Hawaii Church Records

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This entry was originally written by Dwight A. Radford for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the Hawaii Family History Research series.
History of Hawaii
Hawaii Vital Records
Census Records for Hawaii
Background Sources for Hawaii
Hawaii Maps
Hawaii Land Records
Hawaii Probate Records
Hawaii Court Records
Hawaii Tax Records
Hawaii Cemetery Records
Hawaii Church Records
Hawaii Military Records
Hawaii Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Hawaii Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Hawaii Immigration
Ethnic Groups of Hawaii
Hawaii County Resources
Map of Hawaii


Hawaii’s blend of cultures has led to a diverse religious community. New England Congregationalists first brought Protestant Christianity to the islands in 1820. Roman Catholic missionaries came to Hawaii in 1827 but were forced to leave by Protestant missionary leaders in 1831. Catholicism was allowed back into Hawaii. Quakers came in 1835 and Mormons in 1850. Methodists came in 1855, and members of the Church of England arrived in 1862.

The history of Buddhism in Hawaii, as a matter of written record, can be traced to the arrival of Soryu Kagahi, a priest of the True Pure Land Sect and a native of Oita Prefecture. He arrived at Honolulu Harbor in March 1889. Japanese Buddhist and Shinto ideas have been in Hawaii since laborers arrived in 1887. For a more detailed account of the development of the various religions and sects in the state, see John F. Mulholland’s Hawaii’s Religions (Rutland, Vt.: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1970). Today, Hawaii’s religious population is generally thirty-three percent Catholic, thirty percent Protestant, twenty percent Buddhist, and seventeen percent other faiths. Other religious groups, Christian and non-Christian, have been active in Hawaii in recent years. Among these are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baha’i, various Pentecostal faiths, Seventh-day Adventists, Lutherans, Baptists, Quakers, and many new religious sects exported from Japan.

The Roman Catholic Church in Hawaii is served by the Diocese of Honolulu, 1184 Bishop St., Honolulu, HI 96813-2858 www.pono.net. The diocese website has links and contact information to the various parishes in the diocese, thus making requests to obtain records and information relatively easy. The Catholic Church today is the largest Christian denomination in Hawaii.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons or LDS) has grown rapidly in Hawaii since 1850 when missionaries were sent to the islands. The first Mormon colony was established at Lanai. When the LDS Temple at Laie was completed in 1919, a group of native Hawaiians returned after spending a decade or two at Iosepa in Utah. For additional history on Mormonism in Hawaii, see R. Lanier Britsch, Mormon: The Mormons in Hawaii (Laie, Hawaii: Institute for Polynesian Studies, 1989); and Joseph H. Spurrier, Sandwich Island Saints (Laie, Hawaii: Joseph H. Spurrier, 1989). Today the LDS Church comprises one of the largest denominations in the state and LDS records are on microfilm at the FHL.

The Episcopal Church arrived in Hawaii in 1866. Prior to that time, in 1862, the Church of England had established itself on the islands. The Episcopal Church in Hawaii, 229 Queen Emma Sq., Honolulu, HI 96813-2304 www.episcopalhawaii.org/ has records and photos of church ministry beginning in 1862. The diocese website has links to all parish websites.

The first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii probably brought Shinto ideas with them. The first Shinto temple was built in Hilo in 1898. Two recognized Shinto sects that came to Hawaii are Shinto (Honkyoku) and Taishakyo. Other Shinto sects are active in Hawaii and several temples have been built. For information on various sects, contact the individual temples.

Guides such as A Brief History of Buddhist Temples (Hilo, Hawaii: Big Island Buddhist Federation, 1979) can be helpful in locating the temples of various sects and their addresses. Several articles on Buddhism are filed with the Hawaiian and Pacific Collection, Sinclaire Library, University of Hawaii.

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