In Hawaiʻi, land records research generally involves locating records of land claims, awards, patents, grants, recorded instruments of property transactions, certificates of title, land court applications, and survey maps from the 1840s to the present. A main body of records is Māhele records, such as land claims, awards, and patents that the aliʻi, makaʻāinana, and foreigners had during the formal process in the Hawaiian Kingdom to privatize land ownership during the mid-1800s. Another main body of records is land grants, such as grants between the government and individuals or companies who purchased government land. The last large body of records are the recorded instruments of property transactions the Bureau of Conveyances records that traces the chain of title from these initial Māhele records and land grants. Many of these records are now available online in many databases. For details and tutorials on how to find Māhele records and Land Grants, please visit the three pages listed below. Information below is on searching for recorded instruments of property transactions at the Bureau of Conveyance and to locate Land Court applications and maps through the Land Court and Land Survey Division.
Bureau of Conveyances
The Bureau of Conveyances is responsible for recording instruments of property transactions between grantors and grantees in the Regular System, and for registering in the Land Court system the "Certificate of Title" of ownership for property that is decided on in the Hawaiʻi Land Court. Thus, private ownership is recorded in two systems, Regular System and Land Court. The records span from 1845 to the present, with Land Court records beginning in the early 1900s. For additional information on recording instruments of property transactions and how to tell which land documents are in which system, visit Bureau of Conveyances's FAQ. Listed below are multiple ways to find property records recorded by the Bureau of Conveyances.
The Land Court system was enacted in 1903 through Act 56 by the Hawaiʻi Territorial Legislature to create a way to clear and register land titles. It is a government registration system that, after a judicial process, issues a "Certificate of Title" guaranteeing the registered land title is accurate and good, thus protecting the title owner from any subsequent liabilities that may arise from future title issues. This system, based on the Torrens land registration, is sometimes referred to as the Hawaiian Torrens System and the title referred to as a Torrens title. This title contains the person the land is registered to, a description of the land, and a summary of any encumbrances. The application includes an accurate description of the land, survey maps and a complete abstract of title, which is reviewed by a title examiner and a surveyor. If the application is deemed favorable by the two reviewers or if the application is not favorable but the applicant wishes to proceed, a notice of filing is published in a newspaper of general circulation for three consecutive weeks. Tens days after the Land Court makes its decision, a decree of registration is issued and the Bureau of Conveyances is sent a certified copy to transcribe in their Land Court registration books. At this point, all future land transactions pertaining to the registered land go through the Land Court and all instruments of property transactions are registered in Land Court registration books. If you are looking for land registered with the Land Court, first use the resources listed above in the Bureau of Conveyances section to locate the Certificate of Title. If you want to find and access the Land Court application for that title, use the links below. For more on Land Court and the sources of this information, see booklets published under the supervision of the Land Court, Land Court Registration (Torrens Titles) and Conveyancing in Hawaii (1936? & 1946). You can also learn more about Land Court and Land Court Registration by reviewing the Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes that governs the process.
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