French Polynesia Church Records

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For information about records for non-Christian religions in French Polynesia, go to the Religious Records page.

Online Resources and Websites[edit | edit source]

Ancestry.com, findmypast.com, and MyHeritage.com can be searched free of charge at your local family history center or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Christianity is the main religion of the islands. A majority of 54% belongs to various Protestant churches, especially the Maohi Protestant Church, which is the largest and accounts for more than 50% of the population. It traces its origins to Pomare II, the king of Tahiti, who converted from traditional beliefs to the Reformed tradition brought to the islands by the London Missionary Society.

Latin rite Roman Catholics constitute a large minority with 30% of the population, which has its own ecclesiastical province, comprising the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Papeete and its only suffragan, the Diocese of Taiohae. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had 28,147 members as of 2018. Community of Christ, another denomination within the Latter-Day Saint tradition, claimed 7,990 total French Polynesian members as of 2015. There were about 3,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Tahiti as of 2014.[1]

Information Recorded in the Records[edit | edit source]

Different denominations, different time periods, and practices of different record keepers will effect how much information can be found in the records. This outline will show the types of details which might be found (best case scenario):

Baptisms[edit | edit source]

In Catholic and Anglican records, children were usually baptized a few days after birth, and therefore, the baptism record proves date of birth. Other religions, such as Baptists, baptized at other points in the member's life. Baptism registers might give:

  • baptism date
  • the infant's name
  • parents' names
  • father's occupation
  • status of legitimacy
  • occasionally, names of grandparents
  • names of witnesses or godparents, who may be relatives
  • birth date and place
  • the family's place of residence
  • death information, as an added note or signified by a cross

Marriages[edit | edit source]

Marriage registers can give:

  • the marriage date
  • the names of the bride and groom
  • indicate whether the bride and groom were single or widowed
  • their ages
  • birth dates and places for the bride and groom
  • their residences
  • their occupations
  • birthplaces of the bride and groom
  • parents' names (after 1800)
  • the names of previous spouses and their death dates
  • names of witnesses, who might be relatives.

Burials[edit | edit source]

Burial registers may give:

  • the name of the deceased
  • the date and place of death or burial
  • the deceased's age
  • place of residence
  • cause of death
  • the names of survivors, especially a widow or widower
  • deceased's birth date and place
  • parents' names, or at least the father's name



How to Find Records[edit | edit source]

Digital Copies of Church Records in the FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]

Watch for digitized copies of church records to be added to the collection of the FamilySearch Library. Some records might have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations. To find records:

a. Click on the records of French Polynesia.
b. Click on Places within French Polynesia and a list of towns will appear.
c. Click on your town if it appears, or the location which you believe was the parish which served your town or village.
d. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the record is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the records.

Writing for Records[edit | edit source]

You will probably need to write to or email the national archives, the diocese, or local parish priests to find records. See French Letter Writing Guide for help with composing letters.

Catholic Church Records[edit | edit source]

Writing to a Local Parish[edit | edit source]

Earlier records can be held at the diocese, with more recent records still kept in the local parish. To locate the mailing address or e-mail address for a diocese or local parish, consult:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Records[edit | edit source]

Online Records[edit | edit source]

Online information is available to current members, for deceased members and immediate family members who are still living. Sign in to FamilySearch and then select Family Tree in the drop-down menu.

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

In May 1843, thirteen years after the Church was organized in the United States, four men were sent by Joseph Smith to be missionaries in the islands of the Pacific. Addison Pratt, Noah Rogers, and Benjamin F. Grouard endured great hardship for six months on the whaling ship Timoleon, bound for the Society Islands, now part of French Polynesia. Knowlton F. Hanks died at sea. Pratt started alone in the small island of Tubuai, where he baptized 60 people in the first year. He is considered to be the first missionary to a foreign language area in modern Church history. He baptized many people and established a branch (a small congregation).

Rogers and Grouard went on to Tahiti, arriving at a time when religious freedom had been declared for all. Though they met with many hardships and much opposition from other religions, they were able to proselyte on more than nine islands. With Addison Pratt, who joined them later, they baptized over 1,000 before Elder Pratt's return to Salt Lake in 1848. Elder Pratt came back with his family in 1850. This promising start for the Church was halted when French government restrictions led to the mission being closed in May 1852. This expulsion of the missionaries left the Church in the Pacific islands struggling on its own for many decades.

Missionaries returning in 1892 started branches again among those who had remained stalwart, and constructed Church buildings that helped speed the work. In 1972 the Tahiti stake (diocese) was organized. Tahiti's second stake was created in 1982, and its third stake in 1990. Total Church Membership: 28,704. Congregations: 96. [2]

Community of Christ Church Records[edit | edit source]

Writing for Records[edit | edit source]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

For a detailed history, see the Community of Christ Website: History. The Community of Christ was first established in 1860 as the Re-organized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This history mentions missionary work beginning in Tahiti since the beginning of the church.

Jehovah's Witnesses Church Records[edit | edit source]

Writing for Records[edit | edit source]

Maohi Protestant Church Records[edit | edit source]

Writing for Records[edit | edit source]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

The Maohi Protestant Church or Maóhi Protestant Church is a Reformed church in French Polynesia. It is a member of the World Communion of Reformed Churches. The first missionaries arrived in 1797. After 1815, the majority of the population identified themselves with Christianity, and formed this national Protestant church which spread from Tahiti to the four archipelagos. The official founding date of the church is 1815. Following developments in 1863 the London Missionary Society handed its control over the church to the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society. In 1962, the church become autonomous under the name of Eglise évangélique de Polynésie francaise. Except for the Marquesas Islands and Îles Tuamotu-Gambier, the Maóhi Protestant Church is the leading, predominant church in French Polynesia. It has parishes and thousands of members in New Caledonia. The church has 130,000 members and 96 congregations and 81 house fellowships. It has districts and a General assembly. [3]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "French Polynesia", in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Polynesia, accessed 9 April 2020.
  2. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Facts and Statistics: French Polynesia, https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/facts-and-statistics/country/French-Polynesia, accessed 9 April 2020.
  3. Wikipedia contributors, "Maohi Protestant Church", in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maohi_Protestant_Church, accessed 9 April 2020.