Pitcairn Islanders


Pitcairn Islanders, also referred to as Pitkerners and Pitcairnese, are the inhabitants or citizens of the Pitcairn Islands. The Pitcairn Islands are a British Overseas Territory, mainly inhabited by Euronesians of British and Tahitian descent.

Pitcairn Islanders
Pitkern Ailena
Total population
~1,000 worldwide[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Pitcairn Islands40 (2021)[2]
Norfolk Island484 (2016)[3]
 Australia262 (2016)[4]
 New Zealand48 (2018 birthplace)[5][6]
Seventh-day Adventist Church
Related ethnic groups

The culture held in common by most Pitcairn Islanders is mainstream Pitcairn culture, a mixture of British and Polynesian culture derived from the traditions of the settlers who landed in 1790. Most of the people today are descended from the HMS Bounty mutineers of English, Cornish, Manx and Scottish descent, plus their Tahitian companions, including the few who settled afterwards.[7][8] As of 2018, there are a total of 50 people inhabiting the island.[1][9]

There is also a Pitcairn diaspora particularly in Norfolk Island, New Zealand and mainland Australia. Fearing overcrowding, in 1856 all 194 Pitkerners immigrated to Norfolk Island aboard the Morayshire (including a baby born en route) but 16 of them returned to Pitcairn on the Mary Ann in 1858, followed by a further four families in 1864.[10]


Early map of Pitcairn by Robert Bénard published in 1774.


Pitcairn Island was sighted on 3 July 1767 by the crew of the British sloop HMS Swallow, commanded by Captain Philip Carteret. The island was named after Scottish Midshipman Robert Pitcairn, a fifteen-year-old crew member who was the first to sight the island.

“we discovered land to the northward of us. Upon approaching it the next day (Friday, 3 July), it appeared like a great rock rising from the sea... and it having been discovered by a young gentleman, son to Major Pitcairn of the Marines, we called it Pitcairn’s Island.”[11]

— Philip Carteret

These words, recorded in Carteret's log, describe the first sighting. Robert Pitcairn was a son of British Marine Major John Pitcairn, who later was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill in the American Revolution.

Settlement of PitcairnEdit

In 1790, nine of the mutineers from the Bounty, along with the native Tahitian men and women who were with them (six men, eleven women and a baby girl), settled on Pitcairn Islands and set fire to the Bounty. The wreck is still visible underwater in Bounty Bay, discovered in 1957 by National Geographic explorer Luis Marden. Although the settlers survived by farming and fishing, the initial period of settlement was marked by serious tensions among them. Alcoholism, murder, disease and other ills took the lives of most mutineers and Tahitian men. John Adams and Ned Young turned to the scriptures, using the ship's Bible as their guide for a new and peaceful society. Young eventually died of an asthmatic infection. The Polynesians also converted to Christianity (Church of England). After the rediscovery of Pitcairn, John Adams was granted amnesty for his part in the mutiny.[12]

Population historyEdit

Year Population Year Population Year Population Year Population Year Population Year Population
1790 27 1880 112 1970 96 1992 54 2002 48 2012 48
1800 34 1890 136 1975 74 1993 57 2003 59 2013 55
1810 50 1900 136 1980 61 1994 54 2004 65 2014 56
1820 66 1910 140 1985 58 1995 55 2005 63 2015 -
1830 70 1920 163 1986 68 1996 43 2006 65 2016 49
1840 119 1930 190 1987 59 1997 40 2007 64 2017 -
1850 146 1936 250 (highest) 1988 55 1998 66 2008 66 2018 50
1856* 193 1940 163 1989 55 1999 46 2009 67 2021 40
1859** 16 (lowest) 1950 161 1990 59 2000 51 2010 64
1870 70 1960 126 1991 66 2001 44 2011 67

* 1856 Emigration to Norfolk Island left Pitcairn uninhabited.
** 1859 First group returns from Norfolk Island.
As of 2018.[13][1]

Pitcairn Islanders in 1916.


As a result of the families who returned to the island starting in 1859 after settling Norfolk Island, most names therefore are descended from those six families. Occasionally a new person would arrive on the island bringing with them a new surname such as the American Samuel Russell Warren born 1830 in Rhode Island, U.S., fathered children with Agnes Christian (daughter of Thursday October Christian II), whose descendants still live on the island today.[14] The McCoy surname (from the mutineer William McCoy) died out in 1973 with the death of Violet McCoy, who had married Floyd Hastings McCoy, a great-great grandson of William.[15][16]

List of surnames in 2016[17]
Rank Surname Population Origins
1 Christian 15 Manx, English
2 Warren 10 English
3 Warren-Peu 6 English-Polynesian
4 Brown 4 English
5 Young 3 Manx,[18] English
6 Lupton-Christian 2 Manx, English
6 Griffiths 2 Welsh
7 Evans 1 Welsh
7 Jaques 1 French
7 Menzies 1 Scottish
7 O'Keefe 1 Irish
7 Peu 1 Polynesian


In the early 20th century a study was taken by American author Harry L. Shapiro on the characteristics of the islanders, based on the analysis and observations, for example - Pitcairners were taller than their parents and had produced a healthy number of children. There were more blue-eyed and light haired people in the mixed-race descendants than in a typical Tahitian population but more with very dark hair than people of ethnic English origin. A similar study was also taken on the Pitcairn diaspora in Norfolk Island.[19][20]


Hattie Andre's school, Pitcairn Island.

The once-strict moral codes, which prohibited dancing, public displays of affection, smoking, and consumption of alcohol, have been relaxed in recent years. Islanders and visitors no longer require a six-month licence to purchase, import, and consume alcohol.[21] There is now one licensed café and bar on the island, and the Government Store sells alcohol and cigarettes.

Fishing and swimming are two popular recreational activities. A birthday celebration or the arrival of a ship or yacht will involve the entire Pitcairn community in a public dinner in the Square, Adamstown. Tables are covered in a variety of foods, including fish, meat, chicken, philhi, baked rice, boiled plun (banana), breadfruit, vegetable dishes, an assortment of pies, bread, breadsticks, an array of desserts, pineapple and watermelon.

Public work ensures the ongoing maintenance of the island's numerous roads and paths. The island has a labour force of over 35 men and women (as of 2011).[22]


The majority of the resident Pitcairn Islanders are the descendants of the Bounty mutineers and Tahitians (or other Polynesians). Pitkern is a creole language derived from 18th-century English, with elements of the Tahitian language.[22][23] It is spoken as a first language by the population and is taught alongside standard English at the island's only school. It is closely related to the creole language Norfuk, spoken on Norfolk Island, because Norfolk was repopulated in the mid-19th century by Pitcairners.


Church of Adamstown.

The entire population is Seventh-day Adventist.[22] A successful Seventh-day Adventist mission in the 1890s was important in shaping Pitcairn society. In recent years, the church has declined, with only about eight islanders worshipping regularly, but most of them still attend church on special occasions.[24] The Sabbath is observed as a day of rest and as a mark of respect for observant Adventists.

The church was built in 1954 and is run by the Church board and resident pastor, who usually serves a two-year term. The Sabbath School meets at 10 am on Saturday mornings, and is followed by Divine Service an hour later. On Tuesday evenings there is another service in the form of a prayer meeting.



The 2016 census showed that there were a total of 746 people with Pitcairn ancestry. However, this includes the population claiming Pitcairn descent in Norfolk Island.[25] There were 262 people of Pitcairn ancestry for the usually resident population in other states and territories of Australia (notably Queensland and New South Wales).[26]

In the 2011 Australian census, there were 75 people speaking the Pitkern language (also called Pitcairnese) at home, an increase of 21% from the 2006 census which had 62 people speaking the language.[27]

Norfolk IslandEdit

The 2016 Australian census included Norfolk Island for the first time. It showed that 20.0% or 484 people claimed Pitcairn ancestry.[28] As in previous censuses, the 2011 Census asked a question relating to Pitcairn descent. Though for the first time, the 2011 Norfolk Island Census focuses on the Pitcairn descent of the "ordinarily resident population" rather than the "permanent population" of previous Censuses. 45.0 percent of the permanent population are of Pitcairn descent and 38.4 percent of the ordinarily resident population were of Pitcairn descent.[29] Thus for every two persons of Pitcairn descent, there are three persons of non-Pitcairn descent in the ordinarily resident population on Norfolk Island.[30] Norfolk's Pitcairn descendants are already at least 7th or 8th generation, and those in younger age groups are probably 9th generation and the affinity with their heritage is naturally waning.[10]

New ZealandEdit

In the most recent 2018 census, 48 of the ‘usual residents population’ were born in Pitcairn island.[31] In 2013 the Pitcairn Islander ethnic group comprised 177 people. 80.7 percent were born in New Zealand with 36 born overseas - 91.7% on Pitcairn Island. Between 2006 and 2013, the population decreased by 13.4 percent. This compares with an increase of 15.5 percent between 2001 and 2006.[32]

  • 96.6 percent lived in the North Island and 1.7 percent lived in the South Island.
  • The most common region this group lived in was Wellington Region (59.3 percent).
  • The median age (half are younger and half are older than this age) was 37.2 years.
  • 81.9 percent were born in New Zealand and 19.4 percent were born overseas.[33]

Ethnic identity:

  • 27.1 percent said Pitcairn Islander was their only ethnicity.
  • 35.6 percent said they belonged to two ethnic groups and 37.3 percent said they belonged to three or more ethnic groups.

Notable Pitcairn IslandersEdit


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Official Pitcairn Immigration and Repopulation Web Site - Community
  2. ^ "Pitcairn Islands Tourism | Come Explore... The Legendary Pitcairn Islands". Visitpitcairn.pn. Archived from the original on 19 September 2019. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  3. ^ 2016 Census QuickStats – Norfolk Island – Ancestry, top responses
  4. ^ Census and Census Data, Australia - 2016 - Understanding ancestry in the Norfolk Island population
  5. ^ "2018 New Zealand census". 2018. Retrieved 14 August 2020.
  6. ^ Born in Cook Islands
  7. ^ The People of Pitcairn Island - Government of the Pitcairn Islands
  8. ^ www.government.pn Pitcairn's History.
  9. ^ Pitcairn Islands Tourism - Come Explore... The Legendary Pitcairn Islands
  10. ^ a b www.government.pn Pitcairn Island Diaspora Survey (2014)
  11. ^ History of Pitcairn Island - Government of the Pitcairn Islands
  12. ^ "Pitcairn's History". The Government of the Pitcairn Islands. Archived from the original on 17 December 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  13. ^ Pitcairn Islands Tourism - Come Explore... The Legendary Pitcairn Islands
  14. ^ Pitcairn News - 2008 - TIMOTHY YOUNG TULL about SAMUEL WARREN
  15. ^ Last of the McCoys Pacific Islands Monthly, November 1963, p125
  16. ^ Mrs Violet McCoy Pacific Islands Monthly, November 1973, p109
  17. ^ "Pitcairn Residents". library.puc.edu. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  18. ^ "Individual Page".
  19. ^ Harry L. Shapiro: The Heritage of the Bounty (1936; now retitled The Pitcairn Islanders)
  20. ^ Constructing Race: The Science of Bodies and Cultures in American Anthropology - By Tracy Teslow
  21. ^ Pitcairn Island Government Ordinance. government.pn
  22. ^ a b c "CIA World Factbook – Pitcairn Islands". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  23. ^ Pitcairn Island. Encyclopædia Britannica
  24. ^ "Turning Point for Historic Adventist Community on Pitcairn Island" 30 September 2006
  25. ^ 2016 Census QuickStats - Norfolk Island - Ancestry, top responses
  26. ^ 2016 census Data, Australia - Understanding ancestry in the Norfolk Island population
  27. ^ www.omi.wa.gov.au The people of Australia.The People of Australia - Statistics from the 2011 Census (Page: 32) Archived 29 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ 2016 Census QuickStats - Norfolk Island - Ancestry, top responses
  29. ^ The Norfolk Island 2011 Census Addendum to the Norfolk Island 2011 Census Report
  30. ^ 2011 Norfolk Island Census Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine Ordinarily Resident Population of Pitcairn Descent (Page 16)
  31. ^ "2018 New Zealand census". 2018. Retrieved 14 August 2020.
  32. ^ Ethnic group profile: Pitcairn Islander - 2013 New Zealand census
  33. ^ "Pitcairn Islander ethnic group". stats.govt.nz. Retrieved 12 January 2021.