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Pacific Island Guide > Vanuatu
Vanuatu (New Hebrides) Island group republic that helps to separate the Coral Sea from the South Pacific Ocean. Vanuatu is east of the northern part of Australia, west of Fiji, and northeast of New Caledonia.
Multiple waves of colonizers, each speaking a distinct language, migrated to the New Hebrides in the millennia preceding European exploration in the 18th century. This settlement pattern accounts for the complex linguistic diversity found on the archipelago to this day. The British and French, who settled the New Hebrides in the 19th century, agreed in 1906 to an Anglo-French Condominium, which administered the islands until independence in 1980, when the new name of Vanuatu was adopted.
This archipelago is made up of over 80 islands where over 113 languages are spoken, including English and French. Bislama, a Pidgin English, is also spoken there. The ni-Vanuatu follow traditional custom, or “kastom,” which has been passed on for generations. It is an ongoing cycle of ritual from birth, to initiation, to marriage, to death. The population is about 190,000. 94 percent are ni-Vanuatu, of Melanesian descent. The rest are European, Vietnamese, Chinese, and other Pacific islanders. The population’s religious groups include Anglican, Catholic, and Presbyterian.
B.C. The first settlers arrive from New Guinea and the Solomon Islands by canoe.
1200 It is part of the kingdom of Tonga.
1606 It is visited by the Spanish explorer Pedro Fernandez de Queiro who named them “Espiritu Santo.”
1768 The Frenchman, Alexandre de Bougainville, put ashore on Aoba, Pentecost, and Maewo and named them the “Cyclades” and named the strait between the islands after himself.
1774 Vanuatu is explored by Captain James Cook, who renames them New Hebrides after the islands off Scotland.
1800 English missionaries begin arriving. The population is about one million. Foreigners begin stripping the islands of sandalwood and introducing diseases.
1860 Natives are kidnapped to work on sugar and cotton plantations in Queensland, Australia and Fiji.
1875 French Tanners, who are Catholic settlers, petition France to annex the islands.
1876 English Presbyterian missionaries petition England to annex the islands.
1887 The islands were placed under an English and French Naval commission. Records are kept in both French and English.
1901 Australia introduces the Pacific Islands Labour Bill, ending the kidnapping (blackbirding) of islanders.
1906 A condominium government run by England and France is established.
1935 Due to diseases and kidnaping, the native population has fallen to 45,000.
1940 Allied forces use the island as a base. Roads are built, and wages are good for the natives.
1960 European settlers claim over 30 percent of the land.
1974 Mormon missionaries begin proselyting there.
1978 The condominium government ceases.
1980 The islands become independent as Vanuatu. Most French nationals leave and the land is reverted entirely to the indigenous ni-Vanuatu.
1991 A coalition led by Prime Minister Maxime Carlot governs Vanuatu.
- In Vanuatu, records are difficult to figure out because of the condominium government.
- Until the 1970's, France and Great Britain were joint colonizers of the island. Records are in both languages. Jurisdiction of records is mixed between religious and government entities.
- Resources available are similar to French Polynesia in record keeping practices, which means that you must get someone who knows French, English, and your native language to help us to find and use the records.
The Family History Library Catalog lists under Vanuatu—Church Records, the minute books, 1857 - 1938 of the New Hebrides Presbyterian Mission Synod (Vanuatu) as VAULT INTL Film 1368977.
Also, South Sea Evangelical Mission, formerly Queensland Kanaka Mission, archives microfilm numbers FHL BRITISH Library Attendant’s Window 2203013, 2203014, 2203015, 2203016, and 2203017.
Also, Birth Records for Tongariki Island, Vanuatu, 1927 - 1987. VAULT INTL Film 2224140 item 5.
- Portal: Vanuatu in FamilySearch Research Wiki
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