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The Role of Family and Genealogy in Hawaiian Last Names

    The Role of Family and Genealogy in Hawaiian Last Names

    Historically Native Hawaiians taught genealogy to their children through chant. However, due to the loss of many family records and the requirement for blood quantum for obtaining Hawaiian homelands, modern Native Hawaiians struggle to find documentation of their ancestry. Fortunately, a look at the cultural practices of Hawaiians can help make sense of what is found in the documentation.

    Family Names

    Before 1860 Hawaiians used singular names that were passed on to each new child; generally, these names incorporated events that occurred during the birth. For example, Queen Lili’uokalani was named after her grandmother after suffering from eye pain during labor.

    In modern times, many Hawaiians use a family name for their children as it connects them to their heritage. For example, Leilani is a charming Hawaiian last name that means the heavenly flower. The name also symbolizes the beauty of Hawaii and its warm weather. Another popular Hawaiian last name is Noelani, which refers to the cosmic mist.

    Many Hawaiians like to know their ancestry to pass it on to future generations. There are a variety of charts available online, and you can find them at local Family History Centers. They will help you to trace your ancestry and understand more about the culture of Hawaii. In addition, these charts will help you to identify potential relatives by their names and dates of birth.

    Gender-Specific Names

    With blood-quantum requirements to apply for Hawaiian Home Lands and documented proof of Native Hawaiian ancestry needed to access Kamehameha schools and scholarships, many Hawaiian families are trying their best to trace their history. However, finding family pedigree charts can be more challenging than looking up names on genealogy websites or in historical newspapers.

    Among the issues that can hinder the search is that Hawaiians use a macron or khaki (a diacritical mark over certain vowels) to differentiate between syllables. This diacritic can make sure spellings look similar and cause confusion in families where two people share a common name.

    Another issue is that the naming process of Hawaiian children follows different traditions than those used in other cultures. Typically, a baby is given a name through a vision or sign (such as a flight of birds or a cloud shape) or through inoa hoailona, where the child hears a mystical voice. These names are considered very important and are often regarded as a gift from God. Similarly, kupuna refers to grandparents and ancestors, with kupuna wahine or kupuna kane being used to distinguish between female and male relatives.

    Maiden Names

    Many Hawaiian last names have a positive meaning or are related to nature. In addition, Christianity significantly influenced the island’s culture and brought some Biblical names into everyday use.

    Traditionally, Hawaiians didn’t have multiple names. However, in modern times, women and men often take on their husbands’ words to become Makua Kane (men) or Makua Wahine (women).

    Baby names are significant for any family, especially in Hawaii. They can help protect children from harmful spirits and bring good luck to the family. Traditionally, Hawaiians gave their children names with negative or unisex meanings to scare away evil spirits. Some of these names were very repulsive, including Piilau (“dimwitted”) and Naaupo (“foul-smelling”).

    Nowadays, new parents are choosing more positive Hawaiian names for their babies, such as Maliah (“love of heaven” or “heavenly flower”) or Leilani (“the love of the flowers”). Other names like Malana (meaning someone full of lightness) or Ionakana (Hawaiian pronunciation of the Hebrew name Isaiah) are also popular among Hawaiians. Some of these names are even more popular among girls than boys.

    Social Rank

    In Hawaiian culture, social rank was important. It was reflected in last names, family structure, and naming practices. The naming system included both honorifics and place names. Honorifics were used for those of high rank, while place names were used for those of lower level.

    Before Western contact, Native Hawaiians passed down their genealogy and lineage through chant. The hippo, or first child, was responsible for learning this chant and passing it on to future generations. The practice of chanting was almost eradicated by the time Western contact occurred, leaving many Hawaiians needing an understanding of their genealogy or how they were related.

    Using obituaries and other historical newspaper archives, it’s possible to find information about your ancestor’s family and their history in Hawaii. However, some records are more helpful than others.

    Birth Certificates

    Hawaiian last names are a language and a tradition, so looking at family history through that lens is essential. Tools can help you find the meaning behind your family name.

    Before the colonization of Hawaii, Hawaiians didn’t have surnames, only a first and often a given name. Once Western culture influenced the islands, many first names were converted to the family’s last names. It’s common to see Hawaiian last names that sound similar to English or other Polynesian names.

    When searching for your Hawaiian roots, have the proper documents to prove your ancestry. If you’re applying to the Hawaiian Registry, submitting birth certificates and other documentation that reflect your origin is essential. To learn more, visit our Hawaiian Resource Centers or the library at Iolani Palace. You can even use our online ancestry verification service to see what documents are needed for your case. Then you can get started finding your Hawaiian ancestors. You might be surprised at what you discover.

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