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We hold some historical records relating to the sale and purchase of land in Sāmoa, as well as records of title disputes. However, most of the Land and Titles Court records are held by the Land and Titles Court in Sāmoa, and not with us. What we hold is patchy and spread across the records of the various administrations that governed Sāmoa - the main collection coming from the German Colonial Administration. The originals are held in Wellington. Most have been microfilmed, and some have been digitised.

Auckland hold most of the microfilm versions. However, the Wellington microfilm numbers do not always match up with the microfilm numbers used in Auckland. It is important to be aware that the records are very fragile, and may be written in German, Sāmoan or English. In most instances there are no translations of letters written in German or Sāmoan, making research very difficult.

Timeline of Sāmoan administration

Records from and about Sāmoa have been created by many different administrations. This timeline shows the agency codes that are used to find the records they created on Archway, our online search tool.

Records from and about Sāmoa have been created by many different administrations. This timeline shows the agency codes that are used to find the records they created on Archway, our online search.
Records from and about Sāmoa have been created by many different administrations. This timeline shows the agency codes that are used to find the records they created on Archway, our online search.

This image shows a timeline of Sāmoan administration and the agency codes that are used to find the records they created on Archway, our online search.

The dates, agencies, and codes are as follows:

  • 1847-1916 - British Consul [AEHA]

  • 1857-1918 - Western Pacific High Commission [AEND]

  • 1870-1900 - German Consulate [AGCS]

  • 1877-1985 - Prime Minister's Department Imperial Affairs; External Affairs; Foreign Affairs [Series 950]

  • 1887-1914 - Samoan Government [AEHC]

  • 1889-1932 - British Military Occupation [ACGM]

  • 1894-1938 - Crown Law [ADOI]

  • 1900-1914 - German Administration [AGCA]

  • 1900-1914 - Samoan Self-Government [AAKV]

  • 1901-1975 - Island Territories [ACGA]

  • 1914-1920 - Army Department [AAYS]

  • 1914-1920 - War Archive [WA]

  • 1915-1938 - New Zealand Samoan Administration [AEHB]

British Consul Deeds 1856-1915

Purchasers of land, including traders and missionaries, registered their purchases with the British Consul. These are recorded in Volumes 8-12 of the British Consul Deeds Registers and the WPHC Lands Register. They are copies of the original Deeds and contain the names of the parties and where they were from, the date, location and boundaries, the amount paid, and the names of witnesses.

The Deeds Registers have been digitised and are now online.

German Colonial Administration of Sāmoa Files 1900-1914

Some land files can be found in records of the German Colonial Administration of Sāmoa. The files are mainly in German and are fragile, so most are on microfilm (although some have been digitised). Series 6051 contains some files on purchases of land, registration, estates, cultivations and plantations, and can be found using the term ‘land’ in an advanced search on Archway.

Land and Titles Commission Files 1903-1921

In 1903 the German Colonial Administration of Sāmoa set up a commission to investigate land and titles disputes between Sāmoans. This was known as the Land und Titel Kommission (Land and Titles Commission, known herein as the Commission). The items below are the most important and high-use records of the Commission held by us. Most of these have been digitised and can be viewed online. The rest are held in Sāmoa.

photograph of an open register with handwritten script that is aged and frayed around the edges
Reference: AGCA 6070 Box 107/ 871

High Court Case Files 1914-1920

Series 18976 (Samoa-BMO4) contains German High Court case files that the British Military Occupation took over in 1914. Most of the records are in German, although there are post-1914 records in English.

The most relevant files relating to land appear to be C: Property Disputes (1900-1920), although Arbitration and Inheritance cases also deal with land. The records are not indexed but are organised by year, so knowing the date of the dispute or inheritance is ideal.

Maps

This german map of 'Upolu from 1914 shows the location and owners of land blocks, especially in the Tuamasaga District. It also shows villages, roads and boundary lines.

Although it has less detail, this 1921 map of ‘Upolu shows Native land, European land, Crown land and Crown Estates.

This 1922 map of Savai’i also shows Native land, European land and Crown Estates.

Finding aids

In 1977, Ashby J. Fristoe created a useful finding aid to the records created in Sāmoa. Although much of this information is now listed online, it contains a useful alphabetical index and can be used to locate items in our holdings.

Ashby Fristoe's finding aid is available through the University of Hawaii website (PDF, 7.05 MB)

Other research tips

Try searching the name of the village or district on Archway - village files from Series 18973 have been digitised and can be viewed online. Also try family surnames, although most results will be Immigration files. Use the Index at the back of Ashby Fristoe’s finding aid (PDF, 7.05 MB).

The Alexander Turnbull Library’s Pasifika – Family History Guide has a lot of useful information on Sāmoa, including birth, deaths, marriages, genealogies and other family history sources.

Learn more about how to do research

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