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Genealogy Research: Start Here

Resources to help get you started on genealogy research

About this research guide

The purpose of this guide is to assist in the moʻokūʻauhau (genealogy) research process and provide resources to mālama (take care of) the kuleana (responsibilities) that are associated with this undertaking.

Disclaimer: This guide is the product of student research conducted under the Spring 2022 Kekaulike Internship at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College, and is a resource for educational purposes only. The content within is not an adequate substitute for legal counsel or other forms of consultation.

Note from this guide's author: Use of this document for any purpose other than what is stated above is kapu (forbidden) per the author. Please be especially considerate in the use of the resources contained within. Despite the public accessibility and platform, this is a guide. The names, stories, and places that connect ʻohana are the kuleana of their descendants unless otherwise specified. It should always be assumed that unless you have a direct relationship, or have received explicit consent to conduct research on behalf of an ʻohana, please respect their privacy, relationships, and efforts. –  Kāneali’ikeikioka’āina

Nānā I Ke Kumu

Your ‘ohana should always be your first and primary source of knowledge for learning information about your own genealogy as well as the practices and traditions that may be specific to your ‘ohana. Seek out the member(s) in your ‘ohana that maintain your family genealogy first. Our living ‘ohana may possibly carry records and documents.

Our kupuna want us to find them, including the ones that have passed. Pule is a way that can assist us in the journey of doing so.

Practices of hānai and legal adoption may impact one’s ability to locate biological family members and moʻokūʻauhau. If that is the case, there are still ways one can research their moʻokūʻauhau. Please refer to the information in this guide.

There are online and physical documents and repositories that are available to trace familial connections. For instance, physical materials such as birth certificates, censuses, marriage licenses, and death records which show parentage (ascending genealogy) and documents varying degrees of personal life events and relationships. Whereas, death probates identify heirs to estates (descending genealogy), kuleana land titles and kuleana land testimonies.  These resources allow one to trace genealogy for use in private life as well as for public use where appropriate. 

Ways to Map Moʻokūʻauhau

  • Take notes, save website links and references, page numbers, etc. in an organized way for your own benefit later in the process
  • Print out pages if needed
  • Use fill-in-the-black pedigree charts
  • Google Docs and Google slides are helpful for creating a digital archives of one’s own research, linking information, easy copy-pasting and edit, word searching [Ctrl+F]



1. Spelling: Keep in mind the possibility that documents pertaining to a single kupuna may have variations in spelling of the kupuna’s name [i.e. differences in a single or multiple letter(s), a shortened version of the name versus a long version of the name, etc.]

2. Inheritance of Family Name: In some cases, the Hawaiian family last name that the ‘ohana carries may originally have been the name of a kupuna of whom that was their only name (no first name and last name, but one single name); sometimes it may be passed down as a middle name.

3. Fragmentation: In some cases, a kupuna’s original only name may have been fragmented into two or more parts, with some descendants carrying one fragment and other descendants carrying the other fragment(s), but are all the same ‘ohana.

4. Name Changes: Be mindful of historical variables that affected or influenced ‘ohana names following the abolition of the ‘Aikapu – i.e. Name changes due to circumstances, there may be branches of the same ‘ohana by different names ::: such information may be considered kapu (restricted) within an ‘ohana, possibly not to be found shared on public platforms and thus requires one to learn from within their ‘ohana.