In Search of Ancestors in India: first steps

Day one in the British Library, London, Tuesday 27th January, 2015. I was feeling excited but slightly pessimistic that I would actually find any information. After renewing my library membership, I made my way up to the Asian and African Reading Room (this is where they store the records for the India Office Family History Search which I had previously tracked down via FIBIS).

The staff were very friendly and helpful in supporting my lack of knowledge of anything related to searching the databases and microfilms which store the records. Admittedly, I wandered around the Asian and African Reading Room ‘trying to figure it out myself’ before asking for assistance.

As I knew the names and dates of birth of my grandparents and that they resided in the Bombay Presidency in India, after searching through the hard copies of the marriage records for the Bombay presidency I quickly discovered the reference to their marriage record and the microfilm on which it was stored.

Stanley and Elaine_mar_c

This gave me useful information:

  1. Marriage location: St Mary’s Church, Parel
  2. Marriage date: 27 June 1943
  3. Names: Stanley Wheeler and Elaine Cynthia Hassett
  4. Registered age at marriage: Stanley: 25, Elaine: 19
  5. Condition (marital status): Stanley: Bachelor, Elaine: Spinster
  6. Rank or profession of Stanley Wheeler: Sergeant in R.A.
  7. Residence at time of marriage: Stanley: Ahmednagar, Elaine: Dadar
  8. Father’s name: Stanley: John William Wheeler, Elaine: David Vincent Hassett
  9. Banns (public announcement in a Christian parish church of an impending marriage)
  10. Witness signatures: C. Bedford and B. Bedford

This information was useful for providing:

  1. additional confirmation of previously known information: names, ages
  2. new information (to me): Marriage location and date, profession of Stanley, the couples residence, father’s names

The witness signatures are useful as they may provide further insight into friends and the life(style) of Stanley and Elaine (as witnesses are typically friends or relatives of the married couple). Of course, as with any information, this could lead to nothing – but certainly worth exploring.

Buoyed by this, albeit easy, first discovery, my next step was to begin searching for the birth records of Elaine Cynthia Hassett, Stanley Wheeler, John William Wheeler and David Vincent Hassett.

But before I got that far I found another piece of interesting information.

David William Wheeler_bap_c

The birth record of Stanley and Elaine’s eldest son, David William Wheeler. I had known previously that my Uncle David was born in India – the only one of Stanley and Elaine’s offspring to be born there – however, this find raised my optimism that I would discover much more as the day went on. It also provided additional information about the profession of Stanley: ‘Sergeant R.A. attached army school of Driving & Maintenance’.

I furthered my search for the baptism records of Elaine and Stanley. As I knew, Stanley was born in Darlington, UK, and his record confirmed so (as it is not an India Office record, the details are not held by the British Library):

Stanley Wheeler_bir_c

Elaine, I knew, was born in India, and her birth date was 20th November, 1923. Her baptism record confirmed this and provided useful additional information:

Elaine Cynthia Hassett_bap_c

  1. Place of birth: the Church of St Mary, Parel, Bombay
  2. Confirmation of mother and father names: Edith Aileen Hassett and David Vincent Hassett
  3. Parents abode: Sion
  4. Fathers profession: Preventative Officer of Customs, Bombay

This was particularly useful in identifying some additional information about David Vincent Hassett (namely his profession). I went in search of his records and Edith Aileen Hassett.

This is where things got really interesting.

Cover picture credit: Vivien Marshall

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