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Non-British Ancestors:

There were three main communities of Jews in India : the Bene Israel (near Bombay), the "Black Jews" of Cochin and the "White Jews" from Iraq. The Virtual Jewish History Tour has a summary of the History of Jews in India online.

General information about Jewish genealogy can be found at JewishGen InfoFiles, which has a host of links providing guidance on researching Jewish family history throughout the world.

Religious 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 you can access these records at the British Library in London, or at LDS Family History Centres. The FIBIS database contains many transcribed BMD records.

If your ancestors were married in a Registry Office, then these records will be included with the church record indexes. FIBIS volunteers have transcribed the Registry Office index and this is on the FIBIS database. Further details with images of regsitry pages ca be found on the subscription website findmypast. Details of Registry Office marriages are not available on microfilm through the LDS.

Some records of the births of Jewish people were included in the church records for the Bombay Presidency. It would seem that Jewish parents submitted a letter from their Rabbi or other figure of authority certifying that the individual was born on a certain day at a certain place. These letters were then included with the regular church records. Later, this 'registration' could then be used as proof of British citizenship. This does not seem to have been a very widespread practice. However, if you are at a loss to find a record of your ancestor, it may be worth examining the indexes to the church records of the Presidency in which they resided.

Also see External Links below for some record references

National Archives of India

Search National Archives of India website Particularly for the Second World War period there are known to be some records from the Aliens Advisory Committee which have either already been digitised, (Digitized Collection : Digitized Public Records, Home Political) or can be requested to be digitised for a fee. A 1946 Naturalisation request was seen: Application from ... For A German Jew, For Nationalization Under the British Nationality Status of Aliens Act 1914. [Should be Naturalization].


Common Jewish surnames in India include Sassoon and Joseph. Since many Indian Jews were of Baghdadi origin, other surnames tend to be of the Shephardic style. It is rare to hear of Ashkenazi surnames in India. Other surnames include biblical names.


Many European, Anglo-Indian and other businessmen were named in the Directories of their day. The most prominent Directory was Thacker's, which originally only covered Bengal, but eventually encompassed all of British India. If your Jewish ancestors were merchants or businessmen, there is a good chance that they would have been listed in Thacker's Directories. A complete set is now housed at the Asian & African Studies Reading Room at the British Library, but most major libraries will hold a few copies for given years. For a comprehensive description, and lists of where they can be located, visit the informative Thacker's Directories webpage. Some Thacker's Directories are available online, refer Directories online-Thackers's Indian Directory.


Also see

  • Sardhana for a brief mention of Jewish mercenaries.

External links

These doctors were mainly Jewish. Between the years 1933 and 1938, there were three waves of forced emigration to British India. The first started in the year 1933 with German doctors. A second wave started with Jewish refugees coming from Italy. The Austrian exodus after the German occupation in March 1938 formed the third wave of medical refugees coming to British India, at which point Czech and Hungarian Jewish medical refugees started joining the population of refugees.
Margit Franz is the author of Gateway India. German-speaking Exile to India between British colonial rule, Maharajas and Gandhi. There is an interview with Dr. Margit Franz in the following article "From the Reich to the Raj".
For Dr Selzer’s account of the years of internment, see POW Camps in India- Second World War- German prisoners of war.

Historical books online

  • "The Jewish Merchant-Colony in Madras (Fort St. George) during the 17th and 18th Centuries: A Contribution to the Economic and Social History of the Jews in India" by Walter J. Fischel Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Apr., 1960), pp. 78-107 and Vol. 3, No. 2 (Aug., 1960), pp. 175-195 may be read online for free on the website JSTOR, Part 1, Part 2. Registration with JSTOR is required, or some card holders of participating libraries may have access, and limits may apply, refer Miscellaneous tips. Also available at the British Library.
  • "The Racial Affinities of the Jews of Cochin" by Eileen W Erlanson Macfarlane page 1, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal Letters Volume III 1937
  • The Origin And History Of The Calcutta Jews by I S Abraham, 1963.