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Non-British Ancestors:

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. FIBIS volunteers have transcribed the Registry Office index and this is on the FIBIS database. Further details with images of regsitry pages ca be found on teh subscription website findmypast. Details of Registry Office marriages are not available on microfilm through the LDS.

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.


Also see

  • Sardhana for a brief mention of Jewish mercenaries.

External Links

For Dr Selzer’s account of the years of internment, see POW Camps in India- Second World War- German prisoners of war.

Historical books online