India Church RecordsEdit This Page
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Church records are an excellent source for accurate information on names and dates and on places of births, marriages, and deaths. Many people who lived in India have information recorded about them in a church record. Since civil authorities did not begin registering vital statistics until 1872, church records are the best source for family information before that date.
The first step in researching European or Anglo-Indian ancestry in colonial India is to use the church records. For administrative purposes, colonial India was divided into three Presidencies, Bombay, Madras, and Bengal. Protestant and Catholic churches began to keep records in India in 1698 (Madras), 1709 (Bombay) and 1713 (Bengal). Each year, these records were transcribed and sent to the capital of the Presidency, where they were indexed. The records and indexes were then sent to headquarters in London. This practice ceased at Independence in 1947. Learn more about family history in the India Office Records.
Parish maps can help you determine which parish to search. Maps will reveal neighboring parishes to search if your ancestor is not listed in the parish where you expected him or her to be. See India Maps for more information.
Hindu Pilgrimage (Bahi)
Research use: Establishes individual identity and linkage back many generations. Indexes by name facilitate research.
Record type: Hindu Pilgrimage or Bahi: Record of Hindus who make pilgrimages to sacred centers in India where certain religious rituals or ordinances are performed.
Time period: Some written records date back as far as the 15th Century. However, the great majority are of the 18th Century to the present.
Contents: Name of Pilgrim, caste/occupation, birthplace, or family origin, present residence, father, grandfather, great grandfather, etc., sometimes going back many generations on both the maternal and paternal sides. Often names of sons, brothers, nephews, and cousins are given, each relationship being carefully and precisely indicated. Date of visit or register entry is given.
Location: Located in the homes and “offices” of the Panda (Hindu combination priest-businessman) in cities and towns scattered all over India but primarily in the North. The sacred centers are located in the states of Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh. Most of the centers are in Uttar Pradesh. There is one site in the south in the area of the city of Madura in the state of Tamil Nadu.
Population coverage: 42%
Muslim Pilgrimage (Vahi)
Research use: Establishes individual identity and linkage back many generations. There may be indexes which will facilitate the use of the records.
Record type: Muslim Pilgrimage or Vahi: Record of Muslim pilgrims who visit certain centers in India where rituals are performed.
Time period: 1400 to present
Contents: Undetermined at present. Likely to be similar to Hindu Bahi.
Location: Northern India in homes and “offices” of Muslim family bards.
Population coverage: 10%
Research use: Establishes individual identity and linkage back two generations. Theoretically generations could be identified back to when the keeping of the record started.
Record type: Islamic marriage (civil registration) record or Kadi: A marriage record kept of Islamic marriages.
Time period: 1500 to present
Contents: Names, ages, and residences of bride and bridegroom. Names and sometimes occupation of father and grandfather. Date of event. Signature of bridegroom. Names and residences of witnesses and names of witnesses fathers. Amount of dower money.
Location: Located in Mosques and in the houses of the Kazi who is the marriage registrar and judge.
Christian parish records
Record type: Baptisms, marriages, and burials. Includes not only British, and European members, but native Indians as well.
Time period: 1700 to present.
Contents: Burial records give date and place of death and deceased name, if in the military has detachment, if a mariner the name of his ship, if a colonist the words “inhabitant”. European nationality was given if not English and if a native Indian the words “India Man” were used. Initially no age was given however, if an infant it was so noted. Cause of death given. Christenings, baptisms and births are often mixed together in the register. The event’s date, the name and sex of the child, it’s father’s name and sometimes that of the mother is given as is European nationality if other than English. The marriage records show date and place of marriage, full name of bride and groom except in the case of an Indian woman where only a European first name is given, the groom’s military affiliation if any and the word “inhabitant” was generally noted.
Percent in Family History Library: Approximately 90%
Population coverage: About 3% of the Indian population. Virtually 100% of the Christians are found in these records. However, not all are extant. Catholic records in the Goa are being filmed at this time. Also there may be original church records for which transcripts have not been made and Included with the India Office records.
Locating Church Records
To find an ancestor in church records, it helps to should know his religion and the parish where he lived. The Imperial Gazetteer may help you find the parish. See the "Gazetteers" section of this Wiki for information about the gazetteer and for other help in finding a parish.
More than 200,000 transcriptions of indexes to church records are available on FIBIS Families in British India Society and India Office Family History Search. All of the church record transcriptions and indexes have been microfilmed and are available on microfilm at the Family History Library (direct link to a list of LDS Microfilms of Church registers in India). They can be found by using the Place Search for India - Church Records.
Records in the Family History Library
The Family History Library has a set of films containing christenings, marriages and burials. Learn how to find these records in the FamilySearch Catalog.
Wiki articles describing these collections are found at:
- India Births and Baptisms (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- India Deaths and Burials (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- India Marriages (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- This page was last modified on 8 June 2015, at 18:26.
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