Law on naming, 1863.

Pertaining to Names.

Because we come across all sorts of names, and because we believe that the Law passed on the 24th of August, 1860; that being the Law called, “An Act to regulate names” [“He Kanawai e hooponopono ana i na inoa”] has not been followed, therefore, we wanted to discuss this Important matter with our friends. So that our friends do not fail to recognize this, we print the aforementioned Law, and here it is:


Be it enacted, By the King, the Nobles and Representatives of the Hawaiian Islands, in Legislative Council assembled:

Section 1. All married women now living, and all that may be married hereafter on these Islands, shall, from and after the passage of this Act, adopt the names o f their husbands as a family  name.

Section 2. All children born in wedlock after the passage of this Act shall have their father’s name as a family name. They shall, besides, have a Christian name suitable to their sex.

Section 3. All illegitimate children born after the passage of this Act shall have their mother’s name as a family name. They shall, besides, have a Christian name suitable to their sex.

Section 4. All children up to the age of twenty years shall adopt the names of their fathers as a family name.

Section 5. All names so adopted shall be reported to the agents appointed to take the census of the people during the present year.

Section 6. It shall not be lawful to change any name adopted or conferred under the law. It shall also not be lawful to change any name adopted or conferred before the operation of this.

Section 7. The father or mother of any child born subsequently to the passage of this Act, shall report the name or names of such child to the Registrar of births for the district in which such child was born, within three months after the birth of such child.

Section 8. This law shall take effect from and after the date of its passage.

Approved this 24th of August, A. D. 1860.


As we stated above, because we encounter all sorts of names, that is the reason for our insisting on speaking a bit on this matter. Some of our friends may think that a name isn’t anything, but if this truly indeed is that thought of some of you, then we say to you that you are greatly mistaken, because names are important; it is more precious than anything else; according to an intelligent man of England, that being William Shakespeare, “Who steals my purse steals trash. But he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed.” Therefore, we can indeed see that to relinquish control of ones family name is something great and it is something precious. Because our law makers recognized  the importance of this, that is the reason they established the Law to recognize family names; and this is a good guide which will steer us to care for our family names. It is only through this that we can track descendants and progeny of the different families of Hawaii nei.

If Kekauanui is the father’s name of a certain child, then the child must be named a separate Christian name; but his family name is Kekauanui. If the child is named Job [Ioba], the proper name is Ioba Kekauanui; when Ioba Kekuanui’s child is born, he will be given a Christian name like John [Ioane], and his name will be “Ioane Kekauanui.” And if all the families of Hawaii nei follow in this manner, then their names will forever follow from one generation to the next like those of haole families.

Haole people can live here in Hawaii, and their friends living in their homeland can write letters to them directly, and have them arrive straight away; the letters do not travel about nor face any misfortune in its delivery, and the person to whom it was written receives it. Why in the world do those letters sent from afar go straight away? Because the location the person lives to whom belongs the letters is known by way of his family name. But if was inconsistent like our names, then it is known that the letters sent for us go astray. Why is this? Because our family names are not known. If we write a letter to “Keawe,” in the town of Koloa, Kauai, and there are many “Keawes” living there, how will it be known that this “Keawe” is the “Keawe” for whom is the letter? It will be not clear at all; only by guessing can you nearly come upon the addressee. Unclear too are the names of the haole if the people’s family names are not known. There are many haole who are called by just a Christian name like “John,” or “Charley,” or “William,” or “James,” or “Samuel,” and so forth; and if they do not keep or establish their family name, then they are mixed up just like how we are. For there are thousands of “Charleys,” “Johns,” “Williams,” “Jamess,” and “Samuels,” in one of the large nations, and other places of this world; and if they have no family name, then those called by those names mentioned above would not be known—if a father does not know where his own child lives (if he is living somewhere apart), and his name is simply “Charles,” and he has no family name as well. These are good reasons that urge us to grab on at once to our family names, and to establish them, in the archives of our hearts. This will make clear to all people in every family the name of their kupuna, and the land where their parents come from; and if a famous deed is done by the kupuna who establishes a family, then their descendants will be blessed because of what their kupuna accomplished, something that fulfilled the needs of the multitudes. In this way each will receive their proper reward for the good deed done by their kupuna; and in the same way as well will the proper punishment be dealt to those who do evil in this way.

Let us look at Napoleon, the Great Emperor of France, on to him fell many blessings, that is becoming King for the Glorious Nation of France. How did he reach that proud station? That is by him constantly thinking of the good and famous deeds done by his uncle, Napoleon the first. If he did not keep his family name, then the successor and offspring of this brave and famous son of Corsica, the one who shook (during his lifetime) the peace of the great nations of Europe, would not be known. It is not just this that proves the benefits of preserving one’s family name; but there are countless things that advocate for the caring for one’s family name: And the action that is imperative to every descendant of every family is the cherishing of the names of their parents lest it fall upon something that will besmirch it and blacken the good name which our kupuna left into our hands, their descendants.

This is also something necessary for you friends of the eight seas and four winds to do; that is the recognition of naming children proper Christian names; it is not good to call them by worthless names, and dirty ones as well. We all know that there are many people who are named embarrassing names, like: Moekolohe, Aihue, Lehelehenui and the other dirty names that some of our children are called; perhaps that all came about when we were unenlightened, because we did not know of the evils of said thing; but this is a time of enlightenment, and we should throw aside the vile things of the past and latch on to the good things of this new era. But it is a fact that we are not the only ones who gave worthless names, and dirty names, for the haole of the enlightened nations did so as well when they were living in ignorance. In Britain in the olden days, their names were roundabout and worthless; below is one of the names that a person in the old days there was called so that we can see how roundabout the names of the people of England was, in ignorant times; here are some of those names:

Evan ap Griffith ap David ap Jenken. And here is another, a name for the person for whom the church of Llangollen in Wales is dedicated to; the church is dedicated to St. Collen ap Gwynnawg ap Clydawg ap Cowrda ap Caradog Freichfras ap Lleyr Merim ap Emion Yrth ap Cunedda Wledig. This is a terribly long name, but that is how it was during the times of ignorance, but when the light of knowledge spread upon that land, those stupid names soon disappeared; so too with us; we use dirty and filthy names for our children; it is as if this is a remnant of our ignorance, and when the radiant dawn of enlightenment spreads amongst us, then those stupid actions of ours will flee. But O Friends! We believe strongly that the time has come for us to throw away our ignorant deeds and to grab on to the enlightenment that is shining amongst us; and to put an end to the calling of dirty and filthy names for our children, and to cherish our family names so that the intent of the Law shown earlier will be realized; and so that we establish the name of our kupuna, and our parents upon an unforgettable archive.

[The thing that makes law interesting for me is more so than the text of the law itself, but it is what kinds of comments there are while a law is being argued in the legislature. And even more interesting is once a law is passed, how the people react to it. That kind of information can be found in the newspapers!]

(Kuokoa, 6/13/1863, p. 2)

*The English version is as it appeared in the Polynesian, 9/1/1860, p. 1.


Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, Buke II, Helu 24, Aoao 2. Iune 13, 1863.




4 thoughts on “Law on naming, 1863.

  1. This is how I can say my ancestor is Ioane ʻīʻī, because he followed this law – and used two names even before this law was in effect, in fact.

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