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The Waihona `Aina Mahele database includes awarded and unawarded claims. There are more than 14,500 records for all islands except Kaho`olawe. Some 40,000 documents are included in these records, which contain claimant names, those of family members, neighbors, place descriptions, land usage accounts, house sites, boundaries, trees, cultivated plants, birds, fishponds, salt ponds, roads, canoe sheds, dams, burials and geological features, such as cliffs and rivers.
In the Mahele Database the claims are organized numerically: all documents pertaining to a specific number are included, so that Native Register, Foreign Register, Native Testimony and Foreign Testimony documents are together. Thus, the researcher avoids some problems found in original texts, where there are non-indexed documents and where numbers and names may differ, where data includes property on several islands or where data is incomplete. A report compiles a composite of claims for any query. Every user will save time.
Approximately five percent of the original archive claims claims had been assigned incorrect numbers. These documents have been placed in correct records by Waihona 'Aina.
When awardees died prior to an award affidavit, testimonies may list heirs; records note if land reverted to a konohiki. Other early maps, probate records and Tax Map Keys (note) can be consulted for more ownership information.
Please note that approximately five percent of the original Land Commission Awards(LCA's) on the Tax Maps are also incorrect, make sure to cross-check your information.
Claimants' names and place names occur with variant spellings. The letters "u" and "n" are routinely transposed in the typed testimony, i.e. Peekauai and Peekanai. Names beginning with Ma- /Na-, or Ka- /Ke-, are shown in any or all variants, sometimes within one document, i.e., the family name "I" appears as "I", "Na I", or "Nai" in the documents of one record. These variants are listed in the alternate name field.
The original texts contain errors and variant spellings. These are corrected when found. Subsequent transcriptions and translations also contain some errors. Waihona `Aina's compiler has undoubtedly added other errors. Researchers with questions about apparent erors are encouraged to e-mail Waihona `Aina with the mail button for verification and correction where pertinent.
Three asterisks (***) appear where information is missing or needs to be double checked. Wai Hona `Aina compiler comments are placed between square brackets: […]. Translators’ comments occur within slash marks: /…/; or parentheses: (…). Question marks within brackets or parentheses indicate difficulty in deciphering the text. Bracketed information includes corrected numbers, words, and/or editorial comments, i.e. when a Royal Patent Number or TMK is known they are added in final editorial comment for each record. This database separates multiple island awards to one person into a separate records for each relevant island with an asterisk and the letter of the island added to the record number, i.e. 7713*H,(for Hawaii), 7713*K (for Kauai), 7713*M (for Maui), 7713*Mo for Molokai, 7713*O (for Oahu). The full documentation occurs within each one but the information in search fields pertains only to that island.
// translator’s comments
( ) translator’s comments
"" ditto marks removed and text filled in
*** our marks for information not located
ap. ‘Apana’ (section of land)
rod = 5 ½ yards or 16½ feet
rood = a square measure usually ¼ acre or 40 square rods
N.E.S.W. have been replaced by North, East, South and West
V. Pres. Replaced by Vice President
Commr = replaced by Commissioner
D. Sir replaced by Dear Sir
Excy replaced by Excellency
Govr, Governr replaced by Governor
Govt, Govermt replaced by Government
Sw replaced by sworn
Tes, Test, Tes.y, Testy replaced by Testimony
Clmt, Claimnt, Clt, replaced by claimant
Clm replaced by claim
Kam I replaced by Kamehameha I
Kam II or III replaced by Kamehameha II or III
Is. replaced by Island
Secy replaced by Secretary
Unct, Unctd replaced by uncultivated
Doct, Doctr replaced by Doctor
Ap. replaced by apana
H.E. replaced by His Excellency
Mr. P. replaced by Mr. Pease
Evc replaced by evidence
Meetg replaced by meeting
Inst. Replaced by Instant [meaning current, i.e. current month]
Measurements used in surveying Found in Hawaiian Archival Land Documents
Degrees and minutes for North/South and East/West orientations
Acre equal to 160 square rods or 4,840 square feet
A Rod is 5.5 yards and also approximately 30 square yards.
Rod (squared rod) is 1/40 of a Rood. There are 40 rods in a rood and 4 roods in an acre
A Rood - A measure of land equal to 1/4 acre, or 40 square rods (0.10 hectare).
Fathom unit of length equal to 6 feet (1.83 meters)
Chain is equal to 100 feet (30.5 meters)
Perch is a synonym for rod (Hawaiian perka or peka)
Boundary Commission (BC database)
(1862-1935) on Land Commission Awards and some Government Lands
Waihona `Aina Corp. has film copies of the Boundary Commission (BC) records, as well as hard copy of the nine volumes. This database was completed in 2000 and copyright is pending. The BC documents include 600+ records of Ahupua‘a, ‘Ili (and sometimes portions of ‘Ili) for the Islands of Hawai‘i, Kaua‘i, O‘ahu and Maui. The latter also includes Lana‘i & Moloka‘i. Most of these historical records do not include diacritical marks. To access the database select the name of the area/ahupuaa/ili, awardee name, or district.
The BCId is a Waihona 'Aina number relating to our database.
Boundary Commission Records – Definitions and Dates
The Hawaiian Legislature created the Boundary Commission and the position of Commissioner of Boundaries on August 23, 1862. The task of each Island Boundary Commissioner was to settle the boundaries of the larger lands on that island, particularly ahupua`a, which had been awarded in the Mahele without survey. Their task was not to confer title.
The BC process was a judicial one requiring several steps.
-Landowners filed a petition with the Land Commissioner requesting that boundaries be determined for parcels of land awarded to them (or purchased by owners from original awardees in the Land Commission Claims). The boundaries of these land parcels were generally known but no survey of metes and bounds existed at the time of the award. Boundaries for 29 Government lands were also submitted to the BC process. No survey was needed for a land when boundaries of all surrounding lands had already been decided. Its record is considered complete with reference made to the other surveys.
-The Commissioner would publish in both English and Hawaiian newspapers the time and the place for the hearing.
-At the hearing the petition would be read. Witnesses were heard where there were disputes, vague boundaries, boundaries previously known had been destroyed by lava flows, or by some political arrangement. If a survey had been made and map drawn it was deposited with the Commissioner, and if not, they were ordered.
-At a later date, if the boundaries were resolved, the commissioner was paid his fees and a certificate was issued which included the survey notes and map. The books of these hearings and records were then deposited in the Government Surveyor’s Office in Honolulu.
This certificate was then used to get a Royal Patent (RP). Usually, there are few differences between the surveys found in the BC and those in the RP, but there are some differences, and occasionally the survey for the RP was redone.
For each individual land parcel the various steps, noted above, may found in the different volumes of each Judicial Circuit. Waihona 'Aina has made one record of all documents that belong with the same parcel of land, thus saving our clients’ research time. Not all ahupua‘a were submitted to the process and not all records show a resolution of the boundaries. Only “perfected” records were given certificate numbers. Our search will show if the claim is not complete.
Differences among BC Island records
The O‘ahu and Kaua‘i Boundary Record contain petitions, surveyor notes, maps, and testimony of the surveyor. The records for these two islands rarely contain kama‘aina testimony, although kama‘aina, who had accompanied surveyors, were often listed. It is unknown by us today, if kama‘aina testimony was ever recorded for these islands. In any case, it is not part of the record. O‘ahu and Kaua‘i lands tend to go from ridge to ridge and from sea to mountain top. Maui lands tend to go from river to river and sea to mountain with some ahupua‘a having no sea access. Hawai‘i lands tend to be long mauka/makai strips, particularly along the Kona coast and there are lands which are exclusively in the mountains.
The records richest in all kinds of information are those recorded by Hawai`i Island Commissioner, Rufus Lyman. Mr. Lyman kept meticulous records and even added notes to the record from his occasional field trips to the land in question. It appears obvious that Mr. Lyman was interested in knowing all about the land, its names, and other cultural information, as well as specific boundary markers. In fact, he would not allow attorneys or others to stop kama‘aina testimony as “non-relevant” before they had finished speaking of their own accord.
Where it exists, kama‘aina testimony includes names of old villages, graves, wells, springs, caves, plants, planting areas, rocks, peaks, etc. All the land features and ocean features of the ahupua‘a as told to them by parents, relatives, or people of the previous generation, were shared with surveyors.
History of Legislative Acts for the Boundary Commission
-The Act of 1862, the Legislature created the Boundary Commission and only authorized determination of boundaries of ahupuaas, and ilis.
-The Act of 1868, Section 4. The legislature renewed and provided further instructions for "all owners of Ahupuaa and Ilis of land within this Kingdom, whose lands have not been awarded by the Land Commissioners, patented or conveyed by deed from His Majesty, the King, by boundaries decided in such award, patent, or deed are hereby required &c." The Commissioner’s duty was, to facilitate the settlement of boundaries, and to decide the boundaries and certify them.
-The Act of 1874 chapter 5, gave the Commissioners power to settle boundaries of portions of ahupua‘a
-The laws of 1888, Chapter 40 did not mention portions of ahupua`a, therefore people could not settle them until the act was renewed.
-The Act of 1892, renews the original Act of 1862 (compiled Laws page 533, section 2) so the Commissioners can continue to determine the boundaries of Portions of Ahupua‘a and ‘Ili.
-1915, Chapter 31, revised Laws of Hawaii 1915. Section 353, renewed the Commissioner’s duty to continue to accept boundary applications.
-In 1925, Chapter 42 of the Revised Laws of Hawaii, Section 558 specifies that "A boundary commissioner shall in no case alter any boundary described by survey in any patent or deed from the king or government, or in any land commission award.” The right to apply for certification of boundaries is conferred only upon owners of the land, and proof of such ownership is indispensable.
Appeals to the decision of the Boundary Commission could be and were filed. If an appeal were made to the Commissioner’s finding, the case would then be heard in the Supreme Court where the Boundary Commissioner’s decision was accepted or thrown out. For instance, at Waikapu a difficulty arose causing a hearing and production of evidence. The Ukumehame line was contested from the last point of Alexander's survey which started at the land of Olowalu to the sea. Surveyor Alexander’s courses were not reproducible and owners contested and wanted the line definitively given.
Waihona 'Aina formatting practices
Like the Mahele claims, these documents have been formatted so that all abbreviations, and ditto marks, are given as full text, i.e. "Comm." or "Commr" becomes Commissioner, For ease of reading metes and bounds surveys, each new direction begins a new line at the left margin. The originals records often do not use this convention. Some long text sections have also been broken up for easier reading. Words that that are difficult to decipher have a [?] after them. Although less common in the Boundary Commission records than in the Mahele records, some words and names are spelled differently within the same text.
These documents are verbatim transcripts but have yet to be proofed for 100% accuracy but when revisited comparing other records to these, corrections are made where errors are found. Like other early land records, there are errors in these texts. Waihona 'Aina does not claim responsibility for errors in original transcriptions of records, but will endeavor to research, add notes and comments about erroneous information, when these errors are found or brought to our attention, i.e., correct name, RP or LG number have been added in brackets. It does claim responsibility for its own errors, and when they are encountered they are corrected.
Royal Patents on Land Commission Awards. (1847-2000 and beyond)
We would like to thank Michael Peloso for having researched, correlated and compiled the Tax Map Key information for the Royal Patents database. Any errors are the responsibility of Waihona Aina Corporation alone.
Waihona `Aina Corp. has film copies of the Royal Patents. They are being transcribed to enter in an in-progress database. A document not yet transcribed can usually be completed within 24 hours if we receive a call, e-mail or fax requesting it. To access the database with a known number, please use 4 digits. i.e. 0001. (more)
Royal Patents (RPs) are still being issued upon Land Commission Awards (LCAs). LCAs are legally the most important document in any legal process, but RPs validate the final process of the Land Commission (LC) claim records of 1848-1853. The Royal Patents legally prove that the land claimant has either paid the commutation fee for the Award, or the Privy Council or subsequent legislation has waived the fee, and, most importantly, that the Government has relinquished its interest in the property.
The earliest RPs are to the LCA claimant or his/her heir(s) or assigns and describe the original (LCA) claim number, the ahupua`a, `ili or place, the present owner; and, with only a few exceptions, there is usually a survey. While there is often a map of the parcel(s) of land as part of the record, maps were also made at later dates, not part of the record, but can be found in the Archives or Bureau of Conveyances.
Some LC claim documents actually precede 1848 as the first 4 RPs were issued in 1847. When an LC Award was made to an ali’i, who received the original award without survey and as Freehold less than allodial title, then the present owner of the land is considered the Assign of the original claimant (who may have died many years or even a century or more earlier).
Other RPs to the original awardee were in Fee Simple (outright ownership) and these patents do not show present ownership at the time the patent was issued. The RP designation ceased with the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom on December 29, 1892. The last official Royal Patent is No. 7992, signed by Lili‘uokalani and G.N. Wilcox (Minister of Interior). The documents thereafter are designated as Land Patents. However, the word Royal is, in fact, crossed out only starting with Patent No. 8004. Following Statehood in 1959 the Land Patents have an S before the number and start with No. 8540. The most recent Land Patents (of RP series) is dated in the year 2000. Other patents still pending at DLNR are not available. Other LC awards owners have never proceeded with patenting.
The Waihona `Aina Corp. Royal Patent database provides a transcription, source information and survey diagram, if one exists in the document. This corporation can not provide certified copies of documents. Certified copies of the Royal and Land Patents (Royal Patent Series) are only available at the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Reference Room 123 at the Kalanimoku Building , 1151 Punchbowl St., in Honolulu. With a touch of the computer mouse you have available the critical information about these pieces of land and their source to give DLNR. You learn the names of persons, neighbors, and names of places, some of which are otherwise forgotten.
Most LC Awards for whole ahupua`a, which often appear in the Boundary Commission reports (see BC database) with native testimony, may or may not have boundaries established in the BC reports. They will be found in the RPs with surveys but without native testimony.
Much historical background is found in these patents, i.e., while sugar interests ruled Hawai`i, most land patents to sugar companies paid no commutation fee. These were often waived, as were those on Nov. 27th 1927 when 47 patents were issued in one day; 46 of thse were to sugar companies with only a few paying any commutation fee. Churches and schools, also, were not required to pay.
There are a number of isolated patents in the early RP series which state no patent issued. Starting in 1875, there are a series of no patents issued. The first series of 178 sequential records in Volume 22 are not issued. It appears to this editor that these non issues may be equivalent to a large number of records added at the end of Volume 22, and which appear throughout Volume 25 records. A number of records appear to have the original number crossed out and a new number added. (Search Helu <strike> in the text search box.) It may appear to others, as well as this editor, that this practice appears strange, making one consider that records might have been deleted for alteration. If the practice was intended to be duplicitous it should be further investigated. If not duplicitous, an explanation would be useful.
Riley Moffet & Gary Fitzpatrick, in their book Surveying the Mahele (1995) note that there was sometimes a problem with the survey work: there were many ways in which a surveyor of the Mahele era could have produced faulty work. Legally, even an erroneous survey has legal standing if the original property boundaries can still be clearly identified. A surveyor’s mathematical mistakes or errors of observation do not take precedence over the common understanding of property boundaries. (p. 39). Moffet & Fitzpatrick go on to say that the problems arose when no one any longer knew where the common boundaries were. Waihona 'Aina Corp. notes that in these cases, more modern surveys often appear in the records, replacing older ones.
Land Patent 8563 is the last number provided in the State Archive’s Index to Royal Patents. Waihona `Aina Corp. has documentation of records up through No. 8665. DLNR does not make available any numbers which have not been executed (or perfected). Recently, the form of documents has been altered, showing the Patentor to be the State of Hawaii, then giving the Patentee’s name, but one must go through various pages or to the Exhibits to find the place, the survey, and a copy of the original Award.
The transcription records variations in language use among islands (i.e., Big Island often has "ke" with aina while the other islands use "ka" aina. Island variations in language use was already being homogenized with just such series of documents as the Mahele ones, Land Grants and Royal Patents. Sometimes, language variations, such as "ka koele" may be an error on the part of the scribe who recorded the patent. Waihona Aina transcribes documents as faithfully as possible.
Please note: Where there are duplicates of the Royal Patents, the user of this website should check the other document[s] as there are occasionally differences in wording and survey data.
Land Grant Patents (1846-1922 and beyond)
Waihona ‘Aina Corp. has film copies of the Land Grants issued between 1846 and 1922. Land Grants (LGs) are, however, still being issued today. Waihona ‘Aina transcribes each document so it can be mined for every piece of information and it is in an in-progress database. A document not yet transcribed can usually be completed within 24 hours, if we receive a call, e-mail or fax requesting it. To access the database with a known number, put the number you wish to see in the claimant box, for example put 05484.2 OR 0005484.2.
At the request of Thomas T. Shirai, Jr., of Mokuleia, we are rectifying a long-overdue omission he noted in the Land Grant index of names. Waihona Aina will list all the names of grantees listed within the documents instead of the former listing (i.e. Kalauohaena et al). The Waihona Aina Corporation Board members thank Mr. Shirai for bringing this omission to our attention. He notes that ?our kupuna memories are kept alive with every website like waihona.com?.He also supplied information not available in the index
for grants not yet completed, or completed without adding Ahupua'a
information. He also noted and we have added a spelling correction
for those grants awarded in Auku- which should be Aukuu.
At the time of the Mahele, some of the land was the King’s own land which later became known as Ceded Lands. Other lands in the possession of ali’i were returned to the King in exchange for Commutation of property the ali`i kept. Some of these returned lands became Government lands and were sold by the government to generate income for the Kingdom, since the King gave up his traditional right to collect taxes and goods following the Mahele. (For more detail refer to Curtis J. Lyons, A History of Hawaiian Government Survey with notes on Land Matters in Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaiian Gazette Co., 1903; p. 4-5).
The earliest LG records (1846) are in both English and Hawaiian. If the Government land was sold to a foreigner the text is in English. If the purchaser were Hawaiian the documents is in Hawaiian. By 1915 the documents became written entirely in English, regardless of the purchaser’s ethnicity.
Land Grants are issued in the following various forms: On cash Freehold Agreement, Cash purchase, On Cash purchase under Preference Right, On Compromise and Equitable Settlement, On Land Exchange, Issued on Right of Purchase Lease, On Sale at Public Auction for Cash, and Issued on Special Homestead Agreement.
Land Grants are sometimes confused with the Royal Patent Land Grants, especially after the word Royal was removed after the Overthrow. In some government records, such as those of the Boundary Commission Land Grant may refer either to Royal Patent series or Land Grant series. If confused, please check both the RP database and LG database for the information you are seeking.
Robert H. Stauffer, in his 2004 book, Kahana: How the Land Was Lost (Univeristy of Hawai`i Press, Honolulu, HI) says that about 90 percent of the government lands capable of cultivation were sold during the 1850s noting that the large parcels were sold to Haole (foreign residents). Many lands were also subdivided into strips and sold to Hawaiians and others dispossessed Mahele. These maka`ainana (native citizens) formed Hui with commonly- held-land owned by the group. (p. 109).
In portions of Wai`anae District on O`ahu, Kaupo on Maui, Moloa‘a on Kaua‘i, among other places, Hawaiians opted to buy their land instead of filing a claim with the Land Commission. Some families had been so decimated by introduced diseases that there were too few left to work their lands. Several families, banding together, formed a Hui to purchase combined lands through a Land Grant. Elsewhere, maka‘ainana were encouraged by advisors (among whom were some missionaries) to purchase rather than settling ownership of lands through the Land Commission system.
Waihona 'Aina information
Hard copy and microfiche of these documents are not available for use at the Hawaii State Archives but can be ordered at the State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DNLR). We are indebted to the personnel of the Archives as well as those at Advanced Micro-Image Systems Hawaii, Inc. for making CDs of these images available to us.
Waihona `Aina Corp. has microfilm documentation for Land Grants up through #8091 in 1922 (LG database #08091). The numbers continue through the present. We aspire to eventually purchasing and adding these other documents to the Waihona `Aina Corp. LG database.
Each record has a text source with Book & page number of the recorded document, and the microfilm image number. Several documents noted to date are missing a final page. The Department of Land and Natural Resources has been advised and their records noted, but in other cases DLNR has not yet been notified. An error in recording was made and there are no valid records from No. 2230 through 2329.
How to Do Searches
Numbers: Use 5 digits minimum as explained earlier. Duplicate numbers were issued for at least 28 land grants. Waihona ‘Aina, for search purposes, has numbered the second record as XXXXX.2, i.e 05484.2. A triplicate number was issued in two cases and these records appear as XXXXX.3. There are also a few records which appear originally as XXXXXA and XXXXXB.
Names: the last name is given first. Searching can be done with first or last names. For a name beginning with Board of Trustees, or Trustees for, or an Evangelical Association connected with a church, Waihona 'Aina has instead listed the name of the Grantee as the 1) Person for whom the land is held in trust, or
2) the specific Church held by the Association, unless the church name is not given, in which case the association is listed, or
3) Land specified as part of an Estate trust is searchable by any word in text file or by the name of the beneficiary.
When in doubt, search for the ahupua‘a and the search table results will show you all your options.
Where initials stand for a first name, the terms kane male, or wahine female have been added to the name. Where first names are not familiar to the general public, such as in some Japanese, Chinese, English and even Hawaiian names, kane and wahine have also been added, where known.
For Portuguese names with a particle de, dos, da, i.e., such as de Costa or dos Reis, Waihona 'Aina has kept the particle before the name, however, searches can also be done with Costa or Reis alone.
For Chinese names with a possible double name, such as Chung Hoon, Chun Hoon, Ah Sing, the name is left as listed in the index but again, either part can be searched for in the name box.
Place: The district name is given both with its name at the time of the first records and correspond to names in the Mahele database and later names. Subsequent name changes for districts such as Kona to Honolulu District and many of Maui older districts become the all-encompassing Makawao are given both names where known. This practice allows you to correlate Land Grant Patents with Royal Patent Land Claims (later Land Claim Patents) and Boundary Commission records. The Ahupua‘a and area are given when the ahupua‘a name is known. The official State index at the Archives lists the area, such as Alewa Heights, but in our database you should be able to search for either Honolulu ahupua‘a or Alewa or both. A specific area is therefore the first way to do a search, but if nothing is found, try a larger known land area and your search results will show you various options.