Birth, marriage and death records

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These ‘Vital Records’ include not only Births, Marriages and Deaths but more particularly in India, Baptisms/Christenings, Marriages and Burials. There was some registration of Births and Deaths in British India commencing in 1864 in Calcutta but generally it was voluntary.

There are a number of sources for locating birth, marriage or death information. This article provides an overview of these. See the links to the main article for each source for more in depth information.

Consider that a person may have been baptised with a certain Christian name, but been known by a completely different name, either for their whole life, or for various periods.

Consider also that a second marriage may be bigamous, or the birth mother may not be correctly stated in a baptismal record, as indicated by this India List post.

Ecclesiastical records (‘N’ Series in the India Office Records)

Main article: Church records

The East India Company established and paid for Anglican dioceses and parishes in all areas as they came under its control. Each parish priest was required to establish registers in which to record BMDs. In addition, he had to send duplicates to the presidency ecclesiastical authorities. The latter have been collated and sent to London and are now in the care of the India Office Records at the British Library in their Asian & African Studies Reading Room. Ministers, priests and missionaries who were not employed by the East India Company were not obliged to send these returns, however some did so on a voluntary basis but these records are available to a lesser extent.

Microfilmed copies of all the records are available for public inspection and indexes are available on the open shelves of the APAC, broken down by Presidency, alphabetically and by year.

The N series contains Anglican and some Catholic and Non-Conformist records.

This FIBIS Blog indicates that the records are to be digitised and should be available online from early 2012 through the commercial site findmypast.co.uk

Registrar Marriages

Main article: Registrar marriages

Marriages conducted by the Registrar, which commenced in 1852, are included in the India Office ‘N’ series (N/11). A complete transcription of the indexes to these records is included in the FIBIS Search section of this website.

Unfortunately, the LDS have not filmed these records so they may only be viewed at the British Library.


Records on the LDS Family Seach website

Main article: IGI

The LDS maintained International Genealogical Index is a huge database of genealogical information. The IGI contains several hundred thousand birth and marriage entries for the British India period, data input from the ecclesiastical record microfilms. Those from the ecclesiastical records provide reference numbers so that the microfilms may be viewed at LDS Family History Centres.

Details of other microfilms from the LDS Library Catalogue in respect of Church registers in India are also included.

‘Domestic Occurrences’ in registers, almanacs and newspapers

Main article: Domestic Occurrences

'Domestic Occurrences' was a section found in many periodical publications detailing birth, marriage and death announcements. It is easy to search these records in the digitized versions of journals and directories that are available online. FIBIS has a wealth of transcribed resources.


Records at The National Archives

Main article: General Register Office

The National Archives hold some records that may be useful in tracing a BMD outside of the United Kingdom. For more help see TNA’s brief guide "Looking for records of a birth, marriage or death of a British national at sea or abroad" or the books Tracing Your Ancestors in The National Archives by Amanda Bevan (7th edn, National Archives Kew, 2006), including chapter 8, "Births, marriages and deaths of Britons overseas or in the armed services" and The British Overseas, A Guide to Records of Their Births, Baptisms, Marriages, Deaths and Burials Available in the United Kingdom by Geoffrey Yeo (London, 3rd edition 1995). Both are available at the British Library. Tracing your Ancestors is available from the FIBIS Shop through Amazon.co.uk

BMDs at sea

Main article: Births, marriages and deaths at sea


British Army

British Army Ecclesiastical returns and Chaplains Returns detail sources other than the N series for India BMDs pertaining to British Army soldiers and their families.


Birth and death registration

Main article: Birth and death registration

Some birth and death registration did occur in British India. It commenced in the 1860s but was only compulsory in some areas, with other places adopting voluntary registration. The records are obtained from Local Municipalities, therefore researchers must know where a birth occurred. Some people born in India have copies of their birth registration. Presumably these were obtained some time ago and it is not known whether these documents could be obtained currently, or how far back existing records go.


See also

External links

  • This India List post is about change of surname.
  • This India List post discusses 'assuming a name' which was a way of ensuring continuity of a family name when it would otherwise have died out for lack of a direct male descendant.
  • Marriage Licence Records (Allegations and Bonds) at Guildhall Library This is a brief introduction to searching for records relating to the issue of marriage licences, with particular reference to those concerning the City of London and former county of Middlesex. Licences were issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Bishops, and the records are called Marriage Allegations or Bishops’ Marriage Allegations.