Aging cemetery provides Native Hawaiian genealogical details

Jun 11, 2015, 5:24 PM

HONOLULU (AP) — Sarah Kailikele was 84 years old when she died on Aug. 14, 1909, according to the inscription on her toppled tombstone, which was leaning on the base it was once mounted on.

University of Hawaii students learning how to preserve cemeteries Wednesday and Thursday were able to glean that she’s likely the oldest person buried at Pauoa Hawaiian Cemetery, a small, mostly neglected collection of graves in one of Honolulu’s older neighborhoods.

“She lived under seven ruling monarchs,” said Nanette Napoleon, a freelance historical researcher whose work focuses on cemeteries. “That’s incredible.” At the time, a person in Hawaii typically would live to be about 60, she said.

Cemeteries can provide a wealth of information for people tracing their Native Hawaiian genealogy, Napoleon said. But little or no burial records were kept at many of these mid- to late 19th century cemeteries, Napoleon said. The vast majority of Hawaii’s 300 cemeteries are like Pauoa’s, where a chapel once stood near where a monkeypod tree now looms tall and wide.

“We had an oral tradition,” she said of Native Hawaiian culture. “It’s very important to know who you are. Who your ancestors were makes you who you are.”

The multidisciplined summer seminar through the Manoa campus’ historic preservation program in the American studies department is an effort to teach the community how to preserve neighborhood cemeteries. While the students learn to repair grave markers, they’re mapping out the graves and recording inscription information to put into a database that people can use as another resource to trace genealogy.

Before starting their work, the group held hands in a circle to pray and chant in Hawaiian as a gesture of respect.

Not far from Kailikele’s grave, Richard Miller showed seminar participants how to repair a grave marker that was found cracked in half. It belongs to James K. Hue, who was 40 years old when he died in 1916.

Miller, who repairs and preserves grave markers and tombs at Molokai’s Kalaupapa National Historical Park, showed them how to use an epoxy substance to meld the pieces together.

The problem with Kailikele’s tombstone is that it’s covered in a mosslike organism called lichen, he said: “It will cover the inscription and eventually erode it.”

The students determined there are 113 people buried in the cemetery and were able to identify some that had no obvious markers. In one large plot, there’s only one grave marker, but they could tell that at least five others are buried there. Upon closer inspection, there are names faintly visible in the cement blocks delineating the plot. There are aging plants marking the five others. “Did they just not have money” for a marker, Napoleon said. “Usually that’s the case.”

Fulbright Scholar and archaeologist Alja Zorz, who is participating in the seminar, used shaving cream to help make out some names: Steven, Lihooe and Kekela. Shaving cream fills in the spaces where the names are carved, making them easier to read.

On holidays such as Christmas and Memorial Day, it’s common for Hawaii families to visit gravesites of loved ones. “Even on those busy days, you don’t see a lot of signs of visitation here,” Napoleon said. A few graves had upturned vases with dried-out flowers, and one had faded holiday tinsel.

“Unfortunately, families have moved away and they have abandoned their gravesites,” Napoleon said.

Nowadays there are websites for tracing ancestry, said Noelle Kahanu, assistant specialist in public humanities and Native Hawaiian programs in the American studies department. “But there’s nothing that replaces being in a cemetery. … Nothing replaces your kuleana to the gravesites,” she said using the Hawaiian word for responsibility.

___

Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at http://www.twitter.com/JenHapa .

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

United States News

Associated Press

Productivity, consumer prices, Cardinal Health earns

A look at some of the key business events and economic indicators upcoming this week: ECONOMIC BELLWETHER Economists project that U.S. worker productivity fell in the April-June period for the second consecutive quarter. The Labor Department is expected to report Tuesday that nonfarm labor productivity fell in the second quarter at an annual rate of […]
3 hours ago
Liudmila Samsonova, of Russia, poses with the trophy after she won the final at the Citi Open tenni...
Associated Press

Russian tennis players collect 3 titles at US Open tuneups

WASHINGTON (AP) — It was quite a week for Russia’s professional tennis players — four tournaments, three titles. One of them, Liudmila Samsonova, thinks it might not be merely a coincidence that this recent run of success for her, Daria Kasatkina and Daniil Medvedev comes shortly after they were banned from competing at Wimbledon because […]
1 day ago
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, an air force pilot from the Eastern Theater Command o...
Associated Press

China extends threatening military exercises around Taiwan

BEIJING (AP) — China said Monday it was extending threatening military exercises surrounding Taiwan that have disrupted shipping and air traffic and substantially raised concerns about the potential for conflict in a region crucial to global trade. The exercises would include anti-submarine drills, apparently targeting U.S. support for Taiwan in the event of a potential […]
1 day ago
Currency traders watch monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquart...
Associated Press

Global stocks up after US job gain paves way for rate hike

BEIJING (AP) — Global stocks gained Monday after strong U.S. jobs data cleared the way for more interest rate hikes and Chinese exports rose by double digits. London, Shanghai, Tokyo and Frankfurt advanced. Hong Kong retreated. Oil prices edged higher. Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 lost 0.2% on Friday after government data showed American employers […]
1 day ago
FILE - This photo combo shows, from left to right, Travis McMichael, William "Roddie" Bryan, and Gr...
Associated Press

Men face sentencing for hate crimes in Ahmaud Arbery’s death

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Months after they were sentenced to life in prison for murder, the three white men who chased and killed Ahmaud Arbery in a Georgia neighborhood faced a second round of criminal penalties Monday for federal hate crimes committed in the deadly pursuit of the 25-year-old Black man. U.S. District Court Judge […]
1 day ago
A volunteer shovels dirt and debris off of the main street in downtown Fleming-Neon, Ky., on Friday...
Associated Press

Former coal town comes together in face of Kentucky floods

FLEMING-NEON, Ky. (AP) — Barely a week after floodwaters swept downtown and left a foot of mud and twisted, gutted buildings along Main Street, an incongruous sight appeared: A flashing sign declaring JR’s Barber Shop “OPEN.” As National Guard troops patrolled outside and volunteers on backhoes mounded up debris, J.R. Collins stood behind his barber […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
Aging cemetery provides Native Hawaiian genealogical details