Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Chronicling America Website, Part Two

Four John Dominises- Continued from Yesterday…

Governor John Owen Dominis was the son of Captain John Dominis, the sea captain who brought his Boston born wife, Mary Lambert Jones, and son to Hawaii in 1837. They had left behind two young daughters to be educated in Schenectady, New York. J. O. Dominis never saw his sisters again. Both little girls died in New York at around age 12. Life in Hawaii would be very different from life in Boston for this branch of the family!

Little John arrived in Hawaii at age five, and died there in 1891. He attended a day school next door to the Royal School. There was a little girl next door he used to watch through the fence. I don’t know if he knew that little girl was a royal princess, and I’m sure he didn’t know that someday he would marry her! He grew up and became secretary and chamberlain to King Kamehameha IV.

Upon his 1862 marriage to Princess Lydia Kamakaeha Paki (later known as Lili’uokalani) the couple lived in Washington Place. It must have been difficult living under the same roof as her mother-in-law, and in the Queen’s autobiography she describes Mary Dominis in unfriendly terms. There seemed to be some racial prejudice on the side of the mother in law. Apparently this changed over time, and they lived together until Mary’s death in 1889.

What is not commonly known is that Governor J. O. Dominis was a 33rd degree mason. When his wife, as Princess, went to London to visit Queen Victoria upon her Jubilee (50th anniversary of her reign as Queen of England), Prince Albert invited him to a large celebration at a Masonic temple in London. In the Queen’s Autobiography she wrote “As Governor Dominis passed in front of the Grand Master, still ignorant of his own position, Masonic salutations were exchanged; and much to his surprise my husband found himself conducted up to the platform, where on the right of the Prince of Wales the third seat had been assigned to him. His astonishment was succeeded by emotions of pride. Governor Dominis was always a most unassuming man; not at all eager to put himself forward, never presuming in the least to encroach on the rights or privileges of others. But when he found himself thus placed in one of the highest and most honorable positions, it was undoubtedly enough to make his bosom glow. But he valued the honor as a Mason more than as a man; for it was the recognition of his place in an organization whose bond of union was that of brotherly love, and whose ancient and noble rites these high-born or royally connected persons from every part of the globe had assembled to celebrate” John Owen Dominis sat on the dais with Prince Albert. It was a very high honor. But they were the highest ranking Masons in attendance who were also royalty!

Lydia and John could never have children of their own. John also chose to socialize with his own American friends, even having an affair with one of her ladies in waiting. The child he fathered out of wedlock, John Aimoku Dominis, was born in 1883. His royal marriage brought him many honors, including being appointed as the Royal Governor of Oahu. In 1891 Lili’uokalani became Queen, and he became the Prince Consort. He died less than a year later.

After her husband’s death, in 1910, Queen Lili’uokalani adopted her husband’s son and named him her heir. By this time, the United States had annexed the Hawaiian Islands and she had lost her throne through some ugly circumstances. This story is a long saga worthy of another blog posting entirely. However, I’m only related to Governor John Owen Dominis, so I’ll stick to his story.

In those days, the newspaper coverage of a state funeral reminded me of the blow by blow descriptions you hear on TV during a state funeral. I watched Ted Kennedy’s funeral last year, and compared the TV coverage to the newspaper coverage in 1891. They both described who was attending, where they sat, the order of the activities, the flowers, the cortege, every detail. It told me the cemetery he was buried at, and the place where the funeral was held.

From The Hawaiian Gazette (Honolulu) 1865-1819, September 1, 1891, page 1: “It is with deep sorrow that we announce the death of the Prince Consort, His Royal Highness John Owen Dominis, who breathed his last at 5 o’clock Thursday afternoon, at Washington Place, in this city. For the past two months he had been suffering from pneumonia and was confined to his room for the greater part of the time, suffering greatly at times from his disease, which baffled the skill of his physician, Dr. G. Trousseau.”

A few days later, from The Hawaiian Gazette (Honolulu) 1865-1918, September 8, 1891, front page, was a large article, running several columns, describing the state funeral. There was a lot of name dropping in the story, listing all the heads of state and dignitaries. I was most impressed with the paragraph describing the coffin and coffin plate: “The coffin of the Prince Consort was place in the centre of the Throne Room upon a raised foundation covered below by a cloth of blue satin and above by a rich yellow robe. Upon the latter rested the coffin itself, and over it was thrown a heavy mantle with broad alternated bands of red and yellow feathers. The coffin itself is a magnificent piece of work from the shops of C. E. Williams, made entirely of kou and koa, the body being of the latter, and the trimmings of the former wood. It contains more than two hundred pieces in all and the sides and the ends were magnificent specimens of Hawaiian wood. The plate, a fine piece of artistic work, came from Hubash. It is a piece of solid silver, about ten inches long in the shape of a lyre. At the top was the Hawaiian coat of arms raised and done in colors, surmounted by a crown. At the bottom was placed a Masonic emblem also in colors, between these two decorations was engraved the inscription surmounted by a wreath of green gold.”

At the end of the article, after the funeral, the procession to the Royal Mausoleum, the listing of the prayers offered and hymns sung, and the religious service at the Mausoleum, there was a short Masonic ceremony also described: “Then followed the imposing ceremonies of the Masonic Lodge Le Progres. The members of the Lodge, with members from Hawaiian Lodge and visiting brethren, marched in slow procession into the Mausoleum to the strains of soft music from the organ presided at by Mr. Wray Taylor, organist of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, who also played at other portions of the ceremony. After the members had taken their positions around the coffin, Bro. John Phillips, in distinct tones, commenced the service by reading “Once more, my brethren, have we assembled to perform the last sad and solemn duties to the dead. The mournful notes which betoken the departure of a spirit from its earthly tabernacle have again alarmed our outer door, and another has been taken to swell the numbers in that unknown land whither our fathers have gone before us.” Etc.

This was followed by the invocations rehearsed by Bro. J. T. Downey, the members responding “So mote it be.” Bro. Downey laid the white upon on the coffin, after which the brethren moved three times around it in procession, each depositing a spring of evergreen as he passed the head. The public grand honors were given three times the brethren saying “The will of God is accomplished. So mote it be. Amen.””

This side of my family has always been very involved with the Masons. In all the obituaries I can find in this line, it lists their lodges and memberships in Massachusetts. All their gravestones are decorated with Masonic symbols. My great grandfather died in the Masonic home in Shrewsbury, he was the grandson of Mary’s sister, Catherine Plummer Jones. I was not surprised to see that Governor Dominis was also a Mason. It was especially interesting to see how much in meant to him in life, and in death.

This is the story of four men named John Dominis. Their descendants call them Captain Dominis, Governor Dominis and Aimoku Dominis. The first was my great grand uncle, the second my first cousin many times removed, the third my second cousin many times removed. The last John Owen Dominis, son of Aimoku, died young. The Queen’s biography, Hawaiian local histories and encyclopedias only told me part of my cousins’ story. These Hawaiian newspapers are bringing more of their lives details to me.

Family Tree Information:

Gen. 1. Captain John Dominis, probably born in Trieste, (now Slovenia), died in 1846 on a voyage from Hawaii to China; married on 9 October 1824 in Boston to Mary Lambert Jones, daughter of Owen Jones and Elizabeth Lambert (my 5x great grandparents). Three children, two daughters died young and a son.

Gen. 2. Governor John Owen Dominis, born 10 March 1832 in Chittenango, New York; died 27 August 1891 at Washington Place, Honolulu, Hawaii; married on 16 September 1862 in Honolulu to Lydia Kamekeha Paki (Lili’uokalani), daughter of High Chief Caesar Kaluaiku Kapa’akea and Chiefess Analea Keohokalole. No issue. Governor Dominis also had a relationship with Mary Purdy Aimoku, and had a son.

Gen. 3. John Owen Aimoku Dominis, born 9 January 1883 in Honolulu, Hawaii, died 7 Jul 1917 in Honolulu, Hawaii; married on 27 June 1911 at Washington Place to Sybil Frances McInerny, daughter of Edward Aylett McInerney and Rose Kapuakomela Wond. Three children

1. John Owen Dominis, born 1912, died 1933, unmarried
2. Sybil Francis Kaolaokalani O Lilukalani Dominis, b. 1914; died 22 December 1998; married first 5 Jul 1934 to William Herbert Schuh, two children; married second to David T. Silver; married third to Donald Dean.
3. Virginia Beatrice Kauhanenuiohonokawailani Dominis, born 27 October 1916, Washington Place, Honolulu, Hawaii, died 23 October 2007, Hale Ola Kino, Hawaii; married Frederick W. Koch, three daughters.

For more information:

Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen by Lili’uokalani, Queen of Hawaii (1838-1917). Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1898. This is Queen Lili’uokalani’s Autobiography, published by her nephew, William Lee in Boston. It also can be read online at http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/liliuokalani/hawaii/hawaii.html

The Library of Congress Chronicling America Website http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

Randy Seaver’s Blog GeneaMusings at www.geneamusings.com was the inspiration for this week’s research using the Chronicling America website. See his blog posting at Genea-Musings: Using the Library of Congress "Chronicling America" Site

The above photograph is Governor John Owen Dominis, husband to Queen Lili'uokalani of Hawaii

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Heather, it is great that you are working on your own genealogy. What fun. All three parts are now printed out, and I'm ready for some good reading.

  2. Captain Ivan (John) Dominis (1796 - 1846) sailed from Trieste, but he was born on the island of Brac in Croatia. There are still families Dominis and Gospodnetic living in his village Dol.