Researching men who served in or were recruited from India

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Researching men who served in or were recruited from India

Postby Mark » 07 May 2008 19:09

While reading and posting in Kaiser's showcase the issue of service papers for Indian Troops has risen in my mind. Presumably Indian soldiers had service papers created upon enlistment and reatained until discharge or beyond!?

I know the service papers (at least those that survived) for British officers and men of the Honorable East India Company regiments have ended up with the British Library. So what happened to the records to the Indian soldiers? Do they still exist somewhere in India, locked away and forgotten about or have they been destroyed?

Any ideas?

Mark
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India Office Family History Search

Postby Garen » 08 May 2008 16:40

If you're searching for officers who served in India, then this site may yield up some information:

India Office Family History Search
The Second Anglo-Afghan War 1878-80 www.angloafghanwar.info
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Re: India Office Family History Search

Postby Mark » 08 May 2008 17:10

Garen

Thanks for the link, interestingly it found a distant relative of mine who I was vaguely aware of in India between the World Wars.

I am looking at expanding my medal collection to include some HEIC recipients - I will let people know how future searches on this site go.

Mark
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Re: India Office Family History Search

Postby Berkshire Dragon » 09 Jun 2008 23:19

Nice link.

Managed to find a little bit of info that I didn't have before on my great great great grandfather who was in the Madras Army.

Cheers.


Mark
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Re: Service Papers for Indian Soldiers?

Postby Liz » 05 Sep 2008 03:46

Mark

As far as I can gather, the papers that ended up with the British Library were those held in London by the India Office administration. As such, yes, they have a strong focus on soldiers of British origin but they do include a (very small) handful of records relating to Indian soldiers pre-WWI e.g. where their pension was charged to the British Government. For details see http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelpregion/asia/india/indiaofficerecordsfamilyhistory/familyresearch.html.

Based on the practicalities of managing payroll, pensions and so on I would have expected service records for Indian soldiers to have been created and kept in India. Those records that survived the climate and events like the Mutiny/Uprising were probably transferred to the National Archives of India http://nationalarchives.nic.in.

Before you get too excited, I should add that the Archives have huge holdings and if you're serious about pursuing this line of inquiry you may want to touch base with somebody who's been there first. High profile names would include Mike Dash or William Dalrymple. Richard Holmes (author of Sahib) may be another and perhaps our academic advisor Mike Snook could make further inquiries with him about this?

Finally, it's also worth noting that, while they definitely have their limitations, the India Office papers now held by the British Library do cover a much wider area than just the regions that now form part of India, Pakistan, Burma and Bangladesh. They include source materials relevant to other regions in the Victorian or pre-Victorian era including:
* St Helena (to 1834);
* Cape of Good Hope (to 1836);
* Zanzibar, Somalia and Ethiopia (mainly nineteenth century);
* Red Sea, Arabian Peninsula, Gulf States, Iraq and Iran (c1600-1947);
* Afghanistan, Russian and Chinese Central Asia, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim (late eighteenth century to 1947);
* Sri Lanka (c1750-1802);
* Malaysia and South-East Asia (to c1867);
* Indonesia (to c1825);
* China (early seventeenth century to 1947); and
* Japan (seventeenth century).

Cheers and do let us know how you go,

Liz
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Re: Service Papers for Indian Soldiers?

Postby mike snook » 05 Sep 2008 21:20

Mark/Liz

I'll ask when I next see him.

As ever

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Re: Service Papers for Indian Soldiers?

Postby Mark » 05 Sep 2008 22:39

Cheers Mike.

Mark :)
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Re: Service Papers for Indian Soldiers?

Postby rnlsgc » 06 Sep 2008 07:10

I am going to ask what is going to appeart to be a "thick headed" question along the line of this topic. Are there medal rolls for Indian soldiers and if so where would one research such??? I ask as i am interested in a possible 2nd Afghan to an Indian soldier

Thanks
Regards,

Mark
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Re: Researching men who served in or were recruited from Ind

Postby Garen » 29 Nov 2011 17:39

Hello Mark (rnlsgc), here's a late reply for you, but I post for info.

As far as I understand it, there are no rolls in the UK for Indian officers and soldiers, only a record of how many medals and clasps were despatched to India for issue. I don't know if any records exist in India - if they do they may be lost or maybe just 'undiscovered'. Perhaps they are available to see if you visit - if anyone can add anything that would be great as I've had this question a number of times.

Best - Garen
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Re: Researching men who served in or were recruited from Ind

Postby Maureene » 02 Dec 2011 13:53

Regarding Medal Rolls for native troops, there appears to be some very limited information available at the National Archives, see the FIBIS Fibiwiki page Medal Rolls.
http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php?title=M ... ive_Troops

Regarding Archives in India:

The Indian Army did not officially come into existence until 1895. Prior to this date there were three separate Presidency armies (which after 1861 were sometimes unofficially referred to as the Indian Army). My feeling is that at least up until 1895 any available military records would be located in Calcutta (for the Bengal Army), Madras and Bombay, however I do not know whether this is so.

There is a FIBIS Fibiwiki page called “Indian Libraries and Archives”
http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php?title=I ... d_Archives
Based on the information contained in this page, I would think that any research in the Madras/Tamil Nadu (Chennai) or Bombay/Maharashtra State (Mumbai) Archives would be virtually impossible.

Conditions appear to be better in the West Bengal State Archives in Calcutta/Kolkata and the National Archives in New Delhi, but I have no idea what is actually in their collections. In addition, there does not appear to be a website for the West Bengal State Archives, so you have to rely on information from other sources for details of the hours etc.

For advice about military archives, the best I can suggest is the Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research (CAFHR) part of the United Service Institution of India (USI). However, I don’t know whether they actually do offer much help.
http://www.usiofindia.org/CAFHR

I did hear of someone researching military history who wrote to William Dalrymple (mentioned in one of the posts above) for guidance, who replied saying that he was not in that area of work

One source of information in the British Library for military matters in India, which may not have been considered by most researchers, is the collection of the various Gazettes, such as the Gazette of India. These government Gazettes were the official newspapers of the Government of India and its provincial governments and contain both non military and military information. They are mentioned on the FIBIS Fibiwiki page Indian Army, section Records
http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php?title=I ... my#Records
A limited number are available online, but the website they are on is quite slow.

Cheers
Maureen
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Re: Researching men who served in or were recruited from Ind

Postby Liz » 06 Nov 2012 03:58

See also this related thread on British Army and RA locations in and around India:
http://www.victorianwars.com/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=4064
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Online India Office Records on FindMyPast

Postby Maureene » 29 Jan 2014 13:49

FindMyPast have just released some digitised records from the India Office Records at the British Library.
http://blog.findmypast.co.uk/2014/2-5-m ... -released/

These are mainly Baptismal, Marriage and Burial Records. Reading the News release, you would think that East India Company cadet papers had been digitised. I do not as yet have a subscription, but reading the description of the databases, It seems to me that only baptismal information, rather than the entire cadet application record has been digitised, but I may be wrong

These records may be helpful if you are researching someone

You cannot browse the records but you can apparently search by keyword rather than surname

Cheers
Maureen
Last edited by Maureene on 07 Feb 2014 23:35, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Online India Office BMD records on FindMyPast

Postby BingandNelsonFan » 31 Jan 2014 14:54

Hi! I do have a subscription, and the Cadet Application papers are included. The British in India collection includes:

British India Office birth and baptism records 1698-1947
British India Office deaths and burials 1749-1947
Indian Office wills and probate records 1749-1957
India Office East India Company and Civil Service pensions 1749-1947
East India Company cadet papers
Applications for the civil service

Most of the collections include scans of the original pages, but a few are transcriptions. The burial records in India were well kept. Most entries include names of parents (or spouses), birth date, age, cause of death, etc.

Regards,
Sarah
Last edited by BingandNelsonFan on 11 Feb 2014 21:10, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Online India Office Records on FindMyPast

Postby Maureene » 07 Feb 2014 23:37

There has been a FIBIS Blog released recently by the FIBIS webmaster called
""British in India records on findmypast – 11 tips for searching" which includes the tips which have been appearing recently on the FIBIS Facebook page.
http://www.fibis.org/archives/1131
The Blog also includes a very helpful link to a British Library page which sets out all the records which have been digitised
http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelpregion ... index.html

There have been more classes of records digitised than I originally thought, but for instance, Cadet Papers are not in the military records category, as might be expected but are classified under births. If you are looking for a particular class of records you can enter a keyword, but not apparently the British Library catalogue reference.

Cheers
Maureen
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Re: Online India Office Records on FindMyPast

Postby BingandNelsonFan » 09 Feb 2014 23:12

Thanks for posting the link to the "11 Tips" article. Great! I had figured some of that stuff out, but not all. Great info.

One thing that I have definitely noticed is that a lot of the burial records are sent in covering multiple churches/towns on the same page. So, you sort of have to know which town/churchyard your person is at. Or, I have been able to narrow some down by finding a person that I know is buried in a certain churchyard and checking for the name of the same officiating Chaplain or Minister.
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