To request editing rights on the Wiki, click here.

Cook Islands (Includes Rarotonga)

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Rarotonga's Te Manga.jpg
Im11 -cook islands-.png

Research Help[edit | edit source]

General Information[edit | edit source]

The population of the Cook Islands is about 19,200. Another 58,000 Cook Islanders live in New Zealand and 8,000 in Australia. The people are ethnically related to the Maori of New Zealand, the Maori of Easter Island, and the Kanaka Maoli of Hawaii.

Maori, English and Pukapukan are spoken. Dialects are: Rakahanga, Manihiki, Penrhyn, Mangala, Aitutaki, Atiu, Mauke and Mitiaro. Pukapukan is spoken in Pukapuka and Nassau.

Rarotonga, the main island, is volcanic. It has a central volcanic pyramid with sawtooth peaks and ridges covered with tropical jungle. Streams run down the steep valleys. It is surrounded by a lagoon which goes several hundred yards to a reef which slopes to deep water.

The island’s name stems from raro, meaning “down,” and tonga, meaning “south.”

 In 1997,Japanese archaeologists unearthed a previously unknown marae (sacred site) on Motu Tapu, an islet in the lagoon at Ngatangiia. This is estimated to be 1500 years old (abt. 500 A.D.).

Christianity is the dominant religion, brought by the London Missionary Society. LDS Church membership in 2012 in the Cook Islands, including Rarotonga, was approx 1,200.

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

500 Expeditions to New Zealand by Maori begin from Rarotonga, probably from Ngatangiia.
800 Expedition of Ru from Tubua`i in French Polynesia to Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
1600 Spanish explorers sight Pukapuka and land on Rakahanga
1800 British and French explorers and Australian and New Zealand expeditions seek sandalwood. They name Pukapuka “Danger Island” because they cannot land. Captain James Cook lands on several of the islands and a Russian map maker names them the “Cook Islands” after him.
1821 London Missionary Society landed in Aitutaki. Islanders quickly converted to Christianity.  Population around 6,500.

1845Elder Rogers visits Mangaia briefly.
1850 Peruvian slave traders kidnapped outer islanders, who were never seen again.
1860s Population diminished to 2,000 due to sickness
1861-1907 London Mission Society gives births and death, civil registration
1870 Queen Makea Tukau has government authority and petitions for British protection.
1888 Became a British protectorate. Freedom of religion guaranteed.
1895 First Roman Catholic Church dedicated
1896 (some 1876) A large number of oral genealogies was recorded.

1899 First two LDS missionaries arrive who stayed for several months.
1901 Annexed to New Zealand in a deed of cession signed by five ariki and seven lesser chiefs.
1946 Large numbers of Cook Islanders migrate to New Zealand for jobs.
1965 Became a Self-Governing Territory under New Zealand. Cook Islanders have automatic New Zealand citizenship.
1996 Population is 19,103
2000 Universal suffrage and self-government with an elected parliament and a House of Ariki (hereditary chiefs) with representatives from all of the Cook Islands brings a peaceful environment in the Cook Islands.

Resources Available[edit | edit source]

Use the FamilySearch Catalog and get microfilms by following these steps:

  • Go to the Internet at and click on the Search.
  • From that tab, click on the Catalog.
  • To get to the genealogies, choose a Place search.
  • Type in Cook Islands, Rarotonga and click on this title in blue.
  • Click on Cook Islands, Rarotonga - Genealogy. A list of genealogies will come up with the names of the families listed. By clicking on the one you are interested in you can get the microfilm number.
  • This is a direct link to the FamilySearch Catalog for the Cook Islands. Cook Islands Catalog

Cole Jensen Collection

An important collection of compiled genealogies from Cook Islands is found in the Cole Jensen Collection: Oral Genealogies and Genealogical Information Collected from the Polynesian Peoples and from the Pacific Islands. These records were collected by William Cole and Elwin Jensen over a period of 50 years and microfilmed by the Genealogical Department of the LDS Church in 1984. The original collection consisted of 51 binders. The original materials no longer exist as an intact collection. However, there are nine microfilms (1358001-1358009) that may be available to view at the Family History Centers. This collection has family group records, pedigree charts, oral genealogies, and other genealogical materials collected from the islands of Hawaii, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Niue, Cook Islands, and French Polynesia, including the Society, Marquesas, Austral Islands, and the Tuamotu Archipelago.

The microfilm with the transcript of Cook Island genealogies is 1358004.

Oral genealogies taped in the 1970s

During the 1970s the Genealogical Department commissioned people to go to the Pacific Islands and gather oral genealogies because they realized how fragile these important sources of family information are.They made arrangements for the interviews and the older people talked into the tape recorder microphone to get their genealogy on tape. Later the gatherers typed transcripts of the interviews onto paper. The paper transcripts were microfilmed,You can use the table below to find the microfilm number of the transcript for the interview you are interested in.

The list below is a sample of more that 80 genealogies available. 

Last Name First Names Residence About place
Tape mp3
Aerepo Iviiti Ngati Vara Mangaia 51
795859 Item 4
Apainuku Paiti Tuatu Aitutaki 41
795886 Item 11
Ariki Jane Tararo Oiretumu Mauke 70
795886 Item 37
Ivirua Mangaia 48
795886 Item 18