Skip to Main Content

Hawaiʻi - Land Tenure Resources & Readings


Māhele Records

Background Info | Databases | Search Strategies | Printed Indexes | Microfilms | Buke Mahele

The following information provides a detailed overview of the resources and search strategies to locate Māhele records. A tutorial research guide that walks you through the process to locate Māhele records is available here, Hawaiʻi - Land Tenure Locating Māhele Records.

Background Info

Locating Māhele records is the process of looking for any records of land claims, awards, and patents that the aliʻi, makaʻāinana, and foreigners had during the formal process in the Hawaiian Kingdom to quiet title land ownership during the mid-1800s. Claimants, either natives or foreigners, would submit formal land claims recorded as native or foreigner registers. Following their claims, testimony was submitted by neighbors or the konohiki of that area who could verify the validity of the claim. Those were recorded as native or foreign testimonies. A survey of the land claimed was also conducted to confirm the property boundaries. All documents were reviewed by the Land Commission Board and the claim was either awarded a Land Commission Award (also known as a Mahele Award) or not awarded. If the claim was awarded, the claimant could then seek a Royal Patent Land grant by settling the Government's interest in the land. When doing this kind of research, you are looking for the following documents:

  • Recorded land divisions between Kamehameha III, the chiefs, and konohiki in the Buke Mahele
  • Native or foreign register
  • Native or foreign testimony
  • Land Commission Award (also known as a Mahele Award)
  • Survey (Included in the Land Commission Award)
  • Royal Patent Grant (also known as Royal Patent)


Today, finding Māhele records is very easy to do because there are a number of databases that index and provide access to the records. This research though can be confusing because each database will provide different levels of access to Māhele records. Below is a summary of the key databases and what they provide.

  • Kipuka - geographical information system (GIS) database that geo-references Land Award records. Provides digitized original records: Land Commission Award, Registers (Native & Foreign), Testimonies (Native & Foreign), Royal Patent Grants, and Survey Boundaries & Notes.
  • Papakilo - database of databases, consists of various historically and culturally important collections of primary and secondary sources, including the Māhele ʻĀina index. Provides digitized original records: Mahele Awards, LCAs, Registers (Native & Foreign), Testimonies (Native & Foreign), Royal Patents.
  • Waihona ʻAina - comprehensive database of archival land documents that are transcribed, cross-referenced, and proofed. Including databases on the Mahele, Boundary Commission, Royal Patents, and Land Grants. Provides transcriptions and translations (if available from the Hawaiʻi State Archives) of registers (native & foreign) and testimonies (native & foreign). Also includes a tabulation of resources cultivated on the land from the registers and testimonies. Must pay to access the content.
  • Avakonohiki - database of digitized and partially transcribed land records. Provides digital copies of microfilmed bound volumes of the Land Commission Awards and Testimonies (Native & Foreign). The Land Commission Awards are transcribed and searchable. Translations of the Native Testimonies are also searchable. Includes digitized and transcribed Buke Mahele.

Search Strategies

Use these various strategies to get started in your research. If you are having difficulty reading the original handwriting and/or the Hawaiian, you can access a translation in the database Waihona ʻAina of the Hawaiian or a transcription of the English for a fee. A transcription of the Hawaiian Land Commission Awards may be found in the database AVAKonohiki along with translations of the Native Testimonies. Translations of the Native Registers are available on microfilm at Hamilton Library. Translations of the registers and testimonies are also found in the print volumes held at the the Hawaiʻi State Archives. Paper copies of Royal Patents are not available at Hamilton Library.

Retrieving Māhele Awards with...

  • Award Number - Start with Kipuka and type in the award number. Click the Land Awards box, then look in the Helu column for the award number. The number after the colon (:) is used to number the various lands claimed in the award. If Kipuka does not retrieve any awards, they may not be mapped or they were not awarded. Instead, go to Papakilo and type in the award number to find those. Note, the Grant column is the Royal Patent number.
  • Claimant Name - Start with Kipuka and type in the claimant name. You may see some parcels highlighted. Note that not everything in Kipuka is mapped. To find the unmapped claims, go to Papakilo and type in the claimant name. 
  • ʻIli Name - Start with Papakilo and type in the name of the ʻili. You will find a mixture of results that will retrieve the name you searched as a claimant, ahupuaʻa or ʻili. Need to go through to identify the ʻili-related results. 
  • Ahupuaʻa Name - Start with Kipuka and type in the name of the ahupuaʻa. Click the Ahupuaʻa box, then click the Details icon. Click the Land Awards tab to see all the Mahele awards listed.
  • Tax Map Key (TMK) Number - Start with Kipuka and type in the TMK. Click the TMK box, then click the Details icon. If there is a land award, a Land Awards tab will appear. If you do not see that tab, click the Link to Other Records tab to view the Plat Map to verify if any land awards are listed on the plat map. If you donʻt know the TMK, you can search for it by address (all counties) using the Public Land Trust Information System (must create a log in) or without creating a log in, you can search for TMKs by address using the property tax websites for each county: Hawaii, Maui, Honolulu, and Kauai.
  • Royal Patent Number - Start with Kipuka and type in the number. Click the Land Awards box, then look in the Grant column for the number. Note, the number in the Helu column is the award number. 
  • Survey Maps - Survey maps will written annotations of land commission awards and land grants on parcels. The Land Survey office holds the survey maps. They made many available online through the map search "Registered Map No." Download the index to locate the registered map numbers by location. Some survey maps are also available to browse through their Miscellaneous Maps webpage. Avakonohiki has also curated a collection of survey maps on their Land & Map Research webpage. 

Printed Indexes

Prior to the Māhele records being made available and searchable through the various databases above, printed indexes were the main tool to find Land Commission Awards or Mahele Awards, Registers (Native & Foreign), Testimonies (Native & Foreign), and Royal Patents. There are two indexes. Both are used today to verify and cross-check the Māhele records found online, such as checking to make sure all the records available were retrieved by the databases


The Land Commission Awards, Registers (Native & Foreign) and Testimonies (Native & Foreign) were microfilm from originals held at the Hawaiʻi State Archives, including any translations of the native registers and testimonies that existed when the originals were filmed. Prior to these records being made available online, researchers would have to use the microfilm reels to retrieve any of the Māhele records they needed. This was a labor intensive process. Today, the microfilms are used as tool to retrieve any Māhele records that are not found online. They can also be used to retrieve any translations that are not found online of the native registers and testimonies. Note that the translations of native testimonies have been digitized and are freely available in AVAKonohiki using the LCA Advanced Search. The translations for native registers and testimonies are available for a fee in Waihona ʻAina. You can also visit the Hawaiʻi State Archives to view the translations in the printed volumes of native registers and testimonies. 

Hamilton Library has the following microfilms