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Hawai`i Legal Research: Land Research

Links to online legal resources for researching Hawaii laws.


Title Conveyances and Other Terminology

  1. Grant - Could refer to a Royal Patent Grant, a Land Patent Grant, or a Grant.
  2. Kamehameha Deeds (until 1865) - recorded by Book and Page (Liber & Page)
  3. Land Commission Awards (LCAs or LCAw) - kuleanas (house lots and cultivated lands). A certificate of award was issued by the Land Commission upon confirmation of a claim, and conferring a title "less than allodial" (free from the tenurial rights of a feudal overlord). Generally, the LCA bore the same number as the claim. However, a number of the claims marked "Not awarded" in the "Numerical Index of Awards" were awarded under another number. Sometimes the number of a non-award was reissued to another claimant. [From The King's Mahele by Dorothy Barrere, iv, c. 1994.]
  4. Land Court Application or L. Ct. App. - Petition to confirm title before the Land Court pursuant to Chapter 501, Haw. Rev. Stat.
  5. Land Patent or Land Patent Grant - After 1893, these terms replaced Royal Patent and Royal Patent Grant.
  6. Mahele Awards (MAs) - Award issued after the dissolution of the Land Commission (March 1855); issued by the Minister of the Interior to a chief or konohiki who had not yet obtained an award on land(s) recorded in the Mahele Book as quitclaimed by the King. [From The King's Mahele by Dorothy Barrere, iv, c. 1994.]
  7. Royal Patents (RPs) - Land patent conferring free and clear title to land awarded by the Land Commission. Issued by the Minister of the Interior upon survey of the land and payment of commutation to the Government. In effect, a quitclaim by the Government for its interest in the land awarded. [From The King's Mahele by Dorothy Barrere, iv, c. 1994.]
  8. Royal Patent Grants (until 1893) Land patent conferring fee simple title to a Government land. This was an outright purchase of Government land, and not a commutation of the Government's interest in a land. The last Royal Patent was number 7992. [From The King's Mahele by Dorothy Barrere, iv, c. 1994.]
  9. Land Patent Grants (after 1893) - conveyed title to Government and remaining Crown Lands

Tax Map Key (TMK)

Hawaii is one of 14 states in the United States where property taxes are not levied at the state level, only the county level. There are four counties in Hawaiʻi:

  1. Honolulu covers the entire island of Oʻahu;
  2. Maui covers the Islands of Maui, Lanai, Molokai (except for Kalawao County, which is under the jurisdiction of the Dept. of Health[1]), and Kahoolawe
  3. Hawai'i covers the entire island of Hawaiʻi; and
  4. Kauai covers the islands of Kauai and Niihau

The Tax Map Key is a nine-digit number. Here’s an example: 1-2-1-017-009

Island/County - Honolulu (1 digit) = 1

Zone (1 digit) = 2

Section (1 digit) = 1

Plat (3 digits) = 017

Lot (3 digits) = 009

Parcel number: 121017009

Mokupuni (county or Island) – Honolulu County (Oʻahu)

Moku (District or Zone) – Kona (means leeward)

Ahupuaʻa (division or Section)  – Honolulu

ʻIli (smaller division or Plat) – none

[1] HRS § 326-34

Databases to Search

Land Court

A title registered in Land Court clears any "clouds" on it. “[A] land court certificate of title is ‘conclusive and unimpeachable’ with regard to ‘all matters contained therein,’ ” which is “[t]he fundamental difference between a certificate of title issued by the land court and a recordation of title at the bureau of conveyances.” Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Omiya, 142 Hawai`i 439, 447, 420 P.3d 370, 378 (2018) citing In re 2003 Ala Wai Blvd., 85 Hawai‘i at 405, 944 P.2d at 1348 (1997).

Starting Places

First, if you know the current address, begin with a county property search.

Honolulu Example (other counties may vary):

  1. Search Honolulu property records for the YWCA at 1040 Richards Street.
  2. Record the parcel number, 210170090000. The parcel number is part of the TMK (tax map key) number, but it lacks the Island number at the beginning and has four too many zeroes at the end. The parcel number for researching this site is 21017009 or 2-1-017-009. If we add the number, 1, at the beginning for Oʻahu, the TMK is 121017009 or 1- 2-1-017-009.
  3. In the box called “Legal Information,” you can find the lot, block, and map number.

e.g. Here, in our example, it is LOT A-2 LCAPP 617 39,057 SF. This translates into Land Commission Application 617, Lot A-2, and it is 39,057 square feet.

  1. Click on the Plat Map button.

e.g. This map was created Dec. 22, 1931 and amended Aug. 4, 1971. On this map, we find written across the parcel for the Young Women’s Christian Association of Oʻahu, Ld. Ct. App. 617. That coincides with the legal information from the previous page.

  1. Click on the GIS Parcel Map button to see what the lot looks like today. If you turn off the Base Layers and click on the box next to “Street Names,” you can see the lots with their TMK ids. Print the map with just the TMKs and street names for use as you research.

e.g. As you can see, the lots have changed from many small lots to 5 or 6 large lots.

Next Search for the Land Survey Map.

We search here next because we have the Land Court Application number. In our example, it is 617.

  1. Enter 617 in the box next to Land Court Application No. Then, click search. NOTE:  This is different from the Land Court AWARD No., or the LCA. 
    1. There are links to three maps for Application No. 617. Two maps are for Application No. 1617, but those are not of interest to us.
    2. Map001 is similar to the Plat Map, above. It was created Aug. 16, 1924.
    3. Map002 was created Sep. 22, 1958 and shows the subdivision of Lot A into Lots A-1 and A-2.
    4. On Map001, from b, above, it shows Grant 3377 to Bolabola. We need to find a database that allows us to search by Land Grant number. Because it is a Land Grant then it the property was originally either Government or Crown Lands.
  2. Even though Waiona Aina is fee-based, it does allow a search by Land Grant number. Find the page to search by Land Grant and enter 3377 into search box. Now we know that the grantee’s first name is John and he received the award in 1884.
  3. Click on the image of the magnifying glass and you will see a snippet of the record.

From this, we learn a lot. In 1884, King Kalakaua granted the land to John Bolabola. It is to be found in Vol. 15 of the Land Grant Awards on page 553-556, and it is a Royal Patent Grant. This means the land was originally either government or crown lands. Monarchs would typically sell land to raise money, but this land was granted for only $1, officially.

The bottom of the snippet shows even more information. King Kalakaua made the grant during a Cabinet meeting on Aug. 19, 1884. But, the GIS Map from the County Property Search that shows what the property looks like today doesn't match the boundaries on the Land Court Map.