Pacific Island Guide to Family History Research

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Island scene, Saint-Joseph, Île des Pins, Nouméa, New Caledonia.

by Noël Neville Cardon

Because Pacific island family history is based largely on an oral tradition, researchers face special challenges. They need to use special methods. These methods are not widely known among family history researchers, so in writing this guide, we found Pacific islanders who had been successful in doing family history work and learned from them how they did it.The people who shared their stories and information with me were very kind and generous, and it is their hard work that has made this guide possible. Most of their names are in the Bibliography.

I tried to find someone from each of the island groups to interview, but was not able to get a case study from all groups. My hope is that one of the case studies in Step 9 will be close enough to your situation to help you.

Table of Contents

How to Use This Guide
Using canoes like this navigators explored and settled the Pacific basin.

Latter-day Saint Pacific Island Heritage
Steps of Research for Pacific Island Ancestors
Step 1. Write what you can from memory
Step 2. Gather written records
Step 3. Learn about customs and history
By clicking on this step, you can learn:
    General customs of Island oral history
    Naming customs
    How to determine gender of a person
    What written records are available
    Other sources of informtion
Step 4. Gather oral histories from your oldest relatives
Step 5. Organize your information
Step 6. Organize your papers
Step 7. Track your research
Step 8. Find ancestors on the IGI
Step 9. Obtain and search other records
By clicking on this step 9, you will get information about:
  • Island naming customs
  • How dates have been estimated
  • How to decide whether a name is male or female
  • Other Pacific island customs related to family history
  • The Cole Jensen Collection and Index
  • Oral Genealogies collected during the 1970s
  • How to use records from institutions near you
  • How to use photographic collections
  • How to use the Family History Library Catalog
    Click this map to enlarge it. The Pacific islands are split into 3 groups: Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.

Step 10. Submit names to the IGI
Step 11. Share what you found

Table of Pacific Island Names

Cook Islands (Includes Rarotonga)
Easter Island (Rapa Nui)
French Polynesia
Austral Islands
Gambier Islands
Marquesas Islands
Society Islands
Tuamotu Islands
Hawaii background and case study
Hawaii research helps
Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)
Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands
Kiribati (Gilbert Islands)
Marshall Islands
New Caledonia
New Zealand Maori Customs and Background
New Zealand Maori research ideas
Capt. Cook, a British explorer, mapped many of the Pacific islands.
Papua New Guinea
Samoa (Western and American)
Solomon Islands
Tongan customs and research ideas
Tongan oral history
Register of Tongan Oral Histories
Tuvalu (Ellice Islands)
Wallis and Futuna Islands


How to Use This Guide

Steps 1 through 7 and Steps 9 and 11 are the same for all Pacific island researchers. They will help you get started with your  basic family history work.

Some of the information in Steps 8, and 10 are about temple work of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon). Just use the information in the guide that will be of help to you in your needs. You will find that you will be skipping back and forth from one step to another as you do your research. This is normal, so feel free to do it.

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