Directories reading list

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Old directories may be thought of as the early equivalent of the telephone book with both white and yellow page information. They can yield invaluable snippets of information about such things as an ancestor's job, place of work, promotion, or even home address, in addition to more general information such as postage rates, distances between various localities, various government regulations, and who was in charge of what in a particular year. Many of them also list births, marriages and deaths, and ships’ passengers.

Ian Poyntz's Roots Mailing List website has more information on Directories and the holdings in many libraries around the world, including the British Library.

Yearbooks and directories tend to overlap in the information they offer and for this reason both are included in this reading list. The historical summaries offered in a yearbook can provide excellent background information on a particular year to the family historian.

Searching directories that are available as online books is not as accurate as it could be, usually due to the quality of the print. As an example, a search led one researcher to an item in the 1838 Bengal Directory. However, when the volume was read more widely several other items of interest were found, none of which had been picked up by using the search facility. If you are looking for something specific and you do not find it this way, it pays to look in the index, say for the births, marriages and deaths, and then go through the whole section.

Note that army and naval directories are listed in the Military reading list.

See also:


Guide to directories

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* Morgan, Richard

Indian Directories. London: Families in British India Society, 2009 (FIBIS fact files; 3)

This booklet provides an invaluable guide to the printed directories available on people who lived or served in British India, with examples of the kind of information useful to family historians to be found in them. Written by Richard Morgan, whom many will know from his articles in family history journals on genealogical research relating to India, it is in his characteristically brisk and down-to-earth style, and full of practical advice on how to get the best out of these important sources. In particular he draws attention to the sometimes underestimated Thacker's Indian Directory which so often comes to the rescue when your ancestor was a 'non-official' and therefore omitted from almost all the official records. All the directories discussed are readily available at the British Library and directions are given on locating them elsewhere. (reviewed by David Blake, FIBIS Trustee)

Available from the FIBIS Bookshop

General Indian directories

  • The Bengal or East-India calendar. [Online version] 1795

This early directory includes details for Madras, Bombay etc. and is part of a number of directories from the late 1700’s available on the website Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO- A part of Gale Digital Collections). The access is restricted to library card holders (usually residents) of participating Libraries, including the National Libraries of Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Australia, State Library of NSW, and many Universities. ECCO may also be accessed from the British Library Reading Rooms.


  • The East India kalendar; or, Asiatic register for Bengal, Madras, Bombay, Fort Marlborough, China, and St. Helena. [Online version] 1791, 1797

These very early editions of the East-India register are part of a number of directories from the late 1700’s available on the website Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO- A part of Gale Digital Collections - see note above under The Bengal or East-India calendar).


  • An East-India register and directory. [Microform] 1803-1860

The EIRs provide complete lists of the servants (employees) of the East India Company both at home and abroad including civilians, military and marine personnel, also Europeans and mariners with interests in India, but not in the service of the Company, for a particular year. The EIRs were superceded by The India list.

The LDS (Mormon) Family Search Library has many editions from 1803 to 1860 in microfilm format listed in its Library Catalogue. This page from the Catalogue shows the various titles which are included in the series and will be available to view at a local Family History Center.


  • The East-India register and directory (Digitised editions).

Fully searchable editions covering various years can be found Online. See our index to volumes.


  • Thacker's Indian directory 1895.
    • This directory can now be searched or browsed online at Ancestry.co.uk

Thacker's annual directories are the most comprehensive of all the Indian directories.


Regional Indian directories

  • The Bengal and Agra annual guide and gazetteer. [Online version] Calcutta: W. Rushton and Co., 1841

Can be viewed, searched and downloaded on Google Books.


  • The Bengal calendar. [Online version] 1787, 1789

These are part of a number of directories from the late 1700’s available on the website Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO - a part of Gale Digital Collections).The access is restricted to library card holders (usually residents) of participating libraries, including the National Libraries of Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Australia, State Library of NSW, and many Universities. Most of the original books are in the British Library. ECCO may also be accessed from the British Library Reading Rooms.


  • The Bengal calendar & register. [Online version] 1790

Also available on the website Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO - a part of Gale Digital Collections) at participating libraries, including the British Library Reading Rooms.


  • The Bengal directory and annual register. [Online version] Calcutta:Samuel Smith & Co., 1838

Full version on Google Books, includes Bengal Army list, civil list etc.


  • The Bengal kalendar and almanack. [Online version] 1792

This is available on the website Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO - a part of Gale Digital Collections) at participating libraries, including the British Library Reading Rooms.


  • The Bengal kalendar and register. [Online version] 1795, 1800

Also available on the website Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO - a part of Gale Digital Collections) at participating libraries, including the British Library Reading Rooms.


  • The Bengal register, containing lists of the Hon. Company's civil and military establishments, under the Presidency of Fort William [Online version] 1787

HEIC employees in Bengal, including surgeons. This is available on the website Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO - a part of Gale Digital Collections) at participating libraries, including the British Library Reading Rooms.


  • The Calcutta annual register 1821. [Online version] Calcutta: Government Gazette Press, 1823

This provides, in what is termed historical sketches, a comparison between British India in 1810 and 1821, including information on the policies of the Indian states and British India, territorial expansion, finances and trade. There are also government regulations, plus parliamentary and India House proceedings for the year. There are some articles and an obituary. At the end is a section compiled from Calcutta newspapers listing the administrators/executors for the estates of various deceased people, arrivals and departures, marriages, deaths, and births. The births are arranged by the child's gender with twins at the end of the sequence.

Available to view or download on Google Books.


Civil Service directories

  • The India list. [Microform] 1861-1947

When the governing of India was transferred from the HEIC to the British government, The East-India register was superceded by what was initially called The Indian army and civil service list. This later series is collectively referred to as The India list. The LDS (Mormon) Family Search Library has microfilmed editions of this from 1861 through to 1947 and these are listed in Library Catalogue under the title An East-India register and directory. This page from the catalogue shows the various titles which form the series. Note that some of the volumes do not contain an Army List eg the 1905 volume mentioned below. The LDS(Mormon) Library catalogue has the following entry for India Office Army Lists 1886-1940 available on fiche. The films can be viewed at a local Family History Center.


  • The India Office List 1877. [DVD] Dewsbury: Your Old Books & Maps, 2005.

A very comprehensive directory with both Civil & Military listings. Complimented by a 'superb' index and also an index of retired officers. As is usual with the India List, includes the then current rules and regulations of the Civil Service.


  • The India List and India Office List 1905. [Online version] London: Harrison & Son

This edition can be searched, read online or downloaded at Google Books.


  • The India Office List 1933. [CD-Rom] Cinderford: Archive CD Books, 2002

A comprehensive directory compiled from the Civil Lists of the Government of India. The section on records of service provides the dates of appointment, promotions and qualifications for individuals in the ICS. Lists military officers and recipients of medals and awards. Includes the rules and regulations of the Civil Service, with details such as rates of pay and pension rates.

This PDF facsimile is out of production in the UK, but can be found at Archive CD Books Australia or Archive CD Books Ireland or Archive CD Books USA


  • A List of the Company's civil servants, at their settlements in the East-Indies, the island St. Helena, and China. [Online version] 1790, 1799

These HEIC lists of senior and junior merchants, factors, and writers are part of a number of directories from the late 1700’s available on the website Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO - a part of Gale Digital Collections).The access is restricted to library card holders (usually residents) of participating libraries, including the National Libraries of Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Australia, State Library of NSW, and many universities. Most of the original books are in the British Library. ECCO may also be accessed from the British Library Reading Rooms.


See also the Newspapers & Magazines reading list