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Non-British Ancestors:

Information relating to Portuguese ancestors in India.

Brief history

"The Portuguese, in the form of Vasco da Gama and his men, first arrived in India at Calicut in 1498. Vasco da Gama told the first Indians that he met that he came to seek 'Christians and spices'. The Portuguese quickly established sea ports on the Malabar coast, and by virtue of their superior seapower, managed to divert most of the European spice trade onto their own vessels.

In 1510, Affonso de Albuquerque captured Goa from the Sultan of Bijapur and made it the capital of the Portuguese eastern empire. A seond important centre for the Portuguese in India was Diu in Gujarat. The Portuguese would not tolerate any faith but their own, and would not allow any Hindu temples in Goa. They introduced the Inquisition in 1560 and persecuted the Syrian Christians of Malabar. Albuquerque encouraged mixed marriages between Portuguese men and Indian women, with the intention that a race would be created with Portuguese blood and Catholic culture, along with loyalty to the home of their paternal ancestors. This would form a permanent self-perpetuating garrison.

The Portuguese were very successful commercially, for about a century. Then in 1580, Portugal itself was taken over by Spain, which was involved in long and costly wars with the English and Dutch. Portuguese resources waned and their maritime supremacy in India was challenged by the English. In 1612, the English East India Company defeated the Portuguese off Surat. In 1618, the English made an agreement with the Mughals to protect sea traffic from the Portuguese in return for important trading privileges. In 1622, the English East India Company's maritime arm defeated the Portuguese at the strong point of Ormuz in the Persian Gulf, and the Portuguese then became a minor political and commercial force in India. They retained control of Goa until 1950, when the Indian Army forcibly united Goa with the rest of independent India."[1]

Places associated with the Portuguese

Church Records

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, on subscription website Findmypast or at LDS Family History Centres. The FIBIS website has extensive information on locating church records on microfilm for British India.

However, your Portuguese ancestors may not have lived in British India (i.e. that portion of India that was controlled by the British - this grew from a very small area in 1600 to almost all of India by 1947). In this case, the church records will not be kept at the British Library.

Pauline McGregor Currien has transcribed indexes to baptisms in the British Factory at Lisbon, Portugal 1721-1807.

See Calcutta - Churches and missions for Roman Catholic churches with a Portuguese connection, including details of the book published in 1915 in Calcutta The Registers & Inscriptions of the Church of Our Lady of Dolours, Baithakhana (1810-1914) by Fr H Hosten.


Some Portuguese church records have been microfilmed by the LDS and are available at LDS Family History Centres. Records of visits by the Archbishop of Goa or his representative to review the spiritual affairs of each parish and its members, 1747-1927, are available on two microfilms numbered 1566354 and 1566355, which have now been digitised, and are available to view on home computers.

The LDS have also microfilmed records of 146 locations within Goa. These are listed under Goa Church Records.

Records in Goa

  • Department of Archives and Archaeology, Government of Goa. Records include "registers of Baptism, Births & Deaths, Deeds & Wills as well as some very useful records from churches in Goa". Most of the records are in Portuguese & Marathi (Modi) though quite a few documents are also in Sanskrit, Persian, English, French & Vietnamese. it is not known whether these records have been filmed by the LDS, refer above, or whether they are different records.

FIBIS resources

Other Records


The following books relating to the Portuguese in India were recommended by Cathy Day's Family History in India site, kindly transferred to our wiki
  • The Portuguese in India (New Cambridge History of India Volume One) by Michael Naylor Pearson. Hardcover edition (1988).
  • Albuquerque and Early Portuguese Settlement in India by H. Morse Stephens. Hardcover reprint edition (2000).
  • Bibliography of Goa and the Portuguese in India by Henry Scholberg. Hardcover edition (1982).
  • The Portuguese in India by Frederick C. Danvers. Hardcover reprint edition (1988). Available online, see below.


  1. Spear, Percival A History of India (Volume Two) (1978) by pp.62-67

External links

Reading Portuguese Handwritten Records 3 Lessons from FamilySearch Learning Center/Lessons.

Historical books online

Volume I Google Books; Volume II Archive.org mirror from Kerala State Central Library Rare Books Online; Volume II, Volume III Qatar Digital Library. Transcribed version, Tomes [Volumes]I-III, note however, the contents of some of the various Tomes (Volumes) are listed out of chronological order. lib.umich.edu. There was a three volume reprint edition published in 1971.