Jewish

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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.

Religious Records

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

Names

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.

Directories

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.

Books

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.

The Jewish Communities of India : Identity in a Colonial Era By Joan G. Roland. Preview Google Books This link is about the author.

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

External Links