How do I trace my family tree?

To trace your family tree you need to start with what you know about your parents and grandparent. When and where were they born, who did they marry, when did they die? To make it easier for you there are charts you can fill in to help keep yourself organised. This is a ‘pedigree chart’ or ‘ancestor chart’:

Pedigree Chart

Write your name, date and place of birth, and marriage if appropriate, in the first section. Then write your father’s name and details in the next box, and your mother’s in the next, and so on. Typically the father is always first, and you will confuse everyone, and yourself, if you don’t stick to this rule.

Births, Deaths and Marriages

When you can’t fill in any more of the chart from what you know or you don’t have any dates and places for the people you know, it’s time to start looking for birth, death and marriage records. There are two places where a birth, marriage or death may be recorded -

  • Church records of baptisms, marriages and burials
  • Civil registration

There are no records online for Fiji, except for family trees that people have submitted to sites like Ancestry and FamilySearch, which are not always reliable.

The only way to trace your family tree is to obtain copies of birth, marriage and death certificates of your parents and grandparents and so on back as far as you can. Civil registration (ie. government registration) of births, deaths and marriages in Fiji began when Fiji was ceded to Great Britain in 1874, although in practice it was a few years before the procedure caught on across all the islands of Fiji. Registration was divided into separate registers – Fijian, Indian and General (Europeans, Chinese, etc).

Civil Registration

Copies of registrations (certificates) can be obtained from the Fiji Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages in Suva http://www.bdm.gov.fj/. The email addresses on the website may not be current. They are not expensive but you have to send them a bank draft to pay for them if you live outside Fiji, which can be expensive. It might be worth ringing them to find out what to do.

FamilySearch Microfilms

Alternatively, you can get them on microfilm from FamilySearch libraries. The microfilms are available in the National Archives of Fiji and the FailySearch libraries, or can be borrowed into participating FamilySearch Libraries around the world.

To find a certificate on a microfilm you must first find it in the index. The indexes are also on microfilm. To find a microfilm in the catalogue go to FamilySearch at https://familysearch.org/. Then click on Search and then on Catalog. Search by Place for Fiji. You will get a long list of resources held by FamilySearch that looks like this:

FamilySearch Catalog

We are looking for Fiji – Civil registration, for some reason not all the indexes are catalogued under ‘Indexes’.

FamilySearch Fiji Civil Registrations

If you are looking for the birth of your grandfather, for example, you would select either the Fijian Births or General Births, and then the index for the period you need, eg 1912-1920. When you click on the film number you will be taken to a screen that allows you to borrow the film. You must select a library near you – the film will be delivered there. You can keep it for 3 months. The charge covers the cost of postage.

The film will look something like this:

Fiji General Births Index

It is sorted by the name of the father (births), the name of the deceased (deaths) or the name of the husband (marriages).

You need the No. and the Year. So if I wanted the birth of Ruth Whippy, daughter of Jesse Whippy and Judith Simpson, I need the number 93 and the Year 1922.

Then I have to find the microfilm with this birth. Go back to the list of General Birth Records and find the film for 1920. Some years have more births than will fit on a single film, so they may be split over two films – that’s why you need the number. In this case the film is European Births 1-113, 1922, Film number 761086.

4-12-2013 1-35-26 PM

I would suggest that you borrow the indexes first and write down ALL the entries for names you are interested in. If you are interested in Whippys, write down all the Whippys. Perhaps use a spreadsheet for this purpose. Then you can order films for individual registrations as you need them.

A birth registration will usually be in English, but sometimes they are in Fijian:

Fiji General Birth 1880/71 Ellen Brown

 You now have enough information to fill in the date and place of birth, and the names of the parents. Details about the parents may also be included. You can now look for the marriage of these parents, which should give the names of their parents, and so on.

Church records

Eventually you will get back to the period before civil registration began. If you are lucky, the baptism or marriage was recorded by the parish church, or even the missionaries before there were parish churches.

Copies of the parish registers for the early Wesleyan missionaries are help by the Fiji National Archives. They are not online. Catholic registers are held by the local parishes, although some have been lodged with the Archives next to the Cathedral in Suva.