How to Trace Ancestry in India

by Elizabeth Genge

As India is a land of rich and storied history, for those individuals who have relatives from this country, it could be fascinating to learn something of their ancestry. There are many different sources for you to trace your Indian roots. The reasons may be to satisfy curiosity or possibly answer more specific questions about your past. Whatever the reason, the resources for this type of research are plentiful. Armed with merely your ancestor's first and last name, you can open a tree of fascinating information about family histories.

There are several database search engines to consult, such as ancestry.com or familysearch.org. But because you are seeking information specific to relatives from India, an excellent starting point may be the National Archives of India, which should contain information of circa 1947 census returns. One important thing to keep in mind is that, though there are services available that can do much of the legwork for you, they will charge a fee. Often, much of the fun of discovering your family's roots will come from doing this type of work yourself.

If you know your family members moved back and forth from India to other countries, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, United States and Australia, you may want to consult www.ancestorsonboard.com. This will contain outward passenger lists from 1890 to 1960.

Your Indian relatives may actually hail from Pakistan or Bangladesh, which were once part of India. If this is the case, an excellent resource is www.movinghere.org.uk. This database will have life, service and cemetery records available.

If you desire publications that deal with locating your Indian ancestry, two useful sources are Thacker's Indian Directory and the India Office and Burma Office List, HMSO, London. In the Thacker's text, you will find much general information, in addition to civil and military lists as well as almanacs. In the Indian Office and Burma Office List, you can find information on individuals who were employed within the Indian government.


  • Sometimes, the best starting places to trace ancestry will be in birth and death certificates of your immediate family.
  • Because photographs of distant ancestors are likely irreplaceable, you should scan these photographs to safeguard against future damage.


  • Although it is tempting to use genealogical search companies, they can charge hefty fees. You should be able to research your family's history with any one of several free databases.

About the Author

Originally from California, Elizabeth Genge now lives in Atlanta, GA. She began writing professionally in 2008 and currently writes for Demand Studios as well as Textbroker. She holds a degree in theatre from the University of California, Santa Barbara.