Monday, September 13, 2010

East India Company

From: Annie
We've got a family story about an ancestor born in England working for the East India trading company. What do you know about this?

I've had no experience researching records of the East India Company. Wikipedia explains "The East India Company traded mainly in cotton, silk, indigo dye, saltpetre, tea, opium. However, it also came to rule large swathes of India, exercising military power and assuming administrative functions, to the exclusion, gradually, of its commercial pursuits." See:

A BIG THANKS to Andrea Cordani for her work on the East India Company ship's records index. Perhaps Andrea's work will assist you. Andrea writes "This database at present consists only of EIC mercantile marine vessels, that is, the vessels which were in the East India Company's merchant service, which operated from 1600 to 1834." However, you'll find her site has some worthwhile links for further research.

The plot thickens when you realize as Andrea states "[...] the term 'East Indiaman' was used fairly loosely and could refer not only to ships of the English East India Company (EIC) but also to the trading companies of other nations, such as the Dutch, Danish or French companies, and also, more generally to any ship trading to the east."

Apparently the records of the "English" East India Company are at the British Library in the India Office Records department. See their guide India Office Records and Private Papers where we learn:

"The India Office Records are the repository of the archives of the East India Company (1600-1858), the Board of Control or Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India (1784-1858), the India Office (1858-1947), the Burma Office (1937-1948), and a number of related British agencies overseas. The focus of the India Office Records is in the territories now included in India, Pakistan, Burma and Bangladesh and their administration before 1947. The Records also include source materials for neighbouring or connected areas at different times, covering not only South Asia, but also Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. The official archives of the India Office Records are complemented by over 300 collections and over 3000 smaller deposits of Private Papers relating to the British experience in India.

The India Office Records are administered by The British Library as part of the Public Records of the United Kingdom, and are open for public consultation."
Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.


  1. I recommend visiting the Families In British India Society website ( ) and in particular their wiki page on the East India Company which lists available resources to help you with your research.

    FIBIS also has alot of East India Company records transcribed and online in a searchable database at and even a podcast of one of Andrea Cordani's talks on East Indiamen at

    Hope this helps.

  2. Interesting EIC post, Myrtle. Did you know about FIBIS (Families in British India), a fantastic organisation who are the specialists in everything to do with British India, including of course the East India Company. They work closely with the British Library who, as you say, hold the India Office records.