Genealogy for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Introduction: In this article – in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month – Gena Philibert-Ortega explores GenealogyBank’s Hawaiian newspapers collection. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.”

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is celebrated in the U.S. during May. Does your family tree extend to the Hawaiian Islands?

GenealogyBank’s historical newspaper collection includes 69 Hawaiian newspapers spanning the years 1836 to current day. Whether you are searching for a specific name or learning more about a time and place, these newspapers can provide you with the information you need.

Photo: the ʻIolani Palace in Honolulu, formerly the residence of the Hawaiian monarch, was the capitol of the Republic of Hawaii. Credit: Arjunkrsen; Wikimedia Commons.
Photo: the ʻIolani Palace in Honolulu, formerly the residence of the Hawaiian monarch, was the capitol of the Republic of Hawaii. Credit: Arjunkrsen; Wikimedia Commons.

A Short History of Hawaiian Newspapers

The Hawaiian language, prior to the arrival of foreigners, was a completely oral language, according to the online article “He Hō’ili’ili Hawai’i: A Brief History of Hawaiian Language Newspapers.” “A formal writing system was created and literacy throughout Hawai’i peaked in the 19th century at over 90% of the population. Between 1834-1948, Hawai’i saw the publication of over 100 different Hawaiian language newspapers.” (1)

Although these early newspapers were mostly edited by foreign missionaries to the islands, they did include native Hawaiians as authors and were printed in the Hawaiian language. (2)

What did early Hawaiian newspapers look like and what information did they provide? One of the newspapers in GenealogyBank’s collection is Nonanona (the Ant). Printed in Honolulu, this bilingual paper was the third newspaper to be printed in the Hawaiian language. (3) Edited by Richard Armstrong of the Kawaih’o Church, the purpose of this newspaper was religious and intended to be used for schools.

Content included “lengthy genealogy of Kamehameha (supreme chief who unified the archipelago under one rule), a timeline of important events including arrivals, births, and deaths in Hawaiian history, and even biographies of chiefs.” (4) School laws and government reports were also published. “Contributions from native Hawaiians were both solicited and printed.” (5) Nonanona was published between 1841-1845 and was succeeded by Elele.

The front page, Nonanona newspaper 25 July 1843
Nonanona (Honolulu, Hawaii), 25 July 1843, page 1

The translation of Solomon in the masthead is from Proverbs 6:6: “O lazy one, go to the ant and watch his ways and learn.”

Another 19th century Hawaiian newspaper was the Polynesian. Founded by James Jackson Jarves and printed from 1840-1841 and then from 1844-1864, it was during the latter years (1845-1864) that this bilingual newspaper was the official publication of the Hawaiian government. (6)

Looking through this newspaper, many of the sections look similar to other 19th century newspapers, including advertisements, shipping news, and probate actions. This newspaper might have stories about your ancestors – and it also might provide details on when their ship arrived or left the port, where they shopped, and what the government was reporting.

News and advertisements, Polynesian newspaper 25 January 1845
Polynesian (Honolulu, Hawaii), 25 January 1845, page 3

Genealogy Tip: When searching an unfamiliar newspaper, take some time to browse a few issues to better understand the newspaper’s layout, column titles, and information reported. As we have seen, some Hawaiian newspapers were bilingual (English and the Hawaiian language), although not every article or advertisement was bilingual.


Although any article about your ancestor is helpful to your research, it is often obituaries that provide the most valuable information about a deceased person and their family members, such as this example.

An obituary for Steven Smith, Garden Island newspaper 9 February 2000
Garden Island (Lihue, Hawaii), 9 February 2000

To find Hawaii newspaper titles on the GenealogyBank website, click on Browse at the top of the website. In the drop-down menu choose Newspapers by State.

Screenshot of GenealogyBank's home page

Then choose Hawaii. This list can be browsed or filtered by city and newspaper title. You can click on the title of interest to search that specific newspaper.

Start Searching Now!

Have family that lived in Hawaii? Don’t forget to search the Hawaiian newspaper titles found on GenealogyBank.

Explore over 330 years of newspapers and historical records in GenealogyBank. Discover your family story! Start a 7-Day Free Trial

Note on the header image: graphic for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Credit:

Related Articles:


(1) “He Hōʻiliʻili Hawaiʻi: A Brief History of Hawaiian Language Newspapers,” Adam Matthew Digital LTD ( accessed 17 May 2022).
(2) Ibid.
(3) Ibid.
(4) Ibid.
(5) Hawaiian National Bibliography, 1780-1900: 1831-1850. United States, University of Hawai’i Press, 1998. Pg. 292-294. Available via Google Books:
(6) “The Polynesian,” Wikipedia ( accessed 17 May 2022).

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