Records in India

This guide was last updated in 2012

Once you have exhausted your search in the UK you will need to start looking back in the Indian subcontinent.

It is important to remember that due to partition and large-scale population shifts your ancestor may have originated from modern day India, Pakistan or Bangladesh.

You will need to know where they came from within those three countries as there were no centralised or state records kept during the colonial era for the native population.

A good tip for finding the place of birth of your ancestor is to order their death certificate if they died in the UK in the past 30 years. The certificate should give a date of birth and may also provide a precise place of birth, too. You will need to look locally amongst any documents kept by the local religious institute; a temple (Hindus), mosque (Muslims), gurdwara (Sikhs) or church (Christian).

Which records may survive will also depend on your ancestor’s religious denomination. It was common practice to record a child’s birth via a baptism in Christianity. Births were also recorded by priests in temples or Gurdwaras, but this did not occur in mosques. Again, marriages were performed in temples and churches and so records may exist in these institutes.

In Nitin’s episode he was able to trace his family back 200 years thanks to a scroll kept by high priests in the holy city of Mathura. The majority of records will not be online and will have to be searched for locally but it’s always worthwhile checking on in case you do find something.

If your Indian ancestors were relatively wealthy then they may have announced their life events in local newspapers from the late 19th century onwards. These newspapers will be found in regional archives throughout the subcontinent.

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