Fiji Land and Property
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The Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) was established in Fiji in 1940 for the purpose of securing, protecting and managing land ownership rights assigned to local indigenous ownership and to facilitate the commercial transactions that revolve around its use. Native land, managed by the NLTB, comprises 87% of the land in Fiji and was permanently deeded by the British Crown in the 1880's. To put it simply, this land cannot be sold. It will forever remain as property of the landowning unit unless sold back to the State and then solely for public purpose. Native land is available for public use by lease agreement. Leases can vary from 30 years for agricultural purposes up to 99 years for most other uses (commercial, residential, etc).
The Family History Library has land and property records for Fiji in its collection, from 1879 to 1992.
Determine the time and place your family might have owned property.
Research should begin at the smallest jurisdictional level - usually this is the county . These records are found in the local town or county office, or many times on microfilm at state archives or the Family History Library.
What’s the Next Step?
- Begin with indexes. Check both the grantor/direct (seller) and grantee/indirect (buyer) indexes for all possible entries for the ancestor of interest. Copy the references.
- Look up each land transaction reference in the appropriate books, or volumes, and page numbers.
- Notice the details of the transaction: dates, names, relationships, and property description.
- Make a reliable copy (handwritten, photocopy, or digital) of the full entry.
- Evaluate the results.
Finding Your Ancestor in the Record
If your ancestor is male, follow the steps outlined in “What’s the Next Step?”
Finding a female ancestor in land records can be more challenging because of property laws in earlier time periods. It is more likely to find your female ancestor in records of her husband’s property being sold. The wife often was examined separately because of laws pertaining to her “dower right.” (This term is NOT an indication that she brought land into the marriage, but rather it is related to her right to use of land following her husband’s death.) Therefore, look for her husband’s name in the grantor/direct (seller) index, then search in the related entry.
Land indexes only list the names of the grantor/direct (seller) and grantee/indirect (buyer). Therefore, search the indexes for names of other relatives and neighbors to assist you in finding a land record in which your ancestor might be named.
- Recognize that it may take time to navigate the complexities.
- Land records exist in cases in which other record types didn’t. This is because the line of ownership has to be proven.
- Names of neighboring property owners and witnesses might provide clues to other relatives.
- The transaction might have been recorded at a much later date. This is especially true if the land remained in the family. Selling to a non-family member may have prompted the recording of the title decades after the initial owner died.
- Remember that land may be in a different jurisdictions (aka counties) in different years as county boundaries changed and new counties were formed.
- Plat each transaction. This may reveal additional acquisitions or divisions between transactions and identify mixed jurisdictions. It may also allow you to analyze what is happening to neighboring properties.
Research use: Establish residence and relationships.
Record type: Land claims, native land records, land court grants, native lease land, tax allotments, and others with significant genealogical content.
General: Civil documentation of land ownership and transfer.
Time period: 1890-present
Contents: Names, dates, residences, relationships, proof of ownership, and property descriptions.
Location: Land offices, courts, commissions, and other governmental administrations.
Percentage in Family History Library: 25% (Fiji Native Land Commission records filmed in 1981-1982).
Population coverage: 30% of the population.
- Land Records Search has many county and some state indexes to land records online.
- General Land Office - Patent Search are searchable online and most have free images of patents to download. The minimum information needed for a search is the state where the land is located and the name of the person receiving the patent. Surveys and Land Status Records can also be searched here.
- General Land Office - Track Book Search are searchable online. They contain the name and legal land description on all applications for land from the federal government. Even if that application did not result in a patent. This is a manual search, so a general idea of where the land is located is needed. Otherwise there is too much to search.
- The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Melanesia,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1987-2000.