Tonga Personal Names

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Understanding customs used in surnames and given names can help you identify your ancestors in records. Learn to recognize name variations and see clues in names.

Online Tools[edit | edit source]

Surnames[edit | edit source]

  • Tongan names are written with the first name followed by the surname. For example, Anitelu TAUMALOLO.
  • Surnames in Tonga not only reflect the family one belongs to but often indicate the village one comes from.
  • Surnames are passed down from previous generations along the father’s line of descent.
  • Certain names are only allowed to be given to members of the royal family.
  • Once a Tongan obtains a hereditary title, they will be referred to by that title and no longer by their given name. Such titles are usually for life, but the holder can be stripped of it if they commit a serious crime. In this case, they will return to their original name.[1]
  • If someone did something, proving themself in a certain way, they may change their name accordingly. The further back in time, the more likely that a person has changed his or her name. Study the context of the person’s life, including parents, and other family members when dealing with name changes. On some government and church records, the person’s several names may be given.
  • Surnames were unknown in Tonga prior to the setting up of mission schools in Tonga and were not widely used until the expansion of secondary education in the late 1940s. Nowadays most Tongans have a Tonganized papalangi name (e.g. Melenaite = Mary Knight; 'Ilaisaane = Eliza Ann; Sione = John; Tevita = David) plus a Tongan personal name (e.g. Manu, Finau, Ofa) and a surname. [2]

Given Names[edit | edit source]

  • The origins of given names vary. For example, the name may have a Biblical reference or refer to objects (such as flowers), an event, ancestors, friends or famous people.[1]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Tongan Culture", at Cultural Atlas,, accessed 14 March 2021.
  2. "Tonga customs and research ideas", in the FamilySesrch Research Wiki,, accessed 14 March 2021.