Working on Kalaupapa family history records

Sister Napua BakerDuring our June 2010 road trip on the U.S. mainland, my wife and I visited with our friend and fellow Laie 4th Ward member, Sister Napua Baker, who is currently serving as a senior missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Sister Baker told us she has been given a special assignment that is particularly appropriate and pleasing to her, but let her tell it in her own words:

When I first came here in October 2009, nine months ago, I was in training but I didn’t know what I was going to do. There was a Sister Barbara Robertson from the Big Island, and when I visited with her, she was working on Hawaiian royalty, which was great. Then she showed me that no one was working on the Kalaupapa records, and when I looked at that, the tears started coming down my face: I was born and raised on Molokai, and I remember Kalaupapa, and how those who had leprosy were brought in. Of course, that was in the 1950s.

I can’t be happier with my responsibility — to prepare the Kalaupapa records so that they can be accessible to families for temple work. When I first started, they didn’t know how many records they had.

Then Brother and Sister Arima came to visit, and they were looking for [Sister] Gladys Kalama, my former roommate who has since gone home. They asked me, “What are you doing?” And I told them I had just barely started. They said, “Do you know that we worked on the Kalaupapa records for two years?”

President Hawkins, who was the mission president [in Hawaii], called me and told me he had assigned them to do the records from Kalaupapa, and they had worked on them until their mission ended. I said, where are the records? “We just kept them in a safe in Honolulu, because we didn’t know what to do with them,” he said.

I went in and got Barbara, and told her, these people had worked on the Kalaupapa records; and so we coordinated with them, and now we have over 20,000 names — those who died there of leprosy, and family members. They had gathered the information, and now we’re cleaning that up so those names can be accessible online [through].

I see these names as I’m going down these records that include the records of the LDS Church: I saw Joseph F. Smith’s name. I saw David Hannemann’s name. He was a missionary on Molokai [about 1950]. He went down to Kalaupapa along with Stanley Smoot. I’m looking at who conducted the meetings, including Jack Sing — the branch president, and the mission president. My heart just melted to see the names of these faithful people, in spite of the challenges. They were so spiritually determined, that there’s no question these people are waiting.

I can’t think of a better assignment for me, even though I’m sitting at a computer all day. If you had told me that I was going to spend my mission sitting at a computer, I think I would have said I’m more of a people-person; but I love it. My heart and soul is in it.

I’m grateful to be doing this, and I’m thinking: This is what the Lord wants me to be doing, first and foremost. After this, I’m going to do another mission; and if I don’t finish this project in another year from now, I’m going to extend my mission. I’ll stay here until I’m finished.

It’s always been my dream to come on a mission, in spite of health challenges, and I can’t explain how much I love it. It’s even beyond what I expected, and my heart is so full because whatever your mission is, there’s a purpose; and when you understand that purpose, and have a testimony of it, it becomes a tremendous blessing and joy in your life.

Sister Baker explained that her first “companion,” Sister Gladys Kalama, extended her mission twice. She added that they lived in a nice two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment on the seventh floor of a building just a block or two away — where she still stays, “with a beautiful view just five minutes away, and I don’t need a car. The temple’s right across the street, and I go to church at the missionary branch in the [nearby] Joseph Smith building. I love it.”

Sister Baker also said family members visit her occasionally — “my brother Mel and his wife have been here twice already” — and she did not mind the winter weather: “It energized me, and so far summer has been very pleasant.”

She explained she starts every morning, Monday through Friday, at 7:30 with a prayer meeting or a devotional once a week, “and by 8 o’clock we’re at our assignments. That’s when the library opens. I finish at 4 o’clock, but other missionaries come in later, because the library’s open until 9 p.m. For lunch I usually go back to my apartment, but once a week I usually eat at the large cafeteria underneath the Church Office Building. That’s where most people go.”

Before we concluded our visit with Sister Baker, she asked to share one more message:

“Many times we think of missionaries as young single people — especially young men and some young women going out to serve; but today, the need for senior missionary couples and single sisters is great. Right now we have about 400 missionaries in the Family History Center, but we can have up to 800, so we’re praying for more. The need for senior missionaries is far greater than I ever imagined. I didn’t realize that when I first came, but I’ve learned it since I’ve been here.”


  1. Helene "Miki" Baysa says:

    What a wonderful work you are doing. I am so very grateful for those of you who serve so faithfully in such an important work. I don’t know whether or not you’ll be at Rochelle’s wedding or reception, but Maurice and I are planning to be there. I hope to see you just to give you a special warm hug. We were in Hilo recently and saw Theresa, she is a lovely as ever. God bless you..Malama pono..Miki

  2. Mikaele says:

    Helen Kuoha-Torco responded to this through the Church College of Hawaii alumni network blog:

    Thank you, Napua, for doing the Kalaupapa project. In February of this year, I worked on a film called “Family History Matters” and it was filmed across Kualoa Ranch on that little island. I played the part of a nurse that would take the baby from a family so that the baby would not contract the disease. The film crew all came in from BYU, and they said it was going to start showing in April. They are also using that film for classes in family history. Napua, maybe you will be able to see the film and fill us in.

  3. Mikaele says:

    Kuulei Reyes responded to this through the Church College of Hawaii alumni network blog:

    It’s always fascinating the way things work. For years I have been wondering about getting information on my husbands relatives who were at Kalaupapa. Recently I contacted the Kalaupapa Ohana, an organization whose main objective is collecting and compiling a record and history of all the people who were once patients there. They were able to give information on one of our relatives but not the other except for the name. I know that group uses the US Census for information and they are probably tuned in to the church’s files. I was wondering whether you had heard of the Kalaupapa Ohana. They might have information that is not available elsewhere. Can’t wait for the information you have to be available on line for us — maybe I’ll find our lost family member there. They couldn’t have found a better person than you, Napua, for this wonderful job. Imagine being instrumental in uniting family members whose contact with each other was lost when they were sent to Kalaupapa!

    Much aloha, Kuulei

  4. Mikaele says:

    Nettie (Alapa) Hunter responded to this through the Church College of Hawaii alumni network blog:

    This is a great project! Just read where Sis. Maile Mossman‘s research on her ohana that was at Kalaupapa will be on the KBYU-TV channel for the Generations Project today (7/31/10). I know it’s been on before, but hopefully I will get to watch the whole episode today… Napua’s the perfect person to work on this project!!!

  5. Mikaele says:

    Dot Anderson-Uchima responded to this through the Church College of Hawaii alumni network blog:

    Aloha, Napua, and congrats on a great assignment that hits home to a lot of us. I too have ancestors connected to my ohana that lived and died at Kalaupapa. It’s heartwarming to know that something is being done to make more information available. Ed and I are family history consultants here in Waimea2 on Hawaii island (our new habitat since a coupla years ago) and thoroughly enjoy our callings that are kinda-sorta a continuation where we left off at Kaneohe4 on Oahu island. we are luvin it! wishing you the very best. Dot

  6. Ken Baldridge says:

    Aloha, Napua: Through our kids Janet and Steve we accessed Mike’s blog and read about you. What a great work! Delma’s g-grandfather Orin Woodbury was the brother of John S. Woodbury, part of the SECOND group of Hawaii missionaries. Orin married Ann Cannon, sister of George Q. Cannon of the FIRST group of missionaries. John S. Woodbury served part of his mission on Molokai. My interview with Mary Sing is part of BYU-Hawaii’s Oral History archives. I also interviewed Kuulei Bell but she then decided we should erase it. Which I reluctantly did. I always hoped she’d let me print it but it never happened. Auwe!

  7. Leila (Ho'opi'i) Moa says:

    Hi Napua,

    It’s really late for me to be up but I kept clicking and fell upon this site…low and behold there you were. How exciting that you’re there. Your brother Mel mentioned that he and Marge stayed with his sister when they attended conference. I didn’t know you were the sister. I just wanted to say how blessed you are to be involved in the Kalaupapa records. To date, I’ve only been able to look through 2 of the files. It may be the only two vital records available, I’m not sure. Napua, did you know that my dad (Robert Hoopii) was born in Kalaupapa? I have obtained info for some of my family and have done temple work for them. I hope to get more information to get names ready for when the La’ie temple opens.

    Love and aloha to you!
    Leila (Ho’opi’i) Moa

  8. karl kianiani keone says:

    my birthname is karl kianiani keone. my dads name was stated as duke kianiani keone. i was born in houston, TX back in march of 1979. i’m now 32 years old and been trying to search for my dad and my hawaiian roots. my mother seems to think that my father might have lied about his name. the only place i’ve been able to come up with his name is from the day that i was born. i know that my dad was 100% chinese-filipino, but that’s about where it ends. i don’t even have a mental picture of him, as i’ve only seen 1 picture 1 time. i’m looking for any information that might help me find my hawaiian roots. so any info you might have would be much appreciated.
    thank you
    karl k. keone
    425 232-2715

  9. shannon racoma eblacas says:

    hi my dad is robert hoopii too but from maui, im so interested in geneaology but dont know where to start. i know that the lds church is the best place to start. what do i do.

  10. Shannon: First, mahalo for your interest in my blog. Knowledgeable volunteers at your nearest Latter-day Saint (Mormon) Family History Center library will be glad to help you get started for free. Best wishes,

    Mike Foley, blogmeister

  11. Aloha, I am working on my Keale line (from Ni’ihau) but I found my Aunty Loke Keale was sent to Kalaupapa, where she married Beni Aalona. I know often people had children there but they were then sent away and not told of their parentage. I cannot find a death record for Loke. Maybe because as often happens, the later records record under Aarona or Rose, etc.? I am looking forward to these Kalaupapa records! Please let me know if they are available! I have not seen anything posted yet with a collection for there on familysearch.or, but maybe I am not looking good enough. (I actually lived above Kalaupapa as a child in Kalae. My sister and her husband worked on the trail, her husband later worked down in Kalaupapa for many years as a botanist (which meant clearing out invasives but also helping people with their chores :), and he and my dad and brother (when he was home) would hike down to do rotations taking the sacrament. )

  12. Suzanne Bishaw says:

    Aloha, I am visiting Oahu and Molokai to find our Ohana and we know that one of our ancestors was buried on Kalaupapa with his second wife (or so we are told) but there is much discussion as to how he ended up there. Either as an inmate or a carer for his wife. I am interested in finding out where he came frm originally and why he ended up at Kalaupapa, and which story is actually true.
    We believe he was French Canadian and married an Hawaiian girl. Finding Hawaiian relatives is not hard but finding information about this gentlemen is getting near on impossible. His name was Joseph Alexander Bishaw and his birth/death dates are; Birth: 1833 Died: June 17, 1909

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