French

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Information relating to French ancestry in India, and also to the British in France.

Principal locations

The major French possessions in India were:

Brief history of the French in India

The French East India Company was formed in 1664, but it was so closely tied with the state that its fortunes rose and fell with the careers of ministers and turns of politics. It was not until after 1720 that its fortunes revived rapidly. Until this time, the the French stake in India was not great enough to warrant the English fighting over it, so the two companies declared neutrality. However, between 1720 and 1740, the French Company's trade increased to ten times its value until it was nearly half the size of the English Company. The French Company now presented an economic threat to the English Company.

This threat was exacerbated by two wholly European wars : the War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and the Seven Years War (1756-1763), in which England and France were on opposite sides. The two Companies, backed by their respective states, went to war in India. The ensuing conflicts were known as the Carnatic Wars. In 1746 the French captured Madras but the British exchanged this for Cape Breton Island in North America in 1748. The French and English then fought over Indian territory, aiding rival princes and governors, until the French were soundly defeated in 1760. Pondicherry fell and the power of the French in India was effectively ended, although a brief resurgence occurred in 1782 under Admiral de Suffren. The French colonies in India remained separate from British India until Independence came in 1947 and the French voluntarily ceded its former colonies to the new Indian state.[1]

Some Frenchmen served in the Armies of the rulers of the Princely States. For example, M. Maistre De la Tour, was the French commandant of Hyder Ali’s artillery which had "un Corps de Troupes Européennes". Refer Historical books online below.

Other examples of a French background in India are a French Huguenot who worked for the King of Oudh [2] and a family of plantation owners in South India whose ancestor was born early 1700s in France, and then emigrated to Isle de Bourbon (now Reunion Island) , (still an overseas department of France), around 1750.[3]

FIBIS resources

  • Some indexes to Chandernagore Civil Births, Marriages and Deaths have been transcribed and are available to search. For further information see Chandernagore.
  • "Under Duress: The Tiger of Mysore and his Infidel Artisans (Part 1)" by David Atkinson FIBIS Journal Number 35 (Spring 2016), pages 20-30. An account of the French artisans who laboured in the workshops of Tipu Sultan's fort at Seringapatam during the 1790s. For details of how to access this article, see FIBIS Journals.

Records

General articles:

Church records

If your ancestors were baptised, married or buried in a European church in British India, then the church records should have been transcribed and sent to the capital of the Presidency, where they would later have been forwarded on to London. See Birth, marriage and death records for further information. However, your French ancestors may not have lived in British India. In this case, the church records will not be kept at the British Library.

Births, marriages and deaths in Pondichéry from 1676 to 1784. Résumé des Actes de l'État Civil de Pondichéry. Published by the Société de l'Histoire de l'Inde Française (Pondichéry) 1917-1937

Tome I, De 1676 à 1735, Tome II, De 1736 à 1760, Tome III, De 1761 à 1784 Gallicia, Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Volume III contains an alphabetical index at the end, following page 408, which appears to be in respect of the third volume only. This displays in the “Table of Contents” box.

Some church records from French India have been microfilmed by the LDS and are available at LDS Family History Centres. More details are available in the LDS Library catalogue Note: Microfilm ordering services ceases 31 August 2017. Microfilms are expected to be digitized, and available online, by 2020, refer individual microfilm catalogue entries. Please take this into account when reading the information below. :

  • Parish records, 1676-1777 Catholic Church. Carnatic Mission, Pondicherry - microfilm no. 1609811
  • Parish records, 1709-1990 Catholic Church. Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Pondicherry - microfilm no. 1609796, 1609809-1609812
  • Parish records, 1815-1990 Catholic Church. Notre Dame des Anges, Pondicherry - microfilm no. 1609813-1609814
  • Parish records, 1903-1950 Catholic Church. Saint Francis of Assisi, Pondicherry - microfilm no. 1609747
  • Parish records, 1908-1990 Catholic Church. Sacred Heart, Pondicherry - microfilm no. 1609747
  • Parish records, 1587-1830 Catholic Church. Notre-Dame-des-Anges, Pondicherry - microfilm nos. 1083618-1083619, 1083790-1083792, 1083779
  • Parish records, 1731-1830 Catholic Church Notre-Dame, Karikal - microfilm no. 1083797
  • Parish records, 1723-1825 Catholic Church Ste-Thérèse Mahé - microfilm no. 1083799
  • Parish records, 1690-1830 Catholic Church St-Louis Chandernagor - microfilm no. 1764204

Civil registration

The LDS have microfilmed records of civil registration of births, marriages, deaths for French India. French Civil Registration records contain a great deal of information. The film details are:

  • Karikal 1731-1854 Chandernagor 1817-1854 Pondicherry 1817-1834, 1844-1854 Mahé 1815-1854 Yanaon 1817-1854 ten-year indexes - microfilm no. 1764204
  • Pondicherry 1791-1867 - microfilm nos. 1083780-1083784 and 1083793-1083795
  • Karikal 1792-1864 - microfilm nos. 1083797-1083798
  • Mahé 1826-1864 - microfilm no. 1083799

Update: Civil registration Births, Marriages and Deaths from French India, in addition to other French colonies, are now available online. See Archives, below.

Cemeteries

The LDS have microfilmed the book List of inscriptions on tombs or monuments in Madras possessing historical or archaeological interest by Julian James Cotton, which includes cemeteries in Pondicherry. The microfilm no. is 795967. This book is also available to read online, refer Cemeteries-Inscriptions in online books

Jean-Claude Féray has transcribed Surnames in the European Cemetery in Pondicherry. They are in the French language, but non-French speakers should be able to work out the lists. This site is now archived.

BACSA has published many transcriptions of monumental inscriptions from headstones throughout South Asia. These include the French Cemetery at Calcutta.

Military records

The LDS have 51 microfiche of the French Government's "Alphabetical list of military and civilian officers serving in the French colonies, (abt. 1659-1873)." They are microfiche no. 6002212. Catalogue entry. The records are from ANOM, refer below.

Other

See Biographical Records (IOR O series) for records which include some men born in France, mainly indigo planters

Archives

ANOM, previously CAOM

The Pondicherry archives are in the "Archives Nationales d'Outre-Mer (ANOM)" previously known as the "Centre des Archives d'Outre-Mer" (CAOM), in the city of Aix en Provence, France. The Archive website Archives nationales d'outre-mer includes the page Établissements Français de L'Inde (This link is reached through IREL; Etat general des fonds; Fonds territoriaux) (in French). Records for Île Bourbon (Réunion), [Reunion Island] and Île de France (Île Maurice), [Mauritius], islands which have links with India, are included in those available at ANOM.

The English website does not appear to have all the information contained on the French language website but includes

Civil registration Births, Marriages and Deaths from French India, in addition to other French colonies, are now available online, for free. The English language webpage Searches contains a a link to the Digitised Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths, in addition to a People and Families Name Database. If you can't see the record images, you may need to download the latest Java software.

Note: At 2017/10/07 there is a note (in French) on the database about viewing the images. Use Google Translate if required. It appears there is a problem with some operating systems/browsers, including Firefox. This problem is being addressed, but is taking longer than expected.
  • Ulysse, ANOM's searchable database of images, including maps from the colonial period (in French).
  • ANOM on ArchivesWiki.
  • ANOM Wikipedia
  • Easy Archive Tip on the CAOM written by Stephanie Hare in 2005.This is a Word document to download, (which you may need to locate in your downloads folder, depending on your browser), from the France page of LSE’s now archived Archives Made Easy.

Service historique de la Défense [SHD]

Tracing the British in France

Records of Departments in France

Many British people with Indian connections lived in Boulogne-sur–Mer which had a large foreign population with schools, boarding houses etc catering for these residents. The online archives for Boulogne-sur-Mer are available as part of The Archives of Pas-de-Calais [5]

Avranches in Lower Normandy was also very popular with retirees from British India.[6]

There were three very large enclaves for British ex-pats in France: Pas de Calais, Paris and the Mediterranean coast of France and also a very large group living in Biarritz (where there was a very popular spa and casino).[7]

Searching for French Family History Records Family Search Blog

Some retirees from India also settled in the Channel Islands, particularly in Jersey.

Miscellaneous information

  • In French, if you see a surname with the word ‘dit’ after it such as ‘Smith dit Brown’ it means Smith known as Brown.[8]
  • A number of the marriages at the end of the 17th century and in the 18th century in French Indian territories were between Frenchmen and women of mixed Indian-Portuguese blood.[9]
  • Use Google Translate if required for a translation of French text, or French websites, or your browser may translate automatically.

Also see

  • Sardhana for a brief mention of French mercenaries.

Further reading

This book list was provided by Cathy Day from her former Family History in India website. New recommendations should be added to the recommended reading pages.
  • Dictionnaire généalogique et armorial de l'Inde française, 1560-1962 by Place, Agnès de. Published in 1997 in Versailles. Also includes Mauritius and Reunion Island. Available at the British Library and at the LDS Family History Centre in Salt Lake City. Names of families of nobility (French language) which appear in this book. memodoc.com. English translation, Google Translate.
  • Dictionnaire généalogique des familles de l'Inde-française by Lucien­Jean Bord and Michel Gaudart de Soulages. Paperback edition (1984).
  • The French in India : From Diamond Traders to Sanskrit Scholars by Rose Vincent (Editor). Hardcover edition (1990).
  • Fortunes a Faire : The French in Asian Trade,1719-48 by Catherine Manning (Editor). Hardcover edition (1996).
  • Indika Essays in Indo-French Relations : Essays in Indo-French Relations, 1630-1976 by Jean Marie Lafont. Hardcover edition (2000).
  • French in India and Indian Nationalism by K.S. Mathew (1999).

External links

Wikipedia:

Other:

  • The French Genealogy Blog (in English) which contains links to some of the online Departmental Archives
  • An Ancestor From Pondichéry? The French Genealogy Blog (in English)
    • Gives links for online listings of all of the births, marriages and deaths in Pondichéry from 1676 through 1784. (see above)
    • Compagnies des Indes > Équipages et passagers Includes a Search. "Mémoire des hommes" category "Compagnies des Indes". sga.defense.gouv.fr (in French)
  • Prof. Frances Pritchett's The French
  • The French Banglapedia (National Encyclopaedia of Bangladesh)
  • Medicographia, Volume 31, No. 1, 2009, issue no. 98, (pdf) includes
    • "Spices, diamonds, and Ayurvedic medicine: French physicians in 17th Century Mughal India" by Christian Régnier pages 92-99 (page 93 of the pdf) and
    • "West Meets East: Pondicherry and the French East India Company" by Dominique Camus, pages 100-110 (page 101 of the pdf), both articles with coloured illustrations.
The first article is available in a html version with no illustrations.
Key Words and Phrases in Latin Records FamilySearch Learning Center/Lessons
Latin For Genealogists FamilySearch Learning Center/Lessons

Historical books online

References

  1. A History of India (Volume Two) (1978) by Percival Spear p.68, p.77
  2. India List post is which mentions the book The Autobiography of a Wanderer In England and Burma: Memoirs of a Former Mayor of Rangoon by Charles Haswell Campagnac
  3. Rootsweb India Message Board post
  4. "Pondicherry: The last months before India’s Independence: Perspectives of a British Consul General" by Claude Arpi August 15, 2005, claudearpi.net, now an archived webpage
  5. India List post Born in India living in France in 1876 by Mary Anne Gourley
  6. India List post LeMeur or Le Meur family in Bengal or Calcutta. Avranches Wikipedia
  7. India List post by Tony Fuller Biarritz Wikipedia
  8. India List post by Jean-Louis Douyere
  9. India List post by Jean-Louis Douyere