Family history and 
one name study 
Glenister Samoa links
Talofa - that's "hello" in Samoan

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I was surprised when I heard there was a branch of the Glenister family in the Pacific island of Samoa. Actually I didn't really know where Samoa was, or much about it - but that has changed now. Let me tell you how a chance e-mail set me on an electronic chase around the world to find out about it.
The beginning
A long while ago (about June 1996) I sent an introductory message over the Internet to a David T Glenister in San Diego, California, USA, asking if he was interested in tracing his Glenister family history. (I found his name and e-mail address in an internet directory).

David was very surprised to hear from me, as he’d never come across any Glenisters outside his own family - until the day before - when he’d had a phone call from an unknown Perry Glenister, asking him if they were related. Two surprise Glenisters - first Perry and then me - in two days amazed David. They decided they weren't related, but Perry mentioned that he was from Samoa, and was going to a big family reunion there. When David passed this on to me, I was excited, because I'd not heard of the Samoan connection before, and I decided to try to check it out.

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My first attempts

I searched the Internet to find an e-mail contact in Samoa, but I had no luck. So I found the fax number for the Office of Public Information (OPI), and sent them a fax asking if they knew of anyone called Glenister. I waited a month, but heard nothing. But I didn't want to give up. So I called the Western Samoan embassy in Brussels, Belgium and had them check their telephone directory, but they said there were no Glenisters listed. I called the UK telephone company and had them check with telephone enquiries in Samoa, but again, no Glenisters.

I tried another Internet search and I found an e-mail address for the Western Samoa Visitors Bureau.  I sent them three messages, but again I received no replies after waiting six weeks.  I was beginning to give up.

But I was really pleased a couple of weeks later when I received a letter from Pago Pago, American Samoa, from Mrs Margaret Uiagalelei, maiden name Glenister! It seems that a friend of hers worked at the OPI, and had seen my fax from weeks earlier, but had only recently remembered that Margaret was a Glenister by birth. I telephoned Margaret and explained my interest, and I wrote to her (this was in August 1996) but I've received no reply, nor to the second letter I wrote to her.  I felt it was about time to give up.

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Successful connection

Then on 6 July 1998 I received an e-mail:

We were browsing the internet and found your website.  My maiden name is Moana Elizabeth Glenister...I am of Samoan descent.  I would be very interested to find out more information about our family tree. I can also provide our immediate family tree.

Bingo!  I was excited by this!  I quickly sent a reply, and began a rapid exchange of e-mails with Moana, assisted by Moana's neighbour, George Soo.

I found that Moana, now with a married name Moana Grey,  was living in Fremont, California, USA, not far from her father George Philip Glenister.  With the help of Moana and George I built an outline of the family.   Moana and George knew their family details back to Moana's great grandfather - John Radcliff Glenister - who she said came from Australia - but no further.  We confirmed that the Margaret Uiagalelei who had contacted me earlier was Moana's aunt, and that Perry Glenister was her cousin.   I began to think that the pieces of the Glenister Samoa jigsaw were coming togteher.

When we looked at the family tree the distinctive name Radcliff was a real gem.  I sent a quick e-mail to Bronwen Thomas in Victoria, Australia - she is the expert on the Glenister connections in Australia. Bronwen easily recognised the name as part of a family we already knew, and we soon had details of John Radcliffe Glenister, his father, and his grandfather - going back to the year 1809 in England - and also other relatives living in the UK today.

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The family in Samoa

John Radcliffe Glenister was born in New South Wales, Australia about 1890.  We don't know why or when he moved from Australia to Samoa, but it was perhaps some time around 1910-1930.  He married Amelia Hunt from Moto'otua, Western Samoa.  At present we know little of John, except that he was an excellent carpenter and farrier, he had one son, Frederick Glenister, and that he died before his grandchildren were born. 

Frederick, who inherited his father's talents as a craftsman, married Selina Annie Bahn from Mota'a , Western Samoa. They ran a government farm in Mulifanua, Western Samoa, and Frederick was fond of training race horses.  As Frederick's family grew, he ventured to American Samoa and worked for Burns Philips, a mercantile store.   Eventually in the 1940s he moved his family over from Western Samoa to American Samoa, and they lived in Utulei, American Samoa.

Frederick and Annie lived in a beautiful house which Frederick is said to have won in a poker game. Theye were very well known in the Samoan community.   Annie was a matai (chief) with the matai name Taufaga'afa.  She gave the title to her husband Frederick, and it can only be passed on in the matai's family to their descendants who live in Samoa.

There are now few Glenisters in Samoa - the Margaret Uiagalelei who had contacted me earlier is the only one I know of.   Most of the others have left the island and moved to the USA.  I have been in e-mail contact with some of them, including:

  • Roland Glenister and his wife Moni Glenister, living in Texas, USA
  • Becky Glenister, wife of Melvin Glenister
  • Lincoln Glenister, living in Korea
  • Moana Grey, living in California, USA

And later I found mention on the internet in a Samoan online newpaper dated 7 August 1996 in the obituary for Maxwell M. Tau, of Ewa Beach who on died 19 July aged 22,   the mourners included "father and stepmother Leo G.K. and Amu'u T. Mokulehua; mother Tatala Glenister". Tatala Glenister was an adopted daughter of Frederick and Selina Annie.

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About Samoa

Samoa, or rather the Samoan Islands, are in the south-western Pacific Ocean, approximately 1,500 miles (2,575km) north-east of New Zealand (Auckland). The Samoan Islands are comprised of two states:

  • Tutuila Samoa, better known as American Samoa - capital is Pago Pago - is an unincorporated territory of the United States of America
  • Western Samoa - capital is Apia - is an independent state

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Tofa Soifua (that's "goodbye")
..until I add some more about Samoa.

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