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.
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:
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.
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...
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
2550 McCarthy Mall
Honolulu, Hawaii 96822 USA
© University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library