An Example of Sugar Plantation Employee Records

Several years ago, I contacted the Hawaiian Sugar Plantation Association to see if there were records for the Kilauea Sugar Plantation as well as others on Kauai that were of interest to me.  At that time, the records were still held by the Association.

I found that they had no records for Kilauea and scant few for the rest of Kauai.  They were willing to check some names for me, so I sent them a reasonably short list.  All they could find was one document from the Kekaha Sugar Plantation with Augusto Clemente’s name.

I know that other researchers like myself would love to find employment records from the sugar plantation that their ancestor worked for.  The sad reality is that most of the records don’t exist anymore.   Hawaii was late to the game for preserving sugar plantation records. I believe it was the 1980s when the project was begun.  By that time, plantations had come and gone and records had been toss out, destroyed, or changed hands so many times the trail was hard to find.  The association did an amazing job preserving what they found.  Most of these records will be more of historical value rather than of value to the family genealogist trying to find out if Great Grandpa really worked at such and such plantation.

The document I received was three pages long.  I’ve decided only to scan the first page.  The second pages just have hash marks denoting if a worker worked on a certain day of the month.

This is the document that I have in my files (Sorry about the quality, I had to use my camera as it was so large).  The document is from July 1900.

hawaii wage shee_20131005_1783DSCN2432

The columns say: BAL. CR., a handwritten word that looks like “Sugar”,  Cash Adv., Sundries, RICE, Deposits, Total Deductions, NAMES.  I have no idea why rice is in all Caps (the emphasis is theirs not mine).  Page two has RATE  and then a column for every day of the week.  The third page completes the days of the month, then DAYS, WAGES, CASH, BAL. DR.  BAL CR.

We can derive a couple of things from this sheet.  One, the workers were allowed to take out cash advances from their wages.  Two, they had to pay the plantation for certain things shown in the rice and sundries column.  We know what their pay rate was, how many days of the month they worked, and so forth.  The money they owed the plantation would be subtracted from what they earned before they got their monthly pay.

You can see that the identifying information is vague.  Some people only have a first name.  Unless your ancestor had an usual name, like Augusto Clemente, or you know exactly where they worked and when, it will be difficult to determine if you have the right person.    It would be a nice document to have in your collection, but it isn’t going to provide much information about your people.

[Note:  Augusto Clemente is not my ancestor.  But, he connects to my tree a couple of times including via my great aunt, Minnie (Ventura) Pacheco Smith.]

 

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  1. Katie Carr says:

    FYI: The KSP plantation records are held by the Kauai Historical Society. I first saw them when the historical society was housed in the Coco Palms Hotel. That was 1992 one week before Iniki hit the island. After that the records were stored somewhere in Kilauea until the private dam broke and flooded part of Kilauea. The records were damaged by the water. They are now stored in a warehouse in Lihue. I looked through them in June 2013 and will go look at them again, Feb. 2014.

  2. Melody Lassalle says:

    Thanks for this information! How comprehensive is the collection? When I inquired at the Kauai Historical Society a few years ago, I was lead to believe that there wasn’t much in the form of personal data of employees–more of historical data of the plantation as a whole. I don’t live in Hawaii so I’ve never had the opportunity to check it out myself.

  3. Katie Carr says:

    There are many records for the plantation that are mainly about the business of running the plantation. However, from the 1880’s onward, there are the ledgers of the payroll records for the employees. The earliest records have the names of the employees but later records are recorded by the employee number. Francisco Cardoso and Coleta de Jesus parents of Joanna Cardoso who married John Pacheco are listed in those records.

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