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Hawaiʻi - Genealogy Research

Background Info

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.

  • FamilySearch's Hawaii, Grantor and Grantee Index, 1845-1909 (Search Online)
    Searches the bound indexes of property ownership and transactions from 1845-1909 for the islands of Hawaiʻi, Maui, Oʻahu, and Kauaʻi from the Bureau of Conveyances. The index contains the names of the grantor and grantee, type of deed, date land was purchased or sold, and book and page the original deed is located on.
  • FamilySearch's Hawaii, Registrar of Bureau of Conveyances, Deed Records, 1846-1900 (Search Online)
    Searches and retrieves images of deed records from 1846-1900 that are originally housed at the the Bureau of Conveyances. The person responsible for the Bureau of Conveyances is known as the "registrar of conveyances." These records may contain names of individuals, relatives or heirs, dates of death and land transactions, and descriptions of land.
  • Bureau of Conveyance's Public Reference Room (Link to website)
    Documents recorded from 1909 to 1991 are findable using indexes and are retrievable in either a bound liber book or on microfilm. Consult with staff to determine best strategies to search indexes and retrieve records.
  • Bureau of Conveyance's New Document Ordering System (Search Online)
    Documents recorded from January 1992 to the present are searchable and purchase online through the link above. You must create an account to search and purchase documents.

Land Court

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.

  • Land Court (Link to website)
    Grouped online with the Tax Appeal Court, the link above will take you to the online website of the Land Court where you can find their contact information and location. If you are interested in accessing the application files for any "Certificate of Title" issued by the Land Court, you may access these records at their office.
  • Land Court Map Searches from Land Survey Division (Search Online)
    Utilizing the first four search boxes on the Land Survey Division's Map Search, you can find land court application maps by searching the "Land Court application number," "Land Court consolidation number," or the "Land Court map number."