Tonga Oral History in the Family History Library

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Pacific Island Guide  >  Tongan Oral History

Over 700 Tongan oral histories were recorded on open-reel tapes during the 1970s. All of them contain genealogies. These histories were recorded in the native language and were later transcribed onto paper. The paper transcripts were microfilmed and given catalog numbers so that people could find, read, and print copies.

You can use the online Keyword Search of the Family History Library Catalog to find and hear an MP3 version of a Tongan oral history interview, or to find and view a microfilm of its transcript.

Step 1. Click here to see the Keyword Search for "oral genealogy interview" arranged alphabetically by the authors' surnames. Names that start with a glottal stop (`) will come up first, followed by the alphabetical letters. Scroll down the page until you find an ancestor’s last name. At the bottom of each screen, click on Next results to see the next 50 names.

Note: Instead of scrolling through all of the records, you can save time by “jumping” to later records.  To do this, you must select a record number to “jump” to and type it in the Get records from number box at the bottom of the screen. 
Since you don’t know the number of the record you are looking for, you will have to guess one.  For example, if your ancestor’s name starts with the letter “T” you might guess that the record number for that ancestor would occur around 450, because the letter “T” occurs a little more than two-thirds of the way through the alphabet and 450 is a little more than two-thirds of 600, which is the approximate number of records in the database.
Use the following chart to help you guess a record number closer to your ancestor’s name.

Step 2. Once you have located the history you want, select it by clicking on the underlined title for the record. This will bring up a screen with more information about the record, such as notes, call numbers, and the record’s location in the Library. You may want to print this screen so that you will have a record of what you found in the catalog. The screen will look like this:

Note: In this case, the person was from the village “Neiafu” on the island of “Vava`u”. The village the person is from is important because you may find more information about your ancestor by looking at genealogies of other people from the same village. To quickly find out what villages the people who gave their oral histories were from, see “How to browse through the villages more quickly” on the back page of this handout.
Note: Neither of these call numbers is the microfilm number.
The word “Audio” in the “Location” column signifies that the corresponding call number is for the audio Tape of the interview. The word “Book” in the “Location” column signifies that the corresponding call number is for the paper transcript of the interview. The audio tapes are in special storage and must be special ordered. To read the paper transcript, take the call number to Floor B-1 of the Family History Library and ask a Library attendant for help.

9. To get the microfilm number, click on View Film Notes.  This will take you to a screen similar to the one below. Print this screen so that you will have a record of the microfilm number.

10. Use the microfilm number to locate the film in the Library or order the film from a family history center near you.  To find the nearest family history center, go to and click on the Librarytab, then click on the Family History Centers tab and follow the instructions given there.

To save time, we can also use a film/fiche number search to get to the oral genealogy interviews quickly. Some of these numbers are: 795707, 796816, 795831, 795708, 795709, 795710, 795889, 795890, 795891, 795892, 795913, 795978, 795983, 1066597,795976, and 795975 item 4795913

How to browse through the villages more quickly

If you want to see a list of villages of people who gave their oral histories, use the Register of Tongan Oral Histories Wiki page. It lists the oral genealogies in alphabetical order by last name, with a column showing the name of the village and a column showing the cassette tape number. The glottal stops are interfiled with the letters of the alphabet in this list.

Example from the Register of Tongan Oral Histories:

Last Name First Names Place Tape Number Links to PAF, Word Doc
and MP3 file
Pahu 595
Afu Maika Ha’ano 787
Afuha’amango Setaleki Mumui Neiafu 104
Mapa Penisimani Latuselu Nuku'alofa 89'alofa.paf

The Register is also available in book and microfilm format from the Family History Library:

Register of Tongan Oral Histories. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1993. [FHL INTL book 996.12 D33r; film 795912 Item 12].

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