Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Favorite Cemetery Photo for the Carnival of Graveyard Rabbits

The Dominis Family Plot at Oahu Cemetery, Hawaii

It was easy to choose a photograph for this Carnival of Graveyard Rabbits "Favorite Cemetery Photo" theme.  It's not a favorite family member, or a a particularly beautiful photo, but it is the "brick wall smashing" that this photo represents which makes it a favorite.

All my life I heard that we were related to someone in Hawaii.  Over time people told me it was a Princess in Hawaii, but I thought that it was just that the fish tale had grown over the years.  I first researched this family story when I was in high school.  I wrote a thesis paper on the annexation of Hawaii by the United States under the guise of learning more about Queen Lili'uokalani.  I didn't find a family connection, but I was puzzled by some names she wrote about in her autobiography.  I learned that when the Queen came to Boston to visit her husband's relatives she visited with people named Jones, Emerson, Lee and Snelling.

Over time I found some tantalizing clues in our family tree. My great great grandmother was an Emerson.  Her grand mother was a Jones.  The Queen's mother-in-law had the maiden name of Jones.  There were too many Joneses in Boston to find a link.  It was like searching for a needle in a haystack. For years I wrote to Hawaii, to family members, to authors and genealogists.  Nothing matched.

Finally, a curator in Honolulu sent me copies of two letters that named my relatives and their relationship to the Queen's mother-in-law.  This gave me just the small evidence I needed to weed through the Joneses in Boston and put together a family tree.  I found six Jones sisters; two had families in Hawaii, one was my 4x great grandmother, and one married a Snelling who helped send windows from Boston to build the Queen's residence in Honolulu.  The last Jones sister I researched married a Lee, and was the mother of the Boston publisher who printed up Queen Lili'uokalani's autobiography.  Most of the sisters had letters in the Hawaii State Archives which helped me to piece together a family tree when I compared the names to those in the Massachusetts Vital Records, city directories and census records.

Going to Honolulu to complete my research, and to drape leis over Aunt Mary Dominis's grave was one of my most unforgettable genealogy moments!  We also went with my distant cousin, a Dominis descendant, to visit Governor John Owen Dominis's and Queen Lili'uokalani's tomb at Mauna 'Ala, the Royal Mausoleum across the street from the Oahu Cemetery.

Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. This is so amazing, Heather. :) I've finally gotten a second where I can pay a visit to all of the Carnival blogs as a spectator. I love that you got leis and took these pictures. They are so attractive that way!