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|South Asian Perspectives on UK Records|
Tracing South Asian Roots
Perspectives on UK Records
Military Service Records
Records in Other Countries
Pulling It All Together
For basic records of significant life events of South Asians who have settled in Britain the starting point is the same as for all people in the country: records of births, deaths and marriages, censuses and wills are mainstay of family history reseach, and there are many other sources that can be examined. It also helps to know something about the background, career path and destination of the particular South Asian immigrant.
The Asian presence in Britain goes a long way back and forms a prelude to the larger-scale post-independence migration of Asians to Britain.
The colonial link resulted in many South Asians visiting Britain for different purposes:
Those South Asians who stayed in Britain had to follow the rules and regulations created by the Central Courts of Law and the policies of the various British governmental departments. Most South Asian immigrants were law-abiding citizens, and assimilated into the British way of life. Their names and details have been recorded in various records held at the National Archives, such as:
These are the vital collections for tracing Asian ancestors in this country.
Apart from these records, the County Record Offices also hold parish registers for births, marriages and deaths before 1837, quarter session court records, local newspapers, local business trade directories, wills approved in the local courts, and many other local records.
South Asians who arrived and settled in the United Kingdom have registered their births, marriages and deaths in the normal way like any other British citizens. Many early settlers were baptised into the Christian faith by missionaries, and relevant baptism records may be found in copies of parish registers held in the relevant local County Record Offices.
When the Asian religious places of worship were established, the marriages were first conducted in a traditional religious way in the Mosques, Sikh and Hindu temples, and later registered in the civil records as well.
Particularly in early years, when there were few Asian women in Britain, many Asian men started relationships with white women, and some couples entered mixed marriages and had children.
For more information on births, marriages and death records in England link to the general tracing your roots section.
Any Asians who were in England and Wales for one of the ten-yearly censuses will have been recorded. The census records from 1841 to 1901 are open for consultation.
From 1851 onwards, the enumerator was required to record the birthplace of each individual; however, the records usually only noted the country of birth, not the village or town. Occasionally some of them give full details, but it is rare.
Those Asians who married white women or sought to integrate with the locals sometimes adopted easily anglicised first names but kept their original surnames. For example, in the 1881 census, many Sikhs kept their surname Singh.
For more information about census records link to roots general family history section.
Early Asian settlers in Britain came from varied social backgrounds. Indian students who studied, worked and lived in this country were often well off; some were very rich and a few were working class. Not everyone left a will. If a will was left, which was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury before 1858, it is held at the National Archives in record series (PRO)PROB11.
Since 1858 the Government has taken the responsibility for the administration of wills and grant probates. These are held at:
The Principal Registry of the Family Division
Probate Search Room
First Avenue House
42-49 High Holborn
London WC1V 6NP
For more information on wills after 1858 link to roots general family history section.
Many wealthy Asians and descendants of Indian royal families bought stocks and shares of British companies, and some of the stocks were never claimed. It is possible that such funds may have ended up in:
The Money (Funds) in Court of the Chancery/Family Section
Courts Funds Division
London WC2B 6LE
Such cases, however, are very rare. For further information please consult the National Archives information leaflet on money (funds) in court.
Legally immigrated Asians were allowed to vote in this country. It is worth checking the relevant electoral registers if you know where your ancestor lived. The registers are held at the local and country records offices or libraries, as well as the British Library.
Asian seamen and servants who were destitute in the seaport towns were sent to workhouses. Relevant records are usually held at the County Record Office (CRO) or local reference libraries. If someone died at the workhouse, it was abbreviated in the death certificate as 'WH'.
Different newspapers and magazines published by the various Asian communities or associations, as well as newsletters, annual reports published by the mosques, temples, gurdwaras and churches for their communities, can give invaluable sources of information about Asian people and events.
These may be held at the CROs or local reference libraries or by themselves. It is worth checking the local and national newspapers for obituary notices as they can contain interesting details.
The vast majority of Asians have been law-abiding citizens. However, there are some petty criminal records in existence for those who had provided false information to the local police in order to obtain a pedlar's certificate or for those 'middlemen' who arranged for immigrants to be brought to this country, giving false information to the local police or to the Home Office.
Some of the cases have been heard in the courts of Quarter Session and Assizes. The Quarter Sessions and the local police force records are held at the appropriate County Record Offices. The National Archives holds the Central Criminal Court Depositions in series (PRO) CRIM 1, which includes some criminal cases of Asians.
Many South Asian students studied in Scottish and Welsh universities, and lascar seamen lived and settled in Scotland. The births, marriages and deaths in Scotland from 1 January 1855, along with the many parish registers ( c.1700-1855), are held by the General Register Office (Scotland). Their indexes can be searched on the web at www.origins.net for a small charge.
The Scottish censuses for 1891 and 1901 are also available online at the same website, www.origins.net. For Scottish family history, please refer to Tracing your Ancestors in the PRO by Amanda Bevan.
You will find further UK sources listed in the sections for:
Creators: Abi Husainy
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