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Tonga - unique among Pacific nations - never completely lost its indigenous governance. The archipelagos of "The Friendly Islands" were united into a Polynesian kingdom in 1845. Tonga became a constitutional monarchy in 1875 and a British protectorate in 1900; it withdrew from the protectorate and joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1970. Tonga remains the only monarchy in the Pacific.


There are 170 islands in Tonga, of which 56 are inhabited. They are of coral or volcanic formation. The total land area is less than 300 square miles. About half of the land is cultivated, and the soil is very fertile. Tonga is divided into three island groups: Tongatapu group in the south, Ha`apai in the middle, andVava`u in the north. Nukualofa is the capital, where the average temperature is 76 degrees and the humidity is 76 percent. Cyclones are possible from October to April, and the dry season is from June to November. 

The population is about 195,000. Nuku`alofa has about 35,000 inhabitants.  Tonga has close ties with Great Britain, and Tongan and English are both official languages.

About 30 percent of the people belong to the Free Wesleyan Church, which is the official state church, and the king is the head of it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the next largest. About 40 percent of all Tongans are members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many Tongans have emigrated to Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Alaska, and the mainland of the USA.

Tonga genealogy

For more information see this article: Samoan, Tongan and other Polynesian Genealogies

Historical background

500 The islands are settled by Polynesians.
1400 A hereditary Tongan monarchy rules over Tonga, Samoa, Niue, Fiji, and others.
1470 The Tui Tonga becomes more of a sacred ruler and creates the Hau office. The Hau rules in governmental affairs, and is called the Ha`atakaluaua Dynasty.
1616 Dutch navigators Schouten and Lemaire visit Tonga.
1773 British Captain James Cook visits. He names Tonga the Friendly Islands.

1774 British Captain James Cook's second visit to Tonga.

1777 British Captain James Cook's third and last visit to Tonga.  Meets Finau 'Ulukalala son of Tuituiohu, the first of the line of the chiefs of Vava'u  Meets Tu'i Tonga Bau, Tu'i Ha'atakalaua Maealiuaki and Tu'i Kanokupolu Tu'ihalafatai.

1781 Spanish navigator Maurelle finds Vava'u.  Meets Tu'i Tonga Bau.

1787 French Captain La Perouse visits Vava'u and Tongatapu.

1789 British Captain William Bligh of "Mutiny of the Bounty" fame floats in rowboat to Tofua.
1790 Civil war breaks out and continues through the 1820s.

1791 British Captain Edwards visits Tonga searching for the ship "Bounty"

1793 French Captains D'Entrecasteaux and Labillardiere come to Tonga searching for Captain La Perouse who dissappeared in 1788 after arriving in Australia.
1797 British Captain Wilson on the ship "Duff" brings London Society missionaries from England.
1800 Another dynasty is formed. The high chiefs live on Tongatapu, so it is known as the Land of Chiefs, and the other islands are called the Land of Servants.
1826 A Wesleyan Mission is established.
1831 Taufa`ahau is converted to Christianity, chooses the name George after the King of England, and wins a struggle against the Tui Tonga.  He is known as King George Tupou I.  He rules Ha'apai

1833 King George Tupou I gains Vava'u under his rule.

1839 The Wesleyans help King George Tupou I write a code of laws.
1845 He proclaims himself King George Tupou I. 
1852 King George Tupou I, after many wars, gains Tongatapu. The Tongan Islands are all united.
1862 Serfdom is abolished.  Foreigners may lease land.

1864 German Migration to Tonga begins from Pyritz, Pommern, Kingdom of Prussia, Germany

1867 Tongan palace built by German firm J. C. Godeffroy & Sohn
1875 Tongan constitution is formed.

1876 Tonga and Germany enter into a treaty of friendship

1879 Tonga and Great Britian enter into a treaty of friendship

1880 Crown Prince's body, Tevita 'Unga, brought back to Tonga from New Zealand on German navy frigate Nautilus.  Mr. Shirley Baker is chosen by King George Tupou I to be Prime Minister.

1886 Tonga and United States of America enter into a treaty of friendship
1891 The first missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrive in Tonga.

1893 King George Tupou II reigns 
1895 Missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Walker and Jensen, arrive in Vava`u after visiting the King in Tongatapu.
1897 A written Tongan based on the Latin alphabet is established. The alphabet includes 16 letters, plus a glottal stop, for which an apostrophe is used. All words end with a vowel sound.
1900 With agreement between Germany, Britain, and United States, Tonga becomes a  British protectorate.

1914 World War I [WWI] Tonga declares neutrality

1916 Tonga forced by Britian declares all German citizens as enemy aliens
1918 Queen SaloteTupou III begins her reign.

1942 World War II [WWII] German evacuees from Tonga interred in New Zealand
1952 Liahona High school opens in Tonga tapu.

1958 Tonga and Britain treaty of friendship revised.
1965 Death of Queen Salote, whose reign was marked with great progress in education and other progress for the entire population.
1968 Her son, King Taufa`ahau Tupou IV begins his reign. First stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is created in Tonga.
1970 The British protectorate is dissolved.
1970 Tongan full sovereignty is restored. Membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reaches 14,000 in Tonga.

1977 100 year ratification of Tonga and Germany treaty of friendship.  New treaty signed.
1983 A temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is dedicated at Nuku`alofa.

1986 Tonga and United States treaty of friendship ratified.
1990 Dissatisfaction with corruption in high places brings unexpected victories to the Tongan Pro-Democracy party, which represents the interest of the “commoners” who believe the “nobles” are taking unfair advantage of their lifetime positions in parliament.
2000 Membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stands at 45,000, divided between 16 stakes and a mission district.

2008 There are 54,281 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Tonga.

Click "Tongan Customs and research ideas" under Step 3 in the table below   for more information.