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|Tracing South Asian Roots|
Tracing South Asian Roots
Perspectives on UK Records
Military Service Records
Records in Other Countries
Pulling It All Together
The basic principles of research in family history are the same whatever country your ancestors came from. We therefore recommend that you read the tracing your roots general introduction on this website, if you have not already done so, to familiarise yourself with the types of records and techniques that will prove useful, before looking at the sources that are of particular relevance to South Asian ancestry.
As with any family history project, the place to start is with the resources you have at home or within the family. Generally Asian immigrants tended to look after the official documents of their travel and immigration within their families. From time to time, they needed to show these documents to the government authorities. At other times, they might share and pass their stories to their offspring and non-immediate family about their travelling experiences and about their home country.
As a result, some oral family history and memorabilia, such as old photographs, postcards, old international envelopes, identity cards, rent books and old passports, exist within families.
It is best to gather as much information as you can from the family members before starting your research. Asian families often keep very close ties with their relatives in their countries of origin, which can prove invaluable in helping with local research.
The early settlers, however, were perhaps not as fortunate as recent immigrants. They had to face constant hurdles, and many had trouble looking after their official documents due to overcrowded living conditions. They moved frequently from place to place for survival. Some went through all kinds of hardship and destitution, in conditions that rendered them unable to keep in touch with their families, especially before the advent of cheap telephone calls and air travel.
There is no centralised archive for South Asian family history and information must be pieced together from various sources, as described in the different sections of this site.
A good place to start is by reading the brief History of Britain's Relationship with India, from the establishment of the East India Company to independence and partition, which provides useful background to your personal research. It is helpful for understanding the types of government records available in England and where they are currently held.
A similar piece about the History of Britain's Relationship with Ceylon (Sri Lanka) is also provided. Records of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) can be found here.
Details about South Asians have been recorded in various government departmental records and these are held in two major collections:
For both India and Ceylon, the domestic (locally created) records are not held within British collections. They are found in the national and regional (state) archives of the relevant country.
Other sections of this gallery contain details of further sources, and it is worth exploring them all systematically.
In addition to the following advice, read the guidance in tracing your roots.
Dean Mahomed (1759-1851), one of the earliest Indian migrants to enter Britain in the eighteenth century, has left us several records of his life, which taken together with the surviving sources in the national and local archives enables us to reconstruct his life and trace his descendants. Follow the link to read more on the Case Study of Dean Mahomed.
Creators: Abi Husainy
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