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  *   Tracing South Asian Roots
Search Tracing Your Roots  *

* Introduction
* Caribbean
* Irish
* Jewish
* South Asian
*Tracing South Asian Roots
*Perspectives on UK Records
*Military Service Records
*Migration Records
*Records in Other Countries
*Anglo-Indians
*Pulling It All Together

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In this section * * * * *
Family Resources*    
Starting Your Research*   History of Britain's Relationship with India* History of Britain's Relationship with Ceylon (Sri Lanka)*  Records of Ceylon (Sri Lanka)* India Office Records at the British Library* Collections at The National Archives*   
Tips for Compiling a Family Tree*    
Case Study - Deam Mahomed*   the Case Study of Dean Mahomed*   
       

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.


*Family Resources*top of page

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.


*Starting Your Research*top of page

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.

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Sir Ramaswarmy Mudaliar, Commerce member of the Viceroy's Council (seated) and Sir Alan Lloyd, Indian Civil Service Secretary of the Commerce Department, examine a map of India being held by a government messenger, in New Delhi during the Second World War.
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Sir Ramaswarmy Mudaliar, Commerce member of the Viceroy's Council (seated) and Sir Alan Lloyd, Indian Civil Service Secretary of the Commerce Department, examine a map of India being held by a government messenger, in New Delhi during the Second World War.
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.


*Tips for Compiling a Family Tree*top of page

In addition to the following advice, read the guidance in tracing your roots.

  • Always work backwards in time from the present.
  • Start with your South Asian ancestors' names, their arrival dates and details in this country, and their professions. If any of their travel documents have survived, find out where they came from.
  • The ancestors' names can sometimes give clues to where they come from and their occupations. Family resources are also very important sources, such as wedding invitation cards, family bibles and photographs.
  • If you visit your ancestral place of origin, interview the local historians, relatives and friends. Take photographs and record the stories in the form of audio and video taping.
  • Do not give up easily if you do not find information - the quest may take some perseverance.
  • Ask relatives for information on their ethnic background, name changes and names of friends and neighbours. Check on the Internet and post messages on genealogy forums such as *www.genealogy.com.
  • When you search the records, be aware that names can be misspelled.
  • Finally, good luck!
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Register of Deposits on account of Native Servants who have gone with Passengers to England, 1834
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Register of Deposits on account of Native Servants who have gone with Passengers to England" - Fort William 1834.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (BL) O/1/369 f.205

*Case Study - Deam Mahomed*top of page

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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