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including the former British North Borneo and Sarawak.

Also see the Fibiwiki pages Straits Settlements and Malacca and Penang (Prince of Wales Island).


  • See General Register Office, UK. Also includes information about records such as British Consular Returns, including online sources. Includes details of a findmypast database "British Armed Forces and Overseas Births and Baptisms". Note that within this database is a group of records "Sarawak Baptisms, 1844-1925" which are transcriptions provided by UK Genealogy Archives. There is however no further information about the source of these records.
  • National Registration Department, Ministry of Home Affairs [Malaysia] is responsible for birth , marriage and death registration. The page Corporate Information/History advises “Birth and death records kept by the National Registration Department since nearly 150 years ago continue to be preserved to this day.” The email address appears to be [email protected]
There has been some registration since 1859[1]. Marriage registration has been in place in Malaysia since the late 1800s[2].
It seems likely that records may be divided according to the current states and federal terrorities, so you would probably need to know geographical location.
  • Birth, marriage and death notices may have been published in Singapore newspapers. See Singapore - Newspapers for details of free online Singapore newspapers.
  • Birth, marriage and death notices may have been published in other publications, such as The Directory & Chronicle for China etc or The London and China Telegraph, refer Historical books online below.
  • MyRepositori, website of the National Library of Malaysia, see Historical books online below, includes some historical Malaysian newspapers in English, although titles and dates are unclear, but include The Malay Mail and the Sunday Mail 1940s and 1950s. There is a Search which includes a Full Text Search, but you must select this option.
  • BACSA have published the following books, which are available at the British Library as noted:
    • Ipoh and Taiping: War Graves and Graves of Europeans in the Cemeteries in Ipoh and Taiping, Perak, Malaysia by Justin Corfield, 2000. 108pp, 27 illustrations and plan. UIN: BLL01009531255
    • Kota Bharu (Malaysia): European Graves in the Jalan Hamzah Cemetery by Justin Corfield, 1999. 24pp, 23 illustrations and plan. UIN: BLL01009531507
    • Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia): St Mary's Cathedral and the Jalan Birch Cemetery by Justin Corfield, 2000. 24pp, 5 illustrations. UIN: BLL01009531254
    • Penang Western Road Cemetery : graves of Europeans in the Protestant Section by Justin Corfield. Variant Title: Penang, Malaysia : graves of Europeans in the Protestant Section of Western Road Cemetery c 1999. 77 p with map. UIN: BLL01009531508
    • Seremban, Malaysia: Graves in St Mark's Churchyard, and the Anglican Section of the Seremban Cemetery by E Beavington and Justin Corfield, 2000. 56pp, 11 illustrations. UIN: BLL01009531270
    • Teluk Anson (Malaysia): European Graves in the Jalan Anderson Cemetery by Justin Corfield, 2000. 20pp, 14 illustrations and plan. UIN: BLL01009531506
Some cemetery books are still available, see BACSA Books and select Cemetery Record Books.
BACSA have put indexes to the majority of their cemetery books online and these indexes are free to browse. If an indexed name is of interest then application can be made to BACSA for details of the relevant burial inscription - charges apply for this service.
  • British & Indian Armies in the East Indies (1685-1935) by Alan Harfield 1984 is available at the British Library, UIN: BLL01012672115 . History of British and Indian Armies in Sumatra, Java, Sarawak, Malaya and Singapore from 1685-1935. Includes names of officers and men buried in these areas. Also includes name lists of persons in some military units which served in these areas.
  • See Malacca and Dutch for records for researching those with Dutch ancestry.
  • Civil Service Lists are very useful if you are researching a government employee, but some may only contain more senior employees.
Some Colonial Office Lists are available online, refer Historical books online below.
Details of Government of Malaya Lists are set out in Government Lists page 30 Bibliography of Malaya ( Books to Borrow/Lending Library). The best collection of these Lists available in the UK appears to be at Cambridge University Library which holds, according to its catalogue,
  • Straits Settlements Civil Service List 1883-1884, 1888, 1890, 1893, 1896-1917, 1920-1921
  • Federated Malay States Civil Service List 1904-1905, 1908-1916, 1918-1919
  • The Malayan Civil List 1921-1940
The British Library also holds some editions, as does SOAS Library, University of London.
  • There are Colonial Office files at the National Archives Kew relating to British Malaya. There is a finding aid, a published book (in thirteen volumes) Index to British Colonial Office files pertaining to British Malaya : 1838-1955 compiled by Paul H Kratoska 1990, available at the British Library UIN: BLL01006673270 (English language edition) (12 v. in 13).

Military Operations

Civil Service

For an account of the varied duties of a Civil Servant from the 1920s, see The Memoirs of a Malayan Official by Victor Purcell, 1965. Available online, refer Historical books online, below.

External links

See Historical books online, below.
  • “Obsession, isolation and the colonies” July 16, 2012 Retrieved 30 August 2014
  • States and federal territories of Malaysia Wikipedia
    • Kedah Alternative name Quedah, it was visited by trading ships in the time of the East India Company. “In the hope that Great Britain would protect what remained of Kedah from Siam, the sultan handed over Penang and then Province Wellesley (Seberang Perai) to the British at the end of the 18th century. The Siamese nevertheless conquered Kedah in 1811, and it remained under Siamese control until transferred to the British by the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909”.
    • Perak was visited by trading ships in the time of the East India Company. There was a British Resident from 1874. The capital is Ipoh.
    • Terengganu Wikipedia. Alternative name Tringaney. Terengganu's location by the South China Sea ensured that it was on trade routes from ancient times , and it was visited by trading ships in the time of the East India Company. The terms of the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 saw power over Terengganu transferred from Siam to Great Britain. A British advisor was appointed to the sultan in 1919, and Terengganu become one of the Unfederated Malay States.
  • St. Mary's Cathedral, Kuala Lumpur, an Anglican Church consecrated 1895. Photograph by DBHKer 2008. Originally called Church of St Mary the Virgin. History: The Anglican Church of St. Mary the virgin, now an archived webpage.
  • The Anglican [Church of England] Diocese: West Malaysia The Bishop of West Malaysia is also Archbishop of South East Asia, who is located at Kuala Lumpur.
  • "The Presbyterian Church in Malaysia" by John Roxborogh, from Christianity in Malaysia. A Denominational History, edited by Robert Hunt, Lee Kam Hing and John Roxborogh, Petaling Jaya, Pelanduk, 1992, pages 75-106.
Rich built heritage of 100-year-old St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Kuala Lumpur Includes photographs. St Andrew's Presbyterian Church Kuala Lumpur. St Andrew's was historically known as the ‘Planters Church’ or the ‘Scottish Kirk’ as the planters of Selangor were mostly of Scottish stock. Includes a photograph
"Planters, Estate Health & Malaria in British Malaya (1900–1940)" by Liew Kai Khiun Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Volume 83, Part 1, June 2010, No. 298, pp. 91-115
"Mad Ridley and the rubber boom" by Dr Loh Wei Leng and Khor Jin KeonG 2011. The history of rubber in Malaya.
Video: A Rubber Plantation in Malaya, 1911 / La Cultivation du Caoutchouc en Malaisie, 1911 You Tube video.
Video: Henrietta Estate Album. Album of photographs of a Rubber Estate in 1920's / 1930's Malaya. You Tube video.
"Spreading the word: using cookbooks and colonial memoirs to examine the foodways of British Colonials in Asia, 1850-1900" by Cecilia Y. Leong-Salobir, University of Wollongong. From The Routledge History of Food 2015 (pp. 131-155)
"Mrs Beeton in Malaya" by Janice Loo. BiblioAsia Volume 9 Issue. 3 October-December 2013.


  • 1929 Motoring Map of Malaya Pages can be rotated if required. National Library of Malaysia.
  • Also see some Maps in Historical books online, below.

Historical books online

Repositori Digital older website. A number of the English language books are in the category Koleksi Peribadi.
MyRepositori Newer website. Many of the English books appear in Collections: Khazanah Warisan Negara/Malaysiana/Koleksi Khas/ Koleksi Nadir and Koleksi Peribadi. There are also some online English language newspapers in the collection Surat Khabar.
For both websites, book files are available as pdfs. It does not appear possible to browse the English language books as a distinct category. For some books the “date of issue” appears to be the digitization date, rather than the date of publication. ASEAN Digital Library contains some content from the National Library of Malaysia, and can be searched by language.
Some downloads of books are sample pages only, or even title page only, but this may not be apparent from the catalogue entry. This appears to be a frequent situation for books, although articles appear to be fully available.
Books available from NLM include (and others are listed later):
Note some editions of the Sarawak Gazette are online from 1907, see below.
Note this website in the past was often unavailable, and possibly may only be available during office hours, Monday to Friday: 8.00 am - 5.00 pm (local time), being GMT 00.00 to 9.00am
  • [Digital] Sejarah Melayu Library ( has an extensive collection of English language historical books to download as pdfs, with some to also read as text. Click on the titles for further details of the author and year published. If you prefer to read original images, look at the text version (if available), as for some books, it may be apparent they are available on websites such as or Google Books. Books available include
    • An extensive collection of Journals of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (SBRAS) which became the Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (MBRAS). Click on individual journal issues, and the contents will be shown. These do not seem to be complete issues, but selected articles.
  • Straits Settlements Blue Book for the year… broken range from 1873 to 1914. Very informative publications.
For 1873, Contents; Civil Establishments , commencing with an Index page 177, Singapore page 187, Penang page 209, Malacca page 223.
Other editions of the Blue Books of Statistics are available at the National Archives, Kew record series CO 277 1867-1939, part of "Records of Local Bodies and Other Colonial Miscellanea" commencing with CO 277/1 for 1867.
  • The Colonial Office List for ... Includes a section on each country, and the Colonial Office List at the end of each volume. Google Books, HathiTrust Digital Library and
1862: First publication; 1867, 1877; 1878; 1879; 1881; 1889; 1901; 1902; 1903; 1904; HathiTrust Digital Library editions to 1922 viewable in restricted areas such as North America: A and B
In addition, Colonial Office List, 1863 and Colonial Office List, 1870 are available in the findmypast (pay website) dataset "Britain, Directories & Almanacs" located in Newspapers, Directories & Social History/Directories & Almanacs.
FamilySearch has a catalogue entry for a series of microfiches of the Colonial Office List, (produced by Chadwyck-Healey, 1987), currently (2019/06) available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, with however the potential to be digitised in the next few years, and perhaps be more widely available, or at least searchable. The same microfiche series may also be available at some other libraries, or to a very limited extent at some other FamilySearch Centres.
Colonial Office List (to 1925) and the later title The Dominions Office and Colonial Office List are available at the British Library UIN: BLL01002841625 and UIN: BLL01007173533
Volume I,Volume II 2nd edition, 1839 (2 Volumes in 1) Google Books. Tenth American edition [with deletions] c 1855
Sketches of our life at Sarawak by Harriette McDougall [1882?] Incorporates (some of/all?) the previous book.
Malay Sketches by Sir Frank Althelstane Swettenham 5th edition 1921. First published 1895
British Malaya; an account of the origin and progress of British influence in Malaya by Sir Frank Swettenham, late Governor of the Straits Colony 1907, with a 1906 Map of the Malay Peninsula
India Rubber, Gutta-Percha, and Balata: occurrence, geographical distribution, and cultivation of rubber plants; manner of obtaining and preparing the raw material, modes of working and utilizing them, and statistics of commerce by William T Brannt 1900
"The Rival of "Para" Rubber in the East" page 219 The India Rubber World April 1, 1903
"Rubber Planting in Ceylon and the Malay States" page 225 The India Rubber World April 1, 1904
Three Months in Pahang in Search of Big Game : A Reminiscence of Malaya by Theodore R Hubback 1912
Also see above for the 1959 Bibliography by H R Cheeseman.
An illustrated guide to the Federated Malay States edited by Cuthbert Woodville Harrison, Malayan Civil Service. 3rd edition 1920. Missing the Map. 1923 edition Pdf download, National Library of Malaysia, older website. Probably sample pages only.
Malaysia and Indo-China : Information for Visitors to British Malaya, Dutch-Indies (Java, Bali, Sumatra etc.) Siam, French Indo-China. Published by Thos. Cook & Son, Singapore 1926. Pdf download, National Library of Malaysia, older website. Probably sample pages only.
Federated Malay States from page 159 c 1900? and British North Borneo, page 378 Further incidents in the life of a mining engineer by E T McCarthy 1920
The Origins of British Borneo by Leigh R. Wright 1970. FamilySearch Digital Library. Requires signing in to FamilySearch to view the text.
The Medical Book Of Malayan Medicine originally translated circa 1886 in Penang, edited by J D Gimlette and I H Burkill 1930. Published in The Gardens' Bulletin Straits Settlements October 1930 [Singapore: Botanic Gardens]
A Dictionary of Malayan Medicine by John D. Gimlette ; edited and completed by H. W. Thomson ; with a foreword by Malcolm Watson. 1939. MyRepositori, National Library of Malaysia.
R. H. Bruce Lockhart Wikipedia.
Return to Malaya R.H.Bruce Lockhart 1936 The author had previously left Malaya c 1910, see previous book.
Purcell was also the author of Malaya : Outline of a Colony 1946, available at the British Library UIN: BLL01003009266 . Also available HathiTrust Digital Library for those with University access.
  • The War in Malaya by Lt-Gen A E Percival 1949. Available as a pdf download from Sejarah Melayu Library, refer above. Located under General. Scroll down the alphabetical list to T.
  • Malaya and its History by Sir Richard Winstedt, formerly of the Malayan Civil Service and Reader in Malay, University of London. 2nd edition, revised 1951, first published 1947.
A History of Malaya by Sir Richard Winstedt. Revised and enlarged 1962. Lending Library.
British civilians and the Japanese war in Malaya and Singapore, 1941-45 by Joseph Kennedy 1987. Lending Library.
  • A History of Modern Sabah (North Borneo, 1881-1963) by K G Tregonning 1965. A revised second edition of the book first published in 1958 under the title Under Chartered Company Rule. Books to Borrow/Lending Library. The British North Borneo Company.
The British in Malaya : the first forty years, 1786-1826 by K G Tregonning 1965. Lending Library.
A History of Modern Malaya by K G Tregonning 1967. Lending Library.
The Savage Wars of Peace : Soldier's Voices, 1945-1989 by Charles Allen 1990. Lending Library.


  • The Adventures of John Smith in Malaya, 1600-1605 by A Hale 1909. This book was classified as a novel in a review when issued, but it was stated “In the Malayan part of the book…[there] seems to be first hand knowledge of the legends, custom and intimate life of the Malayans”, and it was “written… with… learning”[8]
  • The Complete Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham Volume I Lending Library. Volume II, Volume III. The Volume III Preface indicates some of the stories are set in Malaya "written long before the Second World War"; there may be other Malayan stories in other volumes. (See External links, above.) Other Short Stories editions mainly from the Lending Library. Far Eastern Tales Lending Library. The short stories appear to have been written mainly in the 1920s-1930s.
  • The Gun-Runners by W. Dingwall Fordyce c 1900 An adventure story for younger readers.
The Jewelled Lizard by W. Dingwall Fordyce c 1908 An adventure story for younger readers, with a Sumatra setting.
Dingwall Fordyce also wrote "The Adventures of Babi. A pet mongoose in Sumatra", a chapter in Wide World Magazine, 1911, and Our Secret Society c 1910. However, it is unknown if the setting for the latter is also Malaysia/Indonesia.


  1. Malaysia Civil Registration FamilySearch Wiki.
  2. Esslemont, Don. BMD certificates (was Robert Darwood engineer) Rootsweb Malaysia Mailing List 18 Mar 2008, now an archived webpage, which quotes a source of information which is no longer available as a webpage. There is a possibility this information may be contained in the "Resources" chapter of the book Empire’s Children: Trace Your Family History Across the World by Anton Gill 2007, available at the British Library UIN: BLL01013623894 . This book accompanied the Channel 4 television series Empire's Children.
  3. History of the Dutch in Malaysia by Dennis De Witt. Available at the British Library UIN: BLL01015564894
  4. Page 28, "Chapter 2: Creeping in Johore April 1930- December 1930, Malayan Spymaster: Memoirs of a Rubber Planter, Bandit Fighter and Spy by Boris Hembry 2011 Google Books.
  5. Page 208, "Chapter 13: The Planter’s World", The Devil’s Milk: A Social History of Rubber by John Tully 2011. Google Books
  6. "The Planter’s Life" by Christopher Hale, January 2013.
  7. A History of the Singapore Volunteer Corps, 1854-1937 : being also an historical outline of volunteering in Malaya Naval & Military Press
  8. The Spectator Archive: 10 July 1909, page 28, archived page.