Tonga customs and research ideas

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Customs[edit | edit source]

The importance of correct family lines is jealously guarded, and has everything to do with land acquisition and passing on the titles of nobility. These concepts pre-date the Christian era.

In the case of weddings or funerals, there is a very exact order of things to follow. Who is in charge and makes the decisions is decided by the extended family, rather than the immediate family. Every person is inferior or superior to other family members. A female usually outranks a male, sometimes going back a couple of generations. Each person must know his or her place in the family genealogy to determine who is sitting in the proper place in the kava circle, which has great importance in the social and political life of each person.

To keep track of family ties, many Tongans make a Hohoko map, which shows the descendants of their ancestral lines. The ancestral family is called the Ha`a, and most of us know which ha`a we are from. This is helpful in doing our family history.

People move from one village to another, so we should find out where our ancestors lived during their lives. Then we can study the history of the villages where they lived.

If we do a village family history project, non-members as well as members should be contacted and included in the project, especially the Nobles. Not many of the Nobles are members of the Church now, but their parents and grandparents fed the missionaries, and they may be interested in finding out more about this.

The further we go back in time, the more likely we are to find that a person has changed his or her name. If someone did something, proving themself in a certain way, they can change their name accordingly. Study the context of the person’s life, including parents, and other family members when dealing with name changes. On some Church records, the person’s
several names may be given.

On outlying islands, people would often wait to get births, marriages, and deaths recorded at the headquarters of the place where they lived. Sometimes, people did not know the exact date of their birth, for instance. One man had an estimated birth date on his record that had been given by his mother a few years after his birth, besides the one he had been told was his real birth date. When he had to decide which one to keep, he chose the one on the record because it was the same as a favourite relative, even though it was not accurate. We should be aware that it may be possible and at other times it may not be possible to be completely accurate with dates.

Case Study[edit | edit source]

I am Tisina Melila Wolfgramm Gerber. My husband is Roy Gerber.

My father is Iohani Otto Melila Wolfgramm. He was born in 1911 and died in 1997. His father was Charles Fredrick Wolfgramm, and his mother was Salome Fo`ou Afu. Dad’s grandfather, Frederick Gustav Ludwig Wolfgramm, emigrated from Pyritz, Pomern, Prussia in 1885 to join others of his family, who were copra traders. Frederick’s wife was Kisaea Sisifa, daughter of Afi`a Folola Havea Tu`i Ha`ateiho and Ilaisa`ane Pita Haveatuli.

My mother is Salote Lasini Fakatou, who was born in 1915. Her father was Penisoni Kaufusi Fakatou and her mother was Selu Vaia Mafi. They have 19 children, of which I am the 5th born. My father moved to the United States in 1960 because he wanted to take the family to the LDS temple. His life was dedicated to missionary work, family history, temple work, and priesthood service. He taught me his knowledge of family history work. Following are some things I have learned in doing Tongan family history work:

1. We should interview our family members and write down their information.
I have been interested in genealogy and family history ever since I was a child. I have wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps in finding and preserving the records of our people. I have a strong spiritual connection with my father because of a special manifestation that occurred during my childhood and a promise I made to him. He has worked and prayed a lot to get the information of his family, and so has my mom. We have talked for hours with my father and mother, and I helped them record in writing the things they have memorized and the records they have obtained. Also, I talked with my Aunt Edna P. Wolfgramm Burningham, to get information on the German lines.

2. We should gather written records from our family members.
My mother wrote our family genealogy on a family map, or Hohoko. Many Tongan families have charts like this. She wrote on sail cloth with a ball point pen so it could be folded up and carried and not be torn or destroyed by the elements. The map is about 4 feet wide and 20 feet long. (See the picture on Page XX.)

3. We should enter information into Persona Ancestral File or another genealogical
computer program.

Family members helped me copy the information from the Hohoko into the Person Ancesral File computer program. From there, it can be printed out as pedigree charts and family group records and entered into the TempleReady program to request LDS temple ordinance work.

4. We should write down what we have learned and share the information with others.
We also compiled the stories of our family and published them in a book, “Iohani Wolfgramm, Man of Faith and Courage.” Testimonies, family stories and memories, as well as family history of our ancestors has been compiled in this book. A copy is in the Family History Library, call number 921.9612 G313i - JSMB INTL Book.

5. We should share the genealogical information we have with others who need to complete their family history and temple work.
My father received a call to be a missionary in Tonga and spent 1941-1943 with his young
Family, serving wherever the Lord called them to go. In 1965, he wanted to take his family to the temple, but there was none in Tonga at the time, so he wanted to bring his whole family to the United States. Through the blessings of the Lord, the family received permission, papers, and funding to immigrate to Utah.

Before we came, my father was able to get permission to copy the royal lineage charts of Amelia Tamaha at the Kings’ palace. He brought these with him. The family donated them to the Family History Library, and they can be found on microfilm number 1224643, ‘The Iohani and Salote Wofgramm Papers.”

Iohani was also able to copy other charts of the Royal ancestors from the charts before coming to the USA in 1965. Our family has donated copies to the Family History Library. They are on film number 1224643. They are:

95 Genealogy Charts of Royal Families, Nobles, and Chiefs from `Ahoeitu and Tangaloa and his son `Ahoeitu (the first Tui Tonga, 950 A.D.) to Tui Ha`atakalaua, 1450, including the Ha`a Túi Kanokupolu line.
       In this book we can find 95 charts of Tongan Chiefs and their genealogical lines.

      This is not a complete record, but only a few from the Genealogy papers of Iohani and Salote Wolfgramm.

When ywe find the Chief Line thatyour family descended from on one of the 95 charts, there are three more books that we will need.
1) Amelia Tamaha Records from the year 1844
2) Túi Latai Mataele (
who came from the royal lines) book of records he copied from the Tongan Royal Palace
3) Veikune book of records of Queen Matáaho’s father.
     • A 3-page list of the genealogy with the title in English is at the beginning of the record.
     • The record itself has 95 pages
     • 79 Larger charts of more charts of more genealogy lines are also available.

77 Genealogy Charts of Royal Families, Nobles, and Chiefs from `Ahueitu and Tangaloa and his son `Aho Eitu, the first Tui Tonga 950 A.D. toTakulaua Tui, Ha`a Takalaua 1450, including the Ha!a Túi Kanokupolu line.
These charts are in larger print, with some additional names than are found on the 99 Genealogy Charts of Royal Families, Nobles, and Chiefs in this same collection.
     •There is a list of the genealogies with an introduction in English at the beginning of the record.
     •There are 77 pages in this record set. If you can’t find a name in the set of 99 genealogy charts, there are more names in

       this larger print version.

Other Resources available
CD and maps of Royal Tongan lines by Kakolosi Tui’one.
Compiled by Kakolosi K. Tui’one (March 29, 1936 - Sept 9, 2002)

During his life, Kakolosi Tui’one worked hard to collect the records of the Royal family of Tonga. He was given permission in 1949 to copy the records of the royal family. During the last few years of his life he lived with this son, Stanley. He would stay up working on his computer all day and all night sometimes, trying to get the records complete. Kakolosi died just a few months after had finished his work, in the year 2002.

These records are on “maps” orhohoko charts. They are on a Compact Disc that must be read by a Computer Assisted Design (AutoCAD14) program. (It is not possible to see what is on the CD by loading it onto a regular word processing program).

The maps are 32 by 41 inches and cannot be printed out by a regular computer printer because they are in AutoCad format. There are 70 maps in the set. We can call Kakolosi’s children at 801-446-5362 and they will print out the ones we request. If we want to buy the CD with all of the files on it, we can also request it from the Tui’one Family. The family donated a copy to the Family History Library, which has the call number CD-ROM no. 1125 - INTL Lib Att Win.

A printed copy of these maps is located in the bottom drawer of one of the large pedigree chart and map cases in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The call number is PEDIGREE no. 2182, pt. 1 - 71 INTL Pedigree File. We can ask a Library Attendant for help in getting them.

Note: Because the maps are computerized, each map has a file name. Thefile name contains family names on the charts. They start with the letters of the alphabet contained in the map. Look at the INDEX to see the file names for the maps and the name of the ancestral couple of the decendants on that map.

Tongan Oral Genealogy Interviews from the 1970s
Kalolaina and Tevita Mapa were commissioned by the LDS Church to gather oral genealogies throughoutTonga during the 1970s. There are over 800 Tongan oral genealogical interviews, which they gathered on reel-to-reel tapes. The tapes were transcribed, and the transcripts were microfilmed.

The paper copies of the transcripts are stored in the Special Collections area of the Family History Library. Search the catalog by surname for your ancestror’s name.  Also search by the name of your ancestor’s village to see if any other people from your ancestral village were interviewed.

A project is underway to translate these transcripts from Tongan into English. We can contact the Family History Library Public Affairs Unit at 1-800-240-1054 for further information about the translations.

How to browse through the villages more quickly
If you want to see more quickly what villages the people who gave their oral histories were from, use the Register of Tongan Oral Histories. The Register is a thirteen-page list of the same oral genealogies in alphabetical order by last name, with a column showing the name of the village and a column showing the cassette tape number. The glottal stops are interfiled with the letters of the alphabet in this list.

Example from the Register of Tongan Oral Histories:


1. Afimeimo `unga Pahu 595
2. Afu, Maika Ha`ano 787
3. Afuha`amango, Setaleki Mumui Neiafu 104
4. Afusipa, Sione Feletoa 789

This list is in print form , and has been given the call number—
996.12 D33r
This list is also on microfilm with the microfilm number
795912 Item 12

Not all of the interviews are listed here, so another index is being prepared. The title will be “Index to the Tongan Oral Genealoggy Interviews.” Tongan people will be descended from at least one royal line, because we are all related to each other in one way or another, so the above references can be helpful in carrying family lines back into further generations.

Further Resources
On the Internet, we can go to and choose the Library tab and then Family History Library Catalog. Type in Tonga to get records that are made on an Island Group-wide basis and print the items you are interested in.

Then type in the name of theisland group, such as Vava`u or Hapa`i where our ancestors were from to get a list of records made on that level. Then try typing in the name of the island and then the village, in case any records were kept on those levels.

To save time, you can also use a film/fiche number search to get to the oral genealogy interviews quickly. Some of these numbers are:795707, 796816, 795831, 795708, 795709, 795710, 795889, 795890, 795891, 795892, 795913, 795978, 795983, 1066597,795976, and 795975 item 4795913

Tuvalu (Ellice Islands)
Tuvalu is a group of nine small atolls in the western Pacific Ocean,. The main island lies north of Fiji. Tuvalu is the world’s second smallest country. The languages spoken are Tuvaluan and English. Tuvaluans are threatened by rising sea levels because the highest point is just 16 feet above sea level. The estimated population is 10,500.

The islands are Nanumea, Nanumanga, Niutao, Nui, Vaitupu, Nukufetau, Funafuti, Nukulaelae, and Niulakita.

Historical background
1400 The first settlers are Samoans or Tongans
1818-25 Whalers and traders visit the islands. Some settle there.
1826 The islands are mapped and named after a British Member of Parliament named Edward Ellice, who own the ship that landed on Funafuti in 1819.
1850s Jack O’Brien, of Australian-Irish descent, comes to Funafuti and marries Sarai, the daughter of the King of Funafuti. This royal family still bears the O’Brien name.
1860 Britain annexes the islands to protect them from Peruvian slave traders, who have kidnaped 400 Tuvaluans.
1865 The London Missionary Society installs Samoan pastors on various islands.
1892 The islands are a protectorate of Britain, called the Gilbert and Ellice Islands.
Traders from American, British, French, and German trading companies settle and leave their names: Duffy (Nanumea), Buckland (Niutao, Nitz (Vaitapu), O’Brien (Funafuti), Restieaux, Fenisot (Nukufetau), and Kleis (Nui).
1915 Britain annexes them as the Gilbert and Ellice Island Colony.
1975 The Ellice Islands break away from the Gilbert Islands and become known as Tuvalu. The Tuvaluans are more Polynesian whilethe I-Kiribati of the Gilbert Islands are more Micronesian in ethnicity and culture.
1978 They become independent with the name Tuvalu.
1979 The U.S.A. gives Tuvalu four islands that have been U.S. territory.
2000 Tuvalu joins the United Nations.

Resources available
Civil registrations of birth, marriages and death records are available for the years from 1866-1979. They are microfilm of original records in the Tuvalu Archives, Funafuti. There are 10 rolls of microfilm.
Number 1213002 contains records of births in Funafuti from 1974-1979. Births in Nanumanga from 1902-1952 and from 1968-1973. Births in Nanumea from 1903-1975. Birth in Niutao from 1905-1952, from 1890-1899, and from 1952-1955.
Number 1213003 contains records of births in Niutao from 1955-1874. Births in Niu from 1903-1976. `````````````````````Births in Nukufetau from 1904-1975.

Number 1213004 contains births in Nukulaelae from 1903-1975. Births in Vaitupu from 1866-1952, 1866-1905, and 1952-1974. Births in Northern Ellice from 1968-1972.

Number 1213005 contains births in Northern Ellice and Southern Ellice from 1968-19754. Death records in Funafati, Nanumanga, Nanumea, Niutao ranging from 1903-1969.

Number 1213006 contains death records in Nui, Nukufetau, Nukulaelae, Vaitupu, Northern Ellice, and Southern Ellice ranging from 1903-1979. Marriages in Funafati from 1933-1979

Number 1213007 contains marriage records in Nanumanga, Nanumea, Nui, ranging from 1889-1974. Marriage records in Nukufetau from 1973-1974 and in Nukulaelae from 1952-1968.
Number 1213008 contains marriage, adoption, and divorce records ranging from 1911-1975.

Number 1213009 contains records of Peruvian slave raids, Tongan wars, old men’s tales, archeological site to 1900, and history and genealogy records up to 1900.

Number 1213010 contains notes and genealogies, some of them oral genealogies, and Number 1213008.