England East India Company Records for Family History (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Occupation Records-Professions and Trades and English: Occupations-Military & Services  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

East India Company and Colonial Regiments (cont.)[edit | edit source]

Biographical Index of India Office Collection[edit | edit source]

Start first with this index of over 300,000 Europeans and their families who were in civil, military and non-official employ in India.

Army Purchase Commission 1871
In WO 74 are the registers of service of every officer who held a commission as of 1 Nov 1871, and applications from officers on Indian establishments 1871-1891 with the certificates of service attached. This material is indexed by regiment but not by surname.

Casualty Returns
For soldiers see Muster Rolls; for officers from 1800-1895 there are three FHL films starting at film 1885828.

Civil Registration
The births, marriages and deaths of officers and men in the British Army in India are in the Overseas Indexes, typically in the Chaplains Returns.

Civil Service Appointments
HEIC offered opportunities for employment in its civil service. The entry level was as a writer, (junior clerk/ book-keeper) from whence he worked his way up to factor and finally merchant. Many of the early writers were charity boys or of mean parentage who wrote good hands, but by the 1750s even the lowest rung of writer was much sought after by clergymen’s sons and impoverished aristocrats. Large amounts of records survive and are microfilmed from 1749-1857 on 26 FHL films starting at the index on film 1912123. Thus the original application, or petition, from Robert Dashwood survives in J/1/10/49.

CHART: Thomas Dashwood’s Writer’s Petition

To the Honble Court of Directors of the United East India Company
The humble Petition of Thomas Dashwood Sheweth that your Petitioner having been educated in Writing and Accounts and humbly hopes himself qualified to serve your Honors abroad. He therefore humbly prays your Honors to appoint him a Writer at any of your Settlements in India, in which Case he promises to behave himself with the greatest Diligence and Fidelity, and is ready to give such Security as your Honors shall require. And your Petitioner shall ever pray.
[Nominator] W. Devaynes
Accompanying certificates
Kimbolten 23 January 1781

This is to certify that Thomas Dashwood Esquire hath gone through a regular course of Book Keeping and Merchants Accounts.
William Bolton

London 29th Jany 1781
This is to certify that Thomas Dashwood the son of Sir James Dashwood Bart was baptized the 18th day of January in the year 1748 as appears by the Register of the Parish of St. George Hanover Square.
Rd Pitt, curate.

In the List of Writers appointed for the East Indies in the Season of 1780 (IOR/J/1/10/106 and 107] Thomas Dashwood’s name appears in the listFor Bengal, whilst a relative, Robert Dashwood appears For Fort St. George. The document is endorsed by Honourable Warren Hastings, a prominent figure in India’s history at the time.

Commander-in-Chief’s Memoranda WO 31
The letters written in support of the purchase of a commission by Robert Dashwood were found in WO31/72 as follows:

CHART: Purchase of Ensign Commission
Memoranda 20 Jun 1798—80th Foot

[To] Officer Commanding the 80th Regiment


I beg you will be pleased to obtain for me His Majesty’s Permission to purchase the Ensigncy in the 80th Regt vacant by the Promotion of Ensign St. George.

In Case His Majesty shall be graciously pleased to permit me to purchase the said Commission, I do declare and certify, upon the Word and Honour of an Officer and a Gentleman, that I will not, either now, or at any future Time give by any Means, or in any Shape whatever, directly, or indirectly, any more than the Sum of £400 being the Price limited by His Majesty’s Regulation as the full Value of the said Commission.

I have the Honour to be

Your most obedient humble Servant

Rt Dashwood

I hereby declare that I verily believe the established Regulation with regard to Price, is intended to be strictly complied with, and that no clandestine Bargain subsists between the Parties concerned.

For M. Genl St. Leger Cap E. Greenwood

[To] Field Marshal His Royal Highness The Duke of York
Craig’s Court, 8 June 1798
We are directed by M. General St. Leger, commanding the 80th Regiment to request your Royal Highness would be pleased to move The King to grant a Commission appointing Mr. Robert Dashwood, to be Ensign by Purchase, vice St. George promoted. The purchase Money being lodged in our hands.
We have the Honor to be with great deference and respect, Sir, Your Royal Highness’s very faithful and devoted Servants,
Cap. E. Greenwood

This can then be followed up in the Army Lists and in later successive sections for the 80th Regiment of Foot Robert Dashwood can be seen as follows:

  • Ensign 20 Jun 1798
  • Lieutenant 10 Nov 1800
  • Captain 30 Oct 1806

Depot Court Martial Books
These can be found starting at FHL film 1786578. Depot Registers of Recruits
Lists of artillerymen 1811-1860, cavalrymen 1857-1860, and infantrymen 1801-1860 give recruit’s age, place of birth, former occupation and description, plus the regiment to which allocated. They are listed by troopship and not indexed, but may be accessible via a2a. Deserters from HEIC Army 1844-1851
Lists of these are in WO 25.

Directories[edit | edit source]

Contemporary directories had long columns for announcements of Marriages, Births and Deaths by year, month and day, thus in the Madras Almanac for 1827 can be found:

29 July 1826 At the New Church, Vepery, Mr. R. GREEN, medical department, to Miss F. DASHWOOD, eldest daughter of the late captain R. Dashwood of H.M. 80th regiment of Foot.

Discharge List from Indian Army[edit | edit source]

CHART: 1861 Discharge List Extracts FHL film 1867205
The 23 columns are summarized in text form here.

George FREEMAN admitted a pensioner, a subcondr in Commissioner’s Dept with 21 years service, Madras Presidency, age 43, height 5'6 ½", fair complexion, hazel eyes, dark brown hair, by trade a clerk, native of Cavan, Ireland, character good, per ship ‘Theresa’ Dec 1865, enlisted in Glasgow, no marching money, cause of discharge-pensioned.

Thomas Hy COWEN, not admitted a pensioner, a private in local infantry with 5 yrs 9 months service, Madras Presidency, age 32, height 5'5", dark complexion, brown eyes, dark brown hair, by trade a laborer, native of Sheffield, character good, per ship ‘Theresa’ Dec 1865, enlisted in Rotherham, no marching money, cause of discharge-unfit for further service.

Charles BLAKE not admitted a pensioner, gunner in local artillery with 20 years service, madras Presidency, age 38, height 5'7 ¼" fair complexion, black eyes, dark hair, by trade a laborer, native of Oxford, character very bad, per ship ‘Theresa’ Dec 1865, enlisted in Southampton, no marching money, cause of discharge-with ignominy for repeated acts of desertion.

James LLOYD not admitted a pensioner, private in Lahore Light Horse with 4 years 7 months service, Bengal Presidency, age 30, height 5'6 ¾", fresh complexion, hazel eyes, brown hair, no trade, native of Longford, Ireland, character good, per ship ‘Eastern Empire’ 17 Feb 1865, enlisted in Barrackpore, no marching money, cause of discharge under the provisions of Govt letter No 211 of 22 May ‘65 having been granted a gratuity under clause 6 of that letter.

Thomas SANSBURY not admitted a pensioner, gunner in 1By local artillery, with 21 years 4 months service, Bengal Presidency, age 41, height 5'7 ¼", fresh complexion, blue eyes, brown hair, by trade a brickmaker, native of Sussex, character indifferent, per ship ‘Alnwick Castle 13 May 1866, enlisted in London, no marching money, cause of discharge - admitted to pension.''

Francis MANWELL admitted as pensioner, serjeant 2nd... Regt with 22 years 3 months service, Bombay Presidency, age 45, height 5'5 ½", fresh complexion, grey eyes, dark hair, by trade a laborer, native of Mid Lothian, Scotland, character not known, per ship ‘Cospatrick’ 28 Mar 1866, enlistment place not given, no marching money, cause of discharge - pensioned pr G.O. 20 May 1860.

Charles WILKINSON admitted to pension, serjeant in artillery with 21 years service, Madras Presidency, age 39, height 6', fair complexion, grey eyes, dark brown hair, trade not given, native of Plymouth, Devon, character unexceptional, per ship ‘Cornwallis’ 14 Apr 1866, enlisted in Plymouth, no marching money, cause of discharge — time expired.

Discharge Records[edit | edit source]

Regimental depot musters in WO 67 contain records of soldiers discharged on return from India before 1806. Those who took the unpensioned discharge option at the time the British Army took over in 1859-1861 survive, thus Madras Army Discharges for these three years are on 4 films starting at 1886124. The Victoria Hospital, Netley, Hampshire musters record discharges of men returning from India from 1863 and 1878 in WO 12. There is similar material in the muster rolls of the Gosport Discharge Depot, also in Hampshire, for 1862-1889 in WO 16. No musters for engineers in India survive, and only a few 18th century ones for artillery there, but most musters of infantry and cavalry in India from 1863-1889 are in WO 16.

Ecclesiastical Returns for Presidencies 1683-1948[edit | edit source]

There are about 1,000 volumes of these records with good indexes, and most are on film. The earlier christenings give the date of birth but not always the mother’s name, especially if a native country woman. The marriages are given after the groom’s names in the index, and actual entries show the names of both fathers. Many girls married at age 14-15, as was the custom amongst the natives of the country (personal communication from Ena Thomas, my Burmese/Indian/ Scottish aunt). Burials usually give the date of death. Examples of entries are below . Catholic registers are also available for the early Victorian period.

CHART: Bengal Ecclesiastical Returns
Baptisms, Marriages, Burials 1755-1783
FHL film 0498607
Each page signed by two chaplains:
Gervas Bellamy and Robt Mapletoft

Extracts from Christning’s [sic] in Calcutta 1755
Jan 13
Lydia d/o Mr. Charles Child school master and Christiana his wife
Feb 24
William s/o Mr. John Afton pilot and Mary his wife
Feb 25
Mary d/o Capt Thomas Swain mariner and Martha his wife
Sep 10
John a slave boy belonging to Mr. Luke Scrafton
Sep 18
Mary d/o Capt Samuel Latton and Sarah his wife deceased
Dec 3
William s/o Lieutenant William Bishop by a Country Woman
Extracts from Marriages in Calcutta 1755
Feb 6
Lucas Johnson soldier in Capt Buchanan’s Company and Natalia a country woman*
Feb 19
Hendrick Warren in the train and Rosa a country woman*
Feb 22
Peter Duncan mariner and Mrs Sophia Holland widow
Jul 14
John Downing a sloopsman and Maria a country woman*
Sep 29
Peter Francis Fromages and Anna Gysberta Boswater were married at the French Gardens
Nov 29
Mr Hugh Morgan mariner and Miss Sarah Wells inhabitant

*11 of the 15 marriages in 1755 were to ‘country women’.

Extracts from Burials in Calcutta 1755
Oct 10
Hendrick Vincent soldier in Capt Minchin’s Company
Oct 11
John White inhabitant

Charles Witherington infant
Oct 29
Susanna D’Costa inhabitant
Nov 8
Mrs Jane Douglas inhabitant
Nov 15
William Prosser, 3rd mate of the Anson


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses English: Occupation Records-Professions and Trades and English: Occupations-Military and Services offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

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