Monday, February 1, 2010

Chronicling America and Hawaiian Cousins

If you arrived at this post via the website (The Native Hawaiian Genealogy Society) please look at the right hand column for keywords such as HAWAII or DOMINIS to click and find over 50 other blog posts about Hawaiian genealogy.

According to fellow genealogy blogger, Randy Seaver, “Genealogy Research is like a box of chocolates- you never know what you’re going to find….” Well, Randy, not only do I like your quote, but I like the Library of Congress “Chronicling America” website you wrote about last week.

At the Chronicling America search page, you can find newspapers from 1880 to 1922 from only the following states: Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington. There is also a search directory to find out about newspapers on line from the United States from 1690 to the present. This will point you to other libraries and websites that carry online newspapers.

My ancestry is 95% New England back to the 1600’s, so I was initially disappointed at the list of states. Then I remembered that I had cousins in Hawaii in the 1800s. I’ve been researching the Dominis, Holt and Jones families of Hawaii for several years, trying to find all the Boston connections. Newspapers have been a huge part of this, and usually I go down to Boston to look at microfilms. Now I had the chance to stay home by in New Hampshire in my PJs and continue this research on Hawaii….

First, let me say that these families were certainly newsworthy people. My 4x great grandmother, Catherine Plummer Jones, had a sister, Mary Lambert Jones, who became the mother-in-law to Queen Lili’uokalani. I’ve read biographies, the Queen’s autobiography, local history books, and the Boston newspaper accounts of the Queen’s visits to Boston. The Boston press was not supportive of the Queen, especially after she lost the throne in 1893. During her visit after being deposed, the newspaper accounts were even less flattering. They were racially prejudiced against the marriage, and supported the United States taking over the sovereign nation of Hawaii.

However, to read about Mary Lambert (Jones) Dominis in the Hawaiian newspapers was very different from the views expressed in the Boston papers. I was able to find Mary’s obituary from 1889, and the descriptions of her state funeral. This was the mother of the Prince Consort, and she was also one of the first American women to build a home in Honolulu. I blogged about her in my very first blog back in July 2009, and again at Christmas time about her hosting the very first Christmas party with a Christmas Tree in Honolulu.

I also found an article reporting on a celebration of Mary Lambert (Jones) Dominis’s 50th anniversary in residence in Honolulu: “Reception to a Worthy Lady: Saturday last was the fiftieth anniversary of the arrival at these Islands of Mrs. Mary Dominis, mother of the Lieutenant-General John O. Dominis, and the event was fittingly observed by her numerous friends. Mrs. Dominis has continued to reside here-with the exception of a visit to Boston, in December 1841, returning to the islands in March, 1843- since her first landing on the Islands. An interesting letter, partly in this connection from the pen of the Hon. S. N. Castle appears in this issue. At 8 o’clock a. m. the venerable lady was serenaded by the Hawaiian Band, which continued to discourse sweet music on the premises throughout the day. At half-past 2 o’clock Mrs. Dominis held a reception, which was continued until close on to 6 o’clock, and a constant stream of friends and visitors called to pay their respects and tender their congratulations to this much respected lady, who received them all graciously and made them all welcome. A large number of the leading citizens of Honolulu were present, among whom were noticed Hon. A. S. Cleghorn and the Princess Ka’iulani, also the members of the Diplomatic and Consular corps. During the afternoon light refreshments were served to all present. From “The Hawaiian Gazette (Honolulu) 1865 -1918, April 26, 1887, page 8.

I found these articles to be of great value in identifying more extended family. The Mr. Archibald Cleghorn mentioned above was married to Queen Liliuokalani’s sister, and Princess Ka’iulani (Cleghorn’s daughter) would have been her niece. I blogged about Ka’iuulani a few months ago. She would have been Queen Lili’uokalani’s heir to the throne. At the time of this party, Lili’uokalani was still a just a princess, and her brother was the King. Later Washington Place, her home where this party took place, became the residence of the Governor of Hawaii.

In the above article, there is a reference to a letter from a Mr. Castle. I haven’t identified him yet, but his letter stated: “It is stated that since that time she has not left the island. On the 3d day of December, 1841, she embarked on the Ship Wm. Gray, Capt. Stickney, for Boston. On the 18th, fifteen days out, at 2 o’clock a. m., it being a bright starlight night, the ship barely escaped being wrecked upon Pennryhn Island. She arrived at her destination April 28, 1842. Mrs. Dominis returned to Honolulu in the bark Behring, Capt. B. F. Snow, sailing from Boston Nov. 2d, 1842, and arriving at Honolulu March 17th, 1843. Captain Dominis finally left the Islands in the brig Henry Neilson on the 5th day of August 1846, instead of 1848, as per Polynesian of Aug. 8, 1846. The writer was a fellow passenger with Mrs. Dominis and her son by both the Gray and Behring ….. S. N. Castle -April 25, 1887” also from The Hawaiian Gazette (Honolulu) 1865 -1918, April 26, 1887, page 8

I don’t know much about Mary Dominis’s trip to Boston in 1841-3, but I know that she had left two school aged daughters at home in Schenectady, New York to be educated while she went to Hawaii with her husband Captain Dominis. One daughter died in 1838 at about age 12, and the other died in January 1842, also at about age 12, just before she arrived in Boston. Did she know about their illnesses and try to come home to see the second little girl before she passed away? How sad because Mary lost her husband just three years later, in 1846.

Another newspaper article described her funeral in 1889. “Interment took place at the Nuuanu Cemetery. The chief mourners were Hon. John O. Dominis and Princess Liliuokalani, and Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Aldrich. The pall-bearers were Hons. H. A. Wildemann, W. F. Allen, C. P. Iaukea, S. Parker, and M. P. Robinson, and Messrs. S. C. Allen, J. O. Carter and A. Herbert.” The Hawaiian Gazette (Honolulu) 1865-1918, April 30, 1889, front page. Allen and Robinson are names from the extended family. My Mom was an Allen. Now I only have to decipher the initials, and figure out who might have been in Hawaii at this time period. Iaukaea and Wildemann were government officials. This article told me the cemetery she was buried at, and the place where the funeral was held. The rest of the article of the attendants had the names Dominis, Holt, etc. and gave me further clues about the extended family.

Later this year I will be visiting Honolulu for the first time. I will be the first person in my lineage from the Mary’s sister to go to Honolulu, in over 100 years. I will be looking for the Nuuanu Cemetery, Washington Place and other sights I uncover through these newspaper articles. Randy, I’ll be reading more newspapers tonight in my PJs!


Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

The Library of Congress Home Page

Randy Seaver’s “Genea-Musings” Blog and his posting on Chronicling America Genea-Musings: Using the Library of Congress "Chronicling America" Site

Photo of Washington Place, Honolulu, former home of Captain John Dominis and his wife Mary Lambert Jones, their son and daughter and law, Governor John Owen Dominis and Queen Lili'uokalani of Hawaii, and some of their descendants.


Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. My goodness, I had to print it out, as I didn't want to miss a single word. Thank you again, for another wonderful piece. And, lucky for you getting to go to Hawaii, better than Lake Winn... on a cold winter's day!

  2. Good research, I was interested in the connections you found. Genealogy is a very important part of Hawaiian culture, so hopefully you'll have a lot of success and help when you go to Hawaii.

  3. I've just heard a family story that my great great grandfather, Capt Paul Hollister was among her pallbearers. As he is not listed, I wonder if he was simply in the funeral procession? Do you have access to this information? His wife was Evangeline Lund.

  4. Heather, I have looked at more newspaper reports and didn't see the Hollister name.Also I looked at the book "Deaths and Funerals of Major Hawaiian Ali'i" by Rianna Williams, but it didn't list Mrs. Dominis. I would suggest you contact curator Corinne Chun at Washington Place to see if there are any other lists or guest books of the funeral.