Tracing Your British Indian Ancestors : A Guide for Family Historians
Tracing Your British Indian Ancestors gives a fascinating insight into the history of the subcontinent under British rule and into the lives the British led there. It also introduces the reader to the range of historical records that can be consulted in order to throw light on the experience of individuals who were connected to India over the centuries of British involvement in the country.
Emma Jolly looks at every aspect of British Indian history and at all the relevant resources. She explains the information held in the British Library India Office Records and The National Archives. She also covers the records of the armed forces, the civil service and the railways, as well as religious and probate records, and other sources available for researchers.
At the same time, she provides a concise and vivid social history of the British in India: from the early days of the East India Company, through the Mutiny and the imposition of direct British rule in the mid-nineteenth century, to the independence movement and the last days of the Raj.
Her book will help family historians put their research into an historical perspective, giving them a better understanding of the part their ancestors played in India in the past.
By 'British Indians', Emma Jolly does not mean British citizens who are ethnically Indian, but those 'British ancestors [meaning, I think, British citizens of any ethnicity] who were born, lived or worked in the Indian region between 1600 and the late twentieth century'. The aim is to provide the user with a firm basis from which to launch his or her own research.
The main focus of the book is on the East India Company and state or national institutions, organisations and records. For me, it would have been easier to read had it begun with a simple historical narrative from the beginning to end of 'British India', with chapters on specific themes thereafter. Minor flaws include the occasional absence of definitive advice and a randomness about what is and is not included. For example, it would be helpful to know what, if anything, the ordinary family historian can do if they wanted to conduct research in India and lacks a 'sponsoring University/Institution' (p.18), and some sections include individual 'case histories', with the basis of selection and the purpose of including them left unexplained.
Tracing Your British Indian Ancestors is wide-ranging and full of information and it is well presented, adequately indexed, and sensibly priced. For complete novices, to have the information about and the contact details of non-commercial societies specialising in genealogical research may prove to be of greatest use, enabling them to learn from others. For the more experienced researcher, the wealth of information about some of the less obvious research resources should be invaluable.
Friends of The National Archives.