'The FIBIS Database Smashed My Brick Wall'
Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine|January 2018

Edwina Bentley was struggling to find her father’s family in India. Fortunately the Families In British India Society came to the rescue, learns Jon Bauckham

Jon Bauckham

 

How long have you been doing family history?

I first became interested over ten years ago when I started researching the maternal side of my tree. Although my mother was no longer alive, I was able to verify my findings by purchasing birth, marriage and death certificates. Eventually I managed to trace the line all the way back to the 1700s.

Unlike my maternal ancestors, who hailed from the East Riding of Yorkshire, my father’s side of the family lived in British India, making them far more difficult to research. Sadly there was no one around to answer the questions that I wanted to ask.

How much information did you manage to uncover before hitting your brick wall?

My father’s baptism certificate showed that his full name was Thomas Edward Brookes and that he had been born in Saharanpur on 14 March 1917. My grandparents were listed as Thomas Edward Denis Brookes and Claries Amelia Henrietta Brookes. My grandfather worked on the railways and according to family stories had originally gone out to India with the army, while my grandmother supposedly had French and Portuguese lineage.

The only other information I had was that my father and uncle were sent to the St Lawrence Military School in Sanawar when they were five and eight years old respectively. After my grandfather died in 1920, my grandmother decided to join a convent in Simla, meaning that she had to dispose of all her worldly possessions – including her two sons. She consequently refused to have anything else to do with them, even when they tried to visit the convent.

What was stopping you from progressing your research?

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