Society Islands (includes Tahiti)

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
French Polynesia Wiki Topics
Flag of French Polynesia.svg.png
Beginning Research
Record Types
French Polynesia Background
Local Research Resources

Guide to Society Islands (includes Tahiti) ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.

Tahitian girls in mission clothes.jpg

Papeete, on Tahiti, is the administrative center of this chain of islands, consisting of 7 volcanic and 7 atolls, running in 2 lines, east and west. Of the 100,000 population of Polynesian, French, Chinese and half-caste people in the Society Islands, about 50,000 live on Tahiti, which is 37 miles long. Agriculture and tourism support the economy. Cacao, vanilla, and fruits are grown. Religion is mostly Protestant people, with some Catholic people and some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The islands are:

  • Leeward Islands (Iles sous le Vent) (population about 28,000): Bellingshausen, Scilly, Tupai, Maupiti, Bora Bora, Tahaa, Hauhine, Mopelia, Raiatea.
  • Windward Islands (pop. About 170,000): Tahiti, Tetiaroa, Moorea (formerly called Eimeo or Aimeho), Maiao, Mehetia.

Research Help[edit | edit source]

Historical background[edit | edit source]

Green check.png
The usage of "Mormon" and "LDS" on this page is approved according to current policy.

300  Polynesians reached the Society Islands. Local chiefs ruled.
1722 Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen reached Maketea of the Tuamotus and Bora Bora of the Leewards.
1769 British James Cook reached Tahiti, Anaa (Tuamotu), and Rurutu (Austral) Islands.
1773 Second voyage of Cook reaches Tahiti, Raiatea, and Tabuate (Marquesea). The war of Tutaha beginning the reign of Chief Tu begins. It continues until 1803.
1774 French missionaries attempt evangelization at Tautira, Tahiti
1775 Evangelization program ends.
1777 Third visit of Cook’s ship. Numerous Tahitians die of venereal diseases.
1788 Crew of the Bounty mutiny against Captain Bligh and escape to the islands.
1789 Bounty mutineers try to settle at Tubuai. Sixteen settle at Tahiti and help the father of Chief Tu.
1790 Tu is invested as chief of Tahiti. His father takes the name of Pomare.
1792 Three white seamen visit Tahiti.
1793 Pomare is the victor of Punaauia chiefs, and the Vehiatua chiefdom ends.
1797 Pomare extends his authority on the Leeward Islands and becomes king. James Wilson reaches Tahiti. Eighteen missionaries of the London Missionary Society land there.
1798 Eleven of the London missionaries leave Tahiti.
1800 The French begin keeping public records.
1801 More missionaries arrive. Hapai, the father of Pomare I, dies.
1803 Pomare I dies. Missionaries sustain Pomare II.
1805 The first book written in the Tahitian language is published in London.
1806 Pomare II extends his power on the northern and central Tuamotu Islands. His wife, Tetua, dies.
1807 Pomare II wars with the Punaauia and Papara chiefs.
1808 Uprising of Tahiti against Pomare II. All missionaries but Henry Nott leave for Huahine.
1810 Pomare II marries Teremoemee, daughter of Tametea, King of Raiatea.
1812 Pomare is baptized a Christian.
1813 Birth of Aimate, daughter of Pomare II. Church and school built at Papetoai inMoorea.
1814 Christianity is brought to the Leeward Islands.
1815 High Priest Patii of Moorea is converted to Christianity. Pomare and the converts war against the Opuhara. Battle of Feipi and victory to the Christians. The defeated are forgiven.
1817 Pomare publishes the first Tahitian language book in Tahiti.
1819 First common law code is written. Pomare II is christened.
1820 A Russian expedition reaches Tahiti. Teri`itaria, son of Pomare II is born.
1823 Frenchmen Duperrey and d’Urviolle reach Tahiti.
1826 The Founding of the English society for the “Exploitation of Lagoon resources.”
A ban on foreigners is decreed. The founding of the syncretistic sect of the Mamaia in Tahiti.
1827 Death of Pomare II. Reign of Pomare Vahine IV begins. The Mamaia sect is spread to other islands. Unstable period begins.
1829 Whaling is developed on French Polynesian islands. The New Testament is printed in Tahitian.
1831 Uprising of chiefs against Pomare Vahine IV, who is forced to condemn the Mamaia sect.
1833 First Catholic Vicar Apostolic in the islands. Defeat of the chiefs of the Taiarapu (supported by the Mamaia sect) heralds its decline.
1836 Failure of the Catholic missionaries in Tahiti.
1837 Frenchman Abel Thouars is sent to keep order in the Pacific and control the whalers. Tahitian-European intermarriages forbidden. Pritchard appointed consul of Great Britain.
1838 Pomare Vahine IV asks for British protection.
1839 French commander Laplace intervenes to gain freedom for Catholic activities. War goes on in the Marquesas. Treaty of religious freedom in Tahiti ratified. Son of Pomare Vahine IV (Ariiaue) is born.
1840 Anarchy reigns. Pomare IV is powerless. Pritchard asks for British protection and leaves for London.
1841 Marriages between Tahitians and Europeans allowed during three days in September. The last members of the Mamaia sect die because they refused vaccination.
1842 French annex the Marquesas and land a detachment of troops at Taiohae, Nuku Hiva. Establishment of a French protectorate on Tahiti.Herman Melville (author of Moby Dick) arrives.
1843 The French protectorate of the islands is acknowledged by Britain, in spite of Pritchard’s return
1844 Missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived in Tubuai in May and later in Papeete, Tahiti, before the Latter-day Saints left for Utah. The Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints has had some kind of presence there ever since. Pritchard arrested and deported. Tahitian chiefs Tati, Hitoti and Paraita accept the French protectorate, but a war begins in Punaauia, Faaa and Teva I Uta districts. Pomare IV flees to Raiatea.
1845 The chief Paraita reigns. Laws are revised. Latter-day Saint missionary Grouard is in Anaa, having rapid and successful activities.
1847 Peace after the French victory at Punaruu. Pomare IV is re-established and comes back to Papeete.
1847 French-British treaty on the Leeward Islands is signed, and a legislative assembly is in Tahiti.
1851 The first Tahitian-English dictionary is published.
1852 Independence of the Tahitian Churches is proclaimed. Latter-day Saint Anaans revolt against the Catholic faith. They are imprisoned and martyred. French Government restrictions halt the growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mission and it is closed. Latter-day Saints go into hiding. Missionaries Grouard and Pratt are deported. All British missionaries depart except Orsmond.
1857 Tamatoa V (1842-1881) a son of Pomare Vahine IV is crowned king of Raiatea.
1862 The French language becomes compulsory. Seven Tahitian students sent to Nantes, France. Cadastral survey taken. A Tahitian-French dictionary and a Tahitan grammar are published by Mgr T. Jaussen.
1864 A large cotton plantation is established by an Englishman, and he imports 1,000 Chinese workers.
1869 Pomare IV asks for a British protectorate on Tahiti. It is not given.
1873 The cotton plantation goes bankrupt and the Chinese become market gardeners, hawkers, and opium dealers.
1874 Missionaries of the Reorganized LDS Church visit and record the situation on the islands.
1875 Ariiaue marries Marau Taarou Salmon.
1877 Pomare Vahine dies. Ariiaue reigns under the name of Pomare V.
1880 The Leeward Islands are annexed to France, and Pomare V gives his territories to France.
1882 Civil law applies to schools. Lay teachers replace nuns and brothers in Tahitian schools. Catholics found independent schools. A ban on the tattooing of entire bodies is made.
1890 The last British missionary leaves the Leeward Islands.
1891 Arrival of Paul Gaugain. Death of Pomare V. Death of Mgr. Jaussen.
1892 Honorary succession of the Pomares: Prince Hinoi (1869-1916) declared king. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) mission is re-opened by Joseph Damron and William Seegmiller.
1894 Development of sugar and rum production. Problems with opium.
1895 Birth of Pouvanaa a Oopa in Huahine.
1900 Constitution of the Etablissements Français d’Oceanie.
1904 The Pomare family gives Tetiaroa to the Canadian dentist W. J. Williams for his service.
1914 Leprosarium built at Orofara, Tahiti.
1914 German raiders are shelled at Papeete and exiled to the Marquesas.
1916 Death of Prince Hinoi Pomare. Battalion of 906 Tahitians levied to fight in World War I.
1918 Flu epidemic kills 20 percent of the population.
1919 540 Tahitian warriors of World War I return.
1924 A tourism campaign is launched.
1934 Death of Marautaarou Salmon, last queen of Tahiti.
1940 The islands join a Free French Goverment of De Gaulle after a referendum.
1946 American soldiers depart from base in Bora Bora, where it was built in 1942.
1947 Thor Heyerdahl’s ship “Kon Tiki” lands and is then taken to Tahiti.
1948 757 Chinese depart for China.
1949 Founding of Radio Tahiti.
1951 Aerial cartography of Polynesia accomplished.
1952 Founding of Air Tahiti.
1957 Territory reconstituted as French Polynesia. Extended powers for the Territorial Assembly and Governmental council created. Pouvanaa became the first vice president.
1958 Jehovah’s Witness missionaries arrive. Pouvanaa’s plan to make an independent republic and levy income taxes fails. People vote to remain French and Pouvanaa is jailed.
1960 Filming of “Mutiny on the Bounty” with Marlon Brando.
1964 Chinese settlers begin to apply for French citizenship. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints French elementary school opens.
1966 First nuclear test. Tetiaroa Island sold to Marlon Brando.
1968 Thermonuclear testing in the islands. Pardoned Pouvanaa returns from France.
1970 Hurricane Emma causes destruction.
1972 Anti nuclear crusades. Creation of the school the Tahitian Academy. The first stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized in Tahiti on May 5.
1974 Mitterrand elected president. Tahitian Academy opens officially. The 43rd nuclear test is made.
1975 First underground nuclear test. Tahitian flag is officially acknowledged.
1980 Tahitian is recognized as the official language of Tahiti.
1983 Five hurricanes ravaged all the islands of French Polynesia. Coconut plantations destroyed. A temple for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is dedicated in Papeete.

2000 There are 16,200 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, divided into 6 stakes, comprising one mission.

Research Resources[edit | edit source]

Online Resources

  • 1780-1999 - French Polynesia, Civil Registration, 1780-1999 at FamilySearch — index and images
  • Go to the Internet at and click on the Library. From that tab, click on the FamilySearch Catalog. Type in French Polynesia to get a list of the islands and island groups and to see what records were made under this large jurisdiction.  On Tahiti, records are listed under the name of the town. Also, you can do a keyword search on Tahiti. Over 220 items will appear. (You can also access resources directly at Then click on catalog and type in French Polynesia to access listings.)

Note: All of these islands are a protectorate of France.

  • Births, marriages, and deaths are recorded by the government, and citizens are required to have an official government record. Tables are published by the government every ten years giving an index to the names in the records. This facilitates genealogical research up to the time when the French first came to the islands. They have been keeping records since the early 1800's.
  • Notarial records are available from the year 1862.
  • Large numbers of civil registration records are available from 1843.
  • A large number of oral genealogies and land records are also available.
    Tahiti: 795887, 795889
    You can use a Film/fiche number search and look at the descriptions of the following microfilms, all of which contain French Polynesian information: 795887, 795888, 795889,181746 Item 7, and 1515054.

Cole Jensen Collection

 Some compiled genealogies from Tahiti were collected by William Cole and Elwin Jensen between the years 1930 and 1970. This collection was microfilmed by the Genealogical Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1984.

The microfilm numbers for Tahiti are:

1358004:  Pedigrees and genealogies, combined with Tuamotuan records)

1358005:  Tahitian genealogies, along with other French Polynesian island genealogies.

1358006:  Names, dates, and places in alphabetical order.  550 pedigree charts.

1358007:  Tahitian family genealogies, including those of Parau Tupuna , Tuatapapara'a, Te Variga, Cyrille Dauphin, Tofa, Tekehu, Makea, Mariteagi, Maifano, Tagi, Amanu, Hao, and names that begin with the letter "M". Some descendancy charts.  They are in French. 

Oral genealogies
During the 1970s the Genealogical Department commissioned people to go to the Pacific Islands and gather oral genealogies because they realized how fragile these important sources of family information are. They made arrangements for the interviews and the older people talked into the tape recorder microphone to get their genealogy on tape. Later, the gatherers typed transcripts of the interviews onto paper. The paper transcripts were microfilmed, You can use the table below to find the microfilm number of the transcript for the interview you are interested in.
The tape recordings were later digitized onto compact discs. In the future, the CDs of the tapes may be put on the Internet and linked to this table so you can access them according to the tape number and listen to them.  The table only shows the first two names for now.  It will be completed before 1910.

Last Name First Names Residence About place
Tape mp3
Allain Marae Papeete Tuamotu 38 795887 Item 27
Arai Helena Papeete Papeete 108 795888 Item 14