Hawaiʻi Cemeteries

Old cemetery gravestones can be helpful for gathering information about your ancestors because they contain the individual’s birth and death dates. They may also provide clues to where they were born or if they were a spouse or parent. Parents, spouse and/or children are sometimes buried near each other or in the same cemetery, which can provide more genealogical information.

The written burial records kept by cemetery officials or caretakers, may provide more information, such as the deceased’s full name, date and place of birth and death, age of the deceased at death, place of origin, names of other persons related to the deceased, maiden surname, and sometimes marriage information. They may also provide clues about religion, occupation, place of residence at time of death, or membership in an organization.

There are church-owned cemeteries, which include churchyards located right around the church, and cemeteries run by the church, but not adjacent to the church. There are also national, state, and local cemeteries that are owned by the government and maintained by tax dollars. Privately-owned, non-church cemeteries are also abundant in Hawaiʻi. This type of cemetery is usually operated for profit. There are also small family burial plots on private property.

There are hundreds of cemeteries on the Hawaiian Islands. Many of these cemeteries have been abandoned, making it difficult to find. One of PFHCH’s projects is to locate and photograph these older abandoned cemeteries where your ancestors may have been buried. Information about these old cemeteries are difficult to find, however, we will continue our research and list old cemeteries here as we find them. The following is a list of some of those cemeteries:

Aiea Plantation Cemetery in Aiea, Oʻahu was established around the 1900s and was closed to new burials in 1946 because it ran out of room. The headstone of one of its occupants’ states that Raymond Torres lived to the age of 119. The gravestones reveal people of diverse backgrounds primarily those who worked at the Honolulu Plantation Co., and lived in the Aiea-Hālawa district. Out of the 475 grave sites, almost 200 are unidentified. However, the one of the caretakers estimated that as many as 3,000 people were buried at Aiea Cemetery, since only the graves that had markers or artifacts were counted.

Alae Cemetery on Hawaiʻi Belt Highway was originally 17.8 acres and has 9,200 plots. In 1997, the Hawai‘i County purchased an additional 13.5 acres from Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate.

ʻAmauulu Plantation Camp Cemetery is an 18.5-acre plantation era cemetery near the ʻAmauulu Camp off ʻAmauulu Road in Hilo. Sadly, the cemetery is overgrown with bamboo and monkeypod trees, with few clear signs of the burials.

Catholic Cemetery in Hakalau, Hawaiʻi Island was an informal plantation cemetery. It wasn’t owned or operated by the Roman Catholic Church but was probably associated with the Wailea Church and the Hakalau Filipino Catholic Club. The deceased were interred at the Catholic Cemetery during the early 1900s. Some of the remains were moved to another location by family members.  There are about 250 Portuguese, Filipinos and Puerto Ricans buried there. These were probably plantation workers and members of their families.

‘Ewa Plantation Cemetery in ʻEwa, Oʻahu, is more than eleven acres with 500 grave sites. The cemetery was established as a tribute for the men and women who labored in the ʻEwa fields. There are headstones as early as 1896 and the graveyard has been registered with the State Historical Society. After the sugar plantation and mill closed, the Oʻahu Sugar Company sold the plantation to the City & County of Honolulu in the mid-1990s. An effort has been made to rehabilitate and restore parts of the plantation, however, some areas, such as the cemetery, have been neglected.

King Street Catholic Cemetery (Honolulu Catholic Cemetery) on South King Street and Ward Avenue is maintained by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu and has two separate lots. The Hawaiian Kingdom gave the first lot to the Roman Catholic mission during the 1840’s. The second lot was purchased by several wealthy Catholica and given to the Roman Catholic mission. In 1889, the cemetery consisted of scattered graves and overrunning paths. Many Portuguese immigrants were buried at the King Street Cemetery. The cemetery has almost one thousand identified graves. In November of 1971, 38 remains were removed from the cemetery to make way for the widening of King Street. The remains were re-interred at Diamond Head Memorial Park, Mililani Memorial Park, Hawaiian Memorial Park, Valley of the Temples and Nuʻuanu Memorial Park.

In 1902, the Board of Health sought to close the unsanitary cemeteries in Honolulu. Many of the graves were dug too shallow were unmarked. When digging for a new grave two coffins would be uncovered in one place. The overcrowded cemeteries had poor or no drainage resulting in coffins being entirely submerged in water. Finally, in 1908, after eight to ten years of closure threats, the Board of Health finally ordered the Catholic Waikiki Cemetery, Makiki Government Cemetery, and a part of the King Street Catholic Cemetery to stop adding new burials.

McBryde Sugar Plantation Cemetery at Port Allen’s Glass Beach, in ‘Eleʻele, Kauaʻi is only 3.5 acres. The cemetery is owned by Alexander and Baldwin Inc., the parent company of McBryde Sugar Co. Burials are from 1899.

Oʻahu Cemetery on Nuʻuanu Avenue and Judd Street is Oʻahu’s oldest public graveyard with burials that date back to 1844. The site was constructed during the era of Victorian cemeteries, when customary simple markers were replaced with elaborate headstones filled with symbolism.

Pōhakupuka Congregational Church Graves is located on Māmalahoa Highway in ʻĀhualoa, Hawaiʻi Island. Pōhakupuka Congregational Church is located to the west of Nīnole, between the 20 and 21-mile markers on the Hawaii Belt Highway. The building is very close to the road on the makai (seaward) side. There are several graves, but only two have headstones.
They’re located just to the east of the church.

St. Ann’s Church Cemetery is now in the middle of the Windward Mall’s parking lot on Oʻahu. It is the resting place of approximately 120 people. The cemetery and surround area were originally the site of the old St Ann’s Church, which was founded in 1841 by Catholics fleeing persecution in Honolulu. From 1829 to 1839, Catholic priests were banished from the islands by Protestants. Native Hawaiians who converted to Catholicism were also ill-treated, imprisoned, tortured and forced to go to Protestant churches. The isolated location in Kāneʻohe offered them sanctuary. The land was given to the Catholic Church when a village chief stopped by to request lamp oil. The Protestant missionaries refused to give him lamp oil. The chief was so gratefully, he rewarded them with a piece of land.

St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church Cemetery in Waialua, Oʻahu is in the middle of cane fields. The original church was built in 1853 by the people of the Waialua Catholic Mission and is now in ruins. In 1909, a replacement church and rectory were built closer to the sugar mill, where most of the parishioners lived, and the ruins and cemetery was abandoned. The graveyard’s occupants are a mix of parishioners and plantation workers.

Cemetery Resources

Billion Graves – https://billiongraves.com/
County of Hawaiʻi Cemetery Burial Lists – http://records.hawaiicounty.gov/weblink/browse.aspx?dbid=1&startid=32323&cr=1
Find a Grave – https://www.findagrave.com/
HI Genealogy – https://hawaiigenealogy.com/cemeteries
People Legacy – https://peoplelegacy.com/cemeteries/HI/
Roman Catholic Church Diocese of Honolulu https://www.catholichawaii.org/parish-listing/
The Tombstone Transcription Project – http://www.usgwtombstones.org/hawaii/hawaii.html
US Gen Web Archives Special Projects – http://files.usgwarchives.net/hi/hawaii/cemeteries/

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