Using LDS Microfilms

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Note: Microfilm ordering services ceases 31 August 2017. Some microfilms have already been digitised, and are available through the Catalogue Search on FamilySearch, not in the Records section. All records which originate from the British Library are only available to be viewed on a FamilySearch computer at a FamilySearch Centre. All microfilms are expected to be digitized and available by 2020. Please take this into account when reading the information below.

Read these instructions if you are searching for records of births after 1910, or marriages after 1935 which are not shown online on FamilySearch because of privacy reasons. Findmypast has minimal records, for privacy reasons, for a slightly different range of dates.

Note however the records sent to England declined in number from the early 1930s with minimal numbers in the 1940s.

Summary

This page contains instructions on how to use the LDS (Mormon) records to research family history in India. It is not an official page of the LDS church. To find your nearest LDS Family History Centres (FHC), look up your telephone directory under Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Or ask a fellow genealogist - they'll know! To find your nearest FHC at the official LDS website go to FHC Locator.

Background

British India was divided into three Presidencies :

The first British church in India was St Mary's in Fort St George, Madras, which was consecrated in 1680. Many other churches were established after that date and records exist for most of them from the time of their consecration. Every year on Lady Day (25th March), British churches were required to send copies of their ecclesiastical records to the capital city of each Presidency. The Presidencies then indexed the records and sent them to the India Office in London (now at the British Library). The Mormons have microfilmed all the ecclesiastical records, including the indices, and made them available to Mormons and non-Mormons alike.

The British Library India Office records are now digitised and available online as images on the findmypast website. A large number are also available online on the LDS website FamilySearch as index records. (See IGI for details). However, not all the British Library India Office records are listed on the LDS website. Note however the records sent to England declined in number from the early 1930s with minimal numbers sent to England in the 1940s.

Index

The first step is to determine which Presidency your ancestor lived in, as each one is indexed separately. If you have no idea, then start with Bengal, which was the largest Presidency. If that doesn't work out, try Bombay and finally, Madras. If you have a location name check the Locationssection of this website.

Next, you need the microfilm number. You can find the film you need on the following pages:

Alternatively, you can search online by going to the LDS Locality Guide and conducting a Place Search.)

You will be presented with a very long list of microfilms. The first section is the index for that Presidency, followed by a list of microfilms of the actual church records. In the index, go to the type of record you require (BAPTISM, MARRIAGE or BURIAL). Select the period in which you are interested. Each index covers around a ten-year period, although many of the early ones cover considerably longer periods. When you find the time period (e.g., 1860-1870) write down the microfilm number that appears opposite it (e.g., 480960).

If you live in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand (and perhaps other countries) the films must be ordered online. Otherwise, you will still need to go to one of the Family History Centres to order the microfilm of the actual index.

Now go to the friendly FHC librarian and tell them that you wish to order that microfilm. You will be charged a small fee to cover postage. In a few weeks (approximately!) your microfilm will arrive and the FHC will notify you. Make a booking to view the microfilm at the FHC and start looking for your ancestors!

View the index on your microfilm. The index is semi-alphabetical, which means that for each year, all the names beginning with a certain letter are listed in the order in which they were transcribed. You will need to look through all the names for that letter, for each year in which you think the event (baptism, etc.) may have taken place. Note that marriages were indexed by the Groom's name only until the 1890's. If you are looking for the marriage of a female ancestor, whose husband's name you don't know, you will need to look up EVERY marriage for the year(s) in question.

Once you have found your ancestor's name, write down the details :

  • year
  • volume number
  • page number. In the records a page is called a folio. If you see a reference such as f 121 this means page 121

Don't forget the volume number - it is sometimes only written at the top of the page, so you may need to scroll up to see it. If the volume number doesn't look like a simple number (e.g. it has a letter over a line over a number) then your ancestor's record is part of the Omissions and Corrections series. Go to the page on Non Presidential Records to learn what this is all about.

If you have already found a reference to a record in the British Library India Office records, or some FIBIS records eg some transcribed marriages, you do not need to look in the indexes as the information you already have as to year, volume and folio is the same as the information in the indexes.

If you have found a LDS website reference which includes a film number, if you have ready access to the indexes, it will save you time to look up the folio (page) number in the index. However it is generally not worth while specifically ordering the index film. You should be able to find the relevant entry on the records film as the LDS website will probably give you the date and location .Generally in each yearly volume of records there are four quarterly returns and the locations are listed alphabetically.

The Church Record

Now that you have found your ancestor's name in the Index,you can look up the microfilm number on the following pages:

(Alternatively, you will now need to go to back to the Locality Guide, described above, to find the number of the microfilm for that volume. Look up INDIA, then the Presidency (BOMBAY, BENGAL or MADRAS) then CHURCH RECORDS. Go past the index listing to the volume listing.)

Look up the volume in which you are interested (it should match the year in which you are interested, but there are exceptions - always go for the volume number). Then write down the microfilm number opposite the volume number. Most countries now require online ordering,

When the FHC informs your that your microfilm is available, make a booking for a film reader and view the microfilm. Simply look up the volume (there are usually only one or two volumes on a microfilm), then look up the page number of the volume you require. There will be your ancestor's records of baptism, marriage or burial!

Conclusion

I know that this sounds very complicated, but once you're familiar with the records you'll realise that it's fairly straightforward. Look up the Locality Guide and order a film, view the index, look up the Locality Guide and order a film again, then view the record.