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|Tracing Your Roots > Caribbean > Migration|
When slavery was abolished in the British West Indies on 1 August 1834 the newly freed slaves had to serve a period of four years for their former masters; this was known as 'apprenticeship'. When apprenticeship ended in 1838 many left their masters to set up their own smallholdings. As a result many colonies, especially Trinidad and Guyana, suffered severe labour shortages and petitioned the government for relief.
Various groups of labourers were encouraged to migrate to the Caribbean such as Chinese, Portuguese from Madeira and the Azores, Africans, liberated Africans, and to a lesser extent French and Germans.
The largest group of migrants encouraged to settle in the Caribbean were Asian Indians; often referred to in the records as East Indian or most usually 'coolies'. Transportation was arranged through local agents in India and work and welfare was organised by local immigration departments or protectors of immigrants in the Caribbean.
Indian agents' papers and emigration lists may survive in the national and provincial archives in India. Passenger lists, immigration lists and records of local government departments with responsibility to immigrants may survive in the relevant Caribbean archive.
Policy papers concerning their recruitment, with reports and correspondence relating to welfare and employment, some lists and ships' surgeons' reports can be found in the National Archives among the records of the Colonial Office and especially among the immigration departments' papers (CO 384, CO 385, CO 386, CO 318, CO 323 and CO 571). The Indian subcontinent was administered by the East India Company (until 1857) and the India Office (from 1857) and the records of these organisations are at the British Library, which should contain useful information on Indian migration to the West Indies.
Indian indentured migration ended in 1919.
Creators: Guy Grannum
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