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Tracing South Asian Roots
Perspectives on UK Records
Military Service Records
Records in Other Countries
Pulling It All Together
Britain had an Asian community long before the Second World War. Nevertheless, a more concerted wave of immigration from India started in the 1930s. Indians before 1947, and Ceylonese before 1948, who settled in Britain did not have to be naturalised, as they were British subjects. The process of migration nonetheless gave rise to a number of valuable record sources for the family historian. You may wish to read the general introduction to migration records before looking at the following survey of those records of particular interest to South Asian researchers.
The most significant migration records for the pre-partition period are:
For details of what these records contain, the periods covered, and where to find them, follow the links above.
Between 1948 and 1962 workers from the colonies could migrate to Britain without restriction. Until 1962 every Commonwealth citizen was entitled to enter the United Kingdom at will.
This right had been freely exercised for many years but it was only in the 10 years from 1952 onwards that substantial numbers of people from the Commonwealth began to think of settling in Britain.
Under the British Nationality Act 1948, citizens of British colonies could simply apply to the Home Office for registration of British nationality and were issued with certificates.
Read more about Naturalization records.
The South Asian citizens who could obtain certificates included many who came to Britain from other colonies, such as indentured labourers from the West Indies and families who had settled in East Africa. Read more about records for Asians who had migrated to the colonies.
A Commonwealth citizen who wanted to work and settle in the United Kingdom had to obtain Ministry of Labour Vouchers, which were issued under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 and 1969. The vouchers were issued in three categories:
Read more about the Ministry of Labour Vouchers Scheme Records.
Some case files of the Immigration Appellate Authorities are held at the National Archives in the Lord Chancellor's Department record series LCO 42 (1971-97). There are 875 files altogether, most of them are subject to the 30-year period of closure and some up to a 75-year period. Many of the files contain photographs and original x-rays.
If you are lucky in finding records of your ancestors' migration, they are very likely to have provided sufficient information to start researching the records in the country of origin.
Creators: Abi Husainy
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