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India Office Records

Nature of Source

Records of the civilian and military administrations that ruled India from the establishment of the East India Company in 1600 to the Indian and Pakistani independence of 1947. The records mainly originate from the East India Company, the Board of Control, the India Office and the Burma Office. The Honourable East India Company (HEIC) ran the economic and commercial interests of the colony. The HEIC operated from 1600 to 1858, The India Office from 1858 to 1947, The Board of Control from 1784 to 1858 and the Burma Office from 1937 to 1948. Until 1858, those from the UK who worked as top civil servants in India were employed by the Honourable East India Company's Civil Service and after 1858 until India gained independence, by the Indian Civil Service. Both services were also known as the Covenanted Civil Service. Those that worked in the lower ranks and were born in India were employed by the so called Uncovenanted Civil Service.

The East India Company governed India through three Presidencies (Bengal, Bombay and Madras) with each Presidency having its own army. From the mid-eighteenth century onwards the regular British Army also operated in the territory providing support to the Presidency armies. Following the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the British Crown took over the East India Company initiating direct rule over British India headed by the British Viceroy. The British regiments of the Presidency armies were amalgamated into the British Army from 1861 whilst the Indian regiments continued to exist until the Indian Army came into existence in 1895. British Army records are held at The National Archives whilst the records of those that served as officers or soldiers in the Presidency armies can be found amongst the records of the India Office at the British Library. The death of a soldier serving in India should be registered in the Ecclesiastical Returns held at the India Office records.

Begin your research by searching the biographical card index of over 300,000 entries compiled by India Office staff members from the mid-1970s onwards. The index includes births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials; wills, pensions and military records; Monumental Inscriptions, journals and newspapers but contains less than 10 per cent of all the available sources.

The India Office Records includes the Ecclesiastical Returns (classified as the 'N' Series in the India Office Records). The series consists of transcripts of most of the baptisms/christenings, marriages and burials registered in Anglican churches of the civilian and military employees of the HEIC which were then sent back to the company headquarters in London. The returns will include the British in India, Burma and other territories administered by the East India Company and the Government of India (1698-1968). The collection is held at the India Office Collections at the British Library organised by presidency, by quarter and alphabetically by district. Indexes of the collection are available organised by presidency, by event, by surname and by year. It is important to note that many records were lost or destroyed or the event was not recorded. Separate Roman Catholic registers and other nonconformist registers are incorporated into the 'N' Series. Filmed copies of the originals and indexes are available at LDS Family History Centers with some online at www.familysearch.org.

Much of the daily workings of the Company including staff appointments and careers of the administrators and military personnel employed by the Company as well as military lists can be found in the East India Register & Directory, Presidency Almanacs, Thacker's Indian Directory and newspapers such as the 'Times of India'. These publications also carried birth, marriage and death announcements which have been transcribed and made available at the Families In British India Society Database. The careers of Indian Army officers can be followed in the Indian Army Lists. Amongst the collections is a large body of private papers accumulated over the years.

Where Found

India Office Records (The India Office Records, administered by The British Library, houses records and archives from the East India Company, 1600-1858; the Board of Control or Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India, 1784-1858; the India Office, 1858-1947; the Burma Office, 1937-1948. They also hold records for a number of related British agencies overseas covering Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. The Collections holds most of the baptisms, marriages and burials for the British in India, 1698-1968 and the career details of the administrators and military personnel employed by the company. Begin by searching the biographical card index of over 250,000 persons compiled by staff members from the mid-1970s onwards but note that the index contains less than 10 per cent of all the available sources. Free training sessions in using India Office Records are organised by the APAC Reference Services team every month. Much of the material has been indexed and transcribed in partnership with findmypast.co.uk, see below for more details)
Families in British India Society (The Society, founded in 1998, provides a resource for people researching families and their social history in India from 1600 up to, and even after, Indian Independence in 1947. The society operates a searchable database covering a wide variety of sources [see below] and the Fibiwiki which provides research guidance and background information on the British era in India. The society also runs the FIBIS social network where members can connect with other members and share experiences, photos and data. The online library contains a variety of Google digitised directories and almanacs and books dealing with the history of the region. You can follow the society on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube)
LDS FamilySearch Centers (Filmed copies of the originals and indexes of the Ecclesiastical Returns ['N' Series])
National Army Museum
/Templer Study Centre (The Hodson Index: The Index contains genealogical, biographical and service information on approximately 70,000 men and women who served the British East India Company and the Government of India from the early eighteenth century until 1947. The card index is unpublished and contains further research into officers of all of the company's armies covering Madras and Bombay following the publication of Hodson's List of Officers of the Bengal Army 1758-1834)
Society of Genealogists (Various sources)

Period Covered

1600 - 1948

Genealogical Value

Names, occupations, birth/baptism, marriage and death/burial places and dates. Wills and probate records.

Further References

Anderson, Thomas Carnegy. Ubique: War Services of All Officers of H.M.'s Bengal Army: Calcutta, 1863


Bailey, Peter. Researching Ancestors in the East India Company Armies. Families in British India Society, 2006


Banton, Mandy. Administering the Empire 1801-1968: A Guide to the Records of the Colonial Office in The National Archives of the UK: Institute of Historical Research/The National Archives, 2008


Baxter, Ian. India Office Library and Records: A Brief Guide to Biographical Sources: British Library, 1990


Baxter, Ian. Baxter's Guide: Biographical Sources in the India Office Records: Families in British India Society, 2004


Dodwell, Edward & Miles, James Samuel. Alphabetical List of the Officers of The Bengal Army 1760-1834: London, 1839 (Available to read online or download at the Internet Archive)


Farrington, Anthony. Guide to the Records of the India Office Military Department: India Office Library and Records, 1982

 

Herber, Mark. Ancestral Trails. Indian, Colonial and Other Foreign Regiments. In Herber, Mark. Ancestral Trails: Sutton, 2004

 

Hodson, Vernon Charles Paget. List of Officers of the Bengal Army 1758-1834: London, 1927-1947

 

Jolly, Emma. Tracing Your British Indian Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen and Sword Books Limited 2012

 

Moir, Martin. A General Guide to the India Office Records: British Library, 1988

 

Morgan, Richard. An Introduction to British Ships in Indian Waters: Their Owners, Crew & Passengers: Families in British India Society, 2012

 

Prinsep, Charles Campbell. Record of services of the Honourable East India Company's civil servants in the Madras presidency, from 1741 to 1858: London, 1885 (Available to read online or download at the Internet Archive)

 

Reid, Stuart. Armies of the East India Company 1750-1850: Osprey Publishing, 2009

 

Seton, Rosemary. The Indian 'Mutiny' 1857-58: A Guide to Source Material in the India Office Library and Records: British Library, 1986

 

Spencer, William. Army Records: A Guide For Family Historians: The National Archives, 2008

 


The specialist publisher Naval & Military Press is a good source for new and reprinted titles relating to India research.

TNA Research Guides:
Colonies and Dependencies: Further Research
Empire And Commonwealth Records held in the UK and Overseas

Websites

www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelpregion/asia/india/indiaofficerecords/indiaofficehub.html (India Office Records)
www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/index.html (Asia, Pacific & Africa Collections: images from the Asia, Pacific & Africa collections)
http://media.nationalarchives.gov.uk (The National Archives Podcast: Colonial Lives, Careers and Policies)
http://media.nationalarchives.gov.uk (The National Archives Podcast: Researching the British Empire and Commonwealth)
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/looking-for-place/coloniesanddependencies.htm (TNA Guide: Looking for records of British colonies and dependencies)
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/looking-for-person/indianarmy.htm (TNA Guide: Looking for records of Indian Army personnel)
India Office Records (Further Reading on the East India Company and India Office)
http://indiafamily.bl.uk/UI/Dictionary.aspx (Dictionary & Glossary of India research terms)
https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/India (FamilySearch Research Wiki: India)
www.eicships.info (East India Company Ships: The site aims to provide some basic information on the ships [construction details, owners, service history, ultimate fate] and voyages [dates of voyages, crew, ports of call, wrecks, captured, missing] of the East India Company's mercantile service)
http://indiafamily.bl.uk/UI/images/india3.jpg (Map of India, 1937)
www.aigs.org.au/britind.htm (History and classes of records held by the India Office collections)
www.nam.ac.uk/sites/default/files/research-information-1.pdf (National Army Museum Information Sheet 1: Researching soldiers of the East India Company's Armies and the Indian Army)
www.wiki.fibis.org (Fibiwiki: Guides to help people researching ancestors in India with lists of sources and general background information about the culture, society and history of India during the period from 1600 to 1947)
http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php/Indian_Civil_Service#Uncovenanted_service (FIBIwiki: Indian Civil Service)
www.rmg.co.uk/discover/researchers/research-guides/research-guide-f5-east-india-company (National Maritime Museum Research Guide: F5 The East India Company. This guide is a brief introduction to the Honourable East India Company and material relating to it held by the National Maritime Museum)
www.rmg.co.uk/see-do/we-recommend/attractions/traders-east-india-company-asia (National Maritime Museum Gallery: Traders: The East India Company & Asia. The gallery explores Britain's maritime trade with Asia, focusing on the role played by the East India Company)
http://colonialfamilies.wordpress.com (Family & Colonialism Research Network)
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a/records.aspx?cat=059-iorn&cid=-1#-1 (Access to Archives catalogue description: India Office Records)
www.britishempire.co.uk (British Empire: Site includes timelines, maps, links and histories of the British in India)
www.britishempire.co.uk/maproom/india/indiamaps.htm (British Empire: India Maps)
www.indian-cemeteries.org (Indian Cemeteries: Preserving the memory of historic cemeteries in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma)
http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~poyntz/India/maps.html (Historical Maps of India)
http://isp.ans.com.au/~rampais/genelogy/india/indexes/index.htm (Genealogy in India including 'Where were the British Regiments in India and when')
http://dsal.uchicago.edu/reference (Online imperial gazetteers & atlases of India)
www.worldgenweb.org/indwgw (IndiaGenWeb Project)
www.imagesofempire.com (Photos of colonial life)
www.empiremuseum.co.uk (British Empire & Commonwealth Museum)
https://poshoneposh.wixsite.com/indiaman-store (The Indiaman Magazine)

Online Databases

Access to Archives [A2A] (Partial whereabouts of records. To search the India Office catalogue, select 'Advanced search' and then select 'British library, Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections' as the Repository)
http://search.fibis.org/frontis/bin/index.php (Families In British India Society Database: Browse or search across a variety of transcribed records extracted mostly from the British Library's India Office Records Section, including military records, passenger arrival and departure notices, passenger lists, probate records, military passages to India, newspapers and periodicals, photos, census returns, directories, maps, lists of monumental inscriptions and births/baptisms, marriages and deaths/burials registers. Also includes are births, marriages and death announcements extracted from the Times of India covering 1905, 1906, 1908, 1909, 1916, 1927 and 1928 and from Allen’s Indian Mail covering 1843 to 1872)
www.findmypast.co.uk (British India Office Record Collection in partnership with the British Library: Datasets include British India Office Births & Baptisms, 1712-1965, Marriages, 1713-1969 & Deaths & Burials, 1709-1965. The registers relate to those that lived or worked in India and other territories administered by the India office [Pakistan, Burma, Bangladesh, St Helena, Sumatra, Aden, Penang, Macao, Kuwait]; British India Office Army & Navy Pensions. The pension records contain service records and pensions of soldiers and sailors in the British East India Company as well as European soldiers and sailors in the British Indian Army and the Royal Indian Navy; East India Company & Civil Service Pensions, 1762-1947; British India Office Wills & Probate, 1774-1948. The probate records contain the wills and probate records of European soldiers and civilians who died in India and Burma; British India Office Assistant Surgeons. The records contain details of those who travelled to India to serve as assistant surgeons)
www.ancestry.co.uk (The East India Register & Directory 1844, Thacker's Indian Directory 1895, Indian Army Quarterly List for 1 January 1912. Browsable images include East India Register and Directory for 1830, The India Office List 1933)
www.ancestry.co.uk
(UK, Foreign and Overseas Registers of British Subjects, 1627-1965. Collection of birth, baptism, marriage, death and burial records from a variety of sources including British consulates and embassies and British and Scottish churches abroad. The collection also includes a number of registers from India and also a significant number of records of deaths of British and allied servicemen in France and Belgium during the First World War)
www.ancestry.co.uk (UK, Roll of the Indian Medical Service, 1615-1930)
www.thegenealogist.co.uk (Indian Army and Civil Service List 1865; 1805, 1820 and 1834 East India Register and Directory)
www.genhound.co.uk (Colonial Office Lists)  
www.findmypast.co.uk (India Office List 1933, East India Register & Army List 1855, Indian Army & Civil Service List 1873, East India Company's Commercial Marine Service Pensions List 1793-1833, Bengal Civil Service Gradation List 1869)
www.genesreunited.co.uk
(Indian records between, 1793-1933 including Civil Service Gradation List 1869, East India Company Pensions 1793-1833, East India Register & Army List 1855, India Office List 1933, India Office List, Indian Army & Civil Service List 1873)
Familysearch.org (India Births and Baptisms, 1786-1947; India Deaths and Burials, 1719-1948; India Marriages, 1792-1948 extracted from the original records and indexes of the Ecclesiastical Returns ['N' Series])
www.findmypast.co.uk (Travel & Migration Records: Datasets include Outbound Passenger Lists,1890-1960. The dataset includes passenger lists in extracted from TNA series BT 27 and includes long-haul voyages to destinations outside Britain, Europe and the Mediterranean. Countries that feature strongly include Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. Irish ports before partition in 1921 and all Northern Irish ports after partition are covered. The lists also include those travelling onwards from British ports)
India Office Family History Search (Includes online access to the Biographical Card Index which contains about ten per cent of the biographical sources available in the India Office Records. The database includes 300,000 births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials in the India Office Records)
India Office Select Materials (Catalogue of private papers, prints and drawings and photographs)
www.theoriginalrecord.com (Retired East-India Company Officers, 1827)
http://valmayukuk.tripod.com (Various transcriptions including the 1851 Bombay Census, Passenger Lists and Baptisms, Marriage and Burials)
http://isp.ans.com.au/~rampais/genelogy/india/indexes/index.htm (Genealogy in India including 'Index to Cadet Papers 1787-1859 held at the O.I.O.C)
www.bacsa.org.uk (British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia. The association records the locations of cemeteries and monuments, and the inscriptions on headstones. They publish cemetery and church records containing names, inscriptions and biographical notes on individual tombs and gravestones. From the website it is possible to search the unified index to all BACSA's Cemetery Books which record the names and memorial inscriptions of people buried in European cemeteries in India, South Asia, and elsewhere)
www.indian-cemeteries.org (Indian Cemeteries: Transcriptions and photographs from cemeteries in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma)
http://kabristan.org.uk (Transcriptions of memorial inscriptions from graveyards in the west of Ireland and the Indian sub-continent)
www.findmypast.co.uk
(Britain, Royal African Company, 1694-1743. Explore over 55,000 records to uncover the details of those on board the Royal African Company's ships to and from Africa as well as the names of those who lived and died at the numerous company forts. The records come from TNA series T 70)

CD Roms

Archive CD Books (Includes East India Register & Directory, India Office List & Thacker's Indian Directory 1895)
Your Old Books & Maps (Various titles)
S & N Genealogy Supplies (East India Register and Directory, 1805; Indian Army & Civil Service List 1862; India Office Establishment, 1924; Colonial Office List 1914)