Finding British Ancestry in India
Britain’s presence in India can be traced to Queen Elizabeth's chartering of The Governor and Co. of Merchants of London, Trading into the East-Indies, which came about after merchants demanded the establishment of a trading company in 1600. It was not until August 15, 1947 that India would cease to be a colony of Britain.
During the more than 300 years between the founding of the trading company and the eventual Indian independence, countless British men, women and children established lives in the crown’s colony. As the trading company grew, so did the number of British subjects who went to the colony in search of better lives.
Today, many can trace British ancestry back to those who lived in India during Britain’s rule.
GETTING STARTED ON YOUR GENEAOLOGY RESEARCH
The first steps as you begin your quest to find your British ancestry in India will be:
• Finding where records relating to your ancestor are kept.
• Determining what part of the British Army or the East Indian Co. your ancestor served and during what time era.
TRACING YOUR ANCESTRY ONLINE
Many sites offer assistance in finding your British ancestry in India.
• Genealogic is the British Library’s list of approved researchers and research can be provided for genealogy pre-1948.
• The British Library's India Office can be accessed online. These records include original documents that include both some genealogical data and more generalized Asian historical research.
• Indian Cemeteries has a collection of photographs of graves and monuments to various British individuals who lived in India. The Web site also provides an index of notable people, cemeteries, surnames, regiments, campaigns, occupations and additional links to aid in research.
• Families in British India Society provide information about British families who lived in India from 1600 to 1947.
• Digital South Asia Library holds the British Library’s Oriental and Indian Office Collections. These include records from the East India Co. and the India Office.
• The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides family search with individual people search capabilities if you know your ancestor’s first and last name.
• UK Family History has an index of birth, marriage and death certificates for those who were serving in the British Army in India.
• ABYZ News a source to check if your ancestor was involved in some notable event, criminal activity or there is the possibility of finding an announcement of birth, marriage or death. Another source for this type of information might be a background check.There are also several online business that charge a fee for conducting background checks, many of which state that they are able to provide the service internationally and to search the records of deceased individuals.
OFFICES/INSTITUTIONS WITH OFFICIAL RECORDS
• The British Library has records from the East India Co. from 1600 to 1858, which can provide information for those whose ancestors were soldiers, officer cadets or civil servants with the East India Co. The British Library also has the India Office records. These records provide official documents of baptisms, marriages and burials held in India. Wills for property held in India are also in the British Library’s collection. Also at the library are copies of the East Indian Register & Army List from 1844 to 1860. At the British Library, visitors will also find a collection of contemporary maps.
• The National Archives holds military records for those who served in the Army in India during the Raj. Records for the Armies of Bengal, Madras and Bombay are held by the British Library. Individual records for those who served in the military in India can also be found in the Public Record Office in Kew, London. This office is part of the National Archive.
Books to help with your search
• Baxter, Ian Alexander and Kelsall, Anne (Illus.). Baxter’s Guide Biographical Sources in the India Office Records. UK: Families in British India Society in association with The British Library, 2004.
• Bailey, Peter A. Researching Ancestors in the East India Company Armies. Series: Fibish Research Guide, No. 1. Surrey, England: Families in British India Society, 2006.
• Watts, Michael J. and Watts, Christopher T. My Ancestor was in the British Army: How can I find out more About Him? London, England: Society of Genealogists, 1992.
• Fowler, Simon and Tamblin, Stuart and Spencer, William. Army Service Records of the First World War. Great Britain: Kew, Richmond, Surrey: PRO Publications, 1997.
• Cox, Jane and Padfield, Timothy. Tracing Your Ancestors in the Publish Record Office. London: HMSO, 1984.
• Chapman, Colin R. Pre-1841 Censuses & Population Listings in the British Isles. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1999.