Information relating to ancestors who were Indian.
It is critical to know the religion of your Indian ancestor in order to begin research. If you know your ancestor's name, it is often possible to determine their religion by examining the distribution of the name. For example, persons with names like Gopal and Kumar are likely to be Hindus, whilst people with names like Mohammed or Ali are likely to be Muslims. There are numerous websites devoted to Indian names, which may help you to decide on the origin of your Indian ancestor. These include Indian Baby Names, Hindu Baby Names and Armenian names.
If your ancestors were Hindus, they may have made pilgrimages to sacred sites, where their family details were recorded. The LDS have microfilmed hundreds of such pilgrimage records, which may be hired at Family History Centres.
See also general article: Church records
If your ancestors converted to Christianity and 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. If your ancestors were mixed race (Indian and European) then they would generally have been recorded in European churches. These records were indexed and about 80% of church records in British India are believed to have survived. You can access these records at the British Library, or at LDS Family History Centres.
Many Christian denominations had separate "European" and "Native" congregations. The records of "Native" congregations were not usually returned to London and so are not part of the British Library holdings. However, a large number of records of non-British churches have now been microfilmed by the LDS. A listing of Non-British Church Records has been made available by FIBIS.
The Syrian Orthodox Church of India has existed for several centuries, and possibly a millennium or more. At present, there is only one microfilm of their church records available. They are the Syrian Orthodox Church records of Kottayam, Kerala. They cover the period 1833-1992, but this varies from church to church.
The Muslims records may basically be divided into two groups, (a) those found in latter-day India and (b) those found in present Pakistan. In both instances, some public records of marriages and deaths are available only in major, bigger cities and towns, where during British times municipal records of this sort were maintained.
In the case of India, the LDS have microfilmed some Islamic marriage records, including those of Meerut (1881-1982) and Bulandshahr (1921-1955). Microfilm numbers start at 1307221. In the case of Pakistan, as yet no such documentation is available prior to 1990-1991, on microfilm or in digital/computerised form. However, from 1990 onwards, the NADRA (Pakistan's National Database for Public Registration) has extensive records for most of Pakistan.Accessing any of these records is not easy however.
It must further be remembered that in most cases, in the vast rural hinterlands of old/British India where most Muslims dwelt, almost no records exist for marriages and/or deaths. Amongst Muslims, birth records were kept (if at all) exclusively by families and indeed, almost none were ever kept for womenfolk. The only two places that one might try to find out any possible records of marriages and deaths are: (a) at the local town or village mosque, where an official called the Nikah Registrar (marriage contract registry) was sometimes available and kept some records of stipulations and such formalities of Muslim marriages; and (b) the local village or town Patwari or land revenue accountant, who certainly kept long and often complicated Shajrahs (Muslim pedigrees of landowners) and Daftars (succession/devolution records of lands from generation to generation). These, too, however, were mostly only available for landowners and landowning classes, big and small. Unfortunately, chances are that if your Muslim ancestors in India prior to the late 19th century did not keep any records of their own, written or oral, then digging out any 'official' records might be a rather uphill task.
Many records have been microfilmed by the LDS and are available at LDS Family History Centres. The following are related to emigration from India:
Indian immigration passes to Fiji, 1879-1916. There are 42 microfilms and the index is microfilm no. 833098. Unfortunately, this microfilm can only be viewed at the LDS Family History Centre in Salt Lake City, although I believe that the original records are kept by the Central Archives of Fiji & Western Pacific High Commission
Register of deaths of Indian immigration (by plantation), 1899-1922. Microfilm nos. 833149-833150. These are also available only in Salt Lake City.
Genealogy with LDS
Many records have been microfilmed by the LDS and are available at LDS Family History Centres. The following are related to genealogy of Indians :
Maithil Brahmin genealogical records. There are 71 microfilms of Microfilm of original records of Pandit Chandrakant Mishra at Saurath, Madhubani District, Bihar, India. Microfilm nos. start at 1785629.
Karn Kayast genealogical records. There are 51 microfilms of Microfilm of original records Pandit Shivanand Mallik, Shivi Patti Village, Madhubani District, Bihar, India. Microfilm nos. start at 1997293.
Genealogical records of medieval India by S. A. I. Tirmizi. Of Muslim Shiahs only and very limited area and scope. Microfiche no. 6085867.
Other possible resources
Both the National Archives of India (Delhi) and the National Archives of Pakistan (Islamabad) contain some old records, including old vernacular newspapers and press publications (such as pamphlets, cards and other such material) and these are worth looking into for mention and notice/s of marriages and deaths.
The Punjab Archives at Lahore (now in Pakistan) also hold pedigrees of many Punjabi and Pashtun/Pathan Indian princes, Jagirdars, Zamindars and other 'notables' from circa 1840s to 1940s, of all creeds. In some instances, dossiers and secret files may also be available on some individuals and notable families, and on many of the princely states attached to the Punjab. (Website should be available soon)
The Pakistan Heritage Foundation (PHF) is a private, non-profit organization in Karachi, which has done a lot of work to help rescue and preserve old archival records in Karachi city and is now also attempting to do the same for some other, selected cities and towns, gradually. Their website offers more information and contact details Pakistan Heritage Foundation (Official Website of the PHF)
There are several books from British times enlisting pedigrees of chiefs and families of note, from the 19th century onwards (Please see list below).
Again, it is to be noted that most of such records are available only for people of some social standing during the British colonial days.
- Griffin, L and Massy, H, Chiefs and Families of Note in the Punjab , Lahore 1899 original ed; many subsequent editions thereafter.
- Ibbetson, Sir D, Punjab Castes, 1916.
- Rose, HA, A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province nd, 2 vols.