Hanai and Adoptions


Hawaiian genealogies are sometimes complicated by hanai relationships.  The hanai child that was hanai-ed to another family sometimes loses complete knowledge of his blood family.  If the hanai relationship that severed family ties occurred several generations from the present generation, it can be difficult to reconstruct what happened to the natural family.

Testimony from Delay Birth Registrations will sometimes mention hanai-ed or adopted brothers and sisters as well as children who were given out to another family.  Baptism certificates will sometimes list both the real, adopted or hanai parent.  Children who were hanai-ed or adopted were sometimes given to the new family with a piece of land from the natural parents.  Prior to 1915 the Bureau of Conveyance has deeds of adoptions listed among mortgages and land deeds.  These are found by looking in the grantor books (by family name of the person giving the child) by year and island or the grantee books (by the family name of the people receiving the child).  After 1908, records of adoptions were transferred to the Circuit Courts.  In 1947, adoption records were made confidential and are available only through court order.

From 1907, formal requests of name changes are registered at the Bureau of Conveyances, indexed under the old and new name.  Sometimes adoptions, hanai and step children are also reflected in the 1900 and 1910 Census relationship column.

Name changes were often made instead of legal adoptions.  Perhaps a child’s mother remarried and instead of an adoption, the children’s names were changed to reflect the name of the stepfather.  These records are found at the Hawaii State Archives.  The index to the new names are available at the Hawaii State Archives through 1953 and at the Lieutenant Governors office for later years.

The new adoption notification law allows adults to learn of their birth parent unless the parents have indicated to the court that they do not wish to be contacted.  Contact the following offices for help in an adoption search:

Oahu by mail:

Adoption Records

Family Court, First Circuit Court

P.O. Box 3498

Honolulu, HI 96811-3498

Oahu in person:

9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mon-Fri

Court Management Services Branch

Kaahumanu Hale, Second Floor

777 Punchbowl Street

Honolulu, HI

Maui, Molokai, and Lanai:

Adoption Records

Family Court, Second Circuit

2145 Main Street, Suite 226

Wailuku, Maui 96793

Big Island:

Adoption Records

Family Court, Third Circuit

345 Kekuanaoa Street, Room 40

Hilo, Hawaii 96720


Adoption Records

Family Court, Fifth Circuit

3059 Umi Street

Lihue, Kauai 96766

A clue for adult adoptees looking for natural parents: Birth certificates are altered to reflect the names of the adopted parents but newspaper vital record listings will show the names of birth parents.

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