Maui News

Historic West Maui Land Court Applications Now Available Online

September 30, 2016, 8:00 AM HST
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Historic West Maui Land Court applications are now available to families and historians online at the West Maui Land Court Archive.

West Maui Mountains, image by Wendy Osher.

West Maui Mountains, image by Wendy Osher.

The North Beach West Maui Benefit Fund worked for four years to obtain and digitize the court files and to make them available online.

In 1903, the Territory of Hawaiʻi adopted the “Torrens” system of land registration where claimants of land could petition the Land Court, in Honolulu, to confirm their title and be issued a certificate of title.

Benefit Fund spokesperson, Attorney Lance D. Collins says the territory (and now state) guarantees the validity of any certificate of title issued. Applications to register land generally included information about the land itself and many times history about the families that lived on the land.

Families doing research today on family or land history are required to fly to Honolulu during the work week to look at these historic court files on microfilm at the courthouse in Honolulu. Copies cost at the courthouse are $1/page. Some applications are a few hundred pages while others are thousands of pages.

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In 2012, Dr. Sydney Iaukea, during her research of the book Kekaʻa: The Making and Saving of North Beach West Maui, wrote to the Benefit Fund explaining the difficulty she had with accessing the materials and concern about how much more difficult it would be for working families on Maui to go to Honolulu to do research on family land and asked the Benefit Fund to look into making access easier for Maui families.

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The Benefit Fund has spent several years obtaining the permission necessary from the Judiciary to get these historic applications available online.

Collins stated, “The Benefit Fund extends its deep gratitude to the Chief Staff Attorney of the Supreme Court and the Registrar of the Land Court for their assistance in making this project a reality.”

While the Judiciary has long term plans of putting all of its historic applications online, due to significant budgetary constraints, it is presently unable to do so. It is hoped that the archive can be used as a model for others, like the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, to digitize and archive online more historic applications for other regions.

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The lands were originally identified by tax map key number and the applications identified for inclusion inadvertently included land registered on Lānaʻi – which is part of the West Maui tax map key zone. The Benefit Fund decided to include the Lānaʻi applications in the archive in an effort to make these historical applications as available as possible to families and the public.

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