|Churches in North India|
|Churches in South India|
There was some registration of Births and Deaths in British India, commencing in 1864 in Calcutta, but generally it was voluntary, and records which exist are difficult to access. The next best thing for a genealogist is to use Church Records. An estimated 70% of all baptism, marriage and burial records have survived today in the India Office Records, and they are all indexed and available on microfilm. Records of baptisms, marriages and burials are available 1698-1968.
The records are housed in the British Library in London.
In 1930 the Anglican Church in India separated from the Church of England and became the autonomous Church of India, Burma and Ceylon, still within the Anglican Communion. From this time onwards fewer ecclesiastical records were sent to England, and the number continued to decline over time. By the 1940s there were very few records sent to England.
- 1 Accuracy
- 2 Records at the British Library
- 3 Regional breakdown of ecclesiastical records
- 4 Other sources
- 5 Churches
- 6 External links
- 7 References
The ecclesiatical records in the India Office collection are transcriptions of registers from churches in India, sent to London for administrative purposes. As such, there are occasional transcription errors. As an example, the British Library IOR records show the surname as 'Hobeau', whereas the original hand written entry in the register at the church in Madras shows the name as 'Hobson'. It is also possible to have age transcription errors
Note that the name of godparents are entered only occasionally on copies of baptisms in the British Library. This information is, however, generally available from the church registers in India.
Records at the British Library
Microfilmed copies of all the records are available for public inspection and indexes are on the open shelves of the Asian & African Studies Reading Room, broken down by Presidency, alphabetically and by year. Records are catalogued under the 'N' series (ie, the references for ecclesiastical records being with N), under the heading Ecclesiastical Returns
The British Library article contains visiting tips and information.
Online records and transcriptions
- The commercial website findmypast.co.uk has digitised the India Office Church records and they were released online on 29 January 2014. Due to the fact that more recent records may contain details for individuals who are still living, the website findmypast host only a basic index for birth/baptism records within 100 years and marriage records under 84 years. 
- Many of the indexes have been previously transcribed by FIBIS Volunteers and are available in the FIBIS Search database under the heading Ecclesiastical Records.
- Some records, a small proportion of the whole, have been transcribed and are searchable on the British Library's India Office Family History Search.
- Enhanced indexes from the church records at the British Library were added in April 2010 to the LDS Family Search website. These are free to search and view but examination of the full record will give further information.
Since the East India Company only officially accepted employees of Protestant faith, all early Ecclesiastical Records are Anglican. The India Office categorization of these records and their earliest dates are:
Roman Catholic Records
The Company initially legislated against the employment of Roman Catholics. However, such was the pressure to find recruits for its armies in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars in the late 18th Century, it was forced to repeal this legislation and to recruit Catholic soldiers from Ireland. The pastoral needs of these soldiers were generally met by the independent Catholic Missionaries, largely established by the Portuguese or the French.
Following Catholic emancipation in England and Wales (1829) Irish soldiers prevailed upon the presidency authorities to provide English-speaking Catholic chaplains and churches for their use. These were established beginning in the mid-1830s. Again, their BMD returns were made to the presidency ecclesiastical authorities. Initially, these returns were filed separately (N/x/RC series, where x=1 for Bengal, x=2 for Madras and x=3 for Bombay) but after a few years, they were amalgamated with the Anglican records.
N/1/RC 1842-1856, N/2/RC 1835-1854, N/3/RC 1842-1854. These records are available on LDS microfilm, refer table below.
This India List post gives further details.
Missionary and Non-Conformist Church records, including the Church of Scotland
It may be noted that a number of independent missionary and non-conformist churches were requested to return their BMD records to the presidency authorities. The latter considered it necessary to record proof of relationships of its employees for official purposes such as rights to pension, etc. A number of priests refused to do this, largely on the grounds of time taken and of cost. Accordingly, many of their vital events are not recorded in the APAC today. Foremost among these are the records of the large numbers of Catholic soldiers who used the missionary churches during the thirty years or so before emancipation. To obtain details from these ‘missing’ records, it is necessary to visit the church where the ceremony was performed and to apply to see the original register.
With the passage of time, the BMD returns became increasingly included and therefore more likely to feature in the ‘N’ series of returns at the BL. Note, however, a number of marriages performed in the Church of Scotland feature in the Registrar marriages, as explained in the link.
Some Church of Scotland Bombay church records and records for St Andrew's Church of Scotland, Madras may be found in LDS Microfilms of Church registers in India, but it seems the records for St Andrew's Church of Scotland in Calcutta have not been filmed and are only obtainable from the church, refer Calcutta-Churches and missions.
- Bengal Past and Present: Journal of the Calcutta Historical Society, available at the British Library has lists of baptisms, marriages and burials based on the original church registers in Calcutta, up to 1800. They are probably mostly covered by the Ecclesiastical Returns in the B.L., however there may be some additional entries which never made it to England (e.g. the ship carrying the returns to England was lost). There are also some biographical details. Some of the lists are available online on the Digital Library of India website.
- Baptisms 1767 -1777 and Baptisms 1778-1782 Transcriptions from Registers of St John's, Calcutta by E W Madge as they appeared in Bengal Past and Present – this link is to website of Madge Family of Bengal. Each listing contains many pages of biographical notes (13 and 16 pages respectively). The first page of the second document lists articles in other volumes of BP&P containing transcriptions of baptisms, marriages and burials to 1800.
- Baptisms 1713-1758 BPP Volume XXI, pp 143-159
- Baptisms 1769-1766 BPP Volume V, pp 325-332
- Marriages 1713-1754 BBP Volume IX, Part II, Serial No 18, Oct-Dec 1914 pp 217-243. Available online on DLI, catalogued as vol. 9, 1918; computer pages 86-112.
- Marriages 1759-1779 BBP Volume IV, July-Dec 1909 pp 486-512. Available online on DLI as (1909) vol. 4; computer pages 107-147
- Marriages 1780-1785 BPP Volume VII, pp 164-171. Available online on DLI, catalogued as (1917) vol. 7 but published c 1911; computer pages 197-204
- Marriages 1785-1792 BBP Volume XVI, Part I, Serial No 31, Jan-March 1918 pp 41-71 Available online on DLI as vol.16, pt. 1; computer pages 52-82
- Marriages 1781-1800 (Supplementary Register) BBP Volume XXI, pp 76-141
- Burials 1713-1755 BPP Volume X, Jan-June 1915, Serial Nos 19-20, pp 257-284 Available online on DLI as vol.10; computer pages 84-111
- Burials 1759-1761 BBP Volume V, pp 136-142
- Burials 1762-1774 BBP Volume VI 1910, pp 92-126 Available online on DLI, catalogued as Volume 6, no 12; computer pages 143-177
- Burials 1775-81 BPP Volume 31 (Jan-Jun 1926) pages 130-156. Available online on DLI, catalogued as Vol.31,Part.1,Serial no.61, computer pages 149-175
- Burials 1782-88 Volume 32 II (Oct-Dec 1926) pages 109-132. Available online on DLI, catalogued as vol.32, computer pages 132-155
Regional breakdown of ecclesiastical records
|Catalogue Section||Presidency or Region||Range of Volumes||Range of Years||LDS Film Range* (I = Index)|
|N/1||Bengal||1 – 641||1713 – 1948||498954 - 535699|
|.||.||RC/1-5||1842 – 1856||LDS Library catalogue|
|N/2||Madras||1 – 176||1698 – 1948||463296 - 527486|
|.||.||RC/1-8||1835 – 1854||530008 - 530011|
|.||Cochin||177||1751 – 1804||.|
|N/3||Bombay||1 – 178||1709 – 1948||462965 - 523914|
|.||.||RC/1-5||1842 – 1854||LDS Library catalogue|
|N/4||India and Pakistan||1 – 8||1949 – 1968||527415 - 527421|
|N/5||Indian States||1 – 2||1890 – 1946||498603 (I) & 527422-3|
|N/6||St. Helena||1 – 3||1767 – 1835||498603 (I) & 498605|
|N/7||Fort Marlborough, Bencoolen||1||1759 – 1825||498603 (I) & 498606|
|N/8||Penang (Prince of Wales Island)||1||1799 – 1829||498603 (I) & 498606|
|N/9||Macao & Whampoa(Canton)||1||1820 – 1834||498603 (I) & 498606|
|N/10||Burma||1 – 7||1937 – 1957||527436 (I) & 534495|
|N/11||Registry Office Marriages||1 – 11||1852 – 1911||Not Filmed|
|N/12||Kuwait Political Agency||1 – 16||1937 – 1961||Not Filmed|
|N/13||Aden||1 – 21||1840 – 1969||Believed unfilmed|
|.||(Registration Act 1886)||.|
|.||.||3 Madras, Assam, Burma, Central Provinces and Punjab|
* or Film Numbers to insert into LDS Catalogue to yield full range. Note: The LDS tend to classify the locations of these ecclesiastical events according to the present day Indian States, which the researcher will have to relate to the provinces of the former British Presidencies.
- Birth, marriage and death records, an overview of sources.
- IGI, details of searching the LDS genealogical index and using their microfilms of Church records.
- LDS Microfilms of Church registers in India, a list of microfilms of church records in India which are not held by the APAC.
- LDS Microfilms for Church Records outside of the usual Presidencies Lists of microfilms of European church records in India that do not fall under the usual three Presidencies. These include Native States, and post-Independence church records in addition to the Catholic records for Bengal, Madras and Bombay mentioned above and Madras Omissions and Corrections.
- Goa Church Records, a list of microfilms of church records in Goa.
- Society of Genealogists, London has some church records relating to India, some of which are not found in the N series of India Office Records at the British Library. To see what is available refer to Church records of India at SOG.
- Churches in South India, a list of postal addresses and phone numbers of all bishops of CSI dioceses in India, correct in 1993 together with some current website details.
- Churches in North India, a list of the postal addresses and phone numbers of all bishops of CNI dioceses in India, correct in 1993, together with some current website details.
- Catholic Churches in Madras, a list of Roman Catholic churches in Madras, with their date of building and approximate location. This list was kindly transcribed by Peter Bailey.
- Calcutta, a reference to a listing of church records in Calcutta to 1800.
- House of Lords: Indian Church Bill 31 May 1927 Hansard. An Act to make provision incidental to and consequential on the dissolution of the legal union between the Church of England and the Church of England in India. Follow the links "Forward to" on each page
- Photos of Churches in India. Stephen Luscombe has a fascinating website on the British Empire which includes, amongst other things, photos of former British churches in India. The whole site is worth exploring for general information on the British Empire.
- Photographs of Churches in India taken by 'DBHKer' flickr.com
- Photographs: Churches of British India: 1, 2,3 and 4 from DBHKer’s galleries on flickr.com (photographs taken by others , but gathered together by DBHKer)
- Churches and Cathedrals of India by 'ChurchesofIndia' on You Tube
- Part I - Western India: Konkan and Malabar Coasts includes Bombay
- Part II - North India includes Simla, Nainital, Mussoorie, Allahabad, Lucknow, Cawnpore, Delhi, Agra and also Poona etc
- Part III - South India includes Madras. Secunderabad etc
- Part IV - South India includes Ooty, Bangalore, Pondicherry etc
- Part V - Eastern India includes Calcutta, Serampore, Kalimpong, Darjeeling etc
- Historical Background of the United Church of Northern India, a union of Presbyterian Churches of India
- Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has a category 'Dioceses of India', with contact details.
- List of Roman Catholic dioceses in India Wikipedia
- All Catholic Dioceses in [current] India including historical and All Catholic Dioceses in Pakistan including historical from Catholic-Heirarchy.org
- Local Catholic Church History in India. This is a terrific site by Ann Mensch but which is now archived, which provides a wealth of information on all Indian Catholic dioceses, as well as some interesting links on Catholic family history. Archived version at 30 April 2008.
- This India List post advises individual Roman Catholic parish churches were obliged to send an annual copy to their Diocesan offices. These are known in the UK and elsewhere as "Bishop's Transcripts".
- As long as the Diocesan records have not been destroyed, you will always find a copy there from every single parish church within that diocese. If you don’t get a result from the parish (where for instance, as in Burma, many have been destroyed) then write to the Bishop's secretary.
- The same procedure is followed in the Anglican church, and the same reasoning applies
- This India List post suggests contacting the church in India for hard to find information. “I have seen many comments and notes in register books that are not repeated in the returns which are now in the BL”.
- This would also apply to Anglican churches
- India List post about searching the registers of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Agra. “I came to realise that the entries frequently contained more information than one finds in the "Company" registers - but it was necessary in many cases to draw upon my school Latin”. For Latin language aids, see the page French
- This India List post gives details of a [marriage] Banns book at Roman Catholic churches. The example mentioned contained information additional to the marriage record.
- India New Advent Catholic Encyclopaedia
- Archdiocese of Goa New Advent Catholic Encyclopaedia
- "[Catholic] Archdiocese of Calcutta" from The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 Saintwiki.com
- India List post by Colin Evans
- India List post Church transcription errors
- The British In India Collectionbl.uk
- Available on the Digital Library of India website. Bengal Past and Present Volume 25, Parts I and II (Series nos 49-50) January-June 1923, pages 130-155 and Volume 26, part 2, 1923, pages 142-168, DLI computer pages 45-71