Pacific Island Research Strategies--Research Written Records

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Gather Written Records[edit | edit source]

Gather the family history information others in your family have already prepared.

  • Ask your family members if they have any written information about the family, including ancestral maps (hohoko), whakapapa books, letters, stories, family group records, pedigree charts, school records, certificates, pictures, and artifacts such as wood carvings, tapa designs, etc.
  • Ask if you may have a copy of what they have.
  • If it is a carving or design, ask what it means and how it relates to your family.
  • Make copies, photograph them, or write a description of them and where they are kept if you can’t keep the original.
  • Return the original to the owner.
  • Write where you got them on the back of the copy.
  • Keep the papers you write and photos you take in a safe place.

Note: If you have a family member with a large collection of well-organized information, you do not need to copy all of it. Once you find out exactly what they have, and find out if the temple work has been done yet, you can make a note of the person’s name, where they live, and what they have so you can keep in contact with them.

You may have the opportunity to cooperate and collaborate with other family members. See Share Your Discoveries more information on sharing with others. After talking with this person, you may decide to turn your attention to a different family line so you will not be duplicating work that has already been done. We should be prayerful in our decision.

Next Steps[edit | edit source]

After you have gathered information that goes back 4 or 5 generations, you will be able to see if you have any tie into a royal or noble line or a line that was kept orally and then written down by someone. Some genealogies were memorized and passed down orally, many of them to keep the rights of power in the families that had it.

Anthropologists, Protestant ministers, tribal elders, land courts, and other interested individuals then collected and transcribed the memorized genealogies in the late 1800s and early 1900s. These are available in libraries, archives, and museums in the form of books and charts. Many of these have been microfilmed and are in the collection of the Family History Library, which means we can order them from a family history center near us. Historical archives, museums, and libraries on our island or in the Bishop Museum in Hawaii may also contain information that will help us extend our ancestral records.

See the general sources below and then look under the island name for your ancestor’s island to learn where and how to obtain genealogies that were written and published locally.

General Sources of information[edit | edit source]

Use the Cole-Jensen Collection.[edit | edit source]

This set of genealogies is about the best source of compiled genealogies of Island ancestors that is available. It is an excellent resource for finding the ancestors of Pacific Island who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were interviewed between 1931 and 1960.

There are nine microfilms of Polynesian genealogies in the Cole-Jensen collection. They are microfilms number 1358001, 13258002, 1358003, 1358004, 1358005, 1358006, 1358007, 1358008, and 1358009.

They were collected during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s by William Cole and Elwin Jensen, who were missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Pacific islands, and who were later employees of the Genealogical Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Both were extremely interested in the genealogies of the island people, and they interviewed hundreds of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to gather their family information. They included some of these genealogies in their book Israel in the Pacific.

They asked people with Maori, Hawaiian, Tongan, Samoan, Tahitian, Tuamotan, Rarotongan, and other ancestors to write down their genealogies, or whakapapas, from memory. Many were then written onto Family Group sheets and pedigree charts and preserved in binders.

The collection of these 51 binders was once kept in the Genealogical Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. They were organized according to the island group where the genealogy was obtained. When the Polynesian Unit was dissolved in the early 1980s, the Genealogical Department microfilmed the contents of the binders. Then, parts of the collection’s original binders were sent to Hawaii, Tonga, Samoa, New Zealand, and Tahiti to Church representatives. Microfilms of the entire collection are also at these centers. You can order these films at any family history center worldwide.

Pacific islanders sometimes move from one island group to another, so our ancestor’s record might be in the Hawaiian binder rather than the Samoan one, if he was a Samoan living in Hawaii. Since many Japanese, Chinese, and other people immigrated to the islands, some of their records are in the collection, also.

An index to these films is currently being prepared by volunteers in the Family History Library.

Use the Manual Processing Records Collection

There are six microfilms in this set, starting with1553385 and ending with 1553391.

Film 1553385 consists of 1,134 Hawaiian family group records. The family group record pages are not numbered on the film. There are also ten pages of Chinese records of the Mau family and some hand written and typed notes about the Sheldon, Nihau, Keolewa, Naea, Nana-ulu/Umi a Liloa Pikea Kumulae families, the Cummins and Marsberg family, and the John Adams Kuakini Cummins family.

Pat 1 of film 1553386 contains about 1,200 family group records from Hawaii listed mostly in alphabetical order by the surname of the husband. A statement on many pages says they were taken from membership records by Abel I. Matoon.

Part 2 of film 1553386 contains about 1,500 family group records of Maori people from New Zealand, most listed alphabetically by the husband’s surname. Next come sheets describing Maori traditions by William Duncan which he copied from a Book of Remembrance of Lester Harris Ihaia (Te Hauke, N.Z.). He obtained this data from writings of Old Wi Duncan.

Also, the Lily McKay line, Poutama pedigrees from 1444 to 1927, a pedigree from 1214 (Rakamea) to 1934 (Wiremu Hori Tanaroa), a pedigree of the Hotu family of 982 (Ravavare) to 1933 (Percy Te Hira), the Ngaitahu Claim Census of persons alive in 1848, Maori tribal traditions, and a comparative analysis and coordination of Maori tribal traditions from the various canoe groups.

Film 1553387 begins with a continuation of the comparative analysis and coordination of Maori Tribal Tradition from the various Canoe Groups. There are genealogy charts, pedigree charts, family group records, correspondence to V. Saliba from Foli Fisiipeau, and account of the Guard Incident (British Navy 1834), Te Namu, Words from the book of Tepivai, Correspondence of President William M. Waddoups, and over 100 pages of Individual Temple Record Cards (6 cards per page).

Part 2 contains Native American records. Some are listed by tribe, some by where they come from, and some by their Indian name. Explanation of family history information of Native Americans is given by
Daniel Seegmiller and Dave M. Hellewell. Names and records of Shivwit and Shebit group of the Paiute living near St. George Utah are given, along with several pedigree charts. Some names from Shivwit gravestones are given.

Part 3 contains 500 Niuean family group records in mostly alphabetical order. Dates and places are given when available. Next are some Niue history, the origins of Niuean People, Niuean daily life and politics before the Europeans, a hand written genealogy page of Nieuean information from 1700 to 1800, and a newspaper obituary for Ikimau Foster Gufigufi. Last are 9 pages of christening information from Niue.

Film 1553388 starts with Samoan family group records. Most of the husbands and wives on these records were born between 1888 and 1922. Some people whose names appear on these records may still be living, but if their vital information can be blocked (as has been done on other records which were submitted to the Ancestral File), this should not prevent the images from being displayed. The Samoan records on film 1553388 include people from China and Lebanon.

Also on film 1553388 is a long list of Church members who resided in Tahiti between 1845 and 1900.

Besides the list of members from Tahiti, there are images of Family Group records and Membership cards which include the name, sex, birth and death dates, names of father and mother and baptism or ordination information of the person. Some include the date of marriage and the name of the spouse. They are not arranged alphabetically or numerically on the film.

Film 1553389 continues with Tahitian cards, pedigree charts, and family group records. It also contains narratives, Tahitian group records, a Family Record and Land Book, and miscellaneous genealogies of French Polynesia–Tahiti, collected for the Genealogical Society and written in 1917.

At the end of the film are the Sione Pongi records of Tonga and the beginning of images of Tongan family group records dating between 1899 and 1955 and encompassing names from Aatini to Kautai.

Film 1553390 continues with Tongan family group records, ending with the name Talanoa.

Film 1553391 has the rest of the Tongan family group records and 450 pedigree charts. Also on the film are 37 frames of family group records, lists of names with dates, Tongan King lines, Generation pedigree charts, hand written descendancy charts, and hand written genealogy lists and charts.

Look for Oral Genealogies from the 1970s.
There are over 700 oral histories from Tonga, Samoa, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and other islands in the Family History Library’s collection which were collected in the 1970's in the native languages. If your ancestors were living in the islands during the 1970s, chances are, they might have been interviewed. These interviews were later transcribed onto paper and the paper transcripts were microfilmed. Some of these contain photos.

The films were given catalog numbers, so you can get a film and read it and print it out. Paper copies of most of the manuscripts are available on the B-1 floor of the Family History Library in the High Density Storage area. Ask for them at the Reference counter

Some of the transcripts are currently being translated into English. Once the English language transcripts have been microfilmed, they will appear in the FamilySearch Catalog. Ask at the Reference Counter to use the records.

The actual tapes were stored at the Granite Mountain Vault, and have been transferred to CDs. They soon should be made available on the Internet.

See also the article Find ancestors on the IGI to learn more about the records in the International Genealogical Index.

Libraries and genealogical associations[edit | edit source]

How do we find our local library or genealogical society?[edit | edit source]

  • Start with the phone book. Try looking in the county and city pages for the public library.
    Next, look under the name of our county, island, or district. Or look under “Genealogical” or “Family History” or “Historical” in the business pages to find a local society.
  • Look on the Internet. Many libraries and family history/genealogy societies often have their own websites online. You can try using Google (or other search engines), by searching for the location you're interested in, as well as the words "Genealogy society" or "library", etc. Another option is using, and from there, navigating to your state or island, click on “Localities,” then click on the letter of the alphabet that begins the name of your county, district, or village, then go to “Societies and Groups.”
  • Use a search engine on the Internet (such as yahoo, or google.). Type in something like “Maui Historical Society” or “Maui Genealogy.” Be creative. If one combination doesn’t work, try another one.

Search photographic collections.[edit | edit source]

 Missionaries to the islands had cameras, while native families often did not. We can try to get pictures from missionaries who served at the time our parents and grandparents were alive. Ask: “Who were the missionaries who baptized my parents?” We can write to them or their families and ask if they took any pictures that might have our family members in them.
Historical organizations keep pictures that have been donated by families. Books have been published with pictures taken by photographers who toured the islands taking pictures of people. Libraries or archives near us may have some, or we could look on the Internet. If needed, we can ask for help from someone who knows how to use these.

NOTE: The Family History Library has acquired a book of photographs of early Tongan
members compiled and published by Lorraine Ashton. Her father was a missionary in Tonga.  Look under this reference:
Ashton, Lorraine and Marden Pictures of Tonga 1935-1958
Book Call number: FHL INTL Book 996.1 H2a.
Or it is on British Fiche 6113776
It is also on CD and DVD. You need to hav a PDF reader (adobe acrobat) and JPG file viewer
on your computer to use it.   At the Family History Library, ask for CD-ROM no. 1488, or DVD no. 1.

Continue to use the FamilySearch Catalog.[edit | edit source]

After using the specific island information which follows, you can go to the Internet at and click on the Library tab. Click on FamilySearch Catalog and choose a Place search. Use the name of your island or island group to find more resources that are available. When the Library acquires more records, they will be listed in the Catalog. Look again in a few months to see if new resources have been made available.

Use the Internet to find websites with more information[edit | edit source]

Start with Also, is a good site. There are many others.

Economic zones map.png

The Economic zones of the South Pacific are shown on the map on the right.

This map gives an overview of the island groups in relation to each other. 

When you enter place names into a computer file, it is critical that you include the name of the island.
Since many of the islands have been known by more than one name, use the Table of Pacific Island Names under the category Polynesia (click it above) to find the current name, the former name, and the native name of some islands.

For old records, try looking under an alternative name, such as “Sandwich Islands” for Hawaii.