We’re getting closer to completing the job of sorting through all the papers and other “stuff” left in my parents’ house after my mom, Helen Lind, passed away in January. I keep thinking that all the “finds” have been made, and then another stack of papers turns out to contain a gem.
This time its an incomplete set of notes my mother compiled on the Hawaiian side of her family, “last revised 1994,” according to a hand-written notation at the top. There’s a link to the document down at the bottom of this entry.
I think it might be of interest because it demonstrates the difficulties of tracking back through Hawaiian genealogies.
Along with the family lore are observations on the research process.
Here’s what she wrote right up front.
I found it frustrating interviewing old Hawaiians because they were thinking “Hawaiian style” where their extended family included people they identified as “cousin” or “auntie” who were not blood relatives. On the other hand, my thinking was “haole style,” intent on seeking those related by blood.
Then she went on to some of the special problems in tracing Hawaiian families, especially back into the period when Hawaiians had only one name, given at birth. “Unlike haole practice, the same names were used for both male and female,” she explains.
Sometime in the late 19th century, Hawaiians adopted the haole custom of using a surname or family name in addition to their given name. A major difficulty in tracing old Hawaiian genealogies is that all of the siblings in one family did not take the same family surname. It is not uncommon to find four brothers using four different surnames as happened in our family history. In Hawaiian culture, the given name was the most important in identifying a person for it usually had some special meaning.
Later, another lesson, as she tried to make sense of family lore as told by an elderly relative that doesn’t match up with the historical timeline. She took down the information, but realized later that she didn’t push on questionable aspects.
“I was very new at genealogy in the 1950s and did not question what I was being told for it seemed impolite,” she writes.
That’s a lesson reporters have to learn and relearn all the time, I think.
On what is marked as page 9, my mother tells of learning that her great grandparents were believed to have died at Kalaupapa, something her mother and aunt had never spoken of. My sister has been digging further into this, including a recent trip to Kalaupapa, and hopefully she will chime in with an update on what is known, as well as the current “best guesses.”
I don’t know if my mother updated this information. I think it’s likely. If so, one of these days I’ll find her research and share it.
By the way, the charts at the end were intended to run left to right, but appear instead simply page by page. So they will likely require a bit more energy to digest, if you get that far.