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This article details connections between British India and Australia, particularly emigration and immigration.

Early Connections with India

Links between Australia and India were established from an early date. The first Anglican chaplains, appointed from 1788 at the time when the first shipment of convicts were sent from Britain, were British Government officials. Then from 1825 - 1836 the Australian Continent formed part of the Diocese of Calcutta. This appears to have been for administrative purposes only as Church records for this period do not appear in the India Office Series. It is probable that any original intention to make regular visitations of New South Wales (as it was then called) from Calcutta proved impractical bearing in mind the huge distances involved. [1]

FIBIS Resources

  • Links with India: Records in the New South Wales State Archives relating to settlers and others. by Christine Yeats, Manager, Public Access, State Records Authority of New South Wales. This appeared in FIBIS journal no 16 – pages 28 to 39. For details of how this journal can be accessed online FIBIS members or purchased (non members) see FIBIS Journals

Historical background

  • Colonial Cousins. A surprising history of connections between India and Australia by Joyce Westrip and Peggy Holroyde Wakefield Press 2010. Extract from Colonial Cousins which includes Contents, Foreword and Preface. A review by Sylvia Murphy of this book appeared in FIBIS Journal Number 24 (Autumn 2010),page 54. Refer FIBIS Journals for details of how to access the review. Listen to an interview with the author Peggy Holroyde 17 April 2010 ABC Radio (Australia)
  • A Brief History of the Anglo Indians by Dr. Gloria J. Moore, now archived. An article written for inclusion in a publication in 1988, The Australian People: an Encyclopedia of the Nation, its People and Their Origins.
The second part of the article mentions the many connections between India and Australia. Included in these is that a major shipment of settlers was organised by Sir William Burton, a judge in Madras in 1844. Burton was president of the Madras East India Society and sought relief for those who "are Christians and look to England as the land of their origin". The society sent two groups from Madras to Sydney in the William Prowse (1853) and the Palmyra (1854). (A similar scheme for Albany in Western Australia ended with a shipwreck.) Many of these men were compositors in the printing trade. Those settled by Burton were surveyed by the author Henry Cornish in 1875 and the results were published in 1879 in his Under the Southern Cross (republished by Penguin in 1975). The original version of this book is available on the free website, page 269 gives details.

Archives and other records including Passenger Lists

Indexes from NRS 5317 are included in the searchable Assisted Immigrants Index
Also see Polish Refugees in India 1942-1948 which includes a reference to the 'General Langfitt Group', who arrived in Fremantle in 1950 from East Africa, many of whom had previously been in India.


From around the mid nineteenth century there was a demand from India for stock horses from New South Wales (Australia). These were particularly popular with the Indian Cavalry as the horses were thought to be able to stand the climate of India better than horses from England. The Australian horses were known as Walers.

  • An article 'European Orphans and Vagrants in India in the Nineteenth Century' by David Arnold in Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History , Volume 7, January 1979, number 2, pages 117 and 121 says
A primary source of vagrants in the 1860s and 1870s, involved horse grooms from Australia. In order to get men to accompany the horses shipped to India, mainly from Melbourne, shippers spread fabulous reports of the abundance of well paid jobs and the easy living to be had in India. The grooms signed up only for the voyage and once the horses had been landed at Calcutta, Madras or Colombo they were discharged. For most of them jobs proved impossible to find, their pay was soon exhausted and they were left destitute.....The 1869 Act specified that those vagrants who could not find work “after a reasonable period of time ‘could be deported, subject to their own consent .The costs of deportation were to be borne by the state, and the deported vagrant was prohibited from returning to India for at least five years. An attempt was made to charge Australian horse shippers and their agents for the cost of deporting grooms left destitute in Indian ports, but a few test cases were sufficient to show the impossibility of making shippers pay. The threat of prosecution and fines did, however, contribute to the decline in the numbers of grooms left stranded in India.
The end notes of this article refer to a reference: 'In Charge of Horses from Melbourne to Madras' by ‘An Amateur Groom’, reprinted from Englishman’s Weekly Journal, 15 July 1871, in India Legislative Procs., no 44, 10 April 1874. Both these publications appear to be available at the British Library, although its holding of the first publication catalogued under the alternative title Englishman's Saturday Evening Journal (published in Calcutta) 'lacks scattered issues'. Update The Englishman's Overland Mail of 15 July 1871 is now available on Findmypast, see Findypast link, however no article of this title appears, so it is unclear whether these two titles are exactly the same. However the article, or possibly extracts, is available on Findmypast in the Times of India 10 July 1871 , page 5 , 6-7th columns, noted to be originally in Madras Mail July 4 [1871]. Findmypast link (scroll down). These two links are only available for signed in findmypast subscribers.


Prior to World War 2, most jockeys racing in Calcutta, the principal course in India, were Australians or Britons.[3]


Men born in Australia also served in the Armies of India. They probably joined British Army regiments in Australia and subsequently served in India then transferring to the East India Company Armies.[4] [5]



In 1838 the government of New South Wales agreed to take seven boys (of not less than twelve years of age and of ‘pure European descent ‘) from the Madras Military Male Orphan Asylum. The seven boys arrived on the 'Sesostris' in February 1841, their passage arranged and paid for by the East India Company’s Marine Board. The seven boys were Samuel Hobart, James Marlow, John Harris, Christopher Connor, William Bird, James Barry and James MacKin.[6] [7]


The following case study might help researchers.

Heather Hall has advised: I'd been searching for ages for a Caroline Sarah Chantry b. 1828, daughter of John and Mary Davey and stepdaughter of Sgt William Chantry of the 45th Regiment. We knew from research at the British Library that she was orphaned in 1832 when there was an outbreak of cholera, but couldn't find how she came to Australia and was married at the Clarence settlement in 1846. To cut a very long story short, from FIBIS I discovered that she was admitted to the Madras Military Girls Orphan School in 1834 as Caroline Davey and was still there in 1839 with her sister Ann Chantry. I found in an 1843 newspaper shipping list into Sydney were five orphan girls and their Matron from Madras and then three days later the only girls to be admitted to the Sydney NSW Orphanage were five girls aged 14 to 16, one of whom was my Caroline Davey. I found the shipping information on a film of the Sydney Morning Herald dated 4 January 1843 at the NLA as it is not yet part of the online newspaper project. The names of the girls and Matron were not listed, but I found the names on the NSW State records site. We then went to State Records at Kingswood and found information to confirm my online searching.

The ship was 'Duchess of Kent', Captain Brittan, which arrived in Sydney on 3rd Jan 1843 from Calcutta, Madras and Hobart Town, having left Calcutta on 24th September 1842, Madras 18th Oct and Hobart Town on 24th December. Passengers leaving the ship in Hobart Town were Dr Baikie and Mr Desaunt along with five prisoners (unnamed). Arriving Sydney were Captain Gunton of 50th Regt and Mrs Gunton, Dr Owen, B.C. and Mr White. I presume that Captain Gunton must have been in charge of the prisoners.

Because the behaviour of the girls once in Sydney was most unsatisfactory the Colonial Secretary advised Madras that they would only consider taking girls aged 10 or 11 in future, however I don't know if any more girls came to Sydney.

Sydney Orphan School records - COD 506

Transcribed 13.5.2009 by Heather Hall at State Records NSW, Kingswood.

  • Page 10, CARDWELL Mary Ann, 16, Arr 7.1.1843. Left 18.7.1843. This girl came from the Madras Military Asylum. To Mrs B Minders. (See note 1 below)
  • Page 12, DAVEY Caroline, 14, Arr 7.1.1843. Left 7.8.1843. This girl came from the Madras Military Asylum. To Mrs Hallen of Prospect, 7.8.1843. Returned 25.8.1843. Sent to Mrs Pearce of Surry Hills Sydney, September 1843. (See note 2 below)
  • Page 56, SMITH Caroline, 14, Arr 1.7.1843. This girl came from the Madras Military Asylum. Returned from Mrs Mills of Parramatta and afterwards given to Mrs Buchanan of Sydney. Returned to the school by Mrs Buchanan and given to Mrs Mills of South Head. Returned to School again for very disgraceful conduct on 26.3.1845. (No other dates were written on this record. HH) (See note 3 below)
  • Page 58, TOONER Ellen, 14, Arr 7.1.1843. Left 8.6.1847. This girl came from the Madras Military Asylum. Apprenticed to the Rev’d D Mackenzie of Albury and ??? River, 8th June 1847. (See note 4 below)
  • Page 63, WATTS Mary, 15, Arr 7.1.1843. This girl came from the Madras Military Asylum. Given to Dr Smythe but returned and sent to Mrs Fletcher of Lower George St Sydney. (No dates given) (See note 5 below)
  • Also listed in documents relating to the orphan girls was the Matron, MRS WOOLLER, who was employed in Madras to accompany the girls to Sydney. For her efforts she was paid £17/10/- before departure with another £17/10/- to be paid once she had discharged her duty to the girls on arrival in Sydney.

Notes by HH:

  1. There was a marriage of an Ann Cardwell to Philip Gunning at St Matthew’s C of E, Windsor in 1847.
  2. Caroline Davey, aka Sarah Chantry, married Thomas Collins at the Clarence River District, June 1846.
  3. A Caroline Smith married Evan Richards at the Garrison Church Sydney in 1851.
  4. A Helen Tooner married Walter W J Pearce at Albury 1854.
  5. There were three marriages for a Mary Watts in Sydney in 1850, 1851 and 1852.

A newspaper item from the Bombay Times & Journal of Commerce, 2nd April 1851 states 5 girls had been sent to New South Wales, indicating no further girls had been sent from Madras to that date. Refer Orphan newspaper items


See the FiBiwiki article on Convicts

External links


  1. The inefficiency of the ecclesiastical establishment of India by Henry Shepherd (1829).
  2. Hadley, Lynne Palmyra passengers to Australia, 1854 Rootsweb India Mailing List 10 October 2009, archived.
  3. Kolkata Sports Heritage, page 19 Also available
  4. Chelsea Pensioners - soldiers with an Australian connection Jean Ffrench on the Australia General Rootsweb message board 2004
  5. " Colonial subalterns of Empire: Australians in India during the movement for Swaraj, 1920-1939" by Richard Gehrmann, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba. From "The British World: Religion, Memory, Society, Culture, 2-5 July 2012, Toowoomba, Australia"
  6. India, China, Australia: Trade and Society 1788-1850 pages 86-87, footnotes page 196. The boys details are in India Office Records F/4/1916 (Correspondence Book Entry 82082) at the British Library.
  7. Naida. Orphan Boys from Madras to Sydney Rootsweb India Mailing List 21 December 2003, archived.