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.
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.
Use the Indexes to find a name/s. Volumes 8-10 (1856-1876) are indexed in Volume 1 and 2. Volumes 11-12 (1876-1915) contain their own Indexes.
Note the register and folio numbers given in the Index. The register number is actually the Deed number. For example, ‘Talauega to Powell, Register No.350 Folio 302’ refers to Deed No.350, and will be in Volume 9.
If the Index says ‘Land Register’ then the Deed is recorded in the WPHC Land Register and not the BSC6 Volumes.
This WPHC Land Register Index (XLS 26KB) notes the register number, date, sellers and buyers, the name of the land, where the land is situated, and general remarks.
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). A basic index to the files can be found at the back of the Sāmoa paper finding aid. 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 Archives New Zealand. Most of these have been digitised and can be viewed online. The rest are held in Sāmoa.
Series 6070: Registers of Land Files 1903-1921
This Series consists of two Registers documenting the cases heard by the Commission. Arranged by LK case number, they name the claimants, the defendants, the title and/or land under dispute, and remarks on any decisions made. Item 871 (313 pages) is in Sāmoan and covers 610 cases (1903-1921). Item 872 (71 pages) is mainly in German and covers 289 cases (1903-c.1912), as well as some additional correspondence. The Sāmoan Register often contains additional information not recorded in the German Register, and vice versa.
Series 6071 Register of Decisions 1903-1911
This is a single Register of Decisions (Item 870, 112 pages) from the Commission. Written in German, the cases are given a running decision number and cross-referenced with LK case numbers, and names the claimants, the defendants, the title and/or land under dispute, dates, and remarks on any decisions made. It can contain extra information to that found in Series 6070.
Series 6080 Papers Relating to Land 1901-1913
This is a folder of papers and correspondence relating to land and title matters, and later, about land and title cases heard by the Land and Titles Commission (Item 852, 152 pages). The file is mostly written in Sāmoan with some English translations, and some German. Pages 0001-0002 are an index of some of the items contained in the folder and relate to the numbers in blue pencil that were recorded on the spine of each case. However, many of the cases are now out of order. From Page 0117 the papers are organised by LK number, the number given to each case heard by the Land and Titles Commission. The cases in this folder include: LK 203, 217, 234, 245, 246, 254, 255, 267, 268, 272, 274, 278, 281, 283, 284, 285, and 291. Page 0138 contains a family tree (‘aiga).
This series contains ‘general’ files relating to the running of the Land and Titles Commission, as well as ‘miscellaneous’ files. The miscellaneous files contain correspondence relating to cases heard by the Land and Titles Commission and other land and title matters. Most of the correspondence is written in Sāmoan, and dates from 1903-1912. Items 865, 866, and 867 (Parts I – III) contain an index at the beginning of each folder, noting the names and village of the parties. Researchers can use the index to find the pages of the file they need. Because the originals are very fragile there are microfilm copies available.
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 cases are a mix of complaints, papers, letters, statements and records, hand-written and typed. They are arranged in small folders with the average folder being about 10-15 pages. From 1904 most files have a paper slip attached to the left-hand margin that names the parties involved. 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.
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 the Sāmoa paper finding aid in the reading rooms.
Last modified on 12 May 2020