*   Records in Other Countries
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
*Pulling It All Together


In this section * * * * *
Records in Other Countries*   GSU Microfilm Records* India* Pakistan* Bangladesh* Sri Lanka*   
Pitfalls*   Contact Information for Archives in India*   

*Records in Other Countries*top of page

Haj Pilgrims Return to India
A Muslim returning to India during the Second World War from Mecca, walks down the gangway of the pilgrim ship. Around his neck in a handkerchief he carries a copy of the Koran.
Although tracing the family history of migrants should start with the most recent records in Britain, eventually it will necessary to consult the records available at the country of the immigrant's origin. It is therefore important to establish, and define more precisely, where the family or immigrants came from.

According to Rashmi Desai in Indian Immigrants in Britain [from the National Archives reference (PRO)HO 344/194]:

Almost all South Asian immigrants come from the two traditional areas of emigration, the Punjab and Gujarat. The chief regions are the Jullunder and Hoshiarpur districts of the Punjab and Central and Southern Gujarat. Pakistanis come from the Punjab area of West Pakistan, the Mispur district of Kashmir and Sylhet in East Pakistan. Since 1960 some Gujaratis have come to the United Kingdom from East and Central Africa.
Of course, there are exceptions to these generalisations, particularly in earlier periods, but such rules of thumb provide a good place to start your research in the absence of any other details.

The states of East and West Pakistan were not created until August 1947.

You should consider asking the following questions:

  • Were they born in East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh in 1972?
  • If your ancestors were born in the old Indian territories, which are now in Pakistan, do you know which states they came from?
  • Did they opt to migrate to Pakistan from India during *partition?
  • Did they migrate from East Pakistan to West Pakistan for employment? Did they then proceed to Britain?
  • Have they chosen to migrate directly to England or first from India to Pakistan and then to this country?
  • Were they indentured labourers from Tamil Nadu (previously Madras Presidency, later Madras State) who migrated for work under British rule to Sri Lanka (Ceylon)?
A 20th-century poster for the Great Indian Peninsula Railway
A 20th-century poster for the Great Indian Peninsula Railway. A railway service began in India in 1853 with a 25-mile journey from Mumbai (Bombay). During the year 1946-7 the number of railway employees in India stood at 1,047,000.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (PRO) COPY 1/235
Family recollections, personal documents, names of villages and good historical maps are invaluable in helping to determine some of these questions. The Latter Day Saints organisation, via the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU), has microfilmed a number of record sets. Follow the link to GSU Microfilm Records*.

For details of what records are available, and how to access them, select the country you wish to research:

*Pitfalls*top of page

A crowded street in Colombo, Ceylon
A crowded street in Colombo, Ceylon, in a photograph taken between 1890 and 1910.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (RGS) S0002805
  • Looking for information in South Asian archives can sometimes be very time-consuming without any guarantee of success. Follow the link to find Contact Information for Archives in India*.
  • When you visit them in person, some archives are very helpful.
  • When you write to these archives, you may not get a prompt response. Some may not reply to you at all. It may be necessary to make several requests for help.
  • In some countries, a gift or donation is expected when you ask for help.
  • Although Asians often maintain oral traditions about their family histories, very little recorded information is held by most families.

Creators: Abi Husainy

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