This article details connections between British India and Scotland.
A considerable number of Scots served in British India, a far greater number than would be expected based on the percentage of the Scottish population in Great Britain. See External links below, for a podcast which explains the historical background.
Early Regimental Influence
A number of Scottish regiments were serving in India by the late eighteenth century – for example the 42nd , 72nd, 73rd, 74th, 75th, 76th, 77th and 78th Regiments of Foot were all Highland Regiments recorded as being in India well before 1800.
The influence of the Scottish Church in India was felt in Bombay as early as 1820 and soon spread to other areas. Many churches and cemeteries in India evidence a strong Scottish presence. For example, Church of Scotland Burials in Assam.
Scotsmen formed the backbone of many industries and, in particular, those associated with planting – eg . Jute, Indigo and Tea. In fact, it was a Scotsman, Robert Bruce, who discovered the first tea in Assam in 1823.
Useful Databases Online
If your ancestors went out to India from Scotland then there are many online resources to assist in tracing background. Some of these are mentioned below:-
- The Scots Overseas from the book of the same name, a referenced list of men and women who emigrated or adventured to British India compiled by David Dobson. See below for more details of this book and other publications by Dobson.
India Related Links
- National Archives of Scotland have a free searchable index revealing many records of interest to the British India family historian. – copies of the actual records may be obtained from the Archives. For example, a search of the online catalogue under reference GD51/4 throws up an index of almost 1,700 entries relating to persons applying for positions with the East India Company between 1781and 1830– with a note of patronage. These persons can also be found by an individual name search in the catalogue.
- The National Archives of Scotland is now part of the National Records of Scotland, see link below.
- National Archives Guide: Looking for records of a birth, marriage or death in Scotland and Ireland
- Findmypast and Ancestry, pay websites, both have many databases of records from Scotland. Search for Scotland in Findmypast databases and Ancestry databases.
- Scotland records from FamilySearch. At times you have needed to be signed in to FamilySearch to see the whole webpage. Free records. Includes transcribed index records and links to additional catalogue material, some of which may need to be viewed at a FamilySearch Centre, or FS Affiliate Library, see FamilySearch Centres. (To view records you need to be signed in to FamilySearch).
- Some records from National Records of Scotland, see below, are available on FamilySearch catalogued as "Microfilm of original records ... in the New Register House, Edinburgh". These are mainly catalogued as Old parochial registers [OPR], parish registers or blotter registers. There are also some records catalogued from National Archives of Scotland. Use the Catalog Search. Currently (2021/03/07) these records are catalogued as available both at FamilySearch Family History Centres and at FS Affiliate Libraries, although in the past at times they were restricted to Family History Centres only, so always check access restrictions.
- FamilySearch Digital Library contains Smith's inventory of genealogical sources : Scotland in 34 volumes c 1994, with most volumes covering a different county. To view, you need to be signed into FamilySearch. A description in the first volume states "The Inventory provides a locator for items within printed and unpublished material. For example, there are many historical society publications, serials, and periodicals that deal with a variety of subjects. ...The Inventory is designed to bring to light some of the valuable articles hidden within these sources which are not well known to the amateur genealogist. ...The cut-off date for material in this Inventory is December 1989." List of Subjects covered Volume 1, pages 8-12.
- Indexes with an India connection transcribed from "Emigrants from Glasgow and the West of Scotland". Rampais website, now archived. The Indexes were transcribed from a series of booklets with that title at
- The Scottish Genealogy Society located in Edinburgh. At least some of the entries appear to be the same as those compiled by David Dobson, for which transcriptions appear in the FIBIS database, refer FIBIS resources, above.
- ScotlandsPeople. scotlandspeople.gov.uk. A free to search, but pay to view site containing “almost 80 million records” as at March 2010. Includes Births, Marriages, Deaths, Wills and Censuses.
- National Records of Scotland. nrscotland.gov.uk. Includes categories
- Research/Family History
- Research/Research Guides
- Reference Library ScotlandsPeople Centre Reference Library includes a few Monumental Inscriptions from India and Sri Lanka of Scottish interest- - an index of places is provided for quick reference.
- Some records from National Records of Scotland are available on FamilySearch, see above, cataloged as "Microfilm of original records ... in the New Register House, Edinburgh", or some are catalogued from the National Archives of Scotland.
- Cyndi’s List contains links to a large number of sites to help track down your Scottish ancestors.
- Online Scottish Directories from the collection of the National Library of Scotland on Archive.org. Also available on the National Library of Scotland website, where there is a Search facility. The collection on Archive.org is probably easier to browse, the collection on the NLS website easier to search.
- "New gazetteer for searching Ordnance Survey six-inch to the mile, 1888-1913 maps" [of England, Scotland, and Wales] Scroll down to entry dated April 2018 for details. Direct link for Search maps.nls.uk.
- David Dobson has written a number of books containing genealogical information, based on records found in libraries and archives in Scotland including
- The Scots Overseas : Emigrants and Adventurers from Aberdeen and North East Scotland, Fife, Moray and Banff, Angus and Perth, Southern Scotland, Glasgow and the West of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland, the Lothians, and the Northern Highlands 2000. A reprint, originally published in multiple parts, probably with titles Emigrants and Adventurers from.... Available at National Library of Scotland catalogue entry and Family History Library, Salt Lake City Utah, USA, catalogue entry.
- Note, the FIBIS database contains some transcriptions, probably from this book, relating to India, see above.
- A Directory of Scots in Asia, 1600-1900 , variant title Scots in Asia, 1600-1900 published 2008. Available at National Library of Scotland catalogue entry, at the British Library UIN: BLL01016767811 and Family History Library, Salt Lake City Utah, USA, catalogue entry.
- Also see West Indies for further publications by David Dobson, including some online, and also East Africa.
- "Scots in India in the Eighteenth Century" by G. J. Bryant The Scottish Historical Review Vol. 64, No. 177, Part 1 (Apr., 1985), pp. 22-41. jstor.org. Register with jstor.org and read online for free. Some restrictions apply, see Miscellaneous tips for more details.
- BACSA members only, available from the members only section. (Previously available generally). "Scotland’s Empire: The Scots in British India" (scroll down to podcasts) by Sir Tom Devine. BACSA podcast of a lecture 8 April 2019. "Scotland’s most distinguished historian Sir Tom Devine considers the role of Scots in India in administration, the military and trade with special reference to the period from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries. Among the themes examined are the scale of Scottish ‘colonisation’ of the East India Company, the reasons for this and the impact of the India connection on Scotland itself. Sir Tom Devine is Professor Emeritus in History at the University of Edinburgh. His books include To the Ends of the Earth: Scotland’s Global Diaspora, The Scottish Nation 1700–2000 and Scotland’s Empire. Tom Devine Wikipedia. He was also joint editor and contributor to The Scottish Experience in Asia c. 1700 to the Present: Sojourners and Settlers 2017. Available at the British Library UIN: BLL01019066002
- The Tiger and the Thistle Website project focusing on Tipu Sultan and the Scots in India, 1760-1800, now an archived website.
- A social and domestic history of the kilted and Highland Based Regiments of Foot, 1820-1920 by D M Henderson [Diana Mary] 1986 PhD Doctor of Philosophy Thesis, University of Edinburgh.
Historical books online
- Records of Clan Campbell in the military service of the Honourable East India Company 1660-1858 by Sir Duncan Campbell 1925 Archive.org. Also available HathiTrust Digital Library version where the pages are rotatable.
- Account of the Clan-Iver [by Peter Colin Campbell] 1873 is available in two versions on Archive.org Version 1 is generally clearer print, but some pages, particularly at the beginning of the book may be clearer in Version 2. The book contains references to people in India.
- History of the Scottish regiments in the British Army by Arch. K. Murray 1862 Archive.org
- The History of Scotland, its Highlands, Regiments and Clans, Volume VIII by James Browne 1909 Archive.org. This volume includes the regiments.
- "Migration from Scotland before 1700" by David Dobson November 2015. st-andrews.ac.uk. Includes a very brief statement "Scots soldiers and sailors served in the armies of the Netherlands and in their fleets, as well as those of the Dutch East India Company … in the Early Modern Period."