Research in Hawaii

Polynesians settled in the archipelago now known as Hawaii more than 1,000 years ago. Over the centuries, it has been a kingdom, a republic, a territory, and in 1959 it became the fiftieth state of the United States. Non-Hawaiians began to settle in Hawaii in the late eighteenth century. Today, it is both multi-cultural and ethnically diverse. The population’s ancestry can be traced to Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, Polynesia, and other Pacific Islands. Family history researchers will discover resources that are distinct to Hawaii including rich oral genealogies (moʻokūʻauhau), written records with name variants, and nuanced land records for this state-land-state. Research in Hawaii author Darcie Hind Posz, CG, FASG, offers genealogists a comprehensive guide to the uniquely rewarding experience of discovering ancestors from the Aloha State.

Research in Hawaii provides genealogists with detailed information about valuable resources and repositories, including:

  • Archives, Libraries, and Societies both centrally located in Honolulu and on each island with resources specific to ethnicity, occupation, region, and time period. Especially helpful is a glossary of Hawaiian words for birth, marriage, death, male, female, etc. found in vital records.
  • Atlases, Gazetteers, and Maps including the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association Plantation Archives, a pivotal resource that offers maps of plantations and camps where workers resided.
  • Ethnic Records covering African American, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian (Kanaka Maoli), Japanese, Korean, Polynesian, and Portuguese. With more than a quarter of the population multiracial, the author notes that researchers should be prepared to follow several ethnic groups at once and should be aware of double names, reversed names, and other nuances.
  • Land Records—all of which are at the state level, not Federal—including awards, land claims, and patents for formal land claims of both native people and foreigners.
  • Military Records from the Kingdom of Hawaii Military and Navy Department records (1852-1891) to US military records from World War I through the Vietnam War.
  • Oral Histories, the longest surviving method of transmission of historical accounts of lineage.

The author also includes discussions of

  • Business and Organizational Records
  • Cemetery, Census, and Court Records
  • Immigration and Naturalization Records
  • Institutional, Internment, and Incarceration Records
  • Maritime Records
  • Newspapers, Directories
  • School, Tax, Vital Records, and more.

Readers will find the website address, physical address, and telephone number for each repository.

Research in Hawaii is one volume in the Research in the States series edited by Barbara Vines Little, CG, FNGS, FUGA, FVGS and is available for purchase in the NGS online store in print versions.


Darcie Hind Posz, CG, FASG, served as editor of the NGS Magazine from 2014–2016. A prolific author, her articles have appeared in The Genealogist, The American Genealogist, and National Genealogical Society Quarterly as well as numerous journals published by state genealogical societies. She co-authored the chapter on lineage applications in Professional Genealogy: Preparation, Practice & Standards and has published two books, The Chicago Stones: A Genealogy of Acquisition and Influence & Scandal and Recast: Vital Events Published in Variety in 1918 and 1919.