Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Irish Family History Sources in India

Some Sources For The Irish In India Family History
By Kieron Punch 

Although many Irish people may be reluctant to acknowledge that our countrymen played a significant role in extending and administering British colonial rule in India, it is a fact that tens of thousands of Irish men (often accompanied by their wives and children) were in India as civil servants with the East India Company and/or India Office (post 1858), or else soldiered there with the regular British army (in the mid-1800s 42% of the British army was Irish), or as part of the EIC's own private armies.  

Those wishing to research the history of any Irish family members who served in India should be aware that the archive of the East India Company and the India Office are not held in the National Archives in Kew, but rather are part of the Asia, Pacific and African Collections (APAC) held by the British Library - the limited APAC catalogue (only about 10% of records) is available, however, via the National Archives website:

The British library have made a small fraction of their India archive available online at the following: but to view most records would appear to involve the hassle and expense of visiting the British Library in London, and this could therefore exclude many people in Ireland, the USA and all the other locations where the Irish diaspora is to be found. 

A surprising amount of family history information about British (and Irish) people in India during the 19th Century is, however, available from other Internet sources, many of which are free.  A good starting point is the website of the Families In British India Society (FIBIS) whose volunteers have transcribed several hundred thousand APAC records which can be searched for free here: These records include information about ships' passenger arrivals and departures from Indian ports and the ships' port of origin or destination; birth, baptismal, marriage, death, burial records taken principally from the three Indian Presidencies of the EIC; list of officers and men who served in various military campaigns, or on the establishment of the Presidency armies; biographies etc a typical biography entry may be similar to this one regarding my GGG-Grandfather Robert Xavier Murphy:

The Australian government has digitised the archives of dozens of national, regional and local Australian newspapers, containing several million articles, and made them available free of charge at the following: Although not an obvious source for researching relatives who served in India it should be noted that most vessels that sailed, or steamed, to and from Australia in the 19th Century called at India of the way, and so lists of passengers printed in the Australian newspapers also include those travelling to India. During the early part of that era, many official British publications relating to the administration and affairs of its Indian possessions also included information about its Australasian and Chinese possessions. While these were printed in Indian newspapers, they were also reprinted in Australian newspapers, thus providing information about Indian civil service promotions, dismissals, awards of pensions, granting of leave etc etc This website is, of course, also valuable in researching Irish emigrants to Australia and New Zealand.

Similar information is available from the British Library which has digitised many 19th Century newspapers and made them available here: This site is not free but a 7 day pass permitting 200 article views is available for only £9.99 (about 11.50 Euro, or $15.65).

Another excellent newspaper source is The Times of India which has just had its archive from 1838 (when it was the Bombay Times) to 2001 digitised. This has been made available by the company ProQuest and is targeted towards the academic market, so to access it you may need to visit a good public, or university library.

Searching on Google Books will often provide valuable family history materiel given that most 19th Century publications are no longer subject to copyright and have therefore been digitised in full. Publications you can find there relating to India include; Gentleman's Magazine, Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany, Parbury's Oriental Herald, Transactions of the Bombay Geographical Society, Allen's Indian Mail, and Register of Intelligence, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, The Indian Mail: A Monthly register for British and Foreign India, China and Australasia, the Bombay Quarterly Magazine and Review, Alexander's East India and Colonial Magazine etc These publications will provide information about birth's, deaths, marriages, passenger arrivals and departures, military campaigns, military and civil service promotions, society gatherings, court cases, public works and engineering projects etc etc.

Also available on Google Books are several volumes of Hart's Army List aka Hart's Annual Army List, and New Army List, and Militia List. This lists all of the officers and warrant officers serving in all British regiments, including the years each officer was promoted from one rank to another, where the regiment was located, and often includes a small biography of any distinguished officer listing where and how awards, or decorations were won.

Don't forget to consult the Family Search website provided free of charge by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at the following: as this site includes Indian birth, marriage and death information from official sources (put on microfiche by the Mormons). And the Cyndi's List website can also provide some useful pointers.

ABOUT THIS BLOGGER: Senior Writer Kieron Punch is based in Coventry, England.  He has authored's series on 'The Forgotten10', those Irishmen executed by the British during the War of Independence and buried in Mountjoy Prison and finally reinterred with honor in 2003.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Silent History of the Irish

"I'm Irish" my Mother always said.  "Where in Ireland did they come from"  I always asked.  "I don't know" my Mother always replied.  I have since discovered that this is a very common conversation between the generations.  The more I delved into the History of the Irish in Canada and specifically my family the more I realized that our ancestors had a reason to put the Ireland they loved behind them.  Unfortunately, for those of us who have some kind of Irish bug in our DNA that just won't let the past be buried,  they covered their tracks too well.

As I uncovered the generations of my Grandmother's maternal ancestors in Nova Scotia, I just found Counties and rumors, crumbs but no cookies.  It has taken 10 years and I have now got back 250 years in Canada for all of my Nova Scotia lines revealing that they left Ireland sometime between the 1745 famine and the 1798 rebellion against the English.  Back then the records in Nova Scotia were few and far between but I always wondered why there was never any family lore of where in the counties they were from.  A town a village or even a crossroads not even a hint has come to light.

One of the first PBS 'Faces of America' episodes was with Stephen Colbert and his mostly Irish Family History.  It explained the English business of creating the famine and then profiting from the subsequent business of the removal of the Irish to America.

One scene really struck a chord and explained the mystery for me of the elusiveness of my Irish Ancestors.  I chose to put this episode on Our Youtube Channel IrishFamilyHistory because of this scene.  At the end of Part 2 Stephen reads his ancestor's oath of allegiance to America when he became a citizen.

" solemnly swear that I do absolutely and entirely renounce all allegiance to any foreign potentate, prince, state or sovereignty whatsoever and particularly to the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland."

I realized at the same moment Stephen did that emotions we now have of Ireland are not the same as our Ancestors when they either chose to or were forced to leave.  I can imagine their love of Ireland had become bittersweet, good memories replaced with images of so much pain and suffering.  Putting it all out of their minds by not talking about it was probably the only way to move forward with any hope for a better future.

Alannah Ryane

NOTES ON THIS BLOGGER:  Alannah Ryane wrote, shot, narrated and edited her own genealogy series "By Her Roots" for for Renowned Genealogist/Author/Producer Megan Smolenyak's who also awarded her a small grant to produce her series.  This series can now be seen on her YouTube Channel.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Our New Irish Family History Blog

FAMILY HISTORIANS, is inviting Irish Family History and Genealogy bloggers to contribute to this blog. You love your family’s history. So do we, and so will, we wager, our tens of thousands of our readers each month. Genealogists of all levels of skills and experience, we want your Irish stories and research insights. Join OUR family and consider submitting stories for our new Irish Family Stories blog.  Help us continue to forge a community of Irish worldwide bound by PASSION for the Irish experience.

So get into the conversation today because you don't know who may be holding that last piece of information that brings your family's history into focus.