Kiribati (Gilbert Islands)

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Background Information

The population in 1995 was about 80,000. The way you pronounce it is “Kiribas.”
The island groups consist of these coral atolls: 

16 Gilbert Islands, the 8 Phoenix Islands, 11 Line Islands (including Kirisimati, or Christmas Island, which is the largest coral atoll), and the volcanic island Banaba
or Ocean Island.

Gilbert Islands

The Gilbert Islands lie south of the Marshall Islands and north of Tuvalu. Tarawa is the most
populous island. The climate is equatorial. There are no rivers, but most islands enclose a lagoon.
The islands are:
Abaiang, Abemama, Aranuka, Arorae, Beru, Butarituari, Kuria, Little Makin, Maiana, Marakei, Nikunau, Nonouti, Onotoa, Tabiteuea, Tamana, and Tarawa are geographically connected.
Banaba, a mined-out phosphate rock island, is nearby and is included politically in the chain.

Line Islands, formerly the American Islands,
They are a group of islands in the central Pacific Ocean, south of Hawaii, between the equator and 6N, and about 160W. They belong to the Republic of Kiribati. Kiritimati, Tabuaeran, Palmyra Atoll, and their attendant islets belong to the USA. They are so named because they were frequented for their guano by traders from the United States. Guano and mother-of-pearl shells are the principal articles of export.
Christmas Island (Kiritimati) is probably the largest atoll in the Pacific (it is about 90 miles in circuit).

Currently there are about 5,300 people on Kiritimati, 1,800 on Tabuaeran, and 2,000 on Teraina (formerly Washington Island) for a total of 9,100 on the Kiribatese portion.
Malden, Starbuck Island, Flint Island, Vostok Island and Caroline Island, which form the Southern Line Islands, are all uninhabited.
The American Islands in this group, Jarvis Island, Palmyra Atoll, and Kingman Reef are all usually uninhabited.

The Line Islands form the time zone with the latest time in the world, UTC + 14. with the same time of the day as Hawaii, but one day ahead, and even 25 hours ahead of some other islands in Oceania.

Phoenix Islands

The chain includes Kanton (or Abariringa), Enderbury Island, Rawaki (formerly Phoenix), Manra (formerly Sydney), Birnie, McKean, Nikumaroro (formerly Gardner) and Orona (formerly Hull). Previously uninhabited, Orona, Manra,and Nikumaroro islands were colonized with people from the overcrowded Gilbert Islands between 1938 and 1940. By 1963, the three settlements had failed and the entire population was moved to the Solomon Islands. These three islands now have virtually no permanent population.

Historical background

1300 Samoans, Fijians and Tongans merged with the older population.
1777 Discovered by British Captain Cook.
1800s Whalers arrived in northern islands
1837 British settlers arrived
1850s Protestant missionaries arrived
1857 Hiram Bingam, a Protestant minister on Abiang, devised a written form of the language
1886 British, German, and Americans traded with the islands. Some islanders were kidnapped and taken to Fiji, Samoa,

        Tahiti, Hawaii, and Central America as slaves.
1888: The islands were annexed by Great Britain with a view to laying the Pacific cable with Tabuaeran (then Fanning Island) as a relay station. That cable functioned between 1902 and 1963 except for a short period in 1914 when German naval forces landed at Fanning to cut the cable.
1892 The Gilbert and Ellice Islands became a British protectorate. Headquarters were in Tarawa.
1880s The Phoenix Islands were annexed by Britain
1900 Banaba was annexed by Britain, and mining of phosphates began until the total island’s soil was removed. The total population of the islands dwindled to about 300.
1915 Gilbert and Ellice Islands became a British Crown Colony.
1919 Kiritimati (Christmas) Atoll became a part of the colony.
1935 The U.S.A. took over Howland and Baker islands
1937 The Phoenix Islands became a part of the British colony.
1938 The United States claimed sovereignty over Kanton and Enderbury,
1939 The USA and Britain agreed to exercise joint control over the 2 islands for 50 years.
1941 Tarawa and others were occupied by Japan. All but one man in Banaba were massacred.
1943 U.S. forces reclaimed the islands. Inhabitants of Banaba were moved to Rabi Island, Fiji because of land loss.
1975 The Ellice Islands separated and became Tuvalu.
1976 The LDS Church Education system started a program in Kiribati.
1979 Kiribati became an independent Republic that remains part of the British commonwealth.
1984 LDS Church Membership was 500.

Resources available
On the Internet, go to Choose the Library tab and then Family History Library Catalog. We can type in Kiribati to get records that are made on an Island Group-wide basis and print the items we are interested in. We then type in the name of the island where our ancestors were from to see if any records were made on that level.

We can also use a film/fiche number search and see if any of these films have information that will help us: 928558 item 7, 795720 item 8, 928558 item 8,795720 item 9,928558 item 9.

Civil registration (birth, marriage and death records) began in 1898.
Land records and land court records are microfilmed from 1948-1991.
Some genealogies go back 16 generations.