|Articles in this category:|
Since the 15th century, India has had many nationalities residing within her borders. After the demise of the Mughal empire, the single most significant group to control India have been the British, who controlled large portions of the continent from about 1599 to 1947. Several other European nations had small holdings in India, which were eventually absorbed into British India by conquest or sale. For specific advice on researching family history of these nationalities resident in India, see the Dutch, French, German, Portuguese and Danish articles.
Other ethnic groups came to India as traders and were part of the community in which they resided, rather than a separate state. For specific advice on researching family history of these nationalities resident in India, see the Armenian and Jewish articles.
If your ancestors were not Indian, British, Anglo-Indian or one of the nationalities named above, then this article provides some research advice on finding your ancestors. In general, if your ancestors lived in a British settlement, much of the information that is presented in the majority of FIBIwiki will also apply to your ancestors. For example, if your ancestors were American missionaries in Bengal, then they should appear in the church records and directories of Bengal in the same manner as British and Anglo-Indians.
See also general article: 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. 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 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 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 in 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, please visit the informative Thacker's Directories.
A diverse range of European nationalities served in the military forces of the continent. In the early years of British rule in India, the East India Company sometimes hired whole regiments from European countries to supplement their own forces. For example, The Swiss Regiment was stationed in Madras in 1801. Available military records are noted in the British Army, the East India Company Army and related articles.
If you know that your ancestor served with a European military unit in India, then you will need to search the records of the country of origin of the regiment.
Sylvia Murphy of Sydney, Australia has transcribed the List of Officers of the Bengal Army of Foreign Extraction.
Article German Voices from India : Officers of the Hanoverian Regiments in East India Company Service by Chen Tzoref-Ashkenazi, South Asia, 32:2 (2009), 189-211. Publisher: University of Western Australia Press; Carfax; Routledge. ISSN 00856401. ISSN (electronic) 14790270.
There is an excellent mailing list of over 700 friendly and helpful people to help answer your more obscure questions on tracing your family history in India. It might be worth your while to join the list and put a specific query about your ancestors and their nationality to the group. It would be useful to search the INDIA-L archives first to see if your ancestor's nationality has been discussed before. For example, you could search for the work "Greek" in the archives, to retrieve all previous references to messages that contained the word "Greek".
The LDS have microfilmed European Inhabitants in Bengal 1783-1807, Madras 1702-1828 and Bombay 1718-1792. It is available on microfilm no. 2104564 and gives names, country, length of time in India, occupation, relations, and so on.
Historical books online
- Historical Record of the Honourable East India Company's First Madras European Regiment: Containing an Account of the Establishment of Independent Companies in 1645; Their Formation Into a Regiment in 1748; and Its Subsequent Services to 1842 by James George Smith Neill, Staff Officer (1843). Page xvi of the introduction (at the very front of the book) mentions the recruitment in the early days of a few Swiss mercenaries, French prisoners of war (after their release), 400 Germans at the Cape of Good Hope in 1795 and more Germans in the Eastern Islands [Amboyna] in 1810.