Pacific Island Research Strategies--Research Written Records

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After we have gathered information that goes back 4 or 5 generations, we will be able to see if any tie into a royal or noble line or a line that was kept orally and then written down by someone. 

Some genealogies were memorized and passed down orally, many of them to keep the rights of power in the families that had it. Anthropologists, Protestant ministers, tribal elders, land courts, and other interested individuals then collected and transcribed the memorized genealogies in the late 1800s and early 1900s. These are available in libraries, archives, and museums in the form of books and charts. Many of these have been microfilmed and are in the collection of the Family History Library, which means we can order them from a Family History Center near us. Historical archives, museums, and libraries on our island or in the Bishop Museum in Hawaii may also contain information that will help us extend our ancestral records.

See the general sources below and then look in the particular section (listed on page 27) for your ancestor’s island to learn where and how to obtain genealogies that were written and published.

General Sources of information
A. We can use the information in this manual (Page XX) to find Maps, historical
background, a case study, customs, and a list of some records available.

A map on page 28 shows the Pacific Islands and on page 27 a map shows their exclusive economic zones.

B. Use the Cole-Jensen Collection.
This set of genealogies is about the best source of compiled genealogies of Island ancestors that is available. It is an excellent resource for finding the ancestors of Pacific Island LDS Church members who were interviewed between 1931 and 1960.

There are nine microfilms of Polynesian genealogies in the Cole-Jensen collection. They are microfilms number 1358001, 13258002, 1358003, 1358004, 1358005, 1358006, 1358007, 1358008, and 1358009.

They were collected during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s by William Cole and Elwin Jensen, who were missionaries for the LDS Church in the Pacific Islands. Both were extremely interested in the genealogies of the Island people, and they interviewed hundreds of LDS Church members to gather their family information. They included some of these genealogies in their book Israel in the Pacific.

They asked people with Maori, Hawaiian, Tongan, Samoan, Tahitian, Tuamotan, Rarotongan, and other ancestors to write down their genealogies, or whakapapas, from memory. Many were then written onto Family Group sheets and pedigree charts and preserved in binders.

The collection of these binders was once kept in Salt Lake City, Utah. They were organized according to the island group where the genealogy was obtained. When the Polynesian unit was dissolved in the early 1980s, the Genealogical Department microfilmed the contents of the binders from the shelves. Then, parts of the collection’s original binders were sent to Hawaii, Tonga, Samoa, New Zealand, and Tahiti, where Church temples are located. Microfilms of the entire collection are also at these centers. We can order these films at any family history center worldwide.

Pacific Islanders sometimes move from one island group to another, so our ancestor’s record might be in the Hawaiian binder rather than the Samoan one, if he was a Samoan living in Hawaii. Since many Japanese, Chinese, and other people immigrated to the Islands, some of their records are in the collection, also.

A volunteer in the Family History Department named Pat Todd worked for 3 years to index the Cole Jensen collection. It is more like a directory, because if a part of the collection was already indexed, it refers us to that index. The directory is organized by surname or the one name of the ancestor, the person’s place of birth, and their place of origin. It gives us the microfilm number of the original records.
When the index to this collection is finished, it will be given a catalog number and a microfilm or microfiche number. Paper copies of the index will be kept in binders on each floor of the Family History Library. It will be called Index to the Cole Jensen Collection, so look under this title when using the Family History Library Catalog.

C. We can look for Oral Genealogies from the 1970s.
There are over 700 oral histories from Tonga, Samoa, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and other islands in the Family History Library’s collection which were collected in the 1970's in the native languages. If your ancestors were living in the Islands during the 1970s, chances are, they might have been interviewed. These interviews were later transcribed onto paper and the paper transcripts were microfilmed. Some of these contain photos.

The films were given catalog numbers, so we can get a film and read it and print it out. Paper copies of most of the manuscripts are available on the B-1 floor of the Family History Library in the High Density Storage area. Some of the transcripts are currently being translated into English. Once the English language transcripts have been microfilmed, they will appear in the Family History Library Catalog. We can ask at the Reference Counter to use the records.

The actual tapes have been stored at the Granite Mountain Vault, and are being transferred to CDs. Once this is finished, they may be made available on the Internet.

D.We can obtain records from libraries and genealogical associations for further
How do we find our local library or genealogical society?
• Start with the phone book. We could look in the county and city pages for the public library.
Next, we could look under the name of our county, island, or district. Or we could look under “Genealogical” or “Family History” or “Historical” in the business pages to find a local society.
• We can look on the Internet. Go to, then go to our state or island, click
on “Localities,” then click on the letter of the alphabet that begins the name of our county, district, or village, then go to “Societies and Groups.”
• We could use a search engine on the Internet (such as yahoo, or google.). Type in
something like “Maui Historical Society” or “Maui Genealogy.” Be creative. If one combination doesn’t work, try another one.

E. We can Search photographic collections.
Missionaries to the Islands had cameras, while native families often did not. We can try to get pictures from missionaries who served at the time our parents and grandparents were alive. Ask: “Who were the missionaries who baptized my parents?” We can write to them or their families and ask if they took any pictures that might have our family members in them.
Historical organizations keep pictures that have been donated by families. Books have been published with pictures taken by photographers who toured the Islands taking pictures of people. Libraries or archives near us may have some, or we could look on the Internet. If needed, we can ask for help from someone who knows how to use these.
NOTE: The Family History Library just acquired a book of photographs of early Tongan
members compiled and published by Lorraine Ashton. Her father was a missionary in Tonga.
Ashton, Lorraine and Marden Pictures of Tonga 1935-1958
Book Call number: FHL INTL Book 996.1 H2a.
Or it is on British Fiche 6113776
It is also on CD and DVD. We need to hav a PDF reader (adobe acrobat) and JPG file viewer
on our computer to use it. At the Family History Library, ask for CD-ROM no. 1488, or DVD no. 1.

F. We can continue to use the Family History Library Catalog.
After using the specific island information which follows, we can go to the Internet at and click on the Library tab. Click on Family History Library Catalog and choose a Place search. We can use the name of your island or island group to find more resources that are available. When the Library acquires more records, they are listed in the Catalog. Look again in a few months to see if new resources have been made available.

G.We can use the Internet to find web sites with more information
Start with Also, is a good site. There are many others.

The Economic zones of the South Pacific are shown on the map above.
This map gives an overview of the island groups in relation to each other.

Specific Island Information
When we enter place names into a computer file, it is critical that we include the name of the island.
Since many of the islands have been known by more than one name, use the list on the next page to find the current name, the former name, and the native name of some islands. For old records, try looking under an alternative name, such as “Sandwich Islands” for Hawaii.