Austral Islands

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The flag of the Austral Islands

Pacific Island Guide  >  Austral Islands

The Austral Islands (French: Îles Australes) are a volcanic island group comprised of seven atolls which are the southernmost group of islands in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the South Pacific

Geographically, the Austral Islands consist of two separate archipelagos: the Tubuai Islands (French: Îles Tubuaï), consisting of Îles Maria (Hull); Rimatara; Rurutu; Tubuai and Raivavae or Raevavae; and the Bass Islands (French: Îles Bass), consisting of Rapa (Oparo) and Marotiri (Bass). Several of the islands have uninhabited islets or rocks off their coastlines.

Tubuai is very fertile. Oranges, coffee, arrowroot, tobacco, and copra are grown. The climate is healthy and temperate. Population is about 2,400 and mainly consists of Polynesian people.

There are three branches of the LDS Church in the Austral Islands, and they are the earliest in the Pacific, dating back to 1844-1852.

Historical background

1775 Spaniard Gayanges discovers Raivavae (Austral).
1777 Tubuai was visited by British Captain James Cook.
1797 Wilson discovers Mangareva and Vaitahu.
1843 Mormon missionaries arrived in Tubuai and in Papeete.
1867 Epidemics in Rapa of the Austral Islands. A French protectorate is established.
1880 Tubuai was annexed by France.
1900 Rurutu and Rimatara of the Austral Islands are annexed by France.
1938 French authorities imposed strict regulations on immigration and tourism.

Family History Work

Instructions for French Polynesian Family History work from Ives Perrin:

Brother Perrin served as LDS Mission President in Tahiti, and as a Church educator in the islands of French Polynesia for several years. His suggestions for the steps a person from French Polynesia should take to get records after interviewing family members are as follows:

1. We must secure an official government record.
Citizens are required to do this by law, but people on the outer islands sometimes put it off. People have a Polynesian name and an official French name. We must have the French name when we declare births with the government. We can find our parents’ records, which tell where we are from.

2. We can then go to the Family History Center in Papeete and ask for help from the directors.
Presently, Elder and Sister Gautier are the FHC Directors. They both are fluent in French, and Sister Gautier knows Tahitian. They both understand the full situation of getting access to records.

3. A person needs to know the French language to use the government records.
If we do not speak French, we should ask a translator to go with us.

4. We can use the Family History Library Catalog to gain access to the records the Family History Library has.

One oral genealogy which a member gave to Ives contained 77 generations. It is also in the Family History Library Catalog under the subject French Polynesia - Church History. It also appears in the book Seasons of Faith and Courage, by S. George Ellsworth and Kathleen C. Perrin, Published by Yves R. Perrin. This book is also in the Family History Library Catalog.

Ives recommended that we read the book Tahiti in Ancient Days. It has information about Thor Heyerdahl’s expeditions. Another book with information about Heyerdahl’s research is American Indians in the Pacific.

Resources available

  • Go to the Internet at and click on the Library. From that tab, click on the Family History Library Catalog. We can type in French Polynesia to get a list of the islands and island groups and to see what records were made under this large jurisdiction. Then we should type in the name of each island group for records in that jurisdiction and then type in the name of the island that interests you. On Tahiti, records are listed under the name of the town. Also, we should do a keyword search on Tahiti. Over 220 items will appear.

Note: All of these islands are a protectorate of France. The people of these islands are full citizens of France. School children must learn French history. French is the governing language, and the civil records are kept in French. Jurisdictions are organized the same way

  • Births, marriages, and deaths are recorded by the government, and citizens are required to have an official government record. Tables are published by the government every ten years giving an index to the names in the records. This facilitates genealogical research up to the time when the French first came to the islands. They have been keeping records since the early 1800's.
  • Notarial records are available from the year 1862.
  • Large numbers of civil registration records are available from 1843.
  • A large number of oral genealogies and land records are also available.
    Tahiti: 795887, 795889
    Tuamotos: 795889
    Tubuai (Austral Islands): 795889
  • We can also use a Film/fiche number search and look at the descriptions of the following microfilms, all of which contain French Polynesian information: 795887, 795888, 795889,181746 Item 7, and 1515054.

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