specifically looking for custom JsonConverter implementation to handle this. The documentation and examples around this are pretty sparse on the net. I can't seem to get the the overridden ReadJson() method implementation in JsonConverter right.


Using the standard CustomCreationConverter, I was struggling to work how to generate the correct type (Person or Employee), because in order to determine this you need to analyse the JSON and there is no built in way to do this using the Create method.

I found a discussion thread pertaining to type conversion and it turned out to provide the answer. Here is a link: Type converting.

What's required is to subclass JsonConverter, overriding the ReadJson method and creating a new abstract Create method which acceps a JObject.

The JObject class provides a means to load a JSON object and provides access to the data within this object.

The overridden ReadJson method creates a JObject and invokes the Create method (implemented by our derived converter class), passing in the JObject instance.

This JObject instance can then be analysed to determine the correct type by checking existance of certain fields.


string json = "[{
        \"Department\": \"Department1\",
        \"JobTitle\": \"JobTitle1\",
        \"FirstName\": \"FirstName1\",
        \"LastName\": \"LastName1\"
        \"Department\": \"Department2\",
        \"JobTitle\": \"JobTitle2\",
        \"FirstName\": \"FirstName2\",
        \"LastName\": \"LastName2\"
        {\"Skill\": \"Painter\",
        \"FirstName\": \"FirstName3\",
        \"LastName\": \"LastName3\"

List<Person> persons = 
    JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<List<Person>>(json, new PersonConverter());


public class PersonConverter : JsonCreationConverter<Person>
    protected override Person Create(Type objectType, JObject jObject)
        if (FieldExists("Skill", jObject))
            return new Artist();
        else if (FieldExists("Department", jObject))
            return new Employee();
            return new Person();

    private bool FieldExists(string fieldName, JObject jObject)
        return jObject[fieldName] != null;

public abstract class JsonCreationConverter<T> : JsonConverter
    /// <summary>
    /// Create an instance of objectType, based properties in the JSON object
    /// </summary>
    /// <param name="objectType">type of object expected</param>
    /// <param name="jObject">
    /// contents of JSON object that will be deserialized
    /// </param>
    /// <returns></returns>
    protected abstract T Create(Type objectType, JObject jObject);

    public override bool CanConvert(Type objectType)
        return typeof(T).IsAssignableFrom(objectType);

    public override object ReadJson(JsonReader reader, 
                                    Type objectType, 
                                     object existingValue, 
                                     JsonSerializer serializer)
        // Load JObject from stream
        JObject jObject = JObject.Load(reader);

        // Create target object based on JObject
        T target = Create(objectType, jObject);

        // Populate the object properties
        serializer.Populate(jObject.CreateReader(), target);

        return target;

    public override void WriteJson(JsonWriter writer, 
                                   object value,
                                   JsonSerializer serializer)
        throw new NotImplementedException();