There were three main communities of Jews in India : the Bene Israel (near Bombay), the "Black Jews" of Cochin and the "White Jews" from Iraq. The Virtual Jewish History Tour has a summary of the History of Jews in India online.
General information about Jewish genealogy can be found at JewishGen InfoFiles, which has a host of links providing guidance on researching Jewish family history throughout the world.
If your ancestors were baptised, married or buried in a European church in British India, then the church records should have been transcribed and you can access these records at the British Library in London, or at LDS Family History Centres. The FIBIS database contains many transcribed BMD records.
If your ancestors were married in a Registry Office, then these records will be included with the church record indexes. However, the full details of Registry Office marriages are not available on microfilm through the LDS, so if you find an index reference to a Registry Office marriage, you will need to visit the British Library, or have someone visit there on your behalf. FIBIS volunteers have transcribed the Registry Office index and this is on the FIBIS database.
Some records of the births of Jewish people were included in the church records for the Bombay Presidency. It would seem that Jewish parents submitted a letter from their Rabbi or other figure of authority certifying that the individual was born on a certain day at a certain place. These letters were then included with the regular church records. Later, this 'registration' could then be used as proof of British citizenship. This does not seem to have been a very widespread practice. However, if you are at a loss to find a record of your ancestor, it may be worth examining the indexes to the church records of the Presidency in which they resided.
Also see External Links below for some record references
Common Jewish surnames in India include Sassoon and Joseph. Since many Indian Jews were of Baghdadi origin, other surnames tend to be of the Shephardic style. It is rare to hear of Ashkenazi surnames in India. Other surnames include biblical names.
Many European, Anglo-Indian and other businessmen were named in the Directories of their day. The most prominent Directory was Thacker's, which originally only covered Bengal, but eventually encompassed all of British India. If your Jewish ancestors were merchants or businessmen, there is a good chance that they would have been listed in Thacker's Directories. A complete set is now housed at the Asian & African Studies Reading Room at the British Library, but most major libraries will hold a few copies for given years. For a comprehensive description, and lists of where they can be located, visit the informative Thacker's Directories webpage. Some Thacker's Directories are available online, refer Directories online-Thackers's Indian Directory.
The following books related to Jews in India are currently available :
Who Are the Jews of India By Nathan Katz. Publication date November 2000. Of all the Diaspora communities, the Jews of India are among the least known and most interesting. This readable study, full of vivid details of everyday life, looks in depth at the religious life of the Jewish community in Cochin, the Bene Israel from the remote Konkan coast near Bombay, and the Baghdadi Jews, who migrated to Indian port cities and flourished under the British Raj.
Ruby of Cochin : An Indian Jewish Woman Remembers By Ruby Daniel. The autobiography of a Jewish woman from Cochin.
Bene Israel of India : Some Studies By Benjamin J. Israel. Ranges over the history, religious evolution, some social and deomographic aspects of the life of the community.
India's Bene Israel : A Comprehensive Inquiry and Sourcebook By Shirley Berry Isenberg.
The Sephardic Table : The Vibrant Cooking of the Mediterranean Jews-A Personal Collection of Recipes from the Middle East, North Africa and India By Pamela Grau Twena. From her Iraqi husband's extended family, Pamela Grau Twena coaxed out recipes that had been passed through generations but never written down. The result is an inviting collection of more than 125 Sephardic Jewish favorites for everyday meals, Sabbath suppers, and holidays. These inspired kosher recipes will appeal to all food lovers.
The British Library has the following books
- Jews of the Raj by Mavis Hyman 1995 includes bibliographical references and index. Available from the author , as is the book Indian Jewish Cooking.
- Turning Back the Pages : A Chronicle of Calcutta Jewry by Esmond David Erza 1986
- Baghdadi Jews Wikipedia
- Jewish India is a comprehensive website with a wealth of links to sites related to the Jewish communities of India.
- Isaac Solomon's Gallery Albums- Photographs of Jewish Cemeteries in India Picasaweb
- Locations of Jewish cemeteries in India, as mentioned by Isaac Solomon, Google maps c 2008
- International Jewish Cemetery Project: India
- Indian Jewish Heritage Center Israel including
- Online records from Rangoon and Calcutta Grave records from the National Sephardic Library (Genealogy) of the American Sephardi Federation. Records are in pdf format and are searchable.
- From the catalogue of the Centre for Jewish History, New York and available through the American Sephardi Federation:
- Birth Register Book: Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue Rangoon. Published 1979 In English, available from 1896. In Hebrew, available from 1888
- Death Register Book: Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue Rangoon. Published 1979. Available from 1888. In Hebrew with Sephardi Script.
- Jews of India is the website of the Indian Jewish Congregation of USA. Its newsletters may be read online, some contain details of people born in India. There is a page Genealogy of the Bene-Israel Community, one of the communities in Bombay. There is mention of the foundation in India called the Bene Israel Heritage Museum and Genealogical Research Center, Mumbai, which is detailed in the article India: A remarkable community project (Genblog.myheritage.com) Its address appears to be 5 Purnima, 20 Nepean Sea Road Mumbai 400036 and the contact email address email@example.com
- Bene Israel Soldiers in the Indian Army by Dr. Kaustav Chakrabarti, Asst. Professor in History, Fakir Chand College (click on the pdf link within) jewsofindia.org
- Baghdadi Jewish Synagogues in Bombay and Poona with current contact details. Some Synagogues are still ongoing. jacobsassoon.org
- Details of The Hebrew Gazette , a magazine issued in Bombay 1856 to 1866. "The language used throughout is the Judeo-Arabic dialect of the Baghdadi Jews penned in their distinctive Hebrew cursive script... Each issue imparts a wealth of information, ranging from general news such as the movement of ships in and out of Bombay harbour, to notices relating to the local Baghdadi Jewish community, such as for example weddings and philanthropic acts". Available at the British Library. British Library Asian and African studies blog (Hebrew and Christian Orient Studies) dated 06 June 2013
- Nehardea, Journal of the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center:
- Issue No. 10, 1997 contains the articles
- Issue No. 16, Spring 2008: Dr. R. Fredman-Cernea talks about her book Almost Englishmen: Baghdadi Jews in British Burma.
- "Baghdadi Jewish Women in India." by Joan G. Roland and Tamar Marge Gubbay, Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia 1 March 2009.
- Jael Silliman: Bringing India's Jews to Light Asiasociety.org. Mainly about the Baghdadi Jewish community
- Jewish China and Jewish Asia Resources on the Web Compiled by Joy Katzen-Guthrie
- "In Search of the (happy) Jewish Story – in India" by Irene Shaland February 2012 jewishmag.com.
- One of the references quoted is Jewish exile in India, 1933-1945 , edited by Anil Bhatti, Johannes H. Voight, published 1999 New Delhi. Available at the British Library, where the catalogue entry says "Papers presented at a symposium held at New Delhi during 15-16 March, 1995. Includes bibliographical references".
- "The Portuguese Jewish Community Of Madras, India, In The Seventeenth Century" from Los Muestros numéro 41, Décembre 2000 Sefarad.org
- "The Jewish Merchant-Colony in Madras (Fort St. George) during the 17th and 18th Centuries: A Contribution to the Economic and Social History of the Jews in India" by Walter J. Fischel Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Apr., 1960), pp. 78-107 and Vol. 3, No. 2 (Aug., 1960), pp. 175-195 may be read online on the subscription website JSTOR. Some card holders of participating libraries may have access, refer Miscellaneous tips. Also available at the British Library
- Jews and Jewish Communities in India 2012-10-19 www.jewishtimes-sj.com. Reporting a lecture by Kenneth X. Robbins
- List of books and articles by Kenneth X. Robbins, including those in respect of Jews in India
- Catalogue entry at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Kenneth X. Robbins collection Documents illustrate that there were at least some Jews among the Polish camps at Valivade in Kohlapur state and Balachadi in Nawanagar state. Also see Polish Refugees in India 1942-1948
- Seeking Kin: A maharajah comes to the rescue by Hillel Kuttler June 27, 2012. www.jta.org. Also see Polish Refugees in India 1942-1948
- "The Jewish Community of India" by Daniel J. Elazar 1986 jcpa.org
- Cochin Jews Wikipedia
- "Foreword to The Last Jews of Cochin: Jewish Identity in Hindu India" by Daniel J. Elazar 1993 The book is by Nathan Katz and Ellen S Goldberg 1993 jcpa.org
- "Step into history": Jew Street, Mattancherry, Cochin by Priyadershini S. December 20, 2012 The Hindu
- Synagogues in India Photographs from Skyscrapercity.com
- "The Jews of Agarpara" The Telegraph (Calcutta), 24 May 2009, details a jute connection. Part 2: "By the lazy river" The Telegraph (Calcutta), 31 May 2009.
- India Inkings by Max Freidlander 11 March 1998 Jewish World Review. The author arrived in Calcutta in 1939 and lived in India for 30 years
- The Barook Family website includes "Early Jews in Calcutta"
- Synagogues of Calcutta (Kolkata) by Rangan Datta
- The Last Jews of Calcutta by Robert Hirschfield 17 May 2010 forward.com
- Death of the leader of Calcutta’s dwindling Jewish community, David Nahoum in March 2013 The Telegraph Calcutta Friday, March 8, 2013
- The Last Jews of Kolkata by Zach Marks October 24, 2013 International New York Times India. Includes mention of a digital archive project by Ms Jael Silliman, expected to be accessible online in 2014
- Articles about Copeland Marks, and his cookbook The Varied Kitchens of India, which includes a section on Calcutta Jewish food. Calcutta`s Jewish Cuisine A Unique Repertoire by Lorna Sass December 18, 1986 sun-sentinel.com. With four recipes. Nothing Says Kosher Like Chicken Livers in the Tandoor by Florence Fabricant September 11, 1996 nytimes.com. With two recipes
- This link from "The Shiksa in the Kitchen" describes Jewish life in Calcutta c 1945 and includes a potato recipe from a vintage Jewish cookbook published in 1922 in Calcutta
- Rahel Musleah’s A Passage to Jewish India and Beyond "From Baghdad to Calcutta". Includes some recipes
- "The Spicy Tale of India’s Jewish Cuisine" by Sala Levin January 15, 2013 www.momentmag.com. Includes a potato recipe.
- "A Seder Spiced with Indian Flavors" by Joan Nathan March 12, 2013. The New York Times/Dining. The Jewish food of Cochin. Includes a short video and a recipe
- The cuisine connection by Esther Elias December 12, 2013 The Hindu Kochi. The food of Cochini Jews.
- Jews In Burma: “We Are Still Here!” 13 January 2012 thejewishnews.com
- Tombstone to kitchen slab July 23, 2011 The Times of India Crest Edition. Details the neglect and destruction of Jewish cemeteries.
- India-British-Raj thread about books. The link mentioned by Nick Balmer has now been archived
- Remnants of Jews in Singapore by Barbara Kingstone January 17, 2011 indulgedtraveler.com, now an archived webpage (retrieved 29 May 2014)
- Where have Pakistan’s Jews gone? by Adil Najam September 16, 2005 The Flecther School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, USA, now archived; Alternative version
- No more in Karachi 27 February 2010 Dawn.com Alternative version
- The Express Tribune Magazine for 6 February 2011 contains the article "In Search of the Jews of Karachi", pages 18-25. Click to page 18.
- Jewish Cemetery In Karachi Documented For First Time Jewishtimesasia.org View the documentary film
- Magen Shalom, The Last Synagogue in Pakistan? Haroonhaider.com Magain Shalome Synagogue, Karachi Flickr.com
- Karachi’s forgotten Jews The JC.com
- Karachi's 'Yahoodi Masjid' by Akhtar Balouch 2013-10-03 Dawn.com. The Jewish presence in Karachi
- Category:Jews Family Search (LDS) Wiki
- Bollywood connections
- The Jews Who Built Bollywood 30 January 2007 TotallyJewish.com
- Bollywood’s ‘bad girls’: Jewish actresses lit up screen in Indian cinema’s early years 11 February 2010 Jweekly.com
- The Queens of Bollywood: When Jewish women were the leading ladies of Indian cinema Tablet 29 June 2009 This link includes a podcast by reporter Eric Molinsky
- Sammy Benjamin’s (Lesser Known) Pioneering Indian Jewish Bollywood Actresses & Actors