I’ve spent the last few hours discussing genealogy with my grandmother. It’s been tons of fun and very, very interesting. As with most historical research, your information is only as good as the records kept. You are depending on those who came before you to give you useful information to help piece together your heritage. After some discussion with my grandmother about which direction to take our research, I decided to do some minor digging and see what trails we could follow. Here’s some things I found out:
The earliest census in Hawaii was in 1843.
And even then it was only for Oahu. The earliest census with names recorded wasn’t until 1878 and that was only for certain islands. It wasn’t until 1890 when all islands started to participate. Only after Hawaii became a territory is when we started participating regularly, starting in 1900.
Hawaiian did not become an officially written language until 1829.
When Captain Cooke first visited Hawaii in the 1778, his linguist was able to compile a list of about 250 words, however, it wasn’t until a few years after the missionaries arrived that an official alphabet was established, around 1829.
Information found online at Hawaiian Encyclopedia.
It wasn’t until 1842 that laws requiring to record marriages and births was passed.
The first laws requiring marriages and births recorded wasn’t established until 1842 and many of those records did not survive. It wasn’t until 1896 that the Department of Health was given this responsibility.
Court Records weren’t available until 1842.
I found most of this information at Windward Community College, Census Records. They have a very comprehensive genealogy guide and I suggest you check it out.
But I found all this information because I was trying to late this factoid:
Up until the surname law in 1857, family members were known only by a single name. Found at Hawaiian Roots.com.
I first learned that fact at a family history fair a couple of years back, but I went searching for it again because I wanted to know when this law was established. On my matriarchal side, we have family history records dating back to 1776 where the name tapers off to a single name. In order to provide more resources to confirm this ancestor, I think this law is important to research and figure out how to make this possible for an ancestor where I only have one name for. My grand-aunt once told me that each district had their own history keeper and to find that history keeper would most likely lead you to other ancestors, but it is a rare find.
Now that I have an idea of when the surname law was passed, I have an idea on how to research it, just so I know the naming conventions pre-1857. I have a starting point and those are always exciting. I’ll post more on it when I do more research.
Anyway, I thought it was important to log this information somewhere I can find again and to pass on this knowledge to others researching family ties in Hawaii. And to anyone else who’s a history geek like me.