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Samoa Vital Records
Islands of Poo
In the traditional setting, the custodians of knowledge were normally of tulafale or orator status. The Samoan term for someone who was selected to be a recipient of knowledge was often referred to as o e nainai, he or they who are specially selected for the transfer of knowledge.
The knowledge of tulafale is sacred as is the poo of transfers of this knowledge to the nainai. Generally speaking, tulafalewere all schooled in genealogical history and in the meanings of mythology, rituals, chants, songs, dances and so on. Senior tulafale are known as tuua. When tuua transfer their knowledge to a nainai the transfer is considered to have depth.
Because Samoa was mostly at war during the whole of the 18th century, the practice of retaining and authenticating Samoan indigenous knowledges was hampered. Consequently it is difficult now to assess what is legitimate Samoan indigenous knowledge or what had been fabricated as a consequence of political partisanship. The mythology of certain political factions became sacrosanct because it had become the core of family and church history.
The passing on of knowledge, especially tapu knowledge, between one generation and the next is usually done within the confines of the family. This practice is tapu because such knowledges are under the special guardianship of a god – Atua or aitu, or spirit. The tapu knowledge includes genealogical, house-building and fishing knowledges and the transfer of these knowledges to outsiders would incur the wrath of the protecting Atua or aitu.
Increasingly, authentication of history today depends on the Samoan Lands and Titles Court and the way in which they arrive at their decisions. Any flaw in the Court’s decision-making process influences the authentication of their findings.
In 2006 the Samoan Department of Courts severely restricted access to the Lands and Titles Court records because records were being tampered with and because families were unhappy with their records being available to the public. This restriction, however, disadvantages many who do not have access to the same records held outside of Samoa or who were not able to access these records before the change in policy.
The availability of modern archival technology can go some way to curbing further loss of written records. However, little can be done about the loss that arises because custodians are not sharing their knowledge before they pass away.
The rigid adherence to tapu on sharing knowledge requires reappraisal. The reality of some litigants today is that they lose their rightful inheritances not because the substance of their case is wrong but because their rendering of events does not tally with archival records, many of which have not been openly available for public and scholarly scrutiny.
The way that the Lands and Titles Court arrive at their decisions is as much a part of defining history as it is a part of processing claims. Flaws in the process of recording and analysing cases produce flaws in future understandings of Samoan indigenous knowledges and history.
American (Amerika) Samoa is a group of six Polynesian islands in the South Pacific. Fourteen degrees below the equator, it is the United States' southern-most territory. It is known as the heart of Polynesia. If you drew a triangle from Hawaii, New Zealand and Tahiti you would find Samoa in the middle. Western Samoa is a neighboring independent country that shares the same culture. American Samoa became an unorganized U.S. territory in 1900.
The Samoas arguably represent the largest population of Polynesian people and they take pride in a strong culture that has survived outside incursions amazingly well.
For more information about vital records in America Samoa see the American Samoa Vital Records page.
Family History Library Sources
The Family History library has the following resources:
- Births Within the District of the British Consulate at Samoa, 1852- 1915.' Original records at Government Office, Apia, Western Samoa (FHL International film 1130493 Item 3).
- Births Registeried by the British Consulate at Samoa, 1869-1915.' Original records at Government Office, Apia, Western Samoa (FHL International film 1129798 Item 1).
- Deaths Within the District of the British Consulate at Samoa, 1875-1913. Original records at Government Office, Apia, Western Samoa (FHL International film 1130492 Item 2).
- Register of Deaths, 1895-1899; Births 1889-1900. manuscript (FHL International film 847935).
- Register of British subjects residing in the Samoan Islands, 1878-1915. Registrar General's Office, Apia, Western Samoa (FHL International films 1130492 Item 1 and 1130493 Items 4 and 5).
- Birth Registers for Upolu, Western Samoa, 1905-1992. Original records at Government Office, Apia, Western Samoa (FHL International films 1130698 Item 2, 1130492 Item 8, 1130493 Item 1, 1130692 - 1130696 Item 2, 1130697 - 1130698 Item 1, International Vault films 1886248 - 1186254, International film 1886285, International Vault films 1886290 Items 1-6, International films 1130492 Item 7, 1130696 Item 1, 1129808 - 1129813, 1129949 - 1129963, International Vault films 1129964 - 1130000, 1130001 - 1130010, 1210537 - 1210538, 1130713 Items 5-6, 1130714 - 1130716 Items 1-4, and 1650453 - 1650461 Items 1-6).
- Birth Registers for Savi'i, Western Samoa, 1923-1993. Original records at Government Office, Apia, Western Samoa (FHL International films 1130699 Item 1, 1886260 Items 1-9, 1130699 Item 2, 1130700, 1886260 Items 10-12, 1886269 Items 4-8, 1088704, 1886269 Items 1-3, 1886262, 1886269 Items 9-16, 1130011 - 1130013, International Vault Films 1130014 - 1130015, International films 1130016 - 1130028, International Vault films 1130029 - 1130032, International films 1130033 - 1130034, International Vault films 1130035 - 1130039, 1130710 - 1130713 Items 1-4, 165041 Items 7-13, 1650462 - 1650467 Items 1-7, and International film 1886314).
- Birth Registers, 1876-1920. Registration from 1876-1900 by German consul; Registration of births during the German occupation, 1876-1917; during the British military occupation, 1917-1920 (FHL International films 1129797 and 1130493 Items 6-8).
- Death Registers, 1923-1966. Registrar General's Office, Apia, Western Samoa (FHL International films 1886306 Items 2-7, 1886306 Items 20-27, 1130709 Item 2, 1130485 Items 2-6, 1130486 - 1130490, 1886309 Items 11-14, 1886310 - 1886311 items 1-5, and 1886304 Items 10 and 14).
- Vital Records, ca. 1917-1920. Government Office, Apia, Western Samoa (FHL International 1130492 Item 3).
- Register of Births Within the British Military Occupied Territory of Samoa, 1917-1920. Government Office, Apia, Western Samoa (FHL International film 1129798 Item 2).
- Births Within the British Military Occupied Territory of Samoa, v. 1-8, 1917-1961. Government Office, Apia, Western Samoa (FHL International film 1130491).
- Delayed registration of births, 1948-1993. Bureau of Vital Statistics, Apia (FHL International films 1886306 Items 2-7, 1886306 Items 20-27, 1130709 Item 2, 1130485 Items 2-6, 1130486 - 1130490, 1886309 Items 11-14, 1886310 - 1886311 items 1-5, 1886304 Items 10 and 14).
- European Birth Registers, v. 1-55, 1920-1962. Government Office, Apia, Western Samoa (FHL International films 1130493 Item 2, 112978 Item 3, and 1129799 - 1129807).
To locate additional resources in the Family History Library Catalog, do a Place search under:
- SAMOA - CIVIL REGISTRATION
- SAMOA - VITAL RECORDS