Maori Genealogy Terms

'"Despite the commonalties that bind the Maori together, it is extremely misleading to regard maori as a homogenous group, one in their Maoriness. Each tribe has its unique history, ancestors, dialect, and peculiarities; each tribe has also adapted differently to changing times."' JenniferLees - USA

Genealogy or pedigree

The maori (mao-ree) word for genealogy is whakapapa (fah-cah-pah-pah). Our pedigree usually follows the direct male line of succession from a canoe, or in some cases, before a canoe came to NZ.


Na Hoori i moe a Manawanui
    Ko Arawhena (taane)

    Ko Waiata (wahine)

    Ko Hinehaurangi (wahine)

    Ko Rukuwai (wahine)

    Ko Te Whakarauhanga (taane)

    Ko Waitapu (wahine)

    Ko Kaperiera (taane)

George and Manawanui married
    - Alfred (male)

    - Waiata (female)

    - Hinehaurangi (female)

    - Rukuwai (female)

    - Te Whakarauhanga (male)

    - Waitapu (female)

    - Gabriel (male)

Papa - father, Mama - mother, Tama - son, Tungane-- daughter, Tuahine - sister, kotiro - girl, tamaiti- boy, Koro - respectful term for older male in family, Kuia- respectful term for older female in family, Whaea - mother.


The cosmogeny describes the passage of the Soul from the spiritual world into the physical world. It is cunningly spoken, or written, in such a way as to describe the events which took place in the physical world at the beginning of time.


Canoes or waka (wah-kah) are the equivalent to passenger ships for european. Only the Moriori (More-ree-oar-ree), the people from Rekohu (Reh-core-who) or the Chatham Islands, can claim to be here at a time before recollection. Other Moriori came by canoe from Hawa'iki (Hah-wah-ih-key),and the Maori came from Hawa'iki at a later date. To find your canoe, ask your immediate family, then the marae in your local ancestral area.

Some moriori & maori canoe lists may be found in: Evans, Jeff., (1997)., "Nga Waka o Nehera. The First Voyaging Canoes."., REED Books, 39 Rawene Rd, Birkenhead, Auckland 10., ($NZ 34.95).


Hawa'iki is the birthplace of most Polynesians - it is our Motherland. The pakeha (pah-keh-hah) or european and naacal call Hawa'iki - Lemuria, or Mu. It covered the Pacific Ocean from Hawa'ii down to Fiji, and included parts of the Society Islands. All of the Pacific Islands that you currently see on the world map are merely the tip of the mountain peaks of that once great continent- our home. To find which area of Hawaiki you came from, you will need to find your ancestral canoe.


Iwi (ee-we/ih-we) or tribes are centred around family groups or descendents of a common ancestor from a certain canoe. Each tribe lived in certain land areas within New Zealand. Some tribal names are preceeded by the words...

    1. Ngati ...
    2. Te Whanau o ...
    3. Te Whanau a ...
    4. Te Tini o ...
    5. Te Aitanga A ...
    this is similar to the naming conventions for Scottish clans e.g., Clan Gregor, Clan Graham, etc.
To find which iwi you come from, ask either your immediate family or marae in your local ancestral area.


Hapu (hah-poo) were extended family groups within the larger framework of the tribe. So if, for instance, your ancestor was from "Ngati Kahungunu", you know that you are descended from the same line as a person called, Kahungunu who has descended from a key ancestor in the tribe, or from a tribal canoe. For example, part of my family are from Ngati Whare, Wharetiipeti is my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.

To find which hapu you hail from please ask either your immediate family or marae in your ancestral area. Once you have found your sub-tribe you can trace your lineage back to a canoe. There are many resources for this, and these are listed here. (NB: I am using generalisations - some people do not like you to call a hapu - a sub-tribe, and some do not like you to call an iwi - a tribe).


Marae (mah-r-eye) are the cornerstones of most iwi or hapu.A marae is somewhat like a community house where people gather together.They usually are the places where whakapapa is discussed and where stories are shared of ancestors- tipuna (tea-poo-nah), family - whanau (fah-no), songs- waiata (why-ah-tah), old feuds and tribal legends. To by-pass your local ancestral marae when researching whakapapa, is usually a mistake as much information is there - if you ask the right questions.

Whare Wananga - The school of maori studies

Only people (male or female) who could retain knowledge in their memory entered the whare wananga (fah-reh-wah-nah-g-nah), their task, was to retain the ancestral knowledge until they died. Some entered the whare wananga as young as two or three yearsold.

The whare wananga was a special place set aside where the tohunga(tour-who-g-nah) or priests would talk about the powers within mankind (and animalkind). They passed on knowledge about the canoe journeys, settlement, legends, prayers for each settlement, songs, and tribal genealogies. In addition pupils were also taught tide, moon cycles, astronomy, cultivation, herbal remedies, tribal boundaries, whakapapa for each land block and many, many, other things. You could say it was the school that instructed you about life, living, and history.


The old school of maori esoteric studies may be split into two branches - those who understood the implications behind using the laws of nature, and those who understood only part of that knowledge, you might refer to the latter as 'high-school dropouts'.They were known as tohunga makutu (tour-who-g-nah mah-coo-two) or black magicians, whose skills lay in the creation of thought forms, use of hypnotism and the misuse of the laws of nature for self-gain,or selfish purposes. Luckily they were a minority. The white magicians used their knowledge for the good of the whole tribe, that is, they took into consideration the needs of all of the people in general, their needs came last.

It is doubtful whether there are records of people who attended the whare wananga as the religion, Tohungaism, was banned in the 1900's. This does not mean that they did not exist after that time, it just means that no official records were kept.

Tamaiti Whangai

To whangai (fah-n-g-eye) a child, is to foster a child. Foster is the nearest european language equivalent. Children were and are fostered by close relatives of the birth parents. Foster parents ask for a child from the birth parents. They are not taken away without parental permission, or parental deliberation. Sometimes fostering is used to pass on ancestral knowledge, other times foster children replace a couple's children. At all times foster children are regarded as the child of the foster parents and accorded the same respect as their natural children.You can only find out whether a child is/was tamaiti whangai (tah-mah-ih-teafah-n-g-eye) through the immediate family.

Taumau Marriage

A taumau (torh-morh) marriage is an arranged marriage - a person married by the people. A boy or girl would reach a certain age and a mate would be found from a neighbouring or enemy tribe. Some people married for 'love', some who had taumau marriages followed this with a church marriage, some didn't. To find a taumau marriage, you need to go to your immediate family.

Maori aliases & the Maori Land Court

The first Maori Land Court was held in 1865. If your forefathers or foremothers appeared in the MaoriLand Court be prepared for a few aliases. Some names were misspelt, and some are new, or original.

Major owner registrations for land blocks took place in and around1880-1900. Major owner disputes took place after people claimed land that they shouldn't have! To trace the aliases, you need to know the name of the block of land. Otherwise you have to search through the minutebooks for that area - a time consuming task. You then look for a list of owners for that block. The Maori Land Court also recorded the location ofburial grounds,names of hapu (sub-tribe) until 1900's, tribes and whakapapa(genealogy).


The Maori Land Court minute books are a major resource for whakapapa. Whakapapa was recorded usually in cases where there were disputes over ownership or boundaries, and successions to land where the applicant had to explain their relationship to the deceased. Recently the University of Auckland undertook a major indexing project a list of succession files, names and whakapapa available in the Maori Land Court minute books. By the end of 1998 theJudges minute books will also be released. These databases are available on order from the university.

Further Research

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