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Historic West Maui Land Court applications now available online to the public

By Staff | Oct 6, 2016

LAHAINA – Historic West Maui Land Court applications are now available online to families and historians at the West Maui Land Court Archive (www.westmauilandcourtarchive.org).

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 Hawaii 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.

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 $1 per page at the courthouse. Some applications are a few hundred pages while others are thousands of pages.

In 2012, Dr. Sydney Iaukea, during her research of the book “Keka’a: 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.

Dr. Iaukea asked the benefit fund to look into making access easier for Maui families.

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

North Beach West Maui Benefit Fund spokesperson Lance D. 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 to put 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.

The lands were originally identified by tax map key number, and the applications identified for inclusion inadvertently included land registered on Lanai, which is part of the West Maui tax map key zone.

The benefit fund decided to include the Lanai applications in the archive in an effort to make these historical applications as available as possible to families and the public.