Boundary Commission Records

(1862-1935) on Land Commission Awards and some Government Lands.
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Boundary Commission Records

About the Boundary Commission (BC database)

(1862-1935) on Land Commission Awards and some Government Lands

Waihona `Aina Corp. has film copies of the Boundary Commission (BC) records, as well as hard copy of the nine volumes. This database was completed in 2000 and copyright is pending. The BC documents include 600+ records of Ahupua‘a, ‘Ili (and sometimes portions of ‘Ili) for the Islands of Hawai‘i, Kaua‘i, O‘ahu and Maui. The latter also includes Lana‘i & Moloka‘i. Most of these historical records do not include diacritical marks. To access the database select the name of the area/ahupuaa/ili, awardee name, or district.

The BCId is a Waihona 'Aina number relating to our database.

Boundary Commission Records – Definitions and Dates

The Hawaiian Legislature created the Boundary Commission and the position of Commissioner of Boundaries on August 23, 1862. The task of each Island Boundary Commissioner was to settle the boundaries of the larger lands on that island, particularly ahupua`a, which had been awarded in the Mahele without survey. Their task was not to confer title.

The BC process was a judicial one requiring several steps

-Landowners filed a petition with the Land Commissioner requesting that boundaries be determined for parcels of land awarded to them (or purchased by owners from original awardees in the Land Commission Claims). The boundaries of these land parcels were generally known but no survey of metes and bounds existed at the time of the award. Boundaries for 29 Government lands were also submitted to the BC process. No survey was needed for a land when boundaries of all surrounding lands had already been decided. Its record is considered complete with reference made to the other surveys.
-The Commissioner would publish in both English and Hawaiian newspapers the time and the place for the hearing.
-At the hearing the petition would be read. Witnesses were heard where there were disputes, vague boundaries, boundaries previously known had been destroyed by lava flows, or by some political arrangement. If a survey had been made and map drawn it was deposited with the Commissioner, and if not, they were ordered.

-At a later date, if the boundaries were resolved, the commissioner was paid his fees and a certificate was issued which included the survey notes and map. The books of these hearings and records were then deposited in the Government Surveyor’s Office in Honolulu.

This certificate was then used to get a Royal Patent (RP). Usually, there are few differences between the surveys found in the BC and those in the RP, but there are some differences, and occasionally the survey for the RP was redone.

For each individual land parcel the various steps, noted above, may found in the different volumes of each Judicial Circuit. Waihona 'Aina has made one record of all documents that belong with the same parcel of land, thus saving our clients’ research time. Not all ahupua‘a were submitted to the process and not all records show a resolution of the boundaries. Only “perfected” records were given certificate numbers. Our search will show if the claim is not complete.

Differences among BC Island records

The O‘ahu and Kaua‘i Boundary Record contain petitions, surveyor notes, maps, and testimony of the surveyor. The records for these two islands rarely contain kama‘aina testimony, although kama‘aina, who had accompanied surveyors, were often listed. It is unknown by us today, if kama‘aina testimony was ever recorded for these islands. In any case, it is not part of the record. O‘ahu and Kaua‘i lands tend to go from ridge to ridge and from sea to mountain top. Maui lands tend to go from river to river and sea to mountain with some ahupua‘a having no sea access. Hawai‘i lands tend to be long mauka/makai strips, particularly along the Kona coast and there are lands which are exclusively in the mountains.

The records richest in all kinds of information are those recorded by Hawai`i Island Commissioner, Rufus Lyman. Mr. Lyman kept meticulous records and even added notes to the record from his occasional field trips to the land in question. It appears obvious that Mr. Lyman was interested in knowing all about the land, its names, and other cultural information, as well as specific boundary markers. In fact, he would not allow attorneys or others to stop kama‘aina testimony as “non-relevant” before they had finished speaking of their own accord.

Where it exists, kama‘aina testimony includes names of old villages, graves, wells, springs, caves, plants, planting areas, rocks, peaks, etc. All the land features and ocean features of the ahupua‘a as told to them by parents, relatives, or people of the previous generation, were shared with surveyors.

History of Legislative Acts for the Boundary Commission

-The Act of 1862, the Legislature created the Boundary Commission and only authorized determination of boundaries of ahupuaas, and ilis.
-The Act of 1868, Section 4. The legislature renewed and provided further instructions for "all owners of Ahupuaa and Ilis of land within this Kingdom, whose lands have not been awarded by the Land Commissioners, patented or conveyed by deed from His Majesty, the King, by boundaries decided in such award, patent, or deed are hereby required &c." The Commissioner’s duty was, to facilitate the settlement of boundaries, and to decide the boundaries and certify them.
-The Act of 1874 chapter 5, gave the Commissioners power to settle boundaries of portions of ahupua‘a
-The laws of 1888, Chapter 40 did not mention portions of ahupua`a, therefore people could not settle them until the act was renewed.
-The Act of 1892, renews the original Act of 1862 (compiled Laws page 533, section 2) so the Commissioners can continue to determine the boundaries of Portions of Ahupua‘a and ‘Ili.
-1915, Chapter 31, revised Laws of Hawaii 1915. Section 353, renewed the Commissioner’s duty to continue to accept boundary applications.
-In 1925, Chapter 42 of the Revised Laws of Hawaii, Section 558 specifies that "A boundary commissioner shall in no case alter any boundary described by survey in any patent or deed from the king or government, or in any land commission award.” The right to apply for certification of boundaries is conferred only upon owners of the land, and proof of such ownership is indispensable.

Appeals to the decision of the Boundary Commission could be and were filed. If an appeal were made to the Commissioner’s finding, the case would then be heard in the Supreme Court where the Boundary Commissioner’s decision was accepted or thrown out. For instance, at Waikapu a difficulty arose causing a hearing and production of evidence. The Ukumehame line was contested from the last point of Alexander's survey which started at the land of Olowalu to the sea. Surveyor Alexander’s courses were not reproducible and owners contested and wanted the line definitively given.

Waihona 'Aina formatting practices

Like the Mahele claims, these documents have been formatted so that all abbreviations, and ditto marks, are given as full text, i.e. "Comm." or "Commr" becomes Commissioner, For ease of reading metes and bounds surveys, each new direction begins a new line at the left margin. The originals records often do not use this convention. Some long text sections have also been broken up for easier reading. Words that that are difficult to decipher have a [?] after them. Although less common in the Boundary Commission records than in the Mahele records, some words and names are spelled differently within the same text.

These documents are verbatim transcripts but have yet to be proofed for 100% accuracy but when revisited comparing other records to these, corrections are made where errors are found. Like other early land records, there are errors in these texts. Waihona 'Aina does not claim responsibility for errors in original transcriptions of records, but will endeavor to research, add notes and comments about erroneous information, when these errors are found or brought to our attention, i.e., correct name, RP or LG number have been added in brackets. It does claim responsibility for its own errors, and when they are encountered they are corrected.

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