Thursday, July 29, 2010

Genealogy Trip to Hawaii- Day Three

This is a continuation of the story of my family history related trip to Hawaii for the past two weeks. I’m skipping over the cruise we took for seven days (you can read a short version in yesterday’s post), and I'll recount our days on the island of Oahu. After leaving the ship we checked into another hotel on Waikiki beach, and then immediately rented a car to get to the Bishop Museum.

The Bishop museum was built in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop in memory of his wife, the Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, hanai (foster) sister to Queen Lili’uokalani and last descendant of the royal Kamehameha family. There is a large collection of the royal family memorabilia on the third floor of Hawaiian Hall, and more about the monarchy on the first floor. The entire museum is a complex of several buildings spread over a large campus.

We decided to go to the museum library first, since we had limited time. Please note that only fifteen researchers are allowed into the library at a time, and at our first attempt the seats were full. We had to check back over time to see if anyone had left. So we went back to Hawaiian Hall to see the Polynesian collections. This was a wonderful exhibit, and should be the starting point to anyone’s visit to the island of Oahu. All types of artifacts relating to Polynesian society, art, culture and history were represented in the displays.

After Hawaiian Hall, we were able to get into the library. We met Desoto Brown, who had been part of the panel discussion about the movie “Princess Kaiulani” the previous week, and he led us to some original documents in the collection including the marriage certificate of John Owen Dominis and Lili’uoklani, and several letters written from Sarah White Lee in Boston to the Queen. It seems that part of the Queen’s documents have been donated to the Bishop Museum, so anyone researching at the Hawaii State Archives for letter, correspondence, etc. might want to also check the Bishop Library finding aids, too. Desoto Brown said that the Queen's diaries were also divided between the State Archives and the Bishop Museum, but I didn't have time to look at them.

We still had time after leaving the library to see a special exhibit on surfboards, from antiques two hundred years old (or more!) to fiberglass boards built in the 1950s. It was interesting to read that the New England missionaries had banned surfing as well as hula dancing, and so this sport was almost lost to the ages in the last century. We also visited the fairly new science center and its fascinating exhibits on volcanoes and Hawaiian geology. The museum was closing early that Saturday due to an event, so we had to make time to check out the books in the gift shop.

There was time after dinner for a stroll on Wailkiki Beach, to see the surfers and sunbathers and take in the views of Diamond Head. We listened to music by a Hawaiian band at the hotel’s rooftop pool café, and had one of those rum drinks that come in a pineapple, completely decorated with slices of fruit and paper umbrellas! After all, this was a vacation trip!

This is the statue of Prince Jonah Kuhio we found on Waikiki Beach. He was the first native Hawaiian and the only person born of royalty to ever serve in the US House of Representatives (1903 until his death in 1922). His birthday March 26th is celebrated as Prince Jonah Kuhio Day every year and is a state holiday.


For more information: The website for Hawaii’s Bishop Museum, including the link to the library collections. A wikipedia biography of Prince Jonah Kuhio

Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Really enjoying reading about your trip!!

  2. I think I was sitting across from you when you were at the library. I remember because someone said the name DeSoto Brown and it made me notice since I recognized that name. I heard him talking to a lady (you) about Liliuokalani. I was there researching Queen Emma, but of course my ears perked up when the experts start talking about the ali'i. I went there on a saturday cause I'm off and wanted to look at their Ku images exhibit.