*   Pulling It All Together
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 * * * * *
Patterns of Settlement*    
Religion*   Resources on Religious Organisations*   
Occupational Records*   Asian Medical Doctors Records*   
Associations and Societies*   Prisoner of War Records*   
Private Papers*    
Local History*    
Printed Reference Works*   Useful Books and Documents for Asian Family History Research*   
Useful Websites*   List of Useful Websites for Asian Family History Research*   
Further Reading*   further reading suggestions*   
Case Study of Lord Satyendra Prasanna Sinha*   Case Study of Lord Satyendra Prasannna Sinha (1863 - 1928)*   

This section explores avenues for finding out more about the texture of your ancestors' lives, aside from major life events such as births, deaths and marriages.

Special administrations concerning the will of Damooder Doss
A detail from the will of Damooder Doss, August 1854.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (LMA) DL/C/543/DOSS1857AUGUST
Asians are significantly well documented in:

  • Coroners' inquests
  • Births, marriages and deaths before 1837, recorded in the parish registers
  • Wills approved in the local probate courts
  • Workhouse records
  • Baptisms and burials, which are held by the local County Record Offices (CRO)
  • Local civil registers kept by the local register offices or district registry
  • Local council records
  • Newspapers
  • Contemporary literature and documents, particularly from the British Library, Oriental and India Office collection (OIOC) and the national government records at the National Archives
To read more about the lives of South Asians, before and after they came to England, and to view many examples of the resources available, visit the South Asian section of the migration histories gallery on this site.

*Patterns of Settlement*top of page

Clifton Tandoori Restaurant, Brick Lane, London in 1974
Clifton Tandoori Restaurant, Brick Lane, London in 1974.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (LMA) LMA/4207/008/13
As noted earlier, many seamen came to the United Kingdom prior to 1949 and settled in areas with high densities of South Asians in port towns. They frequently had family roots in areas that are now part of Pakistan.

Indian *pedlars often came from Sikh backgrounds, and they lived in major cities such as London, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham.

Unskilled and semi-skilled immigrants could be found in the major industrial centres, as well as in the East End and Southall areas of London.

Indian businessmen, doctors, students, and High Commission members did not fit ordinary patterns and frequently avoided living in immigrant enclaves.

Males dominated the early immigrant waves, and they only brought over families after successfully saving some resources.

*Religion*top of page

The vast majority of the population who arrived in Britain from India came from one of the following faith traditions:

  • Hindu
  • Muslim
  • Sikh
  • Buddhist
  • Christian
Christianity was particularly strong among Anglo-Indians.

Seeking to preserve the customs and practices of the various religions, these communities established religious organisations.Link her to find more Resources on Religious Organisations*.

*Occupational Records*top of page

It will give a major boost to your research if you know the professions or field of work of the people you want to research, as this information can often lead on to further sets of records. Census records give details of employment for earlier generations.

Asian Hawkers and Pedlars

A pedlar's certificate application for Sultan Mohamed, a 31 year old British Indian seaman from the 1930s
A pedlar's certificate application for Sultan Mohamed, a 31-year-old British Indian seaman, in the 1930s.
* Moving Here catalogue reference () MEPO2/5064
The hawking of textiles and clothing is one of the earliest occupations undertaken by Asian immigrants. It was started by the Sikhs in Liverpool and Glasgow in the 1930s.

In 1947, the hawkers started selling cheap hosiery, cardigans, dresses and shirts in the Midlands. The Pedlars Act, 1871, required travelling traders on foot to be licenced by the local police, and the Hawkers Act, 1888, required travelling traders, with horses or other beasts of burden, to be licensed by the County or County Borough Council.

The records relating to these are deposited in the local County Record Offices. The Metropolitan Police records for London are held at the National Archives.

Read more about pedlars and their records.

Indian Students

An Indian student in the junior drawing class at University College, London in 1912.
An Indian student in the junior drawing class at University College, London in 1912.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (LMA) SC/PHL/02/408/4274
Many Indians have come to Britain to study, particularly for the professions such as law and medicine, and to sit for the Indian Civil Service examination. Some chose to stay in this country after their studies were completed.


A doctor examines the ear of a trainee mechanic in the Indian Air Force at the Poona engineering college during the second world war.
A doctor examines the ear of a trainee mechanic in the Indian Air Force at the Poona engineering college during the second world war.
The medical profession in Britain has attracted many doctors and other medical professionals, and there are many sources of records. Read more here about Asian Medical Doctors Records*.


Many Asian immigrants who migrated to this country in the 1960s started newsagent businesses, and their details may be kept by the:

National Federation of Retail Newsagents
Yeoman House
Sekforde Street
London EC1R 0HF
Tel: 020 7253 4225
Fax: 0207 7250 0927
website: *www.nfrn.org.uk

*Associations and Societies*top of page

The Asian immigrants in this country have formed two main types of associations. The first type is the cultural association of the regional society in India. The second type deal directly with the problems arising within the host society, and typically more political in nature. In addition, of course, there are various leisure and trade associations, such as film societies.

Read more about Asian Societies and Associations* such as The Indian Assocation and the Indian Workers Association.

Prisoners of War: Asiatic Merchant Seamen

The National Archives holds collective alphabetical listings of Prisoners of War and Internees of Asiatic and Goans merchant seamen captured during the war and individual pouches of Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Chinese and Asian allied prisoners of war in (PRO)BT 373.

Read more about these Prisoner of War Records*.

*Private Papers*top of page

There are original records acquired as gifts or on deposit, such as the collection of Major General Alex S Allan. His papers in National Archives reference (PRO)30/2/7/4 include Burma, India and Afghanistan genealogical notes and pedigrees of 17th to 19th centuries such as:

  • Genealogical table of the Gooroos
  • Raja T'hrov Dev of Jummoo family
  • Aong-zayaor Alompra (Dynasty of Kings of Burma)
  • Genealogical table of the Brahmi Khans of Kalat, Afghanistan

*Local History*top of page

Once you have discovered the country and place name of your ancestor's origin, you can build a local history of that place. You may like to know what life was like at that time in a particular region? Were any railway lines introduced in your ancestor's place of origin?

During British rule in India, the Office of the Surveyor General created many maps of different parts of India. Large collections of maps and unpublished histories of different regions written by the surveyors and officials for administrative and defence purposes are available at the British Library, OIOC, and some can be found at the National Archives.

The British Library and OIOC also hold rare published books such as India gazetteers. Bombay Gazetteer, Madras Gazetteer and Bengal Gazetteer provide the name and brief history of a place. Some of these were published during the East India Company period.

For more recent material, covering the period since your ancestors came to England, local record offices and archives usually have good local history resources. In towns or cities with large concentrations of South Asians, such as London or Bradford, there may be collections dedicated to the history of the South Asians in that community.

An important Indian hydro electric system
Working on a generator for an important Indian hydro electric system in the Second World War.

*Printed Reference Works*top of page

Family historians tend to omit or are not aware of the wealth of information that can be found in printed reference works, especially for those whose ancestors served in the Indian Civil Service. Link here for a list of Useful Books and Documents for Asian Family History Research*available at the British Library, OIOC, and the National Archives.

*Useful Websites*top of page

It is not possible to do all your family history research on the internet, but it can be an immensely useful source of information, and provides forums in which you can share your research and queries with others. Link here for a List of Useful Websites for Asian Family History Research*.

*Further Reading*top of page

Reading around your subject is almost as important as doing primary research: with a good understanding of the political and social history that affected the lives of your ancestors, you will be better able to place your own research in context and to find new avenues to explore. Our further reading suggestions* are good places to start.

*Case Study of Lord Satyendra Prasanna Sinha*top of page

Following the link to read the Case Study of Lord Satyendra Prasannna Sinha (1863 - 1928)*, a barrister from Calcutta who study law in England in the 1880's and recieved a knighthood in 1914 for his acomplishments in the practice of law.

Creators: Abi Husainy

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