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.
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 abhilekh-patal.in. 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.
- British National Bibliography Search catalogue of British Library Books.
- Sardhana for a brief mention of Jewish mercenaries.
- Baghdadi Jews Wikipedia
- "The Last Jews In India And Burma" by Nathan Katz and Ellen S. Goldberg. Jerusalem Letter No. 101 15 April 1988. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Includes an overview of the historical details.
- Sassoon Synagogues of Mumbai & Pune. Three synagogues, two in Bombay and one at Poona, are still ongoing, and contact details for the group are provided on the website.
- Online records from Rangoon and Calcutta Grave records from the National Sephardic Library (Genealogy) of the American Sephardi Federation, now archived. Five datasets of birth records from Rangoon, see Burma, and Cemeteries in Calcutta for individual links.
- From the catalogue of the Centre for Jewish History, New York and available through the American Sephardi Federation:
- Birth Register Book: Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue Rangoon. Published 1979 In English, available from 1896. In Hebrew, available from 1888. The English records may be the same as the online Rangoon records in the previous link.
- Death Register Book: Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue Rangoon. Published 1979. Available from 1888. In Hebrew with Sephardi Script.
- Calcutta Cemetery database from SephardicGen
- The Jewish world of Calcutta 1798 to 1948 by Kaustav Chakrabarti, 2010 thesis University of Calcutta. shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in
- Recalling Jewish Calcutta: Memories Of The Jewish Community In Calcutta Retrieved 25 August 2014. Developed by Jael Silliman
- Includes Exhibit 09 Jewish Cemetery In Calcutta, Narkeldanga, which in turn includes a list of the graves.
- "Digital lifeline for legacy and lore of the Jews - Online museum to preserve community’s city connection" by Showli Chakraborty October 17 , 2013 The Telegraph Calcutta, now an archived webpage.
- Includes Exhibit 09 Jewish Cemetery In Calcutta, Narkeldanga, which in turn includes a list of the graves.
- "Traders From The Middle East : The Jewish Community In Calcutta" by Jo Cohen. January 3, 2015 breakingmatzo.com
- Jewish India is a comprehensive website with a wealth of links to sites related to the Jewish communities of India.
- Locations of Jewish cemeteries in India, with photographs and descriptions by Isaac Solomon. Google Maps. Click on the cemeteries on the left hand side of the webpage for the descriptions and photos.
- HaChayim HaYehudim Jewish Photo Library: India. Includes photographs of Jewish Cemeteries. Click on the initial photographs for further images. As an example, Mumbai (Bombay). Chinchpokli Jewish Cemetery.
- International Jewish Cemetery Project: India
- Jews of India is the website of the Indian Jewish Congregation of USA. Its newsletters may be read online, some contain details of people born in India. There is a page Genealogy of the Bene-Israel Community, one of the communities in Bombay. There is mention of the foundation in India called the Bene Israel Heritage Museum and Genealogical Research Center, Mumbai, which is detailed in the article India: A remarkable community project (Genblog.myheritage.com) Its address appears to be 5 Purnima, 20 Nepean Sea Road Mumbai 400036 and the contact email address [email protected]
- Details of The Hebrew Gazette , a magazine issued in Bombay 1856 to 1866. "The language used throughout is the Judeo-Arabic dialect of the Baghdadi Jews penned in their distinctive Hebrew cursive script... Each issue imparts a wealth of information, ranging from general news such as the movement of ships in and out of Bombay harbour, to notices relating to the local Baghdadi Jewish community, such as for example weddings and philanthropic acts". Available at the British Library. British Library Asian and African studies blog (Hebrew and Christian Orient Studies) dated 06 June 2013
- Nehardea, Journal of the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center:
- Issue No. 10, 1997 contains the articles
- Issue No. 16, Spring 2008: Dr. R. Fredman-Cernea talks about her book Almost Englishmen: Baghdadi Jews in British Burma.
- "Baghdadi Jewish Women in India." by Joan G. Roland and Tamar Marge Gubbay, Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia 1 March 2009.
- Jael Silliman: Bringing India's Jews to Light Asiasociety.org. Mainly about the Baghdadi Jewish community
- Jewish China and Jewish Asia Resources on the Web Compiled by Joy Katzen-Guthrie
- "In Search of the (happy) Jewish Story – in India" by Irene Shaland February 2012 jewishmag.com.
- One of the references quoted is Jewish exile in India, 1933-1945 , edited by Anil Bhatti, Johannes H. Voight, published 1999 New Delhi. Available at the British Library, where the catalogue entry says "Papers presented at a symposium held at New Delhi during 15-16 March, 1995. Includes bibliographical references".
- "Searching for My Indian Jewish Family, From Kabbalah to Bollywood" by Sigal Samuel April 27, 2015 Forward. The author's family was from Bombay.
- "The Portuguese Jewish Community Of Madras, India, In The Seventeenth Century" from Los Muestros numéro 41, Décembre 2000 Sefarad.org
- "Will Chennai's Jews be there?" by S. Muthiah Sep 30, 2002 The Hindu, now archived. A Jewish settlement first established itself in Madras to export the diamonds of Golconda to London.
- "Uncovering a story of ill-fated romance and tragic death" by Andrew Whitehead 11 June 2017. BBC News Magazine. A Jewish cemetery in Madras "tucked away on a busy market street not far from Marina beach, with stalls obscuring the entrance". Includes photographs.
- "Jews and Jewish Communities in India" 2012-10-19 www.jewishtimes-sj.com, now an archived page. Reporting a lecture by Kenneth X. Robbins
- List of books and articles by Kenneth X. Robbins: Published articles Dealing with India maharashtrastudiesgroup.org
- Catalogue entry at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Kenneth X. Robbins collection Documents illustrate that there were at least some Jews among the Polish camps at Valivade in Kohlapur state and Balachadi in Nawanagar state. Also see Polish Refugees in India 1942-1948
- Seeking Kin: A maharajah comes to the rescue by Hillel Kuttler June 27, 2012. www.jta.org. Also see Polish Refugees in India 1942-1948.
- "The Jewish Community of India" by Daniel J. Elazar 1986 jcpa.org
- Cochin Jews Wikipedia
- "Foreword to The Last Jews of Cochin: Jewish Identity in Hindu India" by Daniel J. Elazar 1993 The book is by Nathan Katz and Ellen S Goldberg 1993 jcpa.org
- "Step into history": Jew Street, Mattancherry, Cochin by Priyadershini S. December 20, 2012 The Hindu, now an archived webpage.
- "The Jews of Agarpara" The Telegraph (Calcutta), 24 May 2009, details a jute connection. Part 2: "By the lazy river" The Telegraph (Calcutta), 31 May 2009, now archived webpages.
- "German-Speaking Medical Exile to British India 1933-1945" by Margit Franz. Website of Institut für Südasien-, Tibet- und Buddhismuskunde, Universität Wien. From the 2010 book Helmut Konrad, Stefan Benedik (eds.), Mapping Contemporary History II. Exemplary fields of research in 25 years of Contemporary History Studies at Graz University/Exemplarische Forschungsfelder aus 25 Jahren Zeitgeschichte an der Universität Graz. [Limited selection from] pages 61- 86 Google Books.
- 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".
- "From the Reich to the Raj: Uncovering the story of German refugees in India" by Meylekh Viswanath April 13, 2017 jewishstandard.timesofisrael.com
- India Inkings by Max Freidlander 11 March 1998 Jewish World Review. The author arrived in Calcutta in 1939 and lived in India for 30 years
- Synagogues of Calcutta (Kolkata) and Jewish Cemetery, Kolkata (Calcutta) by Rangan Datta rangandatta.wordpress.com
- The Last Jews of Calcutta by Robert Hirschfield 17 May 2010 forward.com
- Death of the leader of Calcutta’s dwindling Jewish community, David Nahoum in March 2013 The Telegraph Calcutta Friday, March 8, 2013, now archived.
- "The Last Jews of Kolkata" by Zach Marks October 24, 2013 International New York Times India, now archived.
- "The Genetics of Bene Israel from India Reveals Both Substantial Jewish and Indian Ancestry" by Yedael Y. Waldman et al. March 24, 2016. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0152056. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0152056
- "Calcutta Jewish Cuisine" Exhibit 15 from “Recalling Jewish Calcutta: Memories Of The Jewish Community In Calcutta”. jewishcalcutta.in
- Nothing Says Kosher Like Chicken Livers in the Tandoor by Florence Fabricant September 11, 1996 nytimes.com, now archived. With two recipes
- This link from "The Shiksa in the Kitchen" describes Jewish life in Calcutta c 1945 and includes a potato recipe from a vintage Jewish cookbook published in 1922 in Calcutta
- Rahel Musleah’s A Passage to Jewish India and Beyond "From Baghdad to Calcutta". Includes some recipes
- "The Spicy Tale of India’s Jewish Cuisine" by Sala Levin January 15, 2013 www.momentmag.com. Includes a potato recipe.
- The cuisine connection by Esther Elias December 12, 2013 The Hindu Kochi. The food of Cochini Jews.
- Jews In Burma: “We Are Still Here!” 13 January 2012 thejewishnews.com
- "Tombstone to kitchen slab" July 23, 2011 The Times of India Crest Edition, now archived. Details the neglect and destruction of Jewish cemeteries.
- Remnants of Jews in Singapore by Barbara Kingstone January 17, 2011 indulgedtraveler.com, now an archived webpage (retrieved 29 May 2014)
- The Jewish Community of Singapore bh.org.il. Retrieved 19 November 2014
- "A Penang Kaddish: The Jewish Cemetery In Georgetown. A case study of the Jewish Diaspora in Penang (1830s-1970s)" by Raimy Ché-Ross 2002. The Penang Story-International Conference 18-21 April 2002. Now an archived webpage. Includes some transcriptions from tombstones.
- Where have Pakistan’s Jews gone? by Adil Najam September 16, 2005 The Flecther School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, USA, now archived; Alternative version
- No more in Karachi 27 February 2010 Dawn.com Alternative version
- The Express Tribune Magazine for 6 February 2011 contains the article "In Search of the Jews of Karachi", pages 18-25. Click to page 18.
- Jewish Cemetery In Karachi Documented For First Time Jewishtimesasia.org View the documentary film
- Karachi’s forgotten Jews The JC.com
- Karachi's 'Yahoodi Masjid' by Akhtar Balouch 2013-10-03 Dawn.com. The Jewish presence in Karachi
- "Yearning for home: A Jewish woman’s memories of Lahore" by Taha Anis, 14 February 2016 The Express Tribune/Tribune Labs. Hazel Kahan was the daughter of Dr Herman Selzer, and his wife Kate, both doctors who studied in Germany, who settled in Lahore c 1938. The family was interred during WW2.
- For Dr Selzer’s account of the years of internment, see POW Camps in India- Second World War- German prisoners of war.
- Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage. Records from Iraq which are, or will become. available online on the website of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
- Bollywood connections
- Bollywood’s ‘bad girls’: Jewish actresses lit up screen in Indian cinema’s early years 11 February 2010 Jweekly.com
- Sammy Benjamin’s (Lesser Known) Pioneering Indian Jewish Bollywood Actresses & Actors
- Remembering the Jewish refugee who composed the All India Radio caller tune by Naresh Fernandes, October 24, 2014 Scroll.in. Walter Kaufmann arrived in Bombay in 1934, where he founded the Bombay Chamber Music Society. He stayed 14 years in India.
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 Origin And History Of The Calcutta Jews by I S Abraham, 1963. Archive.org