British Library

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The British Library at St Pancras, London is the home of the India Office Records, which are held in the Asia, Pacific & Africa Collection (APAC) and viewable in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room.

The British Library is one of the UK Institutions that receives a copy of every publication distributed to the UK or Republic of Ireland and these publications are available to registered readers in the Library’s Reading Rooms. However, it should be noted that not all material is held at its London site and some titles may have to be ordered in advance. For more information see Legal Deposit in the British Library.

FIBIS Resources

FIBIS, in association with the British Library, have published the Third Edition of this invaluable guide to the India Office Records (held at the British Library). This is the bible for all who are researching ancestors in British India and South Asia. Available from the FIBIS Shop
  • Getting started with the India Office Records. 2009 (FIBIS fact files; 2)
Planning your first visit to the British Library? This very practical booklet contains two articles which will reduce stress and possible frustration when beginning research using the India Office Records at the British Library in London. Lawrie Butler was the former FIBIS Research Officer and his helpfully illustrated article "Hints on research in the India Office Records at the British Library Asian and African Studies reading room" carefully sets out what can be accomplished before visiting the library, how to gain admission to the library, and what to do once you enter the reading room in order to obtain maximum results. Elaine MacGregor's article "First visits to the OIOC by a 'newbie'" is a useful case study recounting her experience of using the reading room. Both articles were previously published in the FIBIS Journal. Available from the FIBIS Shop
  • "Discovering biographical sources in the British Library Manuscripts" by Dorota Walker FIBIS Journal Number 27 (Spring 2012), pages 37-43 For details of how to access this article see FIBIS Journals. A pdf file of the Guide may be downloaded, refer External links below.

Research service

  • FIBIS can provide a research service and/or supply/copy documents to FIBIS members unable to visit the British Library. The documents for which FIBIS is able to supply a copy of the record, are those records available on British Library microfilm, or which it is permitted to photocopy. For other documents, FIBIS is only able to supply a transcription, refer below. (This is especially useful for obtaining further information where a reference has been found on the FIBIS website). For further information about this service email the research co-ordinator on research@fibis.org

Also see

Online databases available in the Library's Reading Rooms

The British Library’s Reading Rooms provide computer access to many websites which contain online newspapers, journals, directories etc, published both in India and Britain which may be a source of informative genealogical information.

The British Library’s Electronic resources & journals in our reading rooms indicates that the "Times of India—1838-2001", Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO), Eighteenth Century Journals, 19th Century Periodicals , 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection ,the British Newspaper Archive and the Times Digital Archive are some of the databases which may be viewed online in the Library Reading Rooms. Refer Subscription websites-online newspapers, journals and directories for more details of these databases.

Visiting the British Library

  • You will need a Reader Pass to enter the British Library Reading Rooms - which is where research is conducted. Read How to Register for a Reader Pass
  • Read about location, opening times, and many aspects covered in Reader FAQ’s in this link. Note that cameras of any kind are not permitted and copies of Library collections must only be made using Library copying facilities.

Free Training Sessions in using India Office resources

Every month the APAC team offer a free 75 minute introduction to their records. This is aimed at the family historian. For further details, including upcoming dates, see the British Library website at Help for Researchers.

Obtaining Copies of Records

Certified copies of ecclesiastical records, with the seal of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, acceptable for official purposes, can be ordered from the British Library -current cost (2012) is £18 each. These contain details from the ecclesiastical registers held in the British Library which are "contemporary copies of registers of baptisms, marriages and burials sent to London for the information of the East India Company and the India Office"[1]. The certified copies are transcriptions with data extracted from the ecclesiastical records. Because of the possibility of error with any transcription, for family history purposes copies of the microfilmed register pages are preferable. These can be obtained cheaply from the microfilm copiers in the reading room. These images will also soon be available on the pay site Find My Past. Note that, where it occurs, the name of the church may be on a different page to the record you require. The records for a church may extend over several pages and the name of the church usually appears either at the beginning, or possibly at the end of these records, included in the words of certification by the chaplain/minister/priest for that church. Reading Room Copy Service prices

The following links are from the British Library’s "Help for Researchers" regarding the ordering of records Online or by post

Note: Any original record which cannot be photocopied due to age etc, and/or if you have found a reference in Search our Catalogue Archives and Manuscripts, you will probably need to obtain a copy as described in "Images". FIBIS Research is able to provide a transcription of these records, but is unable to provide a copy of the actual records, which need to be obtained directly from the British Library.

Contact information

The British Library can be contacted via the means below. The Library will provide a limited research service and can supply copies of records and documents, particularly, if you have the reference of an item you would like and cannot visit - charges apply. For baptisms, marriages and burials, consider whether you need a certified copy, refer above, as for genealogical purposes, a photocopy of the record may be preferable. APAC also hold a list of professional researchers familiar with the collections. Please, however, note that, as mentioned above, FIBIS can provide research assistance and copies of documents for FIBIS members unable to visit the Library. Some India Office records from the British Library, including all the ecclesiastical records, are available on LDS microfilms - refer IGI for links to the LDS Library catalogue and Family History Centres for information about ordering microfilms or using the LDS photocopy service.

Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections enquiries
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7873
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7641
E-mail: apac-enquiries@bl.uk. Note however that you will automatically receive an online form to complete, so it is more efficient to compete this initially, as quoted in the link "Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections" below: Ask the Reference Team

References

  1. British Library Ecclesiastical Records
  2. A researcher advised in this India List post dated March 2010 she required technical assistance to open the CD and would have been better off in hindsight to obtain photocopies.She subsequently advised (by email to User:Maureene dated 19 May 2012) she no longer had a problem when she bought a new computer. When asked about the CD format, the British Library "apac-enquires" (by email to User:Maureene dated 15 May 2012) did not provide any information additional to that advised in the web links above, other than to say it was not possible to send copies of [small] documents as email attachments.

External Links

The main guide is in chronological order. Use the comprehensive indexes to locate material:
  • Name index – begins on p723 of the document (also numbered Index page 1)
  • Place index – p846 (p124 of the index section)
  • Subject index – p893 (p171)
Users may find the search function useful (either the binoculars icon on the left hand side of the screen or ctrl+F).