Royal Patents

Land Commission Awards (1847-2000 and beyond)
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About the Royal Patents

(1846-1922 and beyond)

Land Commission Awards (1847-2000 and beyond)

We would like to thank Michael Peloso for having researched, correlated and compiled the Tax Map Key information for the Royal Patents database. Any errors are the responsibility of Waihona Aina Corporation alone.

Waihona `Aina Corp. has film copies of the Royal Patents. They are being transcribed to enter in an in-progress database. A document not yet transcribed can usually be completed within 24 hours if we receive a call, e-mail or fax requesting it. To access the database with a known number, please use 4 digits. i.e. 0001.

Royal Patents (RPs) are still being issued upon Land Commission Awards (LCAs). LCAs are legally the most important document in any legal process, but RPs validate the final process of the Land Commission (LC) claim records of 1848-1853. The Royal Patents legally prove that the land claimant has either paid the commutation fee for the Award, or the Privy Council or subsequent legislation has waived the fee, and, most importantly, that the Government has relinquished its interest in the property.

The earliest RPs are to the LCA claimant or his/her heir(s) or assigns and describe the original (LCA) claim number, the ahupua`a, `ili or place, the present owner; and, with only a few exceptions, there is usually a survey. While there is often a map of the parcel(s) of land as part of the record, maps were also made at later dates, not part of the record, but can be found in the Archives or Bureau of Conveyances.

Some LC claim documents actually precede 1848 as the first 4 RPs were issued in 1847. When an LC Award was made to an ali’i, who received the original award without survey and as Freehold less than allodial title, then the present owner of the land is considered the Assign of the original claimant (who may have died many years or even a century or more earlier).
Other RPs to the original awardee were in Fee Simple (outright ownership) and these patents do not show present ownership at the time the patent was issued. The RP designation ceased with the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom on December 29, 1892. The last official Royal Patent is No. 7992, signed by Lili‘uokalani and G.N. Wilcox (Minister of Interior). The documents thereafter are designated as Land Patents. However, the word Royal is, in fact, crossed out only starting with Patent No. 8004. Following Statehood in 1959 the Land Patents have an S before the number and start with No. 8540. The most recent Land Patents (of RP series) is dated in the year 2000. Other patents still pending at DLNR are not available. Other LC awards owners have never proceeded with patenting.

Where to find more information.

The Waihona `Aina Corp. Royal Patent database provides a transcription, source information and survey diagram, if one exists in the document. This corporation can not provide certified copies of documents. Certified copies of the Royal and Land Patents (Royal Patent Series) are only available at the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Reference Room 123 at the Kalanimoku Building , 1151 Punchbowl St., in Honolulu. With a touch of the computer mouse you have available the critical information about these pieces of land and their source to give DLNR. You learn the names of persons, neighbors, and names of places, some of which are otherwise forgotten.

Most LC Awards for whole ahupua`a, which often appear in the Boundary Commission reports (see BC database) with native testimony, may or may not have boundaries established in the BC reports. They will be found in the RPs with surveys but without native testimony.

Historical Background

Much historical background is found in these patents, i.e., while sugar interests ruled Hawai`i, most land patents to sugar companies paid no commutation fee. These were often waived, as were those on Nov. 27th 1927 when 47 patents were issued in one day; 46 of thse were to sugar companies with only a few paying any commutation fee. Churches and schools, also, were not required to pay.

There are a number of isolated patents in the early RP series which state no patent issued. Starting in 1875, there are a series of no patents issued. The first series of 178 sequential records in Volume 22 are not issued. It appears to this editor that these non issues may be equivalent to a large number of records added at the end of Volume 22, and which appear throughout Volume 25 records. A number of records appear to have the original number crossed out and a new number added. (Search Helu <strike> in the text search box.) It may appear to others, as well as this editor, that this practice appears strange, making one consider that records might have been deleted for alteration. If the practice was intended to be duplicitous it should be further investigated. If not duplicitous, an explanation would be useful.

Riley Moffet & Gary Fitzpatrick, in their book Surveying the Mahele (1995) note that there was sometimes a problem with the survey work: there were many ways in which a surveyor of the Mahele era could have produced faulty work. Legally, even an erroneous survey has legal standing if the original property boundaries can still be clearly identified. A surveyor’s mathematical mistakes or errors of observation do not take precedence over the common understanding of property boundaries. (p. 39). Moffet & Fitzpatrick go on to say that the problems arose when no one any longer knew where the common boundaries were. Waihona 'Aina Corp. notes that in these cases, more modern surveys often appear in the records, replacing older ones.

Land Patent 8563 is the last number provided in the State Archive’s Index to Royal Patents. Waihona `Aina Corp. has documentation of records up through No. 8665. DLNR does not make available any numbers which have not been executed (or perfected). Recently, the form of documents has been altered, showing the Patentor to be the State of Hawaii, then giving the Patentee’s name, but one must go through various pages or to the Exhibits to find the place, the survey, and a copy of the original Award.

The transcription records variations in language use among islands (i.e., Big Island often has "ke" with aina while the other islands use "ka" aina. Island variations in language use was already being homogenized with just such series of documents as the Mahele ones, Land Grants and Royal Patents. Sometimes, language variations, such as "ka koele" may be an error on the part of the scribe who recorded the patent. Waihona Aina transcribes  documents as faithfully as possible.

Please note: Where there are duplicates of the Royal Patents, the user of this website should check the other document[s] as there are occasionally differences in wording and survey data.

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