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Finding Court Records in Hawai‘i: Land Court Records

What is a land court record?

Hawai'i has two systems for recording real property documents, the Regular System and the Land Court System, or both, depending which system was originally used for the property.  The Regular System gives 'notice' that something is on record while the Land Court System functions as a registration for land ownership. Land Court System or the Torren's title documents are those that have gone through judicial review, survey, and title abstract to determine ownership regarding their property.  Land Court is governed by the Hawai'i Revised Statutes, Chapter 501

Historical Land Court Records: the Waihona 'Aina, Papakilo and Ava Konohiki websites provide information for historical land documents in Hawai'i.

The Great Mahele, or Divison was a land redistribution act by King Kamehameha III and enacted in 1848. Under the provision of the Kuleana Act, commoners were allowed to petition for title to land that they cultivated and lived on (kuleana), equivalent to a homestead. 

Documents include:

  • Native and Foreign Testimony
  • Land Commission Awards (LCA)
  • Mahele Claims
  • Kuleana Claims

Resources on current land court records are also listed on this page.

Papakilo Database

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) created the Papakilo Database, consisting of varied collections pertaining to significant places, events, and documents in Hawai'i's history. The database is free for public use, but requires users to create a login and password.

You may search by island/moku (district)/ahupua’a with pull-down menus.  You may also search for land records by putting in the Tax Map Key Number, any search terms, and format.  There are fourteen databases:  Ali’i Probate Records; Greater Register of Voters; Hawaiian Genealogy Indexes; Hawaiian Place Names Collection; Historic Sites Database; Land Indexes; Mahele ‘Aina Index; Maps; Multi-media; Names Indexes; Newspapers Periodicals/Reports; and Uncategorized.  The Ali’i Probate Records, Hawaiian Genealogy Indexes containing Court Records (1848-1915) and Probate, Wills (1852-1916); Land Indexes; and the Mahele ‘Aina Index are especially useful in searching for land court records.  Please view the PAPAKILO DATABASE TUTORIAL VIDEO.  

Waihona 'Aina Mahele Database

The Waihona `Aina Mahele Database is used to search for mahele and kuleana land claims by island, ahupua'a, claimant(s), and various other elements of the land, such as fish ponds, different kinds of plants, streams, burials, etc. Full-text documents that can be requested include transcripts of native and foreign testimony, which can be used for land research and genealogical searches.

This database is not available online, but is available to UH students and faculty by request in the Special Collections Reading Room, Hamilton Library 5th Floor.

Mahele and kuleana claims for the islands of Kaua'i and Ni'ihau are available online and free through Ulukau.

AVA Konohiki

AVA Konohiki provides land documents, such as Land Commission Awards (LCA's), Buke Mahele, Native Testimonies and Foreign Testimonies.

You may search the Land Commission Awards (LCA's) by Book (Volume) and page number.  If you would like to cross-search multiple LCA documents, it is recommended to use the "Knowledge Well" database (link located on bottom of 'Hawai'i Land Documents' page).  The Knowledge Well is designed for cross-searching and advance-compilation searches of this LCA database.

Current Land Court Records